Tag Archives: Woodstock Opera House

Woodstock and the Stickney House

We were planning on resting and laying low today, recovering from our awesome weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference….but around 2 o’clock we decided we couldn’t just sit around any more, so we decided to go on the hunt for some things we’d always wanted to see!

Turns out that one of Mickey Cohen‘s bodyguards is buried in Woodstock, Illinois! Johnny Stompanato, a strongman in the LA mafia and lover of Lana Turner, was from the small town. Stompanato was stabbed by Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, a crime that was later ruled as self defense. His body was taken back to Woodstock after his passing and he was interred at Oakland Cemetery.

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The cemetery is old and beautiful, and also the final resting place of Dick Tracy creator, Chester Gould.

Unfortunately, Scott and I were not very successful in locating either of the graves (if you have directions to where they are let us know!)

We did however find lots of great old graves, and even saw some great wildlife.

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They even have a small pet cemetery with a bunch of sweet send offs for fur babies!

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It was a great place to spend an afternoon.  It was very restful and there were plenty of other people and their living pets walking around too.

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After the cemetery we headed into downtown Woodstock, which is super cute, and also where they filmed “Groundhog Day!”

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After a walk around the town square and some much-needed hot coffee, we headed over to the Stickney House.

The Stickney House was one of the locations covered by Scott in his book, “Voices from the Chicago Grave.”

Built in 1856 and located in the Village of Bull Valley. George Stickney, his wife Sylvia, and their family were the original residents. The house was built without any 90 degree corners.  The Skickney’s were spiritualists and believed ghosts could become trapped in such spaces. Of the 10 Stickney children only three survived into adulthood. The family held many séances in the house trying to contact the children that passed away.  Some believe that perhaps it was Sylvia’s inabilities as a medium or cultists who moved into the house in the 1970s that have caused the home to become very haunted.

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The house has gone through much renovations since we last saw the house. Thanks to the local historic society and the Stickney Foundation. The interior and exterior are both being restored to the houses original state, and I have to say, it looks fantastic!  Note in the photos below the continued use of rounded edges – even the front door itself is curved.

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From the Stickney House, we were directed to the small cemetery down the road where the family was buried. It was starting to get dark, but as we stumbled around by cell phone light, we eventually found the family. A few of the tombstones were missing, and some of the others were damaged, but overall they were in great shape considering their age.

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There was an oddly large amount of traffic on the road, considering how far out of town we were. Still, we decided to do a small EVP session at Sylvia‘s grave.

unnamed We haven’t reviewed our recording yet.  Once we do, we’ll definitely let you know of any findings!


Goodbye Harold

By Scott Markus

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The media has memorialized Harold Ramis a thousand times already today and he will get the same well-earned treatment for the next few days.  As someone who has never met Mr. Ramis personally, I have little of substance to contribute.  That said, he has long been an influence in my life.  For one, watching and re-watching Ghostbusters as a kid was like a religion for me.  I can’t say that I am a current paranormal investigator and writer BECAUSE of the film, but a mainstream, popular, timeless classic that treats ghosts and ghost stories in a fun, palatable way is truly a unique approach.  As a kid, “Ghostbusters” was my first favorite movie.  It doesn’t seem like too big a leap to think that Ramis had a little something to do with it.

To a larger degree, it was his writing that always captured my attention.  His comedies (namely “Stripes,” “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day”) are among my all-time favorites.  He “got” comedy and how to make an ensemble comedy work.  His continued connection to Chicago was also a point of pride for this Chicago kid – New York can keep Woody Allen – we have Harold Ramis.

To keep this post somewhat thematically linked to the rest of our web site – let’s take a quick look at the haunted locations that Ramis is forever linked to thanks to his films:

The Woodstock Opera house (Woodstock, IL):  This location is frequently seen in the Ramis written-and-directed film “Groundhog Day.”  In fact, during one of Bill Murray’s more depressed episodes, he commits suicide by jumping from this small town landmark.  Meanwhile, inside the theater is the ghost of a woman nicknamed “Elvira.”  There are more rumors than truths to her story, but her are some claims that she jumped to her death from the same tower.  To this day, people attending plays at this theater can hear Elvira’s disembodied sounds of approval dismissal depending on whether or not she is enjoying the performance.

The Biltmore (downtown Los Angeles):  LA served as NY for some of the most iconic moments in the Ramis written-and-starring “Ghostbusters.”  The scenes in the lobby where the ‘busters arrive to catch Slimer is the Biltmore.  The staircases double for Dana Barrett’s building where they have to make the long, climb to the roof to fight Gozer at the end of the film.  While they were there, the Ghostbusters may have had even more lucky if they checked out the first floor lounge.  It is here that bartenders whisper about seeing a phantom couple on a date.  When the servers go to take their order, the bashful ghosts vanish.  This is also the last place Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) was seen alive.  Though we don’t have any ghost stories with this fact, we do urge ghost hunters to attempt to reach her and possibly find a clue in this still unsolved homicide.

The Hancock Tower (downtown Chicago):  Though Ramis never filmed here (Did he?  Someone tell me if I’m wrong), this landmark was the inspiration for the film “Ghostbusters.”  The land is considered cursed by it’s original, squatting “owner,” Cap Streeter.  Since Cap was run off the land, another notable oddball called this area home – this land was the birth site of Anton LaVey, known as the creator of the Church of Satan.  Later, the Hancock Tower was built here, coincidentally, in the shape of a portal for evil forces.  True or another baseless tradition of a bygone spiritualist movement, the site has been the scene of repeated tragedy, physically unexplainable deaths and unusual biological phenomena.