With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to stock up on some ghostly tales. Here are our suggestions for hair-rising reading.
Ghosthunting Colorado by Kailyn Lamb is home to ghostly hotels, city parks, and, of course, some of the best mountain viewing around.
The eyes of paranormal enthusiasts have long been on the Centennial State due to the fame that Stephen King’s The Shining brought to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The Stanley, however, is not the only haunted hotel in Colorado. Multiple inns and hotels (some of them brothels) in Denver alone have histories as sites of deaths that make their victims decide to stay in their beloved rooms forever.
In Ghosthunting Ohio, author John B. Kachuba bravely visits more than 25 haunted places in Ohio to give readers firsthand frights from the safety of their armchairs. For readers curious―and courageous―enough to “hunt” on their own, maps and travel information are provided for every haunted location.
Ghosthunting Oregon takes readers along on a guided tour to some of the Beaver State’s most haunted historic locations. Local author Donna Stewart researched each location thoroughly before visiting, digging up clues for the paranormal aspect of each site. Stewart takes readers to some of the spookiest haunts across the state, including Oaks Park in Portland, where visitors have reported seeing a ghostly apparition of a child in a 1920s- or 1930s-style dress; the O’Kane Building in central Oregon, where people have reported seeing “ghostly smoke” and strange lights; and Pioneer Park in Pendleton, where some have reported seeing apparitions and hearing voices.
Settled by Spanish explorers more than three centuries ago, San Antonio has a rich haunted history. Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, by local author Michael O. Varhola, covers 30 haunted locations in and around the cities of San Antonio and Austin and throughout the region known as Texas Hill Country.
Ghosthunting Illinois takes readers ghost hunting in the land of Lincoln! Lock the doors, draw the curtains, and light a candle as you join author John B. Kachuba on a guided tour of Illinois’ most terrifyingly haunted places.
Mary Ann Winkowski is one of the inspirations behind the hit show “Ghost Whisperer.” Over the course of her work as a paranormal investigator, Winkowski’s reputation has spread. She was a consultant to the CBS hit television show Ghost Whisperer, has appeared on numerous TV and radio news programs, and has spoken at countless lectures.
As a special bonus, check out the Pumpkin Cookies recipe from The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook.
America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30-100 haunted places that are open to the public. From inns and museums to cemeteries and theaters, the author visits each place, interviewing people who live and work there. Books also include travel instructions, maps, and an appendix of 50 more places the reader can visit.
Back in the nineteenth century a young man named Enos Kay lived along Egypt Pike in Ross County. Enos was an honest, hard-working young man who had become the envy of the county since he won the affections of Alvira, the local beauty.
It took several years of scrimping and saving for Enos to get together enough money for a wedding worthy of his beloved Alvira. But at last he had the money, and soon wedding arrangements were under way. The wedding clothes were being fashioned, and everything was going well for the young couple until the fateful day in 1869 when they decided to attend a church picnic.
A mysterious stranger, a man none of the churchgoers had ever seen, showed up at the church picnic that day. It was even unclear what the man called himself; some of the picnickers thought his name was Smith, while others thought it was Johnston, or maybe Brown. One thing they all agreed upon was that the man clearly had eyes for the beautiful Alvira. Throughout the day, the stranger did his best to woo the girl while meek and hapless Enos simply stood by and watched.
It wasn’t long before rumors began to circulate that Alvira had been seen walking hand in hand with the handsome stranger, rumors that Enos simply dismissed as idle chatter. How could the love of his life, the woman who had promised her love to him, be with another man? Impossible. But when Enos heard a few days later that the man had climbed through Alvira’s bedroom window at night and proposed to her, and that she had accepted and run off with the man, he was stunned.
Enos immediately ran to his fiancée’s house, where he discovered, much to his grief, that Alvira had, indeed, jilted him and was gone forever. Enos let out a heart-breaking cry and swore that he would forever haunt happy lovers until Judgment Day. Then, he walked out to Timmons Bridge, the local lovers’ lane, and hanged himself from the rafters.
Not long after Enos’s body was committed to the ground came the frightening stories of lovers being terrorized at the bridge by some unseen force. Couples reported an invisible force attacking their buggies, shaking them violently, and spooking the horses. Some couples said that the malevolent force ripped open the tops of the buggies, revealing the demonic face of Enos Kay peering down at them.
