Thursday, March 12, 2015

I spent the afternoon today with fellow historian Clarence Goodman, mapping out one of three routes for our new walking tours of Chicago's "Dead and Undead," past and present. 

Yesterday we were in Lincoln Park, sunshine bright but cold wind slapping us off Lake Michigan as we walked a route that began at the Chicago History Museum, planted squarely on the grounds of the City Cemetery where historian Pamela Bannos has placed more than 10,000 unmarked graves.  It was fascinating to me as a lifelong northsider that I'd walked so many miles of the north side as an adolescent but had never walked this particular way.  At 14 with no spending money except the $3 a day in lunch money I hoarded, we walked for fun, walked for therapy, walked to pass the time before the Internet and smart phones. Even our video games cost quarters at the 7-11 at Grace and Western, and those were precious quarters.  We walked from my house in St. Benedict Parish, west of Wrigley Field, the six miles to Oak Street Beach , to Navy Pier farther on, to watch the fisherman play out their daily stands before the Pier was rehabbed into a shopping and dining mecca, to the Art Institute in the Loop for a hundredth look at "Nighthawks" when the museum was free with a school I.D.

St. Micahel's Church in Old Town,
where the Devil is sad to have appeared.
But the greatest destination was Lincoln Park, home to some of my best friends (who I met at Medusa's,  the all ages nightclub at Clark and Belmont).  We spent many, many hours sitting and talking in the "Zookery" behind the Zoo, throwing to the ducks torn up Wonder bread which we'd bought from the grocery store in Carl Sandburg Village. But for the first time yesterday, I walked through the park from Clark and LaSalle streets, past the statue of LaSalle, who we thought could also pass for Clark (and who, Clarence noted, had one hand behind his back, on his sword, in perhaps the first version of the legendary "Chicago handshake.")  After the walk through the park to the embankment over the Lagoon, we stood under the statue of General Grant, in the stone walkway that had been built just for this, with arches overlooking the great Lake beyond.  From there we could see the steeple of St. Michael's Church in Old Town, where the Devil himself is said to have made an appearance in the Communion line during one long ago Mass. "This'll be spooky at night," we both said in unison.

This was the beginning of the route of our Lincoln Park version of "Dead and Undead:" a collection of 2-mile, 1.5-hour in-depth tours looking at Chicago's ghostly, criminal and just plain strange history.  And as the walk went on, we passed the site of the Suicide Bridge, the slayings at the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and the drugstore which paid a pivotal role in the Tylenol murders of the 1980s.

Today, we were in the South Loop.

Walking (or driving or talking) with another Chicago historian is always very exciting to me as we all have our own slightly different version of the "material" we encounter.  I'm the ghost girl, of course. Though I'm told I do it pretty well indeed, it's all I do.  Clarence is the crime guy, the assassination guy, the alternative history guy. He points things out to me that make me speechless and thrilled to be always learning.  As we walked, I pointed out to him the haunted addresses of Prairie Avenue, those vanquished and those still standing, and we talked for a long time about the Pullmans, the Fields, the Glessners--all names as stately as their homes at first glance, but with tragic histories and endless ghosts haunting their family trees.

Then Clarence showed me the former headquarters of Chess Records, and the memorial to legendary bluesman Willy Dixon, before we hurried on to the former site of the Lexington Hotel, where Geraldo Rivera famously opened the "vaults of Al Capone" on one of the most watched nights in television history.  From there we were both stunned to get close for the first time on foot to the incredible beauty of the first automobile showrooms in Chicago on South Michigan Avenue's "Motor Row," with the tile and relief work on some of Chicago's most stunning facades, former stomping grounds of Chicago's first car owners.
The Lexington Hotel before its demolition.

Our walk down Michigan brought us to the boarded up facade of the Epitome Restaurant and E2 Nightclub, site of the horrific E2 Stampede of 2003, which led to the deaths of 21 people--and which eerily and sickeningly echoed the Iroquois Theater Disaster of 1903, one hundred years earlier. 

We then walked right through a film set for Chicago P.D. on our way to the old Levee in Chinatown: Chicago's vice central with the abandoned site of a young Al Capone's first Chicago gig, the structure which housed Big Jim Colosimo's--the seedling of Chicago's horrific Gangland sex trafficking industry (but on the surface a fine Italian restaurant with "10,000 yards of spaghetti always on hand")--the Bucket of Blood (believed by many to have been the birthplace of the Bloody Mary cocktail), and the site of the legendary Everleigh Club, arguably the most notorious brothel in American history.

Round up a group and take one of our Dead & Undead Walking Tours.  We promise you'll walk away haunted by Chicago's history. No matter how long you have lived here, I feel safe to say: We will take you to places you have never seen up close, and tell you stories you've never heard.  Join us.  Say you saw us here on blogspot and get discounted tickets for groups of ten to thirty people.  or call us at 773.733.2711