A premonition saved our lives: 1967 Oak Lawn Tornado

CHICAGO, PREMONITIONS 17 Comments »

epicenter-f4-tornado-oak-lawn

Friday April 21, 1967 was a bad day for the Chicago area.   At 5:30 P.M. a F-4 tornado struck Chicago’s southern suburbs and continued on a 16-mile path thru the south side of Chicago before passing into lake Michigan as a waterspout.  This massive tornado’s base was estimated to be a city block in width and traveled at a ground speed of an incredible 65 mph, out racing any vehicle.  Thirty-three people died.   Over a thousand people were injured.  Sixteen of the deaths occurred in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn when the tornado touched down at the intersection of 95th street and Southwest Highway.  This intersection was the epicenter of the tornado’s carnage.  Buildings were leveled to the ground.  Most of the deaths resulting at this fateful intersection involved vehicles at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Half of the 33 people killed were motorists waiting in traffic.

Here are some historical images recorded on the NOAA (National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration) site.: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=OakLawn_tornado_pics

A YouTube video sums up the event, titled “Terror in Oak Lawn”.

In 1967 I was six years old.  Our famly had a Friday ritual.  When dad came home from work on Friday, the family would go out for dinner at a restaurant.  It was the only day of the week we dined out.  Back then Friday was “payday” when employers actually paid weekly with a paper check.  It was a time to celebrate the end a week’s labors.

Every Friday after dad came home we immediately got in the car and drove to the same restaurant.  My mom and dad’s favorite restaurant was the Sherwood Forest Restaurant in Oak Lawn.  After dinner, we’d drive to the bank so my father could cash his check.  Sometimes it took nearly half an hour waiting in line to get that done on a busy Friday.  Back then they did not have drive thru tellers.  Or direct deposit checking.  How primitive!

As usual, Friday April 21 we got in the car and drove off to have dinner.  Traveling down Southwest Highway we arrived at the intersection of 95th street where our favorite Sherwood Forest Restaurant was located.  I recall the sky was very dark.  At the horizon was daylight, but the dark clouds above us were nearly pitch black.  Yet oddly, I recall there was no rain.

1967 Sun-Times scan: Tornado's Path

1967 Sun-Times scan: Tornado's Path

Instead of turning left and entering the restaurant’s parking lot, my dad said, “Let’s go the bank first, then we’ll come back to eat.”  It was a spontaneous decision. He never went to the bank before dinning.  He made a right turn down 95th street.

In minutes of making the turn, my mother heard something and looked behind.  She was startled and yelled at my dad, “There is a tornado behind us!”   My father looked in his rear view mirror and saw garbage cars flying around.  A huge dark mass was quickly approaching our car!   He slammed on the accelerator and took off driving right through a red light.  This swirling maelstrom was approaching to his left.   My mom jumped in the back seat and pushed me down covering me with her body.  I wanted to see what was going on but she yelled at me to stay down.  The air was roaring with the sound of a freight train.

Dad did not know if he was driving away from the tornado or actually into it.  He saw a brick building with an underground garage.  He made a desperate right turn down the embankment.  The garage door was closed, but even so he had a brick wall to his right and the car was lower then ground level.  He told my mom to open the windows to equalize the pressure.

The car began to shake.  My father said it felt like the car was about to be lifted off the ground.  He looked out the car’s rear window and in the distance saw full grown trees being plucked out of the ground and vanishing into the sky. 

Then it was over.  IT had passed us by.

Slowly he pulled out of the drive and saw the street was filled with debris.  The wreckage was everywhere. He couldn’t drive back the way he came and had to drive a distance around to return home. 

The Sherwood Forest Restaurant was directly hit by this F4 tornado, demolished, leveled to the ground.  Had we made that fateful left turn and entered the parking lot of the Sherwood Forest Restaurant, we might have perished.    We would have been in the restaurant’s lot preparing to leave the car when the tornado would have overtaken us with a ground speed of 65-miles an hour.  16 people died at Southwest Highway and 95th street, many in cars. 

I asked my dad what made him decide at the last minute to go to the bank instead of the restaurant, to turn right instead of left.  He said he did not know…it was just a feeling.  He could not explain it.  He said maybe it was a premonition.  Afterwards he kept the newspaper accounts of the event.  They are now yellowed and fragile, but he still has them. 

We probably would not be here today if he made a fateful left turn.  Is there such a thing as fate or destiny?  Do we have a date when we are all destined to die?  Should we worry about whenever we’ll die, if there is nothing we can do about it? 

History is full of convincing premonitions.  It is said the Titanic carried far less passengers on its voyage into disaster, with stories of canceled reservations due to premonitions.  If we all have a date we are destined to perish, perhaps it is still possible to sometimes cheat death if we listen to our intuition.   We should listen to our inner voice.  Which road will we take, the left road or the right road?

1967 Tribune's Tornado Special

1967 Tribune's Tornado Special

Ghost hunting at a Victorian antique shop apartment

CHICAGO, GHOSTS, ORBS 17 Comments »

 

Orb at the floor

Orb at the floor

I will recount a genuine ghost hunt.  For ghost enthusiasts the chance to investigate a true haunting is very rare.  It really is a privilege.  Most famous, publicly known hauntings have ceased being haunted long ago.  Nearly every haunting is a private affair and rarely attracts any attention outside of the individuals involved.  I got a chance at a combination of both.  I think these are important stories and need to be recorded.