Encounters with the ghost of Enos Kay are reported to this day. Apparently, he will not bother lone motorists passing over the bridge, or a parked couple who are arguing instead of kissing. True to his oath, the ghost claws and scratches at the parked cars of those couples who are expressing their ardor. Some of these “couples interruptus” recall seeing the ghost’s devilish grin through the steamed car windows. The moral here might be, Get a room!
In today’s post, John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Illinois, tells us about the 1915 sinking of the Eastland in the Chicago River.
One of the most tragic maritime disasters in U.S. history did not occur on the storm-tossed seas of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, nor was it the result of monstrous icebergs, killer storms, or enemy torpedoes. No, there was nothing dramatic in the death of the steamer Eastland except that it slowly rolled onto its side on the Chicago River, in the heart of that city, in plain view of thousands of people, killing at least 844 passengers and wiping out 22 entire families. The disaster occurred in water no more than 20 feet deep and only a few feet away from dry land.
Today, these unfortunate victims haunt the stretch of the Chicago River between the Clark and La Salle Street bridges. Witnesses have seen faces peering up at them from the watery depths of the river and have heard unexplainable screams and cries emanating from it. And it could be that the ghosts of the Eastland roam even farther into the city.
Saturday, July 24, 1915, dawned as a partly cloudy day in Chicago. The Eastland was one of the newer ships gathered at the docks that day. Rumors had circulated among the steamship lines that the Eastland was top-heavy and less than stable, but those thoughts were disregarded as passengers began to stream aboard at 6:40 a.m. Only 1 minute later, the ship began to list starboard, toward the docks.
As more passengers crowded onboard, the Eastland began to list to the port side, where many people had congregated to watch the other ships boarding. The ship continued to sway back and forth, some of the passengers joking about it as loose objects slid along the deck. Water began entering the Eastland on the lower port side. The gangplank had been removed from the overcrowded ship, which now held more than 2,500 passengers. The crew began to worry and started to move some of the passengers to the starboard side. Water continued to enter the ship from below.
Passengers below deck began climbing out of gangways and windows on the starboard side as the ship continued to lean toward port. The passengers panicked. The ship continued to list dangerously to port. Before the eyes of hundreds of horrified spectators on nearby streets and docks, the Eastland slowly rolled over onto its port side.
Many passengers were pitched into the Chicago River, where, encumbered by suits and long dresses, they were pulled below the water. Many more were trapped below, where they drowned. Some were killed by the thick smoke that filled the ship when some of its machinery exploded. Lucky survivors managed to climb onto the hull of the ship, while others were pulled from the river by rescuers in boats and even by onlookers who jumped into the water to save the floundering passengers. Others struggled to stay afloat and clung to whatever floating debris they could find.
Policemen, firemen, and other rescuers climbed onto the hull of the Eastland, where they cut holes in the metal plate to bring up the survivors and the dead. Screams echoed all around them from the river and those trapped below deck. They worked frantically to free those inside, but the screams gradually diminished even as they worked. By 8 a.m. all the survivors had been rescued, but 844 bodies were pulled from the ship and the river. The Second Regiment Armory on Washington Boulevard was pressed into service as a temporary morgue.
The original armory building was incorporated into what became Harpo Studios, which produced the Oprah Winfrey Show. It is said that the ghosts of the Eastland victims are not at peace in the building. According to Chicago ghosthunter Dale Kaczmarek, one common apparition is the Lady in Gray, the shadowy figure of a woman in a long, flowing dress and ornate hat who is seen drifting through the halls. Supposedly, her image has even been captured on the building’s security monitors. In addition to the Lady in Gray, studio employees and security guards have reported hearing crying, the laughter of children, and old-time music. The footsteps of crowds of invisible people are heard going up and down the lobby staircase, accompanied by opening and slamming doors.
Another location that ghosts of the Eastland are rumored to haunt is Excalibur, a nightclub housed in the Romanesque-style brick building originally constructed for the Chicago Historical Society in 1892. Some people think that Eastland victims were also brought to the Historical Society, as well as the armory.
