Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ghost writers (on the sly)

By definition, a ghostwriter is a professional who is paid to write articles and stories that are officially credited to another person. In some cases, the ghostwriter is acknowledged by the author or publisher for his or her writing services

When one of my customers offered to post some of my stories on her blogsite, I eagerly sent off a variety of stories to her. By March, when I had figured out how to self-publish, she had published about a dozen of my stories. The address to her blogsite is listed below:

the Armada lady

Some of the stories that I have posted on my blog (the Schatski story of April 1 and the spud story of March 25) were inspired by some of the comments made by one of our mangers (Joe) at the dealership.

Joe and I share a passion for bicycles (he owns 12), a working knowledge of car sales, a compulsion for story telling, and (most importantly) an appreciation of the supernatural.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce MY ghostwriter, Joe Kilian.

The story attached below is his:


Haunted Chicago

The most interesting aspect of living in a metropolitan area like Chicago is the rich history that surrounds you everyday. The most interesting part of THAT history is the history that cannot be explained, the places and their special secrets that have always made my mind wander and revel in the ideas that (in 2008, when we have an explanation for just about everything) the power and wonder of the great beyond remains a mystery for which no tangible explanation is ever offered.

On the campus of The University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Adams’ Hull House is an historical landmark that predates the school, and the stories that surround it are haunting in the most accurate sense of the world.

The settlement house was already established by the turn of the century, and the story begins with an atheist man wedding a devout Catholic woman. He was quoted as telling his wife that she could not hang a picture of the Virgin Mary on the wall of their home, and threatened to replace it with a picture of the devil. The wife and husband exchanged curses. The marriage bore fruit, but the child was said to have been born with pointed ears, reptile like skin, and a tail. Shortly after the child became a source of ridicule for the parents, the mother brought him to Jane Adams, who took the boy in, and (according to the story) kept him on the attic floor until he died shortly after. These is a window in the attic of Hull House, and to this day, people report that they see something – something that may be a face of a boy, with pointed ears, looking out that very attic window.

The John Hancock Building is another place in Chicago that has some very strange stories surrounding it. It was completed before the Sears Tower, and was the tallest building in the world for a very short time. It has an unusual number of suicides and deaths associated with it. The basic design is that of a trapezoid. The levels at the lower portion of the building are larger that the ones at the top. Interestingly enough, the Administration Building at UIC has an opposite architectural feature - it is larger at the top floors that it is at the bottom. In the case of the Hancock, the idea of a trapezoid has some connection with satanic cults, and there have been more than one strange report called in t the Chicago Police from the Hancock Building. Glass that can withstand gale force winds has been broken out from the inside out, allowing suicides to occur. The Chris Farley story is not so that old we can’t forget the circumstances of his drug overdose were sketchy, and the details were never released. There is also a physical migration of spiders that take place every other year, with the number of eight-legged creatures so great that some resident claims that they can’t see out of their windows for minutes, while the spiders take their trip up one side of the tower and down the other.

Chicago has many skyscrapers, and we also have the distinction of being known as the Windy City. The reason for the name has something to do with the ability of Chicago politicians to generate “wind” with their political views, rather that substance by way of meaningful legislation. The wind has, to my memory, taken very few lives, but several years ago, the scaffolding from one of the buildings was sent crashing to the ground, killing three women. With the number of buildings in downtown Chicago, is it just a coincidence that it was scaffolding from the John Hancock?

The lakefront has always struck me as the coldest place in Chicago. I know that it is really the warmest. The weathermen in this town can’t stop telling everyone, every night, that it is warmer by the lake. I don’t mean three or four degrees of temperature. I mean, there is a sense that the Lake Michigan wind seems unwilling to leave you alone in the dead of winter in Chicago. Near Belmont Avenue, around one of the parts of Lincoln Park, there is a Totem Pole, left over from the Chicago World’s Fair, or perhaps even the Columbian Exposition, which faces toward the city. The Eskimos that carved the characters on the pole meant for the symbols to protect those on the other side. The way the pole is facing seems to protect the lake form the city, rather than bad spirits from the city. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that the Cubs haven’t won a Series since that totem pole was placed facing Wrigley Field. The American Indians called this the place of “bad smells”, and there are days in Chicago when the air coming off the lake is downright foul.

Dead Pigeons?

The story about the St. Valentine’s Day massacre is one that every Chicagoan has heard at least once. It seems that the streets of Chicago were being divided by different factions of organized crime. Men posing as police – men with machine guns - a garage on the North side of the city.

