Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Haunted baseball on the brain. Something wanted me to think about the curse of the Cubs this weekend. Or about their great fan: musician Steve Goodman, devoted even after death. Or about "Holy Cow"-yelling Harry Caray, still very much with us even post-mortem. Or any of all the wonderful, mysterious things said to haunt Chicago's Wrigley Field. I met Friday afternoon in the shadow of the great park with writer Mickey Bradley, a great guy who is finishing up--with co-author Dan Gordon--what sounds like an intriguing read indeed: Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Eerie Events. Mickey and I talked about all the memories you might expect: the day the goat came, the day Harry left us, the day the Cubs won the pennant--96 hours after the death of hardcore fan Goodman. Mickey seemed intrigued by the tale of our ghost hunt at Cubs' Park back in 1998, when all of Chicago thought the recently departed Caray was sending down some good vibrations to the home team. But Mickey had some tales to tell that even a neighborhood girl like me had never heard of, including chilling accounts of the haunted hotels frequented by on-the-road players. Be on the lookout for what sounds like a great book, expected to be released in time for opening day 2007. Check for updates at hauntedbaseball.com.

Speaking of books and baseball . . . . After my meeting with Mickey Bradley, I headed downtown to give the nightly Chicago Hauntings tour. I arrived early, and it was getting drizzly, so I walked over to the Billy Goat Tavern to have a drink and ran into sweet Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune. We talked for awhile about things going on, and I got an update on the release date (September of this year) of Rick's upcoming book on the Billy Goat: A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream, to be published by none other than Lake Claremont Press. Fitting indeed: both author and publisher are a Chicagophile's best friend. Check out www.lakeclaremont.com for ordering information and forthcoming details on the book release party, to be held at none other than . . . The Billy Goat!

Monday, August 07, 2006

What's it like to be part of a ghosthunting team? Some days, you receive utterly intriguing posts like the one I got today, from a young woman who recently moved into the parsonage of a Northwest side Lutheran church in Chicago:

While living in the house provided by the church my family has been experiencing various paranormal activity or things we can not explain. Our events have varied from knives spinning on counters, mysterious figures walking in the halls, to bleeding scratches on my stomach in the middle of the night. We are also hearing voices call our names when there is no one home or making noises. My mother was pushed in to a wall with no one in the house. My sister has had her bed made and unmade in several cases when it was not done by anyone in the house. We have heard people walking in the kitchen (which) can be heard with no one there. We would like it if these events could some how be explained weather it be lights from cars, pipes clanking, or actual paranormal activity. Would you please rest our minds and help my whole family?

It's both exhilarating and unnerving to receive requests like these. On the one hand, they are invitations to observe firsthand the "spontaneous phenomena" that are so elusive to us as investigators, but so necessary for the further understanding of the paranormal. When something like this happens, we as a team experience two reactions: we are grateful, and we jump at the chance. On the other hand, it's hard to escape feeling the chaos of those families or individuals involved--and often traumatized--by their experiences with the events in question. Can we help to figure out what's going on? Will our efforts help to alleviate their personal fears? We never really know. All we can do is try.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A traumatic weekend. While on the way home from a family reunion in Waupaca, Wisconsin, I got word that the beloved but bedeviled Ghost Bus was having mechanical problems. Bad news for our tour tonight, but of course, Hector and Adam saved the day. Score another for the astonishing abilities of the Chicago Hauntings team! Good thing. Friday will bring the overnight tour company, Southern Ghosts, into town for a weekend with Chicago's most haunted. We'll be staking out the Congress Hotel on Friday night, focusing on two of the building's most paranormally active sites: the Florentine Room and the legendary Gold Room. Both sites did their folklore good when Ken, Hector, Adam and I did our preliminary investigation there earlier this summer. Particularly interesting is the Gold Room, where--according to longtime night security guard Johnny D--strange photos have been taken over the last few years. Wedding guests enjoying receptions in the Room have often taken photos around the piano on the dancefloor . . . only to have their photos developed with certain people missing from them. This intriguing phenomenon reminded me of an earlier trip to the Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee, where the property owner, Chris Kirby, keeps a binder of photographs that have been taken near the cave. A number of them bear evidence of the same phenomenon. Most chilling is Chris's photo of a group of schoolchildren, taken by a teacher several years ago on the steps of the welcoming cabin on the cave property. In the front row of the group of children is a child with his arm stuck out to one side in an awkward position. When asked why he held his arm that way for the photo, he pointed out that he'd been standing next to his friend, and had had his arm around him. The friend, however, failed to show up in the photo. We'll be taking a lot of pictures this weekend in the Gold Room--and enjoying what promises to be a great weekend with some of our best Southern pals. Check back next week to see what happens, and look for a full report on our Congress investigations in the weeks to come.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Welcome to Haunting Chicago, your look into the days of some of the city's most accomplished paranormal investigators. Please join us as our blog builds in the weeks to come. In the meantime, see what we're doing at chicagohauntings.com, home of Chicago's most acclaimed supernatural tours.

Happy Ghost Hunting!
Ursula Bielski