In 1997, a segment of the television show Sightings was filmed at Excalibur, featuring host Tim White, a local ghosthunter, and a psychic. The psychic heard a child’s voice say, “Stop and watch me.” Excalibur employees have heard small voices, like children, crying and have seen a little girl looking over the railing in the club’s Dome Room. Adult figures have been seen in the club, as well, including a white-tuxedoed figure and a bluish-colored shape that floats up the stairs.
John B. Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Illinois recommends a visit to these three Abraham Lincoln historic sites in Springfield, Illinois. The sites are said to be haunted. And what better place for a ghosthunter to lay his or her weary head than at the haunted and beautiful Inn at 835?
Abraham Lincoln Home
426 South Seventh Street, Springfield, IL 62701
The Lincoln Home looks exactly as the Lincolns left it when they departed Springfield in 1861, heading for Washington, D.C. Period furnishings recreate the everyday life of the family. Several blocks of reconstructed buildings surround the house, giving the visitor the sense of stepping back in time to Lincoln’s day.
Opening hours : 8:30am-5:00pm, daily, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day, when the park is closed. For more information visit the website.
Abraham Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery 1441 Monument Avenue, Springfield, IL 62702
Oak Ridge Cemetery is located at the end of Monument Avenue. It’s easy to find since there is plenty of street signage marking the way. It’s impossible to miss the tomb once you’ve entered Oak Ridge. Follow the signs to the parking lot and walk a hundred yards or so to the tomb.
The tomb is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. For more information about the tomb and Oak Ridge Cemetery visit the website.
Old State Capitol
Fifth and Adams Streets, Springfield, IL 62701
The Old State Capitol is easily accessed from either Fifth or Sixth Street. Its red dome is a distinctive landmark. An underground parking garage is below the capitol.
After touring the capitol building, it’s a short walk to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices and the Illinois State Historical Library. For opening hours and more information visit the website of the Old State Capitol.
Where to stay when visiting the Abraham Lincoln historic sites in Springfield, Illinois?
The Inn at 835
835 South Second Street, Springfield, IL 62704
What better place for a ghosthunter to lay his or her weary head than at the haunted and beautiful Inn at 835? It’s conveniently located in the center of the city, close to many other historic sites, some of them haunted. Innkeeper Court Conn can direct you.
For more information and reservations visit their website.
When self-taught lawyer Abraham Lincoln rode his horse into Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, all his meager belongings were packed into two saddlebags. Five years later, the rising young attorney married Mary Todd, a well-educated woman from a prominent Kentucky family, and in 1844 the Lincolns paid $1,500 for a Greek-Revival cottage at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. For the next 17 years, the house—considerably enlarged by Lincoln— sheltered the growing family. Three of his four children were born there, and one of them, Edward, died in the house at the age of 4.
On February 11, 1861, the Lincolns left Springfield by train, headed for Washington, D.C., where Lincoln would be sworn in as the 16th President of the United States. He never again saw his Springfield home, but in 1865 his somber funeral cortege passed by the house, decked out in black-and-white bunting, as it made its way to Oak Ridge Cemetery, where the murdered president was laid to rest.
Visitors to the Lincoln Home in Springfield Report Seeing a Tall, Thin Apparition with a Little Boy
Since then, some visitors to the Lincoln home have reported seeing a tall, thin apparition with a little boy, perhaps Abe and little Edward. Most visitors who experience a paranormal event in the house, however, say that it is the ghost of Mary Todd Lincoln who lingers there, in the place where she lived the happiest years of her adult life.
Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to events that some might call supernatural. He once related such an event to a few friends, one of them being Noah Brooks. After Lincoln’s assassination, Brooks told the story to the readers of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, recounting the story “as nearly as possible in his own words”:
“It was just after my election in 1860. . . I was well tired out, and went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging glass upon it—[and here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate the position]—and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again I saw it a second time—plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it—nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened. When I went home I told my wife about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when [with a laugh], sure enough, the thing came again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it somewhat. She thought it was ‘a sign’ that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.”
That mirror is not in the Springfield house and is lost to history, as are many of the personal items owned by the Lincolns during that time. Lincoln sold most of his furniture when he moved to Washington, and a good portion of it ended up with owners in Chicago, where it was destroyed in the 1871 fire that almost obliterated that city.
