Reports From Real-Life
Haunted Houses
By Tracey Middlekauff
NEW YORK - Maybe you're sick and tired of all the Halloween hoopla - the commercialism, the Darth Maul costumes, the smiling, cheery pumpkins. Isn't this holiday supposed to be scary?
Beyond the plastic masks and candy corns is the other side of Halloween " the place where things truly go bump in the night.
In the interest of the true spirit of Halloween, we've assembled a list of places where the ghosts don't carry glow sticks.
Hull House Disappoints; Crow House Gives Good Scare
The Hull House was built in 1856 in Chicago as a shelter for immigrants. Now a museum, the first reported paranormal activity was experienced in the early 1900s in the form of the Devil Baby.
According to the legend, this baby was cursed with a Satanic appearance due to his atheist father. It is said the child appears in the house as a ghostly light. A ghostly, devilish light.
But according to one museum worker named Barb (who requested her last name be withheld), no one has seen anything creepy at Hull House for years. And Barb is one person who ought to know, because, she says, "I used to live in a haunted house."
Barb used to live in The Crow House, a well-known residence in the Crystal Lake area of Illinois. Her parents still live there.
"That's the oldest house in town," Barb says. "We know of a woman who died there in the 1970s, Mrs. Davy. You can smell lilacs when she's around. We can see her " she's just always around. Other people can sense her too."
Barb says you can often hear people having a party downstairs in the house, but "when you go to check, no one's there."
Corbis - Signs of a suburban haunting?
According to Barb, there's also the ghost of a man dressed in an 1800s costume, with a walrus mustache. She says he just stands on the steps and stares. "The upstairs master bedroom used to be used as a sick room," Barb explains. "People died there. That's where this man died."
Generally, she says it's not too scary: "We're used to Mrs. Davy."
But, as far as Hull House goes, Barb confides it's a real disappointment that nothing scary has happened, since that's why she took the job. "It's really sad," she says.
But Barb perks up when you ask her about Chicago's other supernatural hot spots.
"The Biograph Theater was the last place Dillinger was before he was killed in the alley out back," she says. "People say you can see him sometimes, running down the alley before he disappears in a purple light. I know for a fact dogs will not go in that alley."
The site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, now a parking lot, is also rumored to be visited by the spirits of the dead, once again attested to by the apparent agitation of dogs forced to enter the premises, according to Barb.
Amityville Horror Gets Erased from Local Memory
And then there's Amityville, N.Y., arguably the site of the most famous haunted house in the United States.
On November 13, 1974, the now-infamous house in Long Island became the scene of a brutal multiple murder when Ronald DeFeo, Jr. killed six members of his family with a shotgun as they slept in their beds.
Folk legend has it DeFeo was possessed by the spirit of a Native American chief whose tomb had been violated around the turn of the century.
And everyone remembers the 1979 film The Amityville Horror, based on Jay Anson's 1977 book of the same name, which purported to tell the horrifying "true story" of the Lutz family, who bought the house in 1975. The Lutzes claimed a series of terrifying supernatural events drove them from the home.
Some believe the part about the haunting is a hoax, while others buy the story.
But if the folks at the Amityville Chamber of Commerce had their way, the whole thing would be erased from county records by now. According to Marsha Bessman, "Those events never happened. That's not an image we want people to have of our town."
And yes, according to Bessman, a "normal" family now lives in the house, leading a "normal" life. "Tourists don't come to see the house anymore," she says. And to make sure, the street is now one-way, and there's no parking.
Fort McHenry? Ain't no Ghosts Here
On a less sensational note, Baltimore's Ft. McHenry, the fortress that guarded the city throughout history, is rumored to be the site of some supernatural goings-on. Stories have been told of a shadowy figure who marches along the parapets, an evil spirit in a hallway and floating furniture. Tour guides have reportedly been surrounded in an otherworldly light, and it is rumored voices have been heard after the fort has been closed to visitors.
But try getting any of the park rangers to admit that. One ranger, a 20-year veteran who declined to give his name, would only say, in the terse small-town dialect that Hollywood's made us expect in these situations: "I don't repeat ghost stories." When pushed to reveal where he heard said stories, he cryptically responded, "Visitors."
Perhaps he was too frightened to speak. Or maybe he was a ghost himself ... Only one way to know for sure: check out Fort McHenry and see for yourself.