Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1893
For the last two weeks the home of Mrs. Frances Cohn, No. 3901 Prairie Avenue, has been disturbed in such a mysterious way that the family has become concerned as to final results unless the mystery is soon solved. The explanations of the happenings of the mornings and evenings of the last fourteen days are as numerous as the people who attempt to give the explanations and cover all the possibilities, known and unknown, from ghosts to earthquakes. None of them seem to fit the case.
The trouble began two weeks ago last night at 11:30 o’clock. The family was suddenly awakened by a strange scraping noise and the rattling of windows, the slamming of doors, the ringing of the doorbell, and the jingling of dishes and pans in the kitchen. The house rocked from side to side and then began dancing up and down in a most peculiar manner and acting not at all as a well-behaved house should act at that time of night.
To say the inmates were scared is putting it mildly. Mrs. Cohn says she is not at all superstitious, but she would like to know what it was that got her out of bed so suddenly. The house is a story and a half frame building set upon wooden pins or posts. The disturbance lasted several minutes and then steopped as suddenly as it had started. Upon investigation no changes were discernible in the walls of the rooms, the doors were all right, and the building was just where it had been for fifteen years.
Nothing more seems to have been thought of the occurrence and little was said even among the members of the family. Mrs. Cohn was sure the neighbors would not believe the story and would probably think her demented, so she cautioned the children to say nothing and forget what they had seen.
Strange Happenings Repeated.
This was all right for one day, but at 11 o’clock the next night the strange thing happened again. Then there was a general hunt for causes and the stovepipes were more securely wired to the walls and the dishes laid out so as not to fall from the shelves. The gas was lit at the time, but did not appear to lose any of its brilliancy while the commotion was going on. Again the house rocked and danced and the tin pans rattled and the rocking chairs rocked without apparent cause.
Then things were considered serious and an investigation was ordered at a conference of the members of the family as they met in the sitting room to to report experiences. The next morning at 6 o’clock the family was at the breakfast table when the same thing broke loose once more. It is not daylight these mornings at 6, but upon the beginning of these strange occurrences the children, a boarder, and Mrs. Cohn scattered themselves about the house and outside to investigate. All brought in the same stories—nothing in sight.
Then a plan of defense was formed. As soon as the noise was again heard the boarder was to go into the basement with one of the boys, the other boy was to run around the house, and Mrs. Cohn, and the girls were to hod down the chairs and dishes inside. The mystery put in its appearance on schedule time that night, and, as it generally lasts four to five minutes, each watcher found his appointed place and kept a sharp lookout for ghosts, burglars, or earthquakes. None were found and the mystery was still as deep as before.
The family had become accustomed to its guest by this time and was able to pay more attention to details. It was noticed that the first thing heard was a peculiar sawing sound as if someone was cutting an iron pipe with a hand-saw. This was in the southwest corner of the house. Then in the opposite corner would be heard a strange pounding as of a great suction-valve in motion or a trip-hammer driving piles. This would be followed by the rocking of the house and the accompanying slamming of doors and shutters and the rattling of pans and dishes. The door bell would ring and no one could be found who rang it.
Policeman and Plumbers at Sea.
The policeman was notified the next day and he began investigation. So far he has been unable to explain the mystery. A plumber was called in. He said the pipes were all right and had not been tampered with. The boarder dug a hole in the cellar, but could find nothing out of the ordinary, except that the earth resembled that over a body of water.
Then the neighbors got hold of the story and it was whispered about that the house was haunted. Superstitious people began to walk on the opposite side of the street and imagine they could see misty shapes putting their hands against the building to make it rock.
Last night, Mrs. Cohn invited a dozen of the neighbors into her home so they could see for themselves. At 8:45 the house had its regular evening “shake.” No one attempted to explain the thing.
Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1893
Mrs. Cohn, who the shaky house, No. 3001 Prairie avenue, held an impromptu reception last night. All the neighbors had read the story in The Tribune yesterday and decided to be on hand the next time a shake took place. That they did not know Mrs. Cohn or never had heard of her until yesterday made no difference. They looked upon her as they would upon a man who owned a circus and a free one at that.