The park employees are reticent to speak about the ghosts. However, Shirlie Laughlin, an employee at the Abraham Lincoln Home, told of her experiences there in a 1998 interview with a reporter from Arlington Heights’s Daily Herald:
“I was rearranging the furniture in Mary Todd Lincoln’s bedroom not long ago, trying to decide whether to move a small chair into another room. Something—someone—kept touching me on the shoulder. I kept looking around, but no one was there. I left that chair right where it was.”
Shirlie also reported seeing the rocker in the parlor move and said that she could feel “wind rushing down the hall,” despite the fact that all the windows in the house are kept tightly shut.
Perhaps if someone can persuade the National Park Service to have a more open mind about the world of the paranormal, we will be able to determine whether it is old Abe, Mary, Edward, or all three who haunt the Lincoln home. Until that time, visitors to the home will just have to try to figure out the mystery for themselves.
John Kachuba shares with us his story about the ghost at Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton.
Sometimes, while I was working on Ghosthunting Ohio, I wondered if maybe the spirits were helping me out; real ghostwriters, as it were. The story of Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton is an example of what I mean.
My wife, Mary, and I had been in Eaton in the spring to investigate Fort St. Clair, a historic site said to be haunted by the ghosts of several Kentucky militiamen killed there by Miami Indians in 1792. After visiting the battlefield site, we drove back through downtown Eaton and spotted the colorful umbrellas shading the tables on the sidewalk outside Taffy’s. The shop had an interesting Victorian feel to it, so we stopped in.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we were the only customers. I chatted with the server and told her why we were in town. She was interested in the project and, as I left, I gave her one of my business cards, Ghosthunting Ohio printed prominently across it. We drove back to Athens and forgot all about Taffy’s.
Three weeks later a woman identifying herself as Nancy Peters, owner of Taffy’s, left a message for me on my answering machine. She had found my card by the cash register when she was cleaning and assumed I wanted to talk to her about the ghost at Taffy’s!
Of course, I would have wanted to talk with her had I known there was a ghost there (okay, I can’t always find them), so I called her back. Nancy was excited to have someone to talk to about her story. “I would never have believed such a thing could happen to me,” she said. She told me that she and her husband, Tony, bought the old Victorian building that now serves as both Taffy’s and their home in 1992, although they did not open the coffee shop until 1999.
The part of the building that is now the coffee shop was formerly a jewelry store. You can still see the place where the jeweler’s heavy safe crashed through the floor when Nancy and Tony started their renovations. The owner of the jewelry store had died under “unusual circumstances,” and his body was discovered on the floor behind the jewelry counter.
Before they opened Taffy’s the old store was part of the Peterses’ home, and it was in that section that the hauntings occurred. While both Nancy and Tony experienced the same events, they never experienced them together. Strange things would happen only when one or the other was alone in the house.
One day while Nancy was upstairs, she heard the sounds of her stepson’s electric guitar. “I knew I was alone in the house, so that really scared me, hearing this loud guitar strumming. I went downstairs, but there was no one there. Worse, the guitar wasn’t even plugged in. It couldn’t have played, but it did,” Nancy said. “That was pretty scary, but nothing like the voice that came out from the wall.”
Nancy said that a voice she clearly identified as being that of a male came from high up on the wall and called, “Max!” the name of her dog. “It scared the dog a lot,” she said. “There was no one there and yet there was this voice calling him. It was kind of a gravelly voice, definitely a man’s voice, maybe an old man.”
Tony also heard the voice, but at a different time. “It was about this time that I thought maybe I should get the house blessed. I have a friend who is a Catholic priest and I thought about asking him to do it.”
“Did you go through with it?” I asked.
“No. Instead, I started talking to the ghost for a few days, telling it that it was scaring me and my family and asking it to please move on.”
It Takes Courage to Talk to a Ghost
It takes some courage to talk to a ghost and try to make your peace with it, so that you and your resident ghost can “live” together in harmony, but professional ghostbusters will tell you that the idea of living in harmony with a ghost is not a good one. A ghost, they say, needs to move on, whether it is a good ghost or a bad ghost. It simply no longer belongs on earth and needs to find its way to its own realm.
