Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1906
Aroson’s ghost has reappeared.
Clerks, mall carriers. distributers. window men. and especially the men at the general delivery windows of the Chicago postoffice, are excited over the reappearance of the ghost which for many years was supposed to have been laid forever.
The ghost of the Swede which for nearly ten years is alleged to have haunted the general delivery window in the old postoffice building, and which disappeared after the old structure was torn down, has reappeared in the new and magnificent pile which arose on the site of the old ruin.
Aronson, or Aronson’s ghost, still is looking for its letter—the letter which never has arrived. Twice recently. according to the statements of the clerks and other employés of the postoffice. the ghost has been seen, just before closing time, in the corridor of the new federal building, cringing and apologetic, humbly and hopefully approaching the general delivery window, and then turning. disappointed and dejected; away from the window, to disappear in the shadows of the corridor.
Swede First Appeared in Old Postoffice.
There is a story connected with the ghost of Aronson which the older men in the office know, especially, the men who worked in the old ruin that stood in the square bounded by Clark and Dearborn, Adams and Jackson boulevard. The older employés knew Aronson and Aronson’s ghost well, and they believe he still is looking for his letter.
It was in 1891 that Nels Aronson first began appearing at the general delivery window at the postoffice. He was slight and blond, and his English was bad. Every evening, just before closing time, he slipped into the old west corridor of the postoffice, sidled apologetically up to the window. and in broken English asked for a letter for Nels Aronson. Each time he came his dull. heavy face was lighted with the light of hope, and each time that he went away it fell back to dull disappointment and hopelessness.
In time the clerks at the window began to know him and to reach for the “Ar” box as soon as he hove in sight. But somehow Aronson never became a joke wlth them. There was too much tragedy in his humble query at the window, and the droop of his shoulders was too pitiful for jest. The clerks, without knowing, the trouble. realized that behind his daily gleam of hope and his sudden collapse into utter hopelessness lay nothing for any jest.
Letter That He Longed for Never Came.
One day some one told him to try the dead letter office. Perhaps the letter bad been misdirected and gone there. For days he went from the general delivery window upstairs and after making inquiries sent off laboriously, written letters to Washington. The only letters he ever received from the general delivery window were officially stamped missives from Washington, and when he had pondered over them laboriously the glow of hope died from his face and he shambled out
It was in January, 1894, according to Clerk Washbourne, who then had charge of a window, that Aronson ceased to appear at the window. The clerks had noticed that he was shabbie and more scantily clad than ever, and that he coughed and coughed when asking if his letter had come yet. They watched him, bent and coughing, with his faded blue coat buttoned tightly across his narrow chest, and felt sorry.
It was at that time that Clerk George Miller heard his story. He met Aronson in the corridor and took him out to get a drink. Warmed by the drink and encouraged by the kindly treatment the man in simple, broken English told the story.
He had been born at Noorkoping, and there he had loved the most beautiful girl in the world. Her hair was bright. like moonshine, and her eyes were blue, her cheeks like pink roses. So he had come to America to make a fortune, and when he sent money she was to come and be his wife. A year after he reached Chicago he had sent the money and—she had not come. Daily he expected to receive a letter telling him that she had started—it was for that letter that he haunted the general delivery window.
Aronson Disappeared for Two Months.
Only a few weeks after Miller beard the story Aronson ceased to come to ask for his letter.
“Old Aronson must have given up hope,” remarked the clerks.
That was in January. For nearly two months there was no sign of the “patient Swede,” and he was forgotten when one afternoon about 5 o’clock Clerk Nels Jansen was at the window gazing out into the corridor. The evening was cold and dark, and fog had settled over the city. He was looking straight out into the corridor when suddenly there appeared the slouching, apologetic figure of Nels Aronson. Mechanically Jansen reached for the “Ar” box and ran through the letters there, then turned, half pityingly, to say, Nothing for you today.”
The figure approached to within five feet of the window, gave a long, beseeching look, and. with a half whine, disappeared, leaving Jansen shivering with cold and fright.
