Tea’s Weird Week: Famous Ghosts of Chicago
Tea’s Weird Week is going to be on the scene at the Paranormal Chicago Conference next weekend, March 6 (www.facebook.com/events/1067747297402289). If you’re not familiar with my lifestyle, I do seasonal work as a tour guide for American Ghost Walks here in Milwaukee. I love it– the tours are a nice mix of history along with sharing some firsthand stories from people who have said they’ve hand ghostly encounters. Oftentimes after the tour, people will share their own supernatural encounters with me.
In advance of the Chicago conference, I thought I’d talk to one of my colleagues, Tony Szabelski, who leads tours for American Ghost Walks in Chicago. Chicago, as you can imagine, is rich and dense in ghostlore, a legacy of serial killers (including “America’s first,” H.H. Holmes, as well as John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck), gangsters (Al Capone, Chicago was also where they finally got John Dillinger), and famous disasters (the Great Chicago Fire, the Eastland Disaster). I talked to Tony about some of these cases as well as Resurrection Mary (a classic Chicago ghost story– Mary’s stomping grounds are near the Chicago conference), the Joliet Prison, and the Congress Hotel in the latest TWW podcast.
I’ll be revisiting more Chicago weirdness later this Spring/ early summer when I’ll be reporting on the Chicago Mothman cases for Fortean Times. I love Chicago– I always have sort of a pulp noir image of it in my head– the El rattling by above your head, a crumpled copy of the Chicago Tribune blowing in the wind down the street, vendors selling Chicago style dogs…it’s a great place to visit.
SEE ALSO: I wrote this article on Chicago ghost experts Ursula Bielski and Dale Kaczmarek for Scandinavian Traveler in 2019: Meet the real-life ghostbusters | Scandinavian Traveler
This early TWW column from around the same time talked about the ghost of Al Capone: Tea’s Weird Week: Chasing the Ghost(s) of Al Capone and a Rant About Geraldo | (teakrulos.com)
Tea’s Weird Week S4 E5, Famous Ghosts of Chicago: I talked with Tony Szabelski, Chicago ghost guide, about some of Chicagoland’s many ghost stories. We discussed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Resurrection Mary, the Congress Hotel, and other ghost lore. Me and Heidi discuss weird news about a Canadian pillow drop, Tea’s Illuminati invitation, and da UP’s own glowing rock, Yooperlite. Plus trivia with Miss Information and a track by Time Thieves, “Road.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep05: Famous Ghosts of Chicago (podbean.com)
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My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
Tea’s Weird Week: Chasing the Ghost(s) of Al Capone and a Rant About Geraldo
Tune in every Friday to read about whatever weird stuff Tea is getting himself into.
Well, I’m on my way to visit Chicago twice in the next few days where I’ll be profiling legendary ghost experts Ursula Bielski (Chicago Hauntings) and Dale Kaczmarek (Ghost Research Society) for a magazine piece. Both are interesting people who have been in this ghost biz for a long time. The last time I saw them might have been at a panel I lead on Chicago Ghostlore at Wizard World Chicago a couple years ago, glad to be visiting Chicago and seeing them again.
I got an appropriate Chicago-themed book to read on the train by master level biographer Deirdre Bair titled Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend, research for an upcoming appearance I’ll be making in September at the Old Baraboo Inn.
I wrote an article for Cult of Weird titled “Chasing the Ghost of Al Capone” in 2016 that documented 5 places the ghost of the famous gangster is said to haunt. After reading it recently, my friends at the Old Baraboo Inn have asked me to join them in the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt there on September 28, as they’ve apparently heard whispers from Scarface himself.
I’m developing a presentation called “Legends of Al Capone.” It’ll premiere at Old Baraboo Inn and then entered into a roster of presentations called “Tea Talks” that I’m developing that will be available for library appearances, conferences, etc. See the Tea Talks page I’m developing here: https://teakrulos.com/teatalks
Here’s the event page for Old Baraboo Inn’s World’s Largest Ghost Hunt: https://www.facebook.com/events/379959039385127/
Unrelated to ghosts but much related to Al Capone, I’ve slowly been collecting some short stories about my life for an untitled book project. I don’t know when or where or how it might be published, but for now I’m just slowing adding to a Word doc whenever I have a memory I want to get down. I’m glad to share with you this short story I wrote about my overwhelming disappointment in Geraldo Rivera.
Al Capone’s Vaults
I can pinpoint my disenchantment date exactly. April 21, 1986, primetime, where you have found me, 9 years-old, excitedly sitting in front of a small but heavy television set in the living room, eating dinner at a TV table. This was a rarity—my parents insisted that dinner be at the dinner table except for Saturday nights, when we cooked frozen pizzas and watched movies in the living room. I was not allowed to watch more modern movies, so what we watched were a lot of old horror and sci fi movies—Dracula and Godzilla movies and old comedies starring the Marx Brothers and Abbot and Costello.
This was a special occasion, though, as my parents recognized my extreme excitement to see a two-hour Geraldo Rivera television special, THE MYSTERY OF AL CAPONE’S VAULTS. Wikipedia says about 30 million other people were also watching that night. I sat there eating maybe frozen pizza or fish sticks and French fries, with milk or orange soda.
Oh boy! Al fragging Capone, I knew who that was! [Breaking into a cartoon gangster impression] Yeah, see, I bet he had a lot of treasure in those secret vaults, see! I bet he had literal treasure chests filled with gold, see! Dead bodies—tommy guns—a stash of Cuban cigars—pictures of naked women! Who knows?! But we’ll find out soon as a construction crew behind Geraldo slowly worked to tantalizingly chisel through the wall to [TV announcer] AL CAPONE’S VAULTS!
I also knew who Geraldo was. My grandpa had angrily waved his hand in dismissal and said “ahhh, he’s just a ham,” which does actually sum up his career nicely.
Geraldo yakked on about Capone and his crime career and how you never know what’s just on the other side of this wall and wow maybe it’s filled with gold and cash! Each commercial break was an agonizing step closer.
Finally, after building suspense for two hours, the construction machinery burst through the wall of Al Capone’s vault! And there, Geraldo discovered the lost treasures of Al Capone—a few dusty, empty bottles. Trying to save face he commented that the bottles were antiques and might be worth something. A bitter smartass even at that age, I was like “yeah buddy, they’re worth 5 cents in Michigan.”
What a huge disappointment! It severely killed my expectation of things for life, which I suppose is kind of a good thing… life will let you down, get used to it.
But I’m glad to say those hard moments made the good ones all that much better.
Throughout my life there were also times of enchantment—moments where I believed in magic and ghosts and the wonders of the universe. But that goddamn Geraldo gave me this curse of a skeptical arched eyebrow, one that will expect a pile of dusty beer bottles in your alleged magical treasure vault.
Here’s some links!
RIP Rosemary Ellen Guiley, paranormal author and speaker. I met her briefly at a conference in Rockford and she signed one of her books, which is one of the favorites in my library– The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Loren Coleman wrote an excellent retrospect of her career here: http://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2019/07/Guiley-obit.html
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now is available here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Speaking of, the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, which selects dystopian fiction to read will have a poll on a new title next week. You can find the club here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/