The breaking reports of a so-called "Demon House" in the dilapidated city of Gary, Indiana have sparked a flurry of interest in demons, evil spirits--and the rites of exorcism which aim to quell them. This week, Zak Bagans, arguably the most famous paranormal investigator worldwide, traveled to Gary to purchase the house at a price of $35,000, claiming a sincere interest in a closer study of the house where the "Biblical side of life" has reportedly played out in all too real living color.
Bagans' interest in what he believes are very real battles between good and evil has led him to become one of the most passionate "ghost hunters" around. It is his staunch belief in the paranormal fallout of these battles that has led him to follow the career path which has hurled him into superstardom. It is not surprising that Bagans grew up to become so certain about the supernatural conflict between good and evil--and the ghosts and demons this conflict sometimes creates. He spent part of his formative years in a suburb of Chicago, a city known for having more than its sharing of harrowing stories of the "dark side" of paranormal activity. Indeed, Anton LaVey--founder of the Church of Satan--was himself born in Chicago, in a long-gone mansion which stood where the Hancock Center looms today.
Like the "demon house" that Zak Bagans could now call home, one Chicago home had such a devilish connection that it inpsired novelist Ira Levin to pen his stunning paranormal thriller, "Rosemary's Baby." Hull House, the onetime home of Chicago bigwig Charles Hull, became abandoned after the family's passing. Late in the 19th century, progressivist queen Jane Addams moved in, setting up there one of the world's first community centers as a hub of social improvement. Today, the property is a museum operated in Addams' honor, but very dark memories often overshadow the good that was done here. In 1913, the "Devil Baby" arrived at Hull House, and Chicago would never be the same.
According to legend, the diabolical baby was born to a poor immigrant couple in Taylor Street, heart of Chicago's west side Italian ghetto. With a long tail, a covering of fine fur, sharp teeth and small horns in its head, the baby's appearance brought gasps of horror from all who gazed on it. Stricken, the couple took the child to their church and attempted to have it baptized, but it reportedly wriggled out of the priest's grasp and went dancing through the pews, singing lewd songs and mocking God. Desperate, the couple left the baby on the doorstep of Hull House, where Jane Addams was known for taking in unwanted children. Stories maintain that the baby was murdered in the house by a well-meaning staff member, to rid the world of its ghastly influence.
No one is quite sure what really happened at Hull House in 1913. Historians believe that a severely deformed child was likely behind the tale. Common in days of little medical care, such children were often called "monsters;" many of the ignorant believed they were a curse for the parents' wrongdoing.
In the heart of the old Bridgeport neighborhood, one of the oldest in Chicago, locals still pass down the legend of the night the Devil himself came around--to a Saturday night dance at historic Kaiser Hall. The Hall, still standing today--and notable for its bricked-up, arched third floor windows--stands on Archer Avenue, known as one of the most haunted roads in the world. It is stories like this that have gained its reputation.
One balmy night in late summer, the whole neighborhood had turned out for the standard night of dancing in the muggy ballroom near Loomis street. Besides the usual suspects who always came, there was among the crowd a handsome stranger, dressed to the nines. Every one of the neighborhood girls swooned, but he had eyes for only one. The stranger danced every dance with her, whirling the girl through the crowd at great speeds, until during one number, he danced her right out the window.
The couple crashed through the huge panes, plunging to the sidewalk of Archer Avenue, below. In shock, the crowd ran to the window to see what had become of them. To their amazement, while the girl lay unmoving on the pavement, the dashing stranger had landed on his feet. They watched as he sprinted across the road, disappearing between two buildings. Arriving down on the street, a doctor in the crowd tended to the young victim while others examined an incredible sight: Where the dashing stranger had landed, they found imbedded in the concrete the imprint of what looked like horse's hooves--a sure sign of the stranger's diabolical origins. The hoofprints were visible, they say, for generations, until the sidewalk was repaved.
On the north side of Chicago, the Devil was known to even come to church one night. The incident, dating to 1977, was experienced by so many witnesses that it was actually reported in the Chicago Tribune. It occurred on a Sunday evening, when several hundred parishioners were gathered for evening Mass. During the distribution of Holy Communion, a scream was suddenly heard to ring through the cavernous church of St. Michael, anchor of Chicago's Old Town neighborhood. Turning toward the scream, onlookers gazed to where a shocked parishoner was pointing: to a tall, darkly hooded figure in the Communion line. Following her finger, their eyes rested at the hem of the figure's cloak. Protruding from below were two long hooves, as of a horse or goat, where human feet should have been. Further research uncovered the fact that, earlier that week, one of the priests on staff had seen an old woman with hooves exiting the church as he entered to hear confessions.
The forest preserves of Chicago and its surrounding areas have long been known as pockets of satanic worship and ritual activity, and many reports have come in to law enforcement officials about animal sacrifice, hooded figures and the sound of chanting witnessed in these woods. Many believe that those who visit these preserves may open themselves up to the diabolical influence of the energies or entitities that have been released through this worship and ritual. Whatever the effects, it is certain that the reality of these reports can be regularly found in preserves like La Bagh Woods and Everdon Woods--home to the infamous Grove Cemetery (more at www.batchelorsgrove.com) known as one of the most haunted in the world. Even Bagans visited Bachelors Grove when he filmed an episode of his hit show, "Ghost Adventures" in Chicago. As usual, he found ample evidence of strange activity at this highly storied location.
Whatever Bagans finds at his "demon house"--be it a doorway to another world or just a bad investment--nothing can loosen the grip that the Devil himself has often had on Chicago's strange history.
For more on Chicago's devilish side, including more stories and touring opporunities, visit www.chicagohauntings.com.