During the day a fow persons went out of their way to take at look at the house which such queer tricks. One of these persons was a woman whose business it is to conjure up spirits from the other world at so much per spirit. She looked at the house and saw a spirit hovering about the chimneys. She determined to help Mrs. Cohn out of her perplexities.
She called Mrs. Cohn to the door and explained. Mrs. Cohn does not believe in ghosts, and she told the medium so. The medium insisted that she (Mrs. Cohn) had lately lost a dear friend. Mrs. Cohni admitted her father died about a month ago; the medium’s vision was correct. The spirit was a rather tall man with “mutton chop” whiskers. Mrs. Cohn was sure the medium’s vision was wrong; her father was hardly five feet tall mind wore no whiskers at all. The medium left the mystery unsolved.
Many Believe It Ghosts.
Most of the people who read the story decided it was ghosts. They did not believe in ghosts themselves—that is, not much. Nevertheless they would see for themselves. Ghosts only go about at night, so they waited till dark. Then they called at No. 3901.
The house was not planned with a view to large receptions. It is at small building and a good deal of it is up-stairs. Some of it is in the cellar. No one was asked to go up-stairs, and no one wanted to go in the cellar. The queer things happen down there.
The first installment of neighbors arrived before Mrs. Cohn had her supper dishes washed. The guests entertained themselves by telling all the ghost stories they had ever heard. In a few minutes the bell rang. It was no supernatural this time. Mrs. Cohln’s son George went to the door. Before he could get it shut again the parlor was full and had overflowed into the sitting room. The chairs were too few to meet the demands, and the visitors stood in a row against the wall. Mrs. Cohn did her best to make the visitors feel at home, but no one wanted to feel at home in a shaky house, and the hostess’ advances were coldly received.
Then came a thundering knock at the door. It was a delegation of policemen from the eleventh precinct. They had dropped in to make a friendly call and brought along several women. They vere a most cheerful party. Each one had an explanation for the shaking and the noises. “Rats,” said one; “cats,” said amother; “dogs,” said a third.
After a few harmless jokes on spooks the party left. As they went out another crowd came in. The kitchen was pressed into service to this party. They sat on the table and talked ward politics. Some friends called to offer sympathy to Mrs. Cohn, but there alas no room in the house and they were entertained onl the back porch. A large number of persons unable to get into the stood on the front piazza and peeked in through the windows.
No Shake Rewards Them.
But the expected shaking did not come, or was delayed for some reason. At 10 o clock the crowd grew weary and dispersed. Mrs. Cohn says she prefers the ghosts, if ghosts they be, to such a reception as she had last night.
Superstitious servant girls in the neighborhood are perfectly satisfied they know the cause of the disturbances. “It’s ghosts,” they say. The fact that there was recently a death in the house is referred to by the maids when talking about the mystery. Isaac Zeigler, Mrs. Cohn’s father, died at the house Oct. 10 last. He was aged 85 years and was one of Chicago’s old settlers, having lived here since the early 40’s. He retired from business some years ago and made his home with his daughter.
Chicago Tribune, January 27, 1901
If Mrs. E. A. Stuart of 10 North State street, who is reported to be earnestly seeking for a sure-enough haunted Chicago house to live-in, is sincere in her expression of this desire she need not know it unsatisfied long. There are a number of Chicago houses concerning which ghost stories are told—stories quite veracious and provable enough, apparently to justify her attention and residence. Several others have been torn down and destroyed only within the last year. The house concerning which she is reported to have been in correspondence with Captain O’Neil of the Woodlawn Police Station would seem to be the best house which Mrs. Stuart could possibly have chosen as a basis for her investigations. There are many living witnesses to the existence and constant activity of the extremely modern and up-to-date ghost who once lived in and now hangs about this mansion. Mrs. Mary H. Ford, the well known art critic and lecturer, occupied this house for over two years, and the ghost of “Old Man Lane” appeared to and talked with her frequently during that time.
