Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Haunted Treehouse: Ghosts of Marina City


Every year we give a tour of Chicago's "Strange Angles": those mammoths of modern architecture which--despite inspired intentions and innovative designs-- have somehow gone terribly wrong.  Chicago can claim numerous such structures, including one of the most enigmatic on Earth: the John Hancock Center, known as the inspiration for "Ghostbusters," as a key element in the curse of the "Poltergeist" films, as the home of a colony of migrating spiders, and as the scene of almost a dozen unexplained and very dark deaths since its completion.

But the Hancock is hardly alone in its haunting of the city's skyline.

Last night, while hosting a ghost tour for the Chicago History Museum, I was once again approached by a young woman who works near Marina City, the twin "corncobs" on Chicago's riverfront which have been an unmistakable part of the city since their completion in 1962.  Like many who live or work in or near the complex, which includes hundreds of apartments, a rather unnerving parking garage, and the House of Blues music hall, the passenger on my tour wanted to know, "What's up with Marina City?"  By her question, she was referring to the endless stream of reports of apparitions, shadow people, malfunctioning electronics, icy drafts, and feelings of depression or oppression which have plagued residents for decades--but only in the East Tower. Why the prevalence of phenomena . . . and why only in one of the buildings?

A visit to the Chicago Tribune Archives offers some chilling possibilities.

During construction of the towers, in 1961, three workers were killed when a scaffold plummeted a full 43 stories.  That same year, six men were badly injured when a workers' elevator plummeted; a seventh was injured trying to help them.  The next year, in 1962, worker William Jones was stricken by a dizzy spell while working on a scaffold at the 40th floor.  He plunged to his death on the State Street Bridge below.

Accidents at the construction site were joined by a long string of dark deaths between 1966 and 1976.   In August of 1966, Roy Holland, a real estate developer, was found to have been dead for three weeks when his body--and three suicide notes--were discovered in his 48th floor apartment. In May of 1967, 39-year-old June Fleck lept from her fiance's 50th floor apartment shortly before they planned to marry.   In January of 1969, a retired government worker shot his 88-year old mother and then turned the gun on himself in their 46th floor aparartment. In June of 1973, 42- year old Sandra Easton, a computer programmer, lept to her death from her 52nd floor apartment, crashing through the canvas roof of the complex's ice rink (today the site of Smith & Wollensky restaurant).  Just two years earlier, Easton had been saved from an earlier attempt to jump.  In 1972, 25-year-old Gloria Kirpatrick, 39th floor resident and manager of the Marina City Theater (now the House of Blues) was stabbed to death outside the building.  In January of 1976, 25-year-old Kenneth Parvin fell to his death from a 57th floor apartment, landing between the two towers on Marina City Drive.  Whether the death was accidental or intentional, or the result of foul play, was not known.

Every one of these incidents--accidents, murders and suicides--occurred, incredibly, in the East tower.

Floor plan of Marina City "treehouse" apartment.
Paranormal theorists might be tempted to blame the architecture of the towers as a possible reason behind the dark actions of numerous residents here. Marina City apartments contain almost no interior right angles. The residential floors consist of a circular hallway wrapped around the elevator core,  with 16  wedge-shaped apartments  arranged around the hallway. Each wedge is trimmed with a semi-circular balcony outside a glass wall. Architect Bertrand Goldberg explained during construction that the design of each tower was meant to provide a widening vista to residents as they entered their apartments.  From the small entrance, at the narrowest part of the wedge, the apartments would open up to the wide glass wall and even wider balcony, offering the city and the lake outside--like living in a "treehouse"  was how the architect described it.  Could it be that this well-meant design has actually inspired some residents to take the widening vistas one step further?  Could the contrast between the tiny apartment and the wide open space outside have caused an impulse for escape in more than one tenant?