The story has been told by so many, that the gangsters have become sort of folk heroes. The interesting thing to me is that the brick from the garage, with the bullet holes still in them have been sold for large amounts of money, as if they were relics of Saints in the Catholic Church. The ghost of those thugs and hoodlums are still around those alleys and streets where names like Capone and Segal are still said with a slight bow of the head. An execution done by gangsters against gangsters is hardly a thing for a city to by proud of, and yet I understand that if you tell someone in a foreign country that you are from Chicago, they still make a pose like they are holding a machine gun, and pretend to spray bullets in your direction. It is no wonder that Richard Daly, the mayor, has tried to keep any mention of the St. Valentine’s Day incident out of any travel literature.

There are unexplained manifestations in Chicago-land dating back to before the Great Fire. The places that survived were the Chicago Water Tower and St. Patrick’s Church. I certainly understand the idea that a water tower can survive a fire. If you enter old St. Pat’s and don’t get a feeling that this placed survived for a reason, then you have far more skepticism about the supernatural that I do. The building is partially wood. The reason that we have so many old stone and brick structures in Chicago is that the code required brick after the fire in all residential construction in the City of Chicago. Certainly, St. Patrick’s is near the Chicago River, but not one other building survived.

The tragedy of the Eastland is one of those stories that defy all logic. The ship was taking on passengers for a company picnic on a Sunday for the Western Electric Company. A brass band had begun to play on one side of the Chicago River, and all the passengers moved from one side of the ship to the other. The ship capsized, and trapped hundreds, and the bodies could not be recovered for many hours. The Chicago morgue was above its capacity, and in those days, the identification of a body had to be made a family member. The morgue was a building that has since become a nightclub - Limelight and Excalibur are the names that I’ve seen on it, and they are the most haunted place in Chicago. The souls of those who died in the Eastland tragedy still walk through the rooms in that limestone building on Ontario Street. People that I have met have told me that everyone who has ever worked in that building has seen ghosts, and heard bumps in the night that can’t be explained.

The Eastland was top heavy for a very interesting reason. The Maritime commission had made changes in their rules for the size and number of lifeboats required for ships in the class of the Eastland. The Eastland had been outfitted with these new lifeboats shortly before the tragic voyage for Western Electric. The reason that the change was required had to do with a ship we all know about – the Titanic.

Although the sinking of the Titanic claimed more TOTAL lives (1517), the Eastland disaster actually caused more CIVILIAN deaths, due to the fact that 685 of the lives lost on the Titanic were crew members, and only 3 crew members perished on the Eastland.

When it was determined that the Titanic was not outfitted with enough lifeboats, the entire maritime world was required to conform to the new code. The Eastland would not have capsized had it not been so top heavy. It was recovered, and became a naval training ship, and given a new name, the U.S.S. Wilmette. The Wilmette, which was scrapped in 1946, is the only ship that can claim to have sunk a German submarine in Lake Michigan, which it accomplished on June 7, 1921.

The last, and perhaps most famous haunting in Chicago, really has its foundation in the lore of Victorian novels.

Resurrection Mary is a crazy story.

A girl, who by any accounts was on her way home from a party, a prom, or some formal occasion, is waiting by the side of the road. Testimony of more than one Good Samaritan says that they pick her up, and she asks them to drive her down Archer Avenue, and when they pass Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, she disappears. The question of who she is, is the driver drunk, and why does she want a ride, all have little to do with the physical evidence of something going on at Resurrection Cemetery. The place looks like any other large graveyard around Chicago.

There is a building just past the gate, and a fence around the property. The haunting fact is that the bars in on section of the fence are bent.- bent with finger marks on steel bars. I’ve seen them, and have been told that regardless of how often they are replaced by the administrators of Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, the bars are bent again the next day.

The idea of a ghost leaving a cemetery to hitchhike with strangers never bothered me. The fact that the bar across the street relies on curious people coming to see the finger marks on the steel bars across the street from the cemetery does trouble me. The bartender actually pours a drink for Mary every night, and every night, no one in the bar admits to sneaking the drink down or pouring in on the very floor, and every night, the glass is empty about midnight.

If that isn’t Chicago haunting, I don’t know what is!


Thank you, Joe. I always appreciate a good ghost story.

In closing, the next time you hear the song below, think of my local ghost writer, Mr. Kilian:

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