Jansen’s story of seeing the ghost of Aronson aroused a roar of laughter, but less than a week later Ed Fender, a sub clerk, saw it in the same way.
After that the ghost of Nels Aronson became a fixture in the old postoffice. At least four men in the general delivery department vowed that they saw Aronson’s ghost appear out of the dimness of the corridor just before closing time, approach the window, and when within a few feet of the window, whine and disappear. Their fellows tried to laugh them out of it, but the postoffice ghost became a fixture.
Once a Janitor fled in wild terror from the third floor of the old building, declaring he had met the ghost walking over the loose and noisy flags of the corridor, whining and seeming1y looking for something.
The clerks at general delivery got so that they took the ghost almost as a matter of course. Some of them declared it was no ghost at all, but the man himself slinking into the dimly lighted corridor, too hopeless and too heartsick to approach the window and ask for his mail.
Once, Dan McBeth, looking up suddenly from his work, says he saw the face of Aronson at the window, peering at him with haunted, piteous eyes. A low wail came through the window, a wail that made McBeth shiver in spite of himself. He rallied and called out loudly: “Hello, Aronson, come for your letter?”
At the sound, MeBeth says, the ghost disappeared as if in thin air, and a sob filled the whole. corridor.
“I may have imagined it,” says McBeth. “It may not have been a ghost at all. but ‘ when I got a chance to transfer from the window, I transferred real quick. I didn’t want to see Aronson again. I used to wake up at night and see that pitiful face, and lie awake for hours.”
When the old postoffice was torn down and the postoffice was established in the temporary building on the lake front there was much jesting among the clerks as to whether or not Aronson’s ghost would find the place and hunt for his letter there.
Wondered Whether He Would Reappear.
For years, while the new federal building was being completed. there was no sign. New clerks came, new men manned the general delivery windows, and Aronson’s ghost almost was forgotten.
A few of the old timers remembered and sometimes told the story, but it seemed as if the ghostly Swede at last had abandoned hope that his sweetheart in Sweden mould write to him and tell him she was coming to be has wife and help him build his fortune in the new land.
Then, when the long delays were over and the department was moved into its magnificent, if badly arranged, quarters, Aronson was forgotten.
Reappears in the New Building.
About a month ago Ed McGrew was at a general delivery window temporarily. So far as can be learned he never had heard of Aronson or his ghost. It was a dark, rainy, dreary afternoon, and the corridor almost was deserted when McGrew says he saw a slender, apologetic, timid looking person approaching the window. He noticed that the form was bent and racked with coughing. He waited. The figure came to within a few feet of the window, gave a pitiful look of disappointment, and, before the eyes of the clerk, vanished—simply fading away into nothingness, leaving McGrew rubbing his eyes and wondering.
He told the story as a joke on himself, and some old timer recalled Aronson’s ghost.
The rumor spread through the office that the ghost had reappeared.
Seen by an Old Acquaintance.
Since then only one other person claims to have seen the visitant. That man is George Miller, who knew Aronson of old. He declares be saw Aronson’s ghost loitering near a pillar, gazing piteously towards the general delivery window.
“I hadn’t thought of Aronson or his ghost for four years anyhow,” said Miller later. “I was standing at the window, relieving one of the fellows who had gone out to telephone. It was getting dark in the corridor—and there were shadows along behind the pillars. A few persons, dripping with the rain, were passing through.
“Suddenly my flesh began to creep, and, looking up, I saw Aronson—just as I saw him lave years ago. tale seemed to be coughing, but could not beer any cough. was afraid he would come to the window. I gave a look at the box to see if the letter he expected really had arrived. That was my first thought—that the letter had come and he had returned to claim it. Thera was no letter—and when I looked out the window again Aronson, or his ghost, was gone.”
So the postoffice employés are excited, and they believe that Aronson has come back to look for his letter, and they watch for his ghost every dull, rainy afternoon.
Ed McGrew and George Miller, who were alleged witnesses of the 1906 ghost sightings, are not listed in the 1907 Lakeside Business Directory of Chicago.