But even if we venture to accept this, why have these incidents occurred in only the East tower?  Though the jury may always be out on the answer, the established truth remains that the residue of these events--and their unfortunate victims--continue to make their home in their mysterious digs at 300 North State Street.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tonight: Step into the "Graveyards of Chicago"

Join me tonight as I lecture on--and sign copies of--Matt Hucke and my new book, the completely revised Graveyards of Chicago: the People, History, Art & Lore of Cook County Cemeteries. If you love cemeteries--or if you avoid them like the plague--you will love this program if you love history, art, family and personal life stories, or the beauty of the natural world: Chicago's graveyards have them all in abundance.

Mass burial of victims from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Fire, 1918. 
Monument to Frances Pearce and daughter, Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.
I'm delighted to have been invited to share our new new book at this wonderful venue for history research, and I'm anxious to share with you some of my photos from a number of my very favorite Chicago-area cemeteries, including some you probably didn't know existed.




The event begins at 7pm.  I'll be speaking until 8, and then I'll have copies of the new book for sale and signing while guests have a chance to look at the images, family photos and maps from an exhibit I am assembling on Bachelors Grove Cemetery called "Lost in the Woods: The Real--and Unreal--Story of Bachelors Grove.   Books are $15 and the lecture is completely free!  Hope to see you tonight.

The Worth Historical Museum is located at the Worth Park District, 11500 South Beloit, Worth, Illinois. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Graveyards of Chicago" lectures, signings, parties. Join me!

I would like to invite one and all to a series of book signings of Matt Hucke's and my new book, the completely revised and reissued Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries (Lake Claremont Press. Chicago: 2013).

If you have not yet seen this book and enjoy cemeteries for their history, architecture and art, biography and legends, you will truly love this book.  I am very pleased to be able to offer the following events where I will be representing Matt and myself and talking about the book:

My daughters at Rosehill Cemetery in times past.
Grave of Lulu Fellows.
Wednesday February 26th:
Worth Park District Historical Museum
(Includes lecture and display of items from the
exhibit "Lost in the Woods: the Real and Unreal Story of Bachelors Grove)

Sunday, March 2:
Ashbary Coffee House
Book signing and chat with me!
Archer Road, Willow Springs, Illinois
NOON-5pm

Saturday, March 8:
Chet's Melody Lounge
The Gangs of Chicago (Graveyards)!
Book signing party, stories, and spaghetti dinner
Free dinner. Cash bar.
Come in your 1920s finest!
Archer Road, Justice, Illinois
2-6pm

Tuesday, April 15
Blue Island Library
Book Signing
York Street, Blue Island, Illinois
7-9pm

You can find all of my upcoming events at www.chicagohauntings.com/ursulaevents.html
I hope you can join me for one or more of these events. Thanks for reading!

 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Vatican and the Voices:

What Does the Church Say About EVP?


One of the questions many people ask me, as a Catholic, is how I reconcile my career in paranormal investigation with my faith. 

According to the Catholic Church, they charge, ghosts don't exist.  When we die, we go to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory, and there is no allowance for the spirits of the dead to exist with us here.

The reality is not exactly on par with this statement.  Certainly, the Church believes in the survival theory. When our body dies, our soul lives on.  It is the foundation of everything we believe: that this physical life is not our "real" one; that our true home lies beyond the world of tactile sensation, pain and death.  The Church obviously exists because of the world of the spirit and for the care of souls.  But just what and where Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are have been far from clear cut matters in the Catholic catechism.  As far as disbelief in ghosts, Christ Himself mentions ghosts in the New Testament, as they are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. 
Certainly too, the Church has always been clear on one thing: we are not to use the spirits to predict the future. The future is only the Lord's to know. But what about communication with the dead at all? What about reserch into Electronic Voice Phenomenon?  Some may be surprised to discover that, in supporting EVP research as a scientific avenue to understanding creation--and the life of the spirit--, the Church has been right there beside the best researchers all along. 