Nancy doesn’t feel that the ghost is threatening in any way and, in fact, the activity at Ta=y’s has quieted down. “But you still feel a sadness in your heart, like something’s still hanging around,” she said.
Nancy told me that the owner of another old building nearby was also experiencing similar phenomena, and she wondered aloud if perhaps they could be connected—maybe the same ghost visiting both places. I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was possible. Just think of how many places Elvis has been spotted in.
Ghosts are often stirred up when the places they used to know in life are altered or renovated. Such activity seems to make them nervous (assuming ghosts can be nervous) and anxious. Some researchers say that the resulting paranormal activity is the ghost’s way of showing its displeasure with the changes in its familiar environment. Maybe this is what was going on at Taffy’s.
Even though things are not as frightening at Taffy’s as they were before, Nancy said that, “Without a doubt, his spirit is still around. It has been a life-changing experience for me, because it was real.”
Who knows if the ghost will make itself known again? Since the Peterses decided not to contact the priest after all, it may only be a matter of time before voices are speaking from the walls again.
About the author: John Kachuba is the award-winning author of twelve books and numerous articles, short stories and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing awarded by The Thurber House and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities and libraries and on podcasts, radio and TV.
Fort Meigs State Memorial is located across the Maumee River south of Toldeo. Throughout the year, various events are held at Fort Meigs, including a lantern-lit Garrison Ghostwalk in October. For more information visit the website.
At the Rider’s Inn in Painsville, owner Elaine Crane and the spirit of Mistress Suzanne invite you to stay awhile in one of the inn’s 10 antiques-furnished guest rooms. Rider’s Inn hosts “taleful” candlelit dinners with ghost stories and a guest psychic every October. You can book your haunted stay here.
In addition to being haunted, the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe is America’s oldest, continuously operating theater. The theater offers ghost storytelling and a haunted tour,plus quality entertainment. Visit their website to find out what’s playing. The theater is located in Chillicothe’s historic district, where you can find interesting shops and restaurants within walking distance.
The Ohio State Reformatory is a chilling and thoroughly haunted old prison as well as the site for the filming of The Shawshank Redemption. For a fee, you can join a tour regularly scheduled in the warmer months. On select dates in September and October, the building is home to the Paranormal Penitentiary, where you can join the Slayers of the Damned.
The Castle of Marietta is one of the best examples of Gothic Revival-style architecture in Ohio, and, of course, it is haunted! The Castle, now on the National Register of Historic Places, offers tours and events on select days.
In October,a guided lantern tour of The Castle is offered to hear—and maybe even experience—the ghostly apparitions, sounds, and strange occurrences that are on record to have impacted the staff, volunteers, and guests of The Castle in the past. The 2016 date for the tour is October 28th.
About the author: John Kachubais the award-winning author of 12 books and numerous articles, short stories, and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing, given by The Thurber House, and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest, and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities, and libraries and on podcasts, radio, and TV.
If music can, indeed, calm the hearts of wild animals, might it not also calm the restless spirits of those who have died and wander the earth as ghosts? John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio cannot think of any better place to find the answer to that question than at Cincinnati Music Hall.
Built in 1878, the redbrick Victorian Gothic structure rises majestically on the corner of 14th and Elm streets. Central Parkway runs parallel to the rear of the building now, but when Music Hall first opened its doors, that thoroughfare was actually the Miami Canal. Designed by a local architectural firm, the edifice is eccentric, with its garrets, turrets, gables, insets, nooks, broken surfaces and planes, and ornate rose window. Some witty Cincinnatians have dubbed the style “Sauerbraten Byzantine.”
The building is located upon the site where the tin-roofed wooden Sangerhalle once stood, a hall built by a German immigrant singing society, the Saengerbund, for its May Festivals. But there is also a more somber atmosphere associated with other former occupants of the site. The present Music Hall rests upon the foundations of the 1844 Orphan Asylum. Before that, it was the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum with its Pest House, a section for the indigent with contagious diseases. A potter’s field also occupied the site, the final resting place for suicides and strangers, the indigent and homeless of Cincinnati, as well as those who died in the Pest House. These unfortunates were buried without the benefit of coffins; they were simply bundled up and dropped into the earth. Over the years, there have been many renovations to Music Hall and human bones have often been unearthed during construction.
