The First Annual Chicago Ghost Conference is, unbelieveably, now just a memory. But what a memory . . .
I had a lot of ideas in my head this past year about what this past weekend would be look like and sound like, but I didn't think for one moment what it would feel like. So when that feeling came, it was a startling, wonder-ful thing. So many beautiful things happened this weekend, but here are some of the things I'm thinking about:
. . . being together all weekend with Mike McDowell and the Indiana Ghost Trackers, some of the nicest people I've ever met. . . meeting my dear friend Brian Leffler for the first time in person, and becoming friends with the other members of NMPI . . . seeing Anney again from P.R.I.S.M. and meeting the lovely and accomplished members of her team . . . being totally disarmed by down-to-earth icon Sally Rhine Feather (and her charming husband, Bill); meeting for the first time dedicated Pete Crapia of the increasingly successful Bachelors Grove Restoration Project . . . watching the Halloween Art Exhibit gallery actually come to fruition, and making future plans with wonderful organizer and artist Scott Jackson . . . seeing terrific author and friend John Kachuba again and finally meeting his wife, Mary . . . having our own Elizabeth Rintoul at the podium, dazzling a whole new audience with her charming personality . . . giving Greg Myers a big hug in person after way too many emails . . . watching the reaction of the audience to the intriguing photographs of Nate Larson . . . having the great folks from Ghostly Talk set up and recording in my own beloved city . . . seeing my pal Ed Shanahan as busy as could be with a steady stream of successful readings . . . hanging out all day with my lifelong friend, Sharon Woodhouse of Lake Claremont Press . . . seeing our attendees intrigued by the Twilight Tales booth, making plans to attend future readings . . . being mesmerized by the peaceful and intriguing ways of Mark Macy, and hearing his legendary ITC evidence playing in our own conference room . . . having the great people of Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group (SWPRG) exhibiting their incredible research and evidence . . . seeing Mike Esposito again and hearing his fascinating recordings . . . watching even the hotel security and housekeeping staffs drifting in and out through the day, intrigued by what we were up to.
When I think about this weekend, I think about all these images and many more, but most of all I think about the miracles that happened in the course of it all: Mike McDowell, who said "yes" to co-hosting with us: Without the Indiana Ghost Trackers, the conference wouldn't have happened; the College of DuPage chaper of the PCMA, who fell from Heaven and offered endless assistance to us when all seemed overwhelming, and who were with us, smiling and supportive, from the first to the last minute; Scott Jackson, whose Halloween Art Exhibit--and kind, generous way--brought a marvelous dimension to our event; Ghostly Talk, who patiently and perfectly recorded every minute of the conference for our friends around the world, as they tirelessly do a dozen times a year at conferences around the nation; Scott Markus, who worked around the clock in record time to produce--with Mary Czerwinski--the rich film clips for the conference spotlight and the evening screening session(and who valiantly assumed the undesirable post of man-in-charge of our hair-raising A-V situation!); artist Mary Gutfleisch, whose breathtaking conference poster and program appeared like magic from her talented brush--and the goodness of her heart.
I think about our after-hours events and our longtime Chicago friends who thought the conference idea was "so cool" and who supported us with their talents, spaces, and friendship: Neil Tobin and the Excalibur nightclub, Denny our seeminly tireless Chicago Hauntings driver, the good folks at Chet's Melody Lounge (who always make us feel like we're coming home for Christmas, and who extended that hospitality to all our new friends, and Lawrence at the National Pastime Theater, for letting us meet his own ghosts (even when our bus was really, really late!).
Mostly, I think constantly and with wonder about all the attendees and exhibitors and speakers who put their lives on hold for three days to be together in Chicago with us. I wasn't expecting the feeling that came from that; I don't think anyone was. And I think the Congress Hotel--whose ghosts were felt and seen by many attendees-- woke up today just a little more haunted, too . . . by the memory of that feeling. I know I am. I know I always will be.
Thank you, everyone. See you next year!