Far from classifying EVP research as dangerous or forbidden, the Church has been supportive to the point of encouraging of such research, and has worked closely with some of the phenomenon’s earliest researchers.

Two of the earliest investigators into the phenomena were Italian Catholic priests, Father Ernetti and Father Gemelli, who came upon the phenomena by chance while they were recording Gregorian chants in 1952.  While listening to some of these recordings, Gemelli heard what he identified as his father’s voice speaking on the audio recording, calling, “Zucchini, it is clear, don’t you know it is I?”  Zucchini was Gemelli’s boyhood nickname.

Gemelli and Ernetti were confounded and concerned by this apparent contact from the dead: enough, in fact, to approach then Pope Pius XII with the recording.  Pope Pius was nonplussed, soothing the priests with these words:

“Dear Father Gemelli, you really need not worry about this. The
existence of this voice is strictly a scientific fact and has nothing
to do with spiritism. The recorder is totally objective. It receives
and records only sound waves from wherever they come. This
experiment may perhaps become the cornerstone for a building for
scientific studies which will strengthen people's faith in a hereafter.”
It was perhaps not surprising that Pope Pius' cousin, the Rev. Dr. Gebhard Frei, co-founder of the Jung Institute, had made a name for himself as a parapsychologist.  Moreover, he had been close colleague to Constantin Raudive, who most “ghost hunters” recognize as one of the pioneers of EVP research.  As president of the the International Society for Catholic Parapsychologists. Frei stated:

“All that I have read and heard forces me to believe that the
voices come from transcendental, individual entities.
Whether it suits me or not, I have no right to doubt the
reality of the voices.”


Pope Paul VI, too, was well informed of the state of research into the EVP that was happening through a close friend of his own, Friedrich Jurgenson, whose work into EVP research impressed the Pope so deeply that he made Jurgenson a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory to honor his contributions.  Jurgenson was very pleased with the friendship he had formed with the Church, and he wrote to a colleague:
“I have found a sympathetic ear for the Voice Phenomenon in the
Vatican. I have won many wonderful friends among the leading
figures in the Holy City. Today 'the bridge' stands firmly on its
foundations.”


Later, the Vatican extended permission for its own priests to conduct EVP research. Father Leo Schmid, a Swiss
theologian, collected more than ten thousand Voices of Unknown Origin, which he documented in his 1976 book, When the Dead Speak.
Also well approved by the Vatican wathe work of s Father Andreas Resch, an EVP researcher who also taught courses in parapsychology at the Vatican.

In England in 1972 four senior members of the Catholic hierarchy
were involved in the famous Pye recording studio tests conducted
by Peter Bander. Of these tests, Fr. Pistone, Superior of the Society of St Paul in England
commented:

“I do not see anything against the teaching of the Catholic
Church in the Voices, they are something extra-ordinary
but there is no reason to fear them, nor can I see any danger.”


Similarly, His excellence, Archbishop H.E. Cardinale, Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium agreed:

“Naturally it is all very mysterious, but we know the voices are there for all to hear them
.”
Most recently, Father Gino Concetti, one of the most well regarded of Vatican theologians, went on record with these words:

“According to the modern catechism, God allows our dear departed
persons who live in an ultra-terrestrial dimension, to send
messages to guide us in certain difficult moments of our lives. The
Church has decided not to forbid any more the dialogue with the
deceased with the condition that these contacts are carried out
with a serious religious and scientific purpose.”


Many thanks to Michael Esposito and Phantom Airwaves for sharing these statements with me.

-Ursula Bielski

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Burning Need: Chicago's Ghostly "Hands of Death" are Not Alone. A Roman Museum Holds a Whole Collection of Phantom Handprints

For generations, Chicagoans have shared two tales of ghosts who made an unusually lasting impression on observers: these spirits are believed to have left their very handprints behind, literallly burned into the environment and left as phantom calling cards for the living.