Lake avenue, Hyde Park, between Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth streets, is a quiet and anything but “spookish-looking” neighborhood. Quaint, roomy old houses, which were once the suburban homes of men and women long identified with early Chicago, are being gradually forced out and replaced by more modern houses and the large apartment buildings, which still seem out of place and keeping with the quiet, shady street. “Old Man Lane,” whose ghost or spirit is said to haunt the house which for many years constituted almost his sole interest in life, was known to almost every resident of Hyde Park and Chicago at one time. After his death, about five years ago, his spirit, happier about his old home than its new residence, continued to hang around and haunt the big, ramshackle old house, fast falling into decay. It soon became absolutely impossible to induce tenants to remain in the house longer than a few nights or days—for the “Lane ghost” is said to walk by walk by day as well as night. With Mrs. Ford, who believes in the “natural” hypothesis and who is more afraid of her fellow-human beings dead than alive, the spirit of the old man struck up a hearty—and most helpful—friendship.
One of Mr. Lane’s strongest interests during his earth-life had been the manipulation of the furnace in his house. Mrs. Ford, finding the furnace unruly, the ghost of Mr. Land instructed her what kind of coal to buy.
“That’s strange,” said the coal dealer to whom Mrs. Ford gave the order. “Nobody has ever ordered that particular combination of three kinds of coal from me before.”
Not content with this, the ghost of Mr. Lane looked after the furnace all winter. He opened the front door to Mrs. Ford and her children several times when they found themselves locked out, at uncanonical hours, without a night key. When a friend of Mrs. Ford’s son, staying with him, insisted upon coming home late at night he found it useless to enter quietly. Mr. Lane’s ghost took good care that Mrs. Ford knew all that was happening. He carried on ordinary, common-sense conversations with Mrs. Ford, and descended to the more spectacular methods of ghosts only in the early days of their acquaintance and in regard to one particular. A certain slide door, leading from the library to the yard, could never be permitted to stay closed until Mr. Lane’s ghost was recognized.
Mrs. Ford, who had never seen Mr. Lane in life, described the ghost so accurately that old friends and neighbors recognized him. and the ghost has been seen by other people also. It—or he—has not been seen so often of late, however. Mrs. Ford attributes this to the strong probability, according to her belief, that he has “gone on” to other spirit levels than the early one, which he found so little to his liking, and that he has now gathered for his spiritual self other interests and occupations than the ghosts of those which occupied him here on earth. But the “Lane ghost” still haunts the neighborhood at intervals, despite the altered conditions which it must now find, and the big, old house will bear an uncanny reputation so long as it stands.
Over on the West Side, something like ten miles away from the Lane mansion, stands a quaint old structure which is a relic of just-after-the-fire Chicago. This building stands on the southeast corner of Washington boulevard and Ribey street, and was known in the early days as “Robey’s Tavern.” Nowadays with a trim brick basement supporting the frame structure which originally constituted the entire house, it looks fairly modern. But the ghost which is said to haunt it is of decidedly ancient origin.
The present resident of the house, a blood relative of Abraham Lincoln, says that he has never seen the feminine spirit which is reported to pervade the building at times, but there are plenty of people in the neighborhood who have seen it. The unearthly visitor which wanders about aimlessly, sighing and wringing its hands, is supposed to be the ghost of the first Mrs. Robey. She is always dressed as a French woman of the 1800 period, and is small, slender, invariably black robed. The first “hanging bee” of Cook County is said to have been held in front of this house, and the victim of the rope was suspended from a large tree in front of it. And ever since that time the uncanny spook has sighed and moaned about it every now and then.
West Taylor street, one block west of Blue Island avenue, is a different neighborhood from that of quiet Washington boulevard or aristocratic Hyde Park. But ghosts, like human evils, are no respecters of persons or of localities. A fine old ghost, of marked type, and lacking only the chains and groans to identify it fully with the clanking, conventional ghost of the early part of the nineteenth century, haunts a certain house of this neighborhood, according to popular report.