The famous Cincinnati journalist Lafcadio Hearn wrote about one such discovery in the October 22, 1876, edition of the Cincinnati Commercial:
“This rich yellow soil, fat with the human flesh and bone and brain it has devoured, is being disemboweled by a hundred spades and forced to exhibit its ghastly secrets to the sun…you will behold small Golgothas—mingled with piles of skulls, loose vertebrae, fibulas, tibias and the great curving bones of the thigh…All are yellow, like the cannibal clay which denuded them of their fleshly masks…Bone after bone…is turned over with a scientific application of kicks…dirty fingers are poked into empty eyesockets…ribs crack in pitiful remonstrance to reckless feet; and tobacco juice is carelessly squirted among the decaying skulls…by night there come medical students to steal the poor skulls.”
Hearn reported that the dead began to make themselves known to the living just shortly after these macabre discoveries were made. Shadowy figures roamed the halls at night, and ghostly dancers were seen in the ballroom on the second floor. One exhibitor at a business fair in Music Hall saw a young, pale woman in old-fashioned clothing standing by his booth. As he approached her, he felt a sudden rush of cold air as the figure became transparent then disappeared. Hearn wrote: “The tall woman had been sepulchered under the yellow clay below the planking upon which he stood; and the worms had formed the wedding-rings of Death about her fingers half a century before.”
Half a dozen skeletons were unearthed by workers in 1927, placed in a cement crypt and reburied, only to be discovered again during a renovation in 1969. The bones were placed inside another concrete box and reburied—and uncovered in 1988 for the third time when the shaft for the concert hall’s freight elevator was deepened. It seems the dead at Music Hall simply cannot rest in peace. Pieces, yes, but peace? No.
When my wife, Mary, and I lived in the Cincinnati area, we attended several performances of various kinds at Music Hall, but that was before we had ever heard the ghost stories, and we had never been behind the scenes. We were lucky enough, however, on a recent Valentine’s Day, to have a tour of Music Hall led by Marie Gallagher, a volunteer there for 25 years. It was a public tour, and we were joined by approximately two dozen people who were interested in seeing the grand old building. We gathered in the Main Foyer, with its checkerboard marble floor and graceful columns.
Marie knew every nook and cranny of Music Hall and regaled us with tales and anecdotes about some of the famous people who had performed there—John Philip Sousa, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifitz, Maria Callas, Andres Segovia, Luciano Pavarotti, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan; the list is endless.
The heart and soul of Music Hall is the 3,630-seat Springer Auditorium. Marie led us up into the gallery where we could look down at the burgundy colored seats and the stage. Even though larger than most concert halls, the acoustics in Springer Auditorium are said to be the best in the country, if not the world. Ed Vignale, Jr., Music Hall’s facilities engineer, told me in a later conversation that a person standing in the gallery of the empty auditorium could hear someone speaking from behind the stage as though he or she were only 20 feet away from the listener. Could it be that such perfect acoustics are the explanation for some of the ghostly sounds heard at Music Hall?
“I hear them when I’m on duty alone at night,” says Kitty Love, who has been part of the private police force at Music Hall for 21 years. “Footsteps, doors slamming, and music playing, and I know I was the only one in the building.”
Kitty has heard the footsteps and slamming doors in the stage area of Springer Auditorium and in other parts of the building’s south side, the side that was built over the cemetery.
As our tour group stood in the gallery of the auditorium, gazing out at the magnificent 1,500-pound crystal chandelier suspended from the dome ceiling and its Arthur Thompson oil painting, “Allegory of the Arts,” I thought of what Kitty had said and took a few pictures with my digital camera. (Later, when I download the images to my computer, I will find three beautiful but unexplainable orbs floating in the otherwise clear air above the gallery.)
Marie continued to lead us on the tour—the enormous backstage area with its vertiginous catwalks barely distinguishable in the darkness high above us, the massive workshop where stage sets and props are built, the costume room with its many rows of outfits of every description hung around and above us like an enormous dry cleaner, the dressing rooms that resembled high school locker rooms, and the more luxuriously appointed dressing rooms of the stars.