On Good Friday in 1924, firefighter Frank Leavy left his ghostly handprint on the window of his firehouse, Engine Co. 107 and Truck Co. 12, at 13th Street and Oakley Avenue.  He had been washing the window that afternoon when he rested his soapy had on the window and predicted that "this is my last day on the fire department."  Leavy died fighting an office building fire later that day at Curran Hall, and as his buddies sat and chatted in the bay the next day, they happened to glance at the window he'd been washing: imbedded in the glass was Frank's ghostly handprint.  Known forever as "The Hand of Death," firefighters still tell the tale of Leavy's hand; his prediction of his own demise, and the attempts to remove the reminder. His colleagues scrubbed, employed harsh chemicals, and tried to scrape it off.  According to legend, an administrator came with Frank's file from headquarters and compared his fingerprints with those on the window. They matched perfectly.

A second event continues to be talked about with great fervor by believers in Chicago and around the world: the burning of the cemetery bars by the city's most famed phantom, Resurrection Mary.  In the 1970s, curiosity-seekers came by the hundreds to view the front gates of Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Road, where--one night, around 1am--a mysterious young woman had been seen standing, grasping the bars of the gate, apparently locked inside. When police arrived to let her out, they found no one there. But the bars she'd been clutching were pried apart--the strong bronze mangled by incredible force--and seared with the imprint of a woman's hands.

My friend was telling me yesterday about an obscure museum in Rome where he had recorded for electronic voice phenomenon--ostensibly the voices of the dead--to be used for his experimental musical recording, "The Phantoms of Purgatory Souls." 

The museum is called the Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory and is tucked away in the back of the Church of the Sacred Heart--the only gothic style church in Italy.

On display is a collection of artifacts displaying burn marks reportedly made by the hands of spirits: handprints burned onto the nightcap of a man whose deceased wife appeared to him asking for prayers; a book which developed similar ghostly burn marks after its owner's mother-in-law appeared to her asking for prayers; bibles burned with phantom fingers.

The museum was founded by a French missionary priest, Father Jouet, who strongly believed that these artifacts are signs of the reality of Purgatory. Catholics believe that when a soul leaves its Earthly body, it almost always spends some time in a place called Purgatory before being allowed into Heaven.  Purgatory is a place of repentance, amend-making, and "paying off" debts of sin while waiting to join God.  According to Catholics, our prayers can make the difference as to the length and severity of the stay in Purgatory. Some paranormal investigators believe that the ghosts we encounter are these souls, either asking for prayers or remaining hostile and unrepentant even in death. 

I sent a photograph and short write-up to the museum about the bars at Resurrection Cemetery, though my friend says they stopped taking artifacts when the founder passed away.  Hopefully it will at least go in their files as a further testament to this remarkable phenomenon. 

You can purchase the recordings for Phantoms of Purgatory Souls at Michael Esposito's website, www.phantomairwaves.com. You can read an excerpt about Leavy's "Hand of Death" in Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes that Shaped a City by David Cowan by visiting www.chicagohauntings.com/leavy.html; and you can read more about Resurrection Mary's most memorable visit in Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski, available at www.amazon.com

The Blog is Back...

After a very long hiatus, we are back.  For several years, I had been posting our news, events and musings on Facebook, but I felt that the blog would be a better way to make all of this accessible to facebook users, twitterers, and web surfers all at once.  Thank you for stopping here to take a look. Please subscribe to receive all of our blog entries.  And thank you for visiting!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Best Bet: "Parapsychology and Consciousness" Conference

In this age of paranormal superstars and back-to-back episodes of ghost hunting reality shows, much of the quiet reality of academic paranormal research goes unnoticed. For the most part, hobby or amateur ghost hunters have distanced themselves from the intellectual realm of parapsychology. Some are aware that, for generations, parapsychologists had no use for them. In fact, parapsychology sought to filter out the "spontaneous phenomena" that ghost hunters crave--ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, and others-- favoring those human psi abilities that could be studied in a proper laboratory. Today, scientists and amateurs are increasingly aware--and needful--of each other. Ghost hunters seek validation via technology more fervently every day; scientists seek to find their principles in action: in "haunted" houses, prisons and hospitals, as viewed by millions of eager fans every night on t.v.