The house, which is strongly built of brick and stone, and stands a little back from the street, is shut in by a massive, tombstone-like wall of white stone, yellowing now with age. This fence was built by Thomas Fanning thirty-nine years ago—as an advertisement of his stone-cutting business, according to the neighborhood unbelievers. The superstitious individuals who have seen the ghost of the old man, long since dead, wandering in and about the house and yard, tell a different story. The stone fence, closed by a handsome wrought-iron gate, and shadowing the lower windows of the house most grewsomely, suggests nothing so much as a cemetery vault or mausoleum. As a mausoleum it was it was originally constructed, so say the West Taylor street gossips, and the ghost who is supposed to haunt the place is that of an old miser, whose ungranted desire to be buried in the vault which underlies it causes him to haunt the house and the back yard in which he once buried his hoarded treasure.
A love element is introduced into the tale by some people, and the house has borne a ghostly reputation for many years. This reputation has lost nothing because of the fact that since one of the two young women who now own the house was vacated by her and her sister, the lower part has remained fully furnished but untenanted. The upper floor has had a succession of tenants, none of whom, to quote a near-by neighbor, “staid as long as the present people,” who have lived in a haunted house, untroubled, since last October. These tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Ereles and family, come of good, sensible, hard-working stock, and would not, so says Mrs. Ereles, be afraid of ghosts, even if they saw them.
“I’ve a deal of faith, myself,” says Mrs. Ereles, bravely, “and I wouldn’t fear a spirit, even if it came right up to me. But never a ghost have I seen about the house while I’ve been living in it, and I’m up late two or three nights in the week with my little ones. And my husband, he would only make ‘Bosh” Bosh!’ if you asked him about them.”
But the children of the neighborhood warned the photographer, who lasyt week endeavored to photograph the odd-looking place, that the house was haunted, and that ill-luck would follow whoever lived there.
“We ain’t never seen the ghost,” they asserted glibly in concert, “but it’s there, sure. There’s lights in the back yard at night, and nobody never lives there long. Them people in there will move out soon, you see if they don’t. The ghost don’t let nobody stay.”
And near the massive stone wall which looks capable of keeping so many secrets safely hidden, they could not be lured. And there are many adult residents of the Halsted street, Blue Island avenue, and West Taylor street neighborhood who will go far around than pass the place after dark. All the conductors and drivers of the street cars passing by the door know the story, although few have seen the ghost.
In East Fifty-third street, near Greenwood avenue, there stood until about a year ago a fine old house, fast falling into utter decay, concerning which a ghost story has long existed. This house was erected fifty years ago by Charles Smith, a wealthy Chicago man, in the district which was then known as “Egansville.” The family left the house after his death, and, passing through the hands of a long succession of tenants, it gradually came to be occupied by families different from the one which had originally laid and enjoyed the fine, large rooms, the wide, roomy piazzas, and the lovely old-fashioned grounds. Just when the ghost story began to be circulated nobody seems to know, but for some years past superstitious and nervous people have avoided the neighborhood after dark. About three years ago the house itself was razed to the ground. Only a few lilac bushes and large trees now mark the spot where it stood, but the timid ones still pass westward by some other route than Fifty-third street. The corn which soon waved over the place where the house and barn had stood was held to rustle in more than natural manner and degree, and the white-robed ghostly figure which used to hang over the verandas, carry lights from one to another of the upper windows when the house was still, silent, or untenanted, still wanders about the now desolate looking grounds, if all tales be true, and scarce a Hyde Park child will venture near the place, even when the lilacs are in bloom.
Lilacs, by the way, seem to be somehow connected with the haunted house of the South Side. Two such houses were last year torn down on Cottage Grove avenue, both standing on the west side of the street. One of them, near Forty-fifth street, was haunted by a most dreadful ghost, the horribly, ghastly figure of the man who was once murdered there, “under distressing circumstances,” says the police officer on the block. Gray painted, forbidding, depressingly lonesome in appearance, it stood vacant for years, the steps, porch, and window frames gradually failing away. It was torn down recently and now the site is occupied by a fine new row of flats. But:
“There’s a many people who couldn’t be persuaded to live above the ground where the ghost’s dead body is supposed to have lain,” says the sapient policeman.
“An’ ghosts often hangs artoun’ the ground they oughter have bin buried in, even when it’s all built over an’ forgotten,” says the gray old woman who has watched Chicago grow to its present condition. “I see that ghost just a night or two ago wid me own eyes, an’ that’s a fact fer ye!”