When the tour concluded back in the Main Foyer, Marie took us aside privately and brought us back into an office area. In this section was a freight elevator, the very elevator beneath which a small casket of bones from the old cemetery was uncovered.
“I haven’t seen or heard anything unusual in Music Hall and I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Marie, “but this is where a security guard said he heard strange music. He was so impressed by what he heard, he wrote it all down.”
She handed me a file folder containing a photocopy of security guard John G. Engst’s handwritten account of what he experienced on February 22, 1987. In it he tells how he was escorting three caterers from a party held in Music Hall’s Corbett Tower down to the first floor in the elevator. It was about 12:30 a.m. As they descended, the three women asked him if he heard music. He said he did not, but they asked him again when they reached the first floor and this time he said he had heard it. The women told John they had heard the same music when they went up to Corbett Tower a few hours earlier but didn’t think much of it then.
After the women loaded their truck and drove away, John went back to the elevator. The music, sounding something like a music box, continued to play a tune that John thought he recognized as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” John stopped the elevator at different levels to see if the music would still be audible. It was. He wrote, “It was as beautiful as ever, but I’m getting more bewildered.”
John checked all the areas outside the elevator at the various levels but could not find any source for the music. He was so frightened and awed by his experiences that he wrote, “For nearly two weeks I could not approach the elevator shaft on the first floor late at night without my whole body tingling.”
In the final analysis, however, the experience was an affirming, life-altering one for John Engst. He wrote: “The experience is now all positive and will be forever, I now believe. I pray more intensely, don’t fear death and am glad to have had this profound experience.”
Kitty Love has heard similar ghostly music at Music Hall but in different locations from the freight elevator. “You hear music playing somewhere late at night when you know no one is there, but when you get there, you find it coming from some other place. You go to that place and then you hear it coming from yet another place.”
Ed Vignale said a musical greeting card had been found at the bottom of the elevator shaft, but that didn’t convince Engst that there was a rational explanation for the music he heard. Maybe John is right. Those greeting cards don’t usually last very long nor do they play continuously. Once opened they play only a few seconds before they must be closed and reopened to play again. Could a card have been heard continuously for several hours? And what about the ethereal music Kitty heard in other parts of Music Hall? Are there ghosts roaming Music Hall?
Even though Ed Vignale said that he has never seen nor heard spirits in the 34 years he has worked at Music Hall, he admits that some people have told him of seeing men and women dressed in late-19th-century clothing walking through the halls of the building. Other people have said that sometimes an extra unknown “cast member” may appear in an operatic production or that unusual looking figures may appear among the audience.
“There is definitely something strange going on here,” Ed said. “In all the time I’ve worked here, I’ve only seen two mice and one rat in the building, very unusual for a building of this size and age.” Ed went on to say that during a 1967 production at Music Hall called wild Animal Cargo, two baby snakes, a python and boa constrictor, somehow disappeared and were never found. The show left town without them and Music Hall was left with a unique system of rodent extermination.
How long do those snakes live anyway? One can only hope that, if they are still alive, those creatures have long ago been tamed by the musical charms of Cincinnati Music Hall’s resident spirits.
The whole concept of cemeteries as good places to find ghosts has been under discussion recently. Many psychic researchers believe that ghosts haunt places that have some meaningful relevance to their former lives. Sometimes these places recalled happy times: the houses in which they were children or, perhaps, the homes in which they raised their own families. On a grimmer note, these places could be prisons or hospitals—or other places where they spent unhappy, traumatic, or eventful times. But why a cemetery, a place where no living person longs to be and a place that, at most, is only a brief stopping point between death and the hereafter? If you were a ghost, would you rather wander around some old cemetery, or would you rather go back to your home or to some other happy place? Still, ghosts are found in cemeteries, possibly because they are somehow trapped there, bound to the spot in a psychic force that we do not understand. Noted psychic researchers Lorraine and Ed Warren would say that cemeteries are spawning grounds for evil spirits and may be portals to a nasty and demonic realm. My own experiences have shown me that far more hauntings occur outside of cemeteries than in them, but here are some stories about graveyard ghosts.