It was March of 2002.  Jamie was a ghost enthusiast, and he invited me on what we loosely call an investigation.  I use the term “enthusiast” instead of “ghost hunter” because ghost hunting suggests a professional enterprise, and there is no such thing.  I believe there are no experts concerning the topic of ghosts.  We can only hope to be at the right place at the right time. 

In Jamie’s words, “Well the tentative ghost hunt I mentioned is on. We have a location. It’s at a private location with the owner’s permission near the former site of Victorian house antique shop. Victorian house is a well known haunted spot with lots of activity. I am going to contact the owners of the Victorian house and see if I can get permission to get in there too. The house now is standing vacant. If anyone is interested in going. I require an rsvp on this one and a debriefing as it is at a private site.  Jamie”

This supposedly haunted location was a Victorian style building near downtown Chicago, an antique shop that has long since been closed.  It had a reputation for being haunted.  The facts are hearsay.  It was built around 1880.  The story was four people died in an attic fire.  Another story concerned a woman murdered at this shop in the late 1800s.  Customers have reported hearing strange sounds and witnessed apparitions in this shop.

I met Jamie and Jason (another ghost enthusiast) and two ladies who I did not know outside the closed Victorian Antique shop.  We were not entering the actual store.  It was closed and the owners had no interest in entertaining visitors.  But the apartments opposite to this shop were a different story, and Jamie got an invitation to investigate from one of these renters.

We were invited in.  The residents of the apartment were interested in discovering what was happening.  They were experiencing a haunting phenomenon.  At first they looked at us with some skepticism.  But Jamie had a friendly, unpretentious southern demeanor that was disarming.  Right away we wanted to know their stories.  Why did they invite us here?  What was going on?

A young man and woman lived in this apartment.  Outside of their stories of odd sounds, footsteps and doors that closed by its self, I vividly recall the young lady’s story.  Late one night the lady of the apartment got up from her bed and went into the kitchen, and she was absolutely startled to see a man sitting at her kitchen table.  She was stunned.  He was smoking a cigarette, and he seemed very depressed, with his head was laid low.  He looked up at her sadly…and vanished.  She was unnerved by this experience, seeing a stranger in her apartment.  Except she had experienced other unseen people existing in this apartment.  She called him the “sad one”.  There were others.  She said that this spirit was not associated with the others…not popular.  The other spirits hanged together. 

Intrigued, we took out our cameras.  Jason had an EMP device.  Myself I preferred a film camera figuring a film’s negative offered physical evidence.  Jamie had his digital camera and right way he caught orbs.   Orbs are frowned on, and properly so.  Most orbs are nothing, yet they are not easy to get…random chance. But when we are in a haunting situation and orbs are photographed left and right, it is time for a serious heads up.  Jamie showed the tenants the orbs on his digital.  The guy started off skeptical, but when he was saw these orbs on Jamie’s camera he became immediately interested in what we were doing. Maybe his girlfriend’s experiences were not only in her imagination?

Above is a photo I took of their entrance door.  There are obvious orbs by the door.  However, what I think is remarkable about this film photo is the tiny orb by the floor.  There is a small glob of light and below it is a ring of light, as if the orb actually reflected the camera’s flash on the shiny floor.  I include a picture of their cat for perspective on the reflective nature of the floor, and what I imagine was captured.  Could a flash capture the actual physical reflection of an orb?

We wandered around their apartment, with their permission, taking pictures and listening to more stories. I was attentive to the details of our “investigation”. I did not know the two ladies who joined us.  They were of the pagan faith and suggested they could talk to the dead.  Mediums.  I thought to myself…uh-huh.  Yeah right, ok whatever. On the other hand I had an open mind. 

Jason and myself both experienced cold spots.  There was no breeze whatsoever.  I looked at him and he looked at he and me said,”did you feel that?”  It was truly a physical coldness…as if something cold passed through you. Contact.  We were in the real thing…this lady’s story was not only her imagination. 

haunted-tarot-card-layoutI did my usual tarot card layout as a means to attract the attention of any spirits.  In this place it was not necessary.  The layout is still interesting. What do the cards say about this haunting?  The final card is…Death.

While the mediums were talking to the spirits us guys were doing our “scientific” guy-thing, taking pictures and measurements with EMF meters (electromagnetic radiation detectors) and recordings for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena).  Science?  Not really.

Everybody gathered in the living room as the mediums began to talk with the lost haunted souls.  I listened carefully.  Were they the real deal or only pretenders?  The ladies said there was a terrible tragedy in the past.  And there were a number of spirits here; it was not a solitary haunting.  They also thought that not all the tragedies happened in the antique shop.  They just congregated here, and there was an anchor spirit that drew them here.

