Friday, October 31, 2003
Happy Farkleween! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Halloween. These days, you can't just cut holes in an old bedsheet or put on a mask and call yourself "dressed up" - no, you have to go to vintage shops or novelty stores and sink hundreds of dollars on an elaborate costume just to be presentable. Remember - someone will undoubtedly puke punch on your costume at some point during the night...I think Halloween is now a close third to New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day in terms of alcohol consumption.

It's like Mardi Gras with more clothes.

Weirdest Holiday Display Award: last year, the downtown Marshall Field's department store in Chicago had a lovely (but confounding) cross-celebrational window theme - I was startled to see a mannequin-sized skeleton in a mock graveyard wearing a Santa Claus hat, carrying a bag. There was a fully decorated and lit tree behind this odd diorama.

I get a strange tongue-in-cheek over the official name of our town's October celebration: Chicagoween. That's what I like about the name "Chicago" - it's got pizzazz. You can play with it. I just can't imagine New Yorkween. Miamiween. Phillyween. San Franciscoween. Although I can see Burlington, Vermont doing a Queen City Ween.

So have fun, be safe, stock up on Alka-Seltzer™ and remember that the "poison candy" and "razor in the apple" stories are only urban legends. Really. But we're still not letting our black cat Nathaniel out for a walk tonight; no way in heck.

Speaking of legends, while Savannah, Georgia has the reputation of being America's most haunted city, let's not forget the Windy City's own highly supernaturally-charged air: check out Haunted Chicago, where you'll find detailed reports of hauntings and paranormal phenomena in the Chicago area.

One very eerie location in town (about a mile from our house, and it's a beautiful place to walk) that we've visited frequently is the Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago's largest burial ground and reputed home to many ha'ants. According to some sources, two of Rosehill's famous underground residents continue their bitter business rivalry many decades after their death: Richard Warren Sears and Aaron Montgomery Ward are both entombed in a large mausoleum, and Sears' ghost reputedly rises and walks between his vault and Ward's, no doubt trying to scoop his latest winter catalog fashions.

I've never seen a ghost in Rosehill myself, although I've seen two very strange things there. In the southeast corner of the cemetery, by the Metra tracks, there is a 3-foot diameter patch of hastily-laid concrete that appears to be sealing off some type of drain or access hole. It doesn't look like a very professional job, and the surface of the cement shows what looks like scratching or claw marks.

The other is even more bizarre: a hollow, pylon-shaped four-sided metal grave marker belonging to a Mr. Stewart - who died at age 28 in the mid-1800's - appears to have one side blown out, with sharp shrapnel pieces splayed outward. Not bashed in, but blown out from the interior. The strange part is that the other three sides of the metal marker are undamaged, even though it looks like a large firecracker or something of that sort blasted away the side facing the cemetery's south wall, about 5 feet from the grave. If someone placed a small explosive charge inside the grave somehow, how would the blast direct itself so precisely through one side of the marker without damaging the remainder?

Even stranger, if you place your ear close to the open part of the grave marker, it sounds like it's very deep inside. Much deeper than six feet.