In the little space intervening between the front steps of the old house, which this ghost haunted lilacs bloomed every spring and waved fragrant banners every spring. But the neighborhood children never reached over the tumbling picket fence to pluck them. Nor did they ever pluck the lilac blossoms which thrived in such profusion in the tangled old flower-garden on either side of the other haunted house of Cottage Grove avenue. This house stood near Thirty-fifth street and every street car conductor on the Cottage Grove avenue line knew the ghost story concerning it.
“I’ve been runnin’ up and down here for fifteen years,” said one of these men, recently, “and I’ve watched that house falling to pieces, time and time again. Nobody ever occupied it for many years back, but I’ve seen lights in the windows, and a frail old woman picking the lilac flowers at night, many and many a time, and there’d never be any lilacs less in the morning. The children wouldn’t have picked them for anything. Why! Even now there’s a fine little skating pond in the hollow where the house stood, but the children never go near it. The story? Well, I’ve heard that an old lady died in that house who’d been left there neglected, by her children, and that they couldn’t one of them live in it afterward. True? How should I know? But I’ve seen an old lady who wasn’t of this world picking lilacs out in that yard. Just as I tell you, and there wasn’t a blossom less when I came by on my first day trip, that’s all!”
Hyde Park, according to one of its oldest residents, is a perfect stomping ground for ghosts of all kinds and persuasions. On East End avenue, near Fifty-fourth street, upon the site of the new fine house just being erected by the Coonly family, stood until recently a big old house with fine grounds and conservatory, which was said to be haunted by the ghost which has also been seen about the new building—the ghost of “Shaky” Morgan, who died in the old house some years ago.
After Mr. Morgan’s death the family left the old home, picturesque and comfortable as it was—because the ghost of the dead father refused to allow them to stay there, it was said. The lake winds blowing and wailing around the place are still said to bear echoes of the voice, which became louder than ever after the death of Mrs. Morgan, and some of the old-timers among the professional fishermen who congregate just back of the big new building just going up are ready to swear that they have seen “Old Shaky” himself many a stormy night. And, like iut’s Fifty-third street fellow, the haunted house bore so ghostly and uncanny reputation that even the children shunned it as a matter of course. Only in the brightest of weather could they be persuaded to venture inside the yard.
The laying of a ghost by turning its old home around was the experiment more or less successfully tred in regard to the family home of Henry Lloyd at Winnetka. The original homestead, an old house, was haunted by the ghost of a small old woman, who was wont to pass through doors—and all this credibly attested—wander up and down staircases and in and out of rooms at will, and make strange, unearthly sounds in the apartments which happened to be vacant. The family of Lloyd became accustomed to seeing her, it is said, and feared her not at all. Nevertheless, the olf house was presently moved across the road, and so turned that the front faces where the front used to be. Still the ghost of the old woman, bonneted and gowned in black, makes its appearance every now and then, although not so often as it used to do. The house is nearly a century old, and the quaint old figure is supposed to date from some time and family long since forgotten.
Concerning the childhood home of a one-time Canadian but present resident of Chicago, Arthur Raymond Longley, a grewsome and apparently well authenticated ghost story is told. The house, Maplehurst, stands on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, near the foot of the Thousand Islands, and between Brockville and Prescott. The house, which is over 100 years old, is said to be haunted by the great-grandmother of the present incumbent. This lady, who was handsome and of striking presence, died in the house many years ago. Her death was occasioned by a violent hemorrhage, induced by consumption. During her death struggles for air she left her bed, which was situated in the room afterward used for a library, and rushed across the sitting-room to the drawing-room windows, gasping for breath. In front of the window she collapsed and died., and ever since that day her ghost appears at intervals struggling for air, as she did upon the day of her death. Her long black hair floats behind her, her white robe is stained and spotted with blood, and the sight of her figure is sufficient to drive every servant from the place at times. Strangely enough, she seldom appears to any member of the actual family of her descendants, but family members have often beheld her, and among Canadians in Chicago the story is treated as true.