Graceland Cemetery in Chicago does have its ghosts. The most noted Graceland ghost is that of little Inez Clarke, who died in 1880 at the age of 6, apparently killed by lightning while on a family picnic. Her grief-stricken parents commissioned a life-sized statue of their daughter to be placed upon a stone base above her grave. The statue was shielded from the elements by a protective glass box.
The stories associated with the ghost of Inez include strange weeping sounds that are heard near the statue, as well as the vision of a child who vanishes into thin air near her grave. The most interesting stories, however, concern the statue itself. It is said that sometimes the statue will disappear from within its glass box. This has been noted especially during thunderstorms, which seem to make sense because the child was killed by lightning. Perhaps poor Inez belatedly runs for cover as she relives the awful day she died. Psychic researcher Troy Taylor says that more than one security guard at Graceland has reported seeing the empty box, only later to find the statue returned to its usual place inside. One guard quit shortly after finding the glass box empty one night.
Another story from Graceland is not so much a ghost story as it is simply a weird legend. The final resting place of Dexter Graves—I’m serious, that’s his name—is marked by a larger-than-life statue called “Eternal Silence.”
It is an extremely creepy statue of a brooding man wrapped up in a voluminous robe. One arm, buried beneath the folds of the robe, is raised parallel to the ground, covering the mouth and lower half of the face. Only the eyes and nose are visible beneath the cowl of the robe. Over the years since Graves died in 1831, the effects of weather have turned the statue pale green, all except for the face, which remains black, having been protected from the weather by the robe’s deep folds.
The legend says that anyone who looks into the figure’s face will catch a glimpse of his own death.
Ghost of notorious gangster has been seen outside the Biograph Theater
John Dillinger Lives – Not the flesh-and-blood gangster, of course, but his ghost, who has been seen outside the place where Dillinger drew his last breath—the Biograph Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.
By the time Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents on July 22, 1934, he had become Public Enemy No. 1, his notorious exploits ballyhooed in newspapers across the country on an almost daily basis. While much of the American public viewed Dillinger as something of a modern-day Robin Hood, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had issued a “shoot to kill” order on the gangster as well as a $10,000 reward. Each of the five states in which Dillinger and his gang had robbed banks also offered $10,000 rewards.
In July 1934, Chicago police detective Martin Zarkovich approached Melvin Purvis, director of the Chicago office of the FBI and told him that he could deliver Dillinger. Zarkovich had a friend named Anna Sage, a whorehouse madam who was facing deportation to her native Romania, who he said could set up Dillinger if the FBI would halt her deportation proceedings.
The deal was struck. The evening of July 22 was a warm one. John Dillinger wore a lightweight coat with a white shirt, gray pants, canvas shoes, and his usual straw boater as he entered the Biograph Theater with his most recent girlfriend, Polly Hamilton Keele. Anna Sage, who wore a brilliant orange dress, accompanied the couple. The banner hanging below the Biograph’s illuminated marquee advertised that the theater was “cooled by refrigeration” so that its patrons could watch Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy, in comfort.
While the movie played, Purvis positioned his men in the streets outside the theater. He was nervous, chain-smoking cigarettes as he waited for the theatergoers to exit. At about 10:30, the house lights came up and the theater began to empty. As the crowd filed out, Purvis saw Anna Sage’s distinctive orange dress—the means by which they agreed to identify her, and thus, Dillinger—among the crowd. He signaled to his agents and the police to move in.
Dillinger stepped off the curb, just before the alley that ran alongside the theater. Alerted by something, he suddenly stopped and whirled around, apparently reaching for a gun hidden beneath his coat. The agents opened fire. Three bullets struck him. Dillinger staggered a few steps then fell to the pavement dead.
There are stories of people seeing a shadowy figure of a man running on the sidewalk, or heading for the alley. He runs, then staggers, then falls and disappears, almost as if reenacting the shooting over and over again. There are some who say the man killed at the Biograph Theater that night was not really John Dillinger, but that the FBI, embarrassed by the Little Bohemia debacle, could not admit yet another mistake and so covered up the truth. We may never know the truth, but what we do know is that a man was shot and killed that night and that his ghost relives that agony still.
In his book Ghosthunting Illinois, John Kachuba explores the scariest spots in the Prairie State. He visited thirty-two legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public – so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.