Today, not for the faint of heart, a TRUE GHOST STORY!
We had a ghost in our house.
I’m a sceptic. And if someone tells me a story about a ghost they’ve seen I’m going to do my best not to roll my eyes. But even with that in mind, I can’t think of another explanation other than that, because for almost a year we shared 5645 N. Lakewood with some visitors from the great beyond.
In 1980 my sister and I moved to Chicago to live with our Dad. Annie was going to start High School at Parker, and I was enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was an old 1900-1920 house with the normal creaks and groans, and being the Windy City, you might hear extra moans from midnight gusts and the beating of gnarled branches as they brushed and beat against window panes. We also had two cats who might tussle among themselves, chase a mouse or stroll up and down the stairs at all hours of the night. I was well aware of those sounds.
The house had a large front porch with 5 front steps. To enter you had to open the screen door, then unlock and open the a heavy slow moving wooden front door. Between that and the the remaining door to enter was vestibule to hang up your coat or take off your shows. Due to some odd air pressure vacuum , sometimes you had to grab the handle of the second door with both hands, then put your shoulder to get it to fully close. From there, a hallway lead directly to the kitchen, but on the way to the left was a front room my dad used as an office followed also on the left by a wide open stairway to the second floor. On the right was the open spaced living room with the dining room just in back of it which also attached to the kitchen.
The first time I remember experiencing our other-worldly friend was during a small casual get-together Dad was throwing. I was sitting in a big chair in the living room that was so close to the hallway I could just take one step to the right through the archway and see the front door. While relaxing there I could hear another partygoer clomping up the porch steps and open the creaking screen door. Then I heard the first door open and slam shut. Now this must have been someone with a key, which was perplexing, since Annie, Dad and me were already inside. I casually got up to see if I should get the second door for them, but by looking through the doors glass window, I could see that that the vestibule was empty. That was strange, they should be standing right there. I quickly made the 3 steps to open the doors to the porch and scanned the streets in all directions. No one was anywhere.
The second floor of the house had three bedrooms, one of which, attached to the master bedroom by a door, was used for the TV room. We also had a second smaller stairwell in the back of the house. It started at the kitchen and lead to a room on the second floor used as my bedroom and continued to the attic, half of which had a finished room that I used for my studio.
One evening a few days later my sister and I happened to have the house to ourselves. I was in my attic studio and she was in her bedroom (reading fashion magazines, playing with make-up or whatever girls do). I could hear the familiar sound of the screen door, front door and the inside door all opening and closing. Then solid footsteps making their way down the hallway. I heard Annie (who must have been leaning over the second floor stairwell landing) yell “Hello? Dad? HELLO?!” Then she went to the back stairwell and shouted up at me. “Mitch! Come here- someone’s in the house!” When there might be a ghost prowling around, Annie and I do not split up to look, we go shaking and sweating, tightly gripped hand in hand, to possibly run into a sheet covered see through haunting. Starting at the now closed second door where the attached hanging decorative glass baubles were wildly swaying back and forth as if the door had just been slammed. Our two cats were transfixed watching them, but the hangings were high enough that it was unlikely that they had lept to bat them. After slowing poking about, we didn’t run into our dead visitor, even though we had our bladders clenched tight just in case. When Dad did get back hours later, still trying to come up with a rational explanation, we asked if he had happened to run in and out of the house earlier. Nope.
Speaking of Dad, he has his own story. Late at night, Annie was sound asleep and I was out probably seeing a triple feature somewhere. Dad was in the master bedroom and head the now familiar sounds of the front doors doing their slamming and footsteps moving down the hallway. But this time they continued and creaked and clumped up the stairs. Then they walked to the tv room then opened and closed the door. Whoever was in the hose was now in the room adjacent to my dad separated by only a door. “Mitch? Is that you?” went unanswered. My back to nature dad, got a towel and wrapped himself. On his wall was a large vintage bullfighting poster displayed with a souvenir spear that he had picked up in Mexico. Armed with that spear raised high in one arm and the other holding his towel tight he awkwardly (I’m guessing) opened the door. And found nothing.
Spooky footsteps, doors opening and closing continued. We never eye witnessed the doors moving, or saw a white wispy hint of how the ghost looked, and after about eight months they tapered off and eventually ended.
Except for the one night, when the lights went out and we heard footsteps getting closer and closer and closer and… BOO!!!!!!!!!
Postscript. I went back with Annie to the house 18 years later around 1999. I wanted to draw a comic about the ghost stories and brought a camera in the hopes of taking some reference pics. We knocked on the door and the new owners were quite gracious and let us stroll around. Carrying a baby Leo in your arm puts folks at ease. We told them the stories but they happily didn’t have any of their own to share. What follows are some of those photos, a few from the time we lived there, and a couple of my dad in another house recreating his adventure. And the comic never got drawn. It’s among the thousands of other illustrating plans that I just can’t get to. :-)