Chicago Ghost Tours and Haunted Houses

Haunted Chicago: Ghost Tours and Haunted Houses

Fear City Chicago
Our experience with haunted houses has been underwhelming at best—the odd wax museum here and there, the terror film classic—“Poltergeist,” of course, which we promptly turned off at the sight of angelic Carol Anne nearing the fuzzy TV. But what happens when the gory scenes play out in the flesh, and you’re straight-up trapped in the horror? It’s a slow, strategic spook called Fear City Chicago that manifests every year, this time in a 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Morton Grove. Chuck Grendys, owner of movie-building shop Big City Sets, and Jim Lichon, an Emmy-winning set decorator who spent part of his career at Oprah’s Harpo Studios, spend months culling materials for sets and training more than 100 actors to scare the be-jesus out of you. Why Chicagoans drive to the suburbs for this fright fest? The website warning offers hints: trained talent emerging from dark spaces, strobe lights, uneven flooring, power tools. For the strong of heart, the scary story continues with the addition of Our Lady of the Cursed, an abandoned school for girls where those who attended suffered the unspeakable. Be further warned that there are no refunds once tickets are purchased, and your only “out” is not entering at all. The light at the end of that bloodcurdling tunnel: A portion of the proceeds go to the District 219 Education Foundation, which benefits students in need in Niles Township. Fear City tickets $25; Our Lady of the Cursed tickets $20; combo ticket $35 valid on the same day. Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 16-19, 22-26, 29-31, Nov. 1. Weekdays 7:30-11 pm; F, Sa 7:30 pm-12 am. 8240 N. Austin Ave., Morton Grove.

Something About Mary
Every ghost has a story, and every good ghost story has some eerie truth to it. Such is the case with Chicago’s own Resurrection Mary, so named for her many sightings near Resurrection Cemetery, about 25 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. “First-person encounters with her continue to occur regularly,” explains Chicago Hauntings tour operator Ursula Bielski. There are several theories as to “Mary”’s real identity and how she died, but the most common is the tale of a young woman who met her boyfriend at the Willowbrook dance hall in the early 1930s, argued with him and stormed out, planning to hitchhike, but was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Since then, eyewitnesses have “seen” a blond-haired woman in a white dress walking “in a trance” or dancing along Archer Road; some have actually reported hitting a woman with their car, only to find no body, only an impression in the grass; and then there’s the famous story from 1976 of a man who spotted a girl locked inside the cemetery. When police arrived, no one was there, only two bent bars of the entrance gate with what looked like handprint marks seared to the bars. Although Bielski has never seen Mary, her 15-year-old daughter did, in a flash of a white dress behind the cemetery gate. “This kid…is the first skeptic every time, so her word was gold to me,” says Bielski who also notes that Archer Road was built over an ancient Native American trail and “is likely an energy line or ley line, along which paranormal phenomena naturally happens.” Brave enough to find out for yourself?