Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1893
MYSTERY OF A HOUSE
QUEER DOINGS IN A PRAIRIE AVENUE HOME UNEXPLAINED.
The Family of Mrs. Frances Cohn Disturbed by the Rattling of Dishes, Ringing of the Door Bell, Rocking of Chairs, and Shaking of the House—Efforts to Find the Cause of the Trouble Fail, and Now the Neighbors Speak in Whispers of Ghosts
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
WORSE THAN A GHOST
INQUISITIVE NEIGHBORS CROWD INTO MRS. COHN’S HOME
They Came to See if the Prairie Avenue House Really Shakes and to Learn What Caused It, but Are Disappointed, for the Manifestation of Unseen Power Fails to Come in Time—A Medium Says a Spirit Is on the Chimney, but It Is Unidentified.
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.