A unique conference this fall on "Parapsychology and Consciousness" is an invitation to all with an interest in parapsychology--and the human mind that is common to all psi experience. Along with numerous stars of the world of academic parapsychology, ghost hunters will be delighted to find such presenters as Loyd Auerbach, who will present his findings from an investigation of the USS Hornet.

Following is an excerpt from conference organizer Nancy Zingrone's blog. A Chicago-area native, Nancy and her husband, Carlos Alvarado, have been working and teaching in parapsychology their whole lives--and championing the cause to the ends of the earth. For ghost hunters used to gathering at informal conventions around the nation, there may be a bit of sticker shock on this one, but I promise you: it will be the best conference you've ever attended. If you've never been to an academic conference, I daresay it will change your life. I'm just going for the hotel, situated right on the beach ;) and to get a look at amazing Atlantic University, which is working on offering a Masters in Parapsychology in the not-so-distant future. Hope to see you there!

_________________________________________________

Monday, May 16, 2011 11:41 PM

Atlantic University is a small online graduate school in Virginia Beach, Virigina offering a Masters of Arts in Transpersonal Studies. Last year (a year and 13 days ago), Carlos S. Alvarado and I were hired by AU and started an entirely new phase of our lives.

We've been working on a number of things this year, but one of the most important is the inauguration of a new series of annual conferences to highlight various aspects of the work and interests of Atlantic University. Since 1985, when Atlantic University was a residential school, Doug Richards (known to a lot of PA members) has been teaching a course called 'Principles of Parapsychology." This year, between October 14th and October 16th, 2011, Doug, Carlos and I, and other Atlantic University faculty members Henry Reed, Bob Van de Castle, Loyd Auerbach and Christine Simmonds-Moore are taking part in our conference, "Parapsychology and Consciousness." David McMillan of the Meridian Institute and Kevin Todeschi, the CEO of both Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. and Atlantic University will also be taking part.

We're really excited about all of the folks who will be joining us to give papers: Julie Beischel of The Windbridge Institute, Dean Radin of IONs, Ed May from Laboratories for Fundamental Research, Roger Nelson of the Global Consciousness Project, Steve Braude of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, John Palmer of the Rhine Research Center, Jim Carpenter in private practice in Chapel Hill, Frank Pasciuti in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Ginette Nachman of Durham, NC. The topics range from "Biomedical Aspects of Psi" (Nachman) to "How Do the Synesthesias Relate to Anomalous Experiences" (Simmonds-Moore) and "Before the Tipping Point: Reconsidering the Nature of Consciousness" (Radin), among many others.

The conference starts at noon on Friday October 14th and continues through 6pm on Sunday October 16th. Of course we think "Parapsychology and Consciousness" brings together a unique and unprecedented mixture of some of the best speakers in the field, as well as some of the most interesting aspects of the varied research in scientific parapsychology.

The Visitor's Center at Edgar Cayce's A.R.E., where the conference will be held, has a great large auditorium and a number of function rooms we'll be using as well, plus a bookstore, a top floor meditation room with a view of the ocean and tons of parking. The campus of the A.R.E. is very unique. It's a block from the Atlantic Ocean (the reason for the great view from the meditation room). The campus also includes a meditation garden, a meditation labyrinth modeled on the one at Chartres, and the A.R.E. Heath Center and Spa. The spa is on the ground floor of the "Headquarters" Building which also houses the Cayce/Reilly School of Massotherapy, Atlantic University, and a variety of units of the A.R.E. Two other buildings complete the campus, and by the time of the conference, construction will have started on the new Educational Building. The campus backs up to First Landing State Park. (Virginia Beach is a very interesting place and we have fallen completely in love with it. More on that in another blog.)