They said there were maybe five spirits present.  Three women and two men.  One of the spirits did not associate with the others.  He was in the grip of a deep personal darkness and could not move on.  Another was a young woman who was deeply in love and died.  They spoke of  one of the girl ghosts.  This ghost thought Jason was cute. They said this ghost was sitting on Jason’s lap at this very minute!  As Jason was sitting in a chair both Jamie and I caught these photos.

Orb sitting on Jason's lap

Orb sitting on Jason's lap

Jamie took a photo of an orb buy Jason’s left leg.  Jamie’s photo is remarkable. This orb seems to have physicality, like a blob.  My picture taken a few minutes afterwards shows another orb hovering by Jason.  Notice that the wall’s shadow is cast on the orb.  What the @%#@!  An orb photo becomes more then an orb photo depending on the context. 

The two ladies said we needed to free these lost souls.  They began using smudge sticks.  They lit the smudge sticks and let the smoke flow…and spoke to the lost souls…go home…go home and  “Be free.”   They talked directly to these souls asking them to let go of any hurt or tragedy. Whatever tragedies held them, don’t let any other spirit hold you back.  They went room to room with their smudging. 

We left, and I considered our ghost investigation as one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had.  It really sparked my interest in the paranormal to a new level. 

Here is what Jason wrote us afterwards:

“Hi. This is Jason. From the Victorian house. Just wanted to thank all of you for coming out to this place and sharing the knowledge and helping. That picture from the living room is amazing!!!  There can be no other explanation for those orbs! And they are exactly where she said they would be. Thanks ladies too, for sending them home.”

We have many other intriguing photos from this visit, but since they include people in them and we need to protect people’s privacy, I can’t post them. 

Here is Jamie’s ghost website, Jamie’s Chicago Gangsterland Ghost Page at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shadowlands/2007/ and he has a Yahoo Group for local Chicago ghost fans, ChicagolandGhostClub

An Orb and myself in the corner

An Orb and myself in the corner

Chicago’s haunted Red Lion Pub

CHICAGO, GHOSTS, ORBS, TAROT 7 Comments »

red-lion-sign

Ghost hunting is a fun hobby.  It is a nice way to socialize with people from different backgrounds who share this common interest.  It’s a great excuse to get together, hang out and share ghosts stories and unusual experiences.  The best place to for such social ghost hunting is at a haunted pub! 

Once a small group of us ghost enthusiasts went to visit the famed Red Lion Pub in Chicago.  This pub is called the most haunted pub in the city.  It is right across from the Biograph Theater where gangster John Dillinger was shot down in an alley.  The over 100-year-old building had a history of being involved with the Chicago gangsters of the 1940s.   Here is a link to the Red Lion’s website that tells about the fascinating history of the pub: http://www.redlionchicago.com/history.html

Second floor at the Red Lion

Second floor at the Red Lion

The stories about the Red Lion Pub concern multiple hauntings.  The stories of ghosts include a young cowboy, a blond guy, and a bearded man-in-black. The most enduring ghost story involves the ghost of a young lady.  Some stories suggest a beautiful young woman had died (was murdered?) in an apartment over the pub.  Other stories say she is a flapper from the 1920s.  Most convincing are the stories of a mentally challenged woman who lived and passed away at the building.  These hauntings are said to occur on the pub’s second floor.

Tarot reading for the dead

Tarot reading for the dead

The stories of the manifestations include sightings of vanishing people, objects moved in closed rooms, voices heard when no one is present, cold spots, invisible touches, the scent of a powerful perfume, and ladies getting locked in the women’s restroom…and then released after a few minutes with nobody around.

The evening our group arrived at the Red Lion Pub, we immediately went upstairs where the haunting is said to occur.  Luckily it was empty so we were able to take photos without attracting attention.  Not that it mattered.  We are not the first to visit the pub with ghostly intentions.  We all shared our stories and speculated about the pub and the nature of whatever might be present.  When a ghost story involves what seems to be multiple spirits, that is really baffling.  Solitary ghosts make sense, but what to make of multiple ghosts?  We could only speculate that spirits gather together, just as the living does.  Maybe ghosts like to socialize as well?

I did a tarot card reading, not for the living, but for the dead…for whatever unseen might be present.  There actually is logic involved in tarot card readings for the dead.  A tarot reading in a public place immediately attracts attention.  I have done readings for people at social gatherings as something fun to do, and it always gets noticed.  If it attracts the attention of the living, why not the dead as well?  The dead probably don’t pay

2nd floor women's restroom

2nd floor women's restroom

much attention to ordinary activity, but something new and unique might pique their interest…and perhaps allow us to take their picture!  Looking at the cards I laid out, using the celtic cross method, I noticed a strong element of tragedy in the cards…very apt for the situation. 

As the evening got late, other people eventually came upstairs and we put our cameras away.  Of the pictures we took, the most intriguing picture was taken by one of our lady comrades.  She took this picture in the second floor women’s restroom.  This is where there were reports of women getting mysteriously locked in the lady’s restroom and then released.  It is a picture of multiple orbs in a swirling pattern.  The most persistent haunting story involves a ghostly female, and it is of note this photo was taken in the women’s restroom.  Mere coincidence?

Myself under the Red Lion

Myself under the Red Lion