The conference hotel, the Wyndham Oceanfront, is 10 blocks away from the "Parapsychology and Consciousness" conference venue, south of the A.R.E. on Atlantic Avenue. We have rooms blocked off for the conference there. The hotel has a great restaurant, the Surf Grille, with beautiful views of the oceanfront. The Wyndham runs a shuttle to the A.R.E. We also have rooms blocked off for the conference at the Holiday Inn Express, another oceanfront hotel down in the "strip", an area full of hotels and restaurants. The Holiday Inn Express doesn't have a shuttle but the HRT bus is close by, and if you're coming in by car, it's a quick trip up Atlantic Avenue to the A.R.E. The closest airport is Norfolk International Airport. Carlos and I love this airport (having been in a ton of airports over the years); small, easy to get around, with a shuttle.

Anyhow as time goes on, I'll write some more about the details. We're putting together the best experience possible and really looking forward to having all these great speakers in town. If you go to Atlantic University's home page -- http://www.atlanticuniv.edu -- you can find a link to the conference description, and to biographies and abstracts, plus a page for registration (there's an early bird price at the moment) as well as reservation pages for the two conference hotels.

Carlos and I have been involved in a lot of great conferences over the years, but we're really looking forward to this one and hope you'll all be able to join us this October 14th to 16th in Virginia Beach!

Friday, July 08, 2011

From Garbage to "Ghostbusters": The Strange Case of Streeterville


In urban areas around the world, architecture’s brilliant progress has been checked by many faults. For every successful design there are ten that fail--aesthetically, financially, or environmentally. Most troublesome have been the so-called “sick buildings” that have caused everything from nausea and headaches to brain tumors and cancer, due to difficulties with exhaust and ventilation systems, mold growth and other quirks. In Chicago, one of the most controversial buildings in this birthplace of skyscrapers is believed by Chicago paranormal experts to have a much more malicious quality. Since its completion in 1968, the John Hancock Center has been the site of multiple murders, suicides and deadly “accidents.” Why? Windy City occultists are convinced that it is the very design of the place that causes its residents and workers to often take a turn for the worst.

The John Hancock Center was designed as a trapezoidal structure by its chief architect, Bruce Graham, under the counsel of Fazlur Khan, a structural engineer at the esteemed Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Khan proposed the shape as an economical way to combine larger office spaces on the lower floors with smaller apartment units on the upper levels. But it wasn’t long before some Chicagoans began to question the “innocent” trapezoidal design as a poor one. Was the building’s form, in fact, the shape of things to come?

A little over three years after the Hancock’s completion, a 29-year-old Chicago woman named Lorraine Kowalski fell to her death from her boyfriend’s 90th-floor Hancock Center apartment. To this day, detectives are dumbfounded by the event; the building’s windows are capable of withstanding more than 200 pounds of pressure per square foot and winds of more than 150 miles per hour, yet Kowalski actually broke through the glass. Four years later, a transmitter technician for a local radio station plunged to his death from the 97th floor offices of his television station. Just three months later, a 27-year old tenant “fell” from his 91st-floor apartment while studying for an exam at breakfast. In 1978, a 31-year old woman shot a man to death in his home on the Hancock’s 65th floor, and in 1998, beloved comedian Chris Farley was found dead in the entrance hall of his 60th-floor apartment. Most recently, in March of 2002, a 25-foot aluminum scaffold fell from the building’s 43rd floor, crushing three cars, killing three women and injuring 8 others. All of these incidents were called “baffling,” “inexplicable” and seemingly unmotivated by detectives and journalists.

Many years before construction on the Hancock began, the area it would occupy was part of the most luxurious residential district in the city--the Gold Coast--, and this neighborhood, still known as Streeterville--was already thought to be a cursed tract of land. Cap Streeter was a ragtag former sea captain who made a living ferrying passengers between Chicago and Milwaukee on a beat up old schooner he owned with his wife. After the vessel literally washed up on the Chicago shore during a storm, Cap decided to settle down in the city for good. He staked claim to the very parcel of land on which he had run ashore: prime lakefront property much in demand by Chicago‘s first families. Cap found the land so lovely that he decided to share the beauty. He set up shop in the old Tremont Hotel, selling tracts of “his“ land to willing buyers. Soon a legion of squatters peppered the lakefront, angering Chicago‘s elite and the city council that served them. But when the city tried repeatedly to run off the trespassers, Cap and company responded with shotguns, batons and all manner of homemade weapons . When Cap ran out of land to sell, he quickly made more by inviting residents and contractors to dump their garbage on his land for free . . . creating one of the most desirable garbage dumps in history, the soon-to-be "Gold Coast" of Chicago.

The battle over “Cap’s” land--which he called Streeterville--raged until the man’s dying hour--and beyond. On his deathbed, Cap cursed “his” land and swore that no one would ever be happy on it again. Then is the “Curse of Cap Streeter” the source of the Hancock’s problem?

Not likely. But it can’t help.

In 1930, a baby boy was born in his family’s posh home in the 800 block of Chicago’s North Michigan Boulevard, the same block as the Hancock would someday occupy. Musically gifted, Anton Szandor LaVey grew to enjoy a colorful career with many facets, playing in nightclubs and even taming lions for a time. On a spring night in the 1960s, LaVey brought some like-minded friends together, ceremoniously shaved his head, and founded what he called the “Church of Satan,” an institution that was part religion, part philosophy, and all based on his own extensive ideas about love, hate, pleasure and will.

When occultists like LaVey saw the plans for the Hancock revealed, they were devastated. The problem? Not necessarily one for the city itself, but for the residents and workers of the Hancock structure.

LaVey wrote many essays during his time as the Satanic Church’s leader, including fascinating analyses of the problems of modern architecture. LaVey knew--as most occultists do--that the trapezoidal shape holds significant power for arcane forces: traditionally, the shape is believed to serve as a doorway or “portal” for occult--or even diabolical--forces. As a young man, LaVey was fascinated with the thought of H.P. Lovecraft, whose horror novels often feature characters grappling with the dangers of “strange angles,” and it was Lovecraft’s work which led LaVey to first pursue his study of modern architecture’s sometimes deadly capabilities.

The Hancock center offers both apartments and offices, and all of the apartments are on the outer edge of the structure, wrapping around the outside as in any other such building. Unfortunately, in the Hancock, every one of these apartments has, due to the trapezoidal structure of the building, an outer wall that is “off-kilter” because it does not rise at 90 degrees. Many--LaVey among them--have believed that these “strange angles” have caused residents of the Hancock to behave in strange and deadly ways, and that the superhuman strength of those who have forced themselves or others through the building’s seemingly impenetrable windows were calling on a ready supply of supernatural energy in the Hancock itself: energy coming through the “portal” of its trapezoidal structure.

Students of popular culture will want to note three intriguing facts about the Hancock. First, the structure’s legend inspired Harold Ramis’s Hollywood dream of a diabolical building: the centerpiece of his film, “Ghostbusters.” Second, the late, little Heather O’Rourke, myth-shrouded star of the “Poltergeist“ films, took a turn for the worst after a final publicity plug . . . held in one of the Hancock’s studios. Third, a number of controversial or distressed personalities have called the Hancock home; among them, talk show host Jerry Springer, Catholic priest and novelist Andrew Greeley, and--as mentioned--comedian Farley, whose time in the building was riddled with drug and alcohol abuse, the eventual cause of his death.

(For more quick looks at the ghosts of Chicago, visit www.chicagohauntings.com. Chicago magazine called us one of "the most important web sites for local history!)