MINOOKA – Judy Delaney of Minooka attended the St. Valentine's Day Massacre event at the Three Rivers Library Minooka Branch to hear historian, author and parapsychologist Ursula Bielski talk about Chicago's most famous romantic and gangland ghost stories.
"I like to learn new things and visit with friends," Delaney said. "It's a nice way to learn about Chicago and I'm not familiar with the stories."
Carole Fremarek, on the other hand, grew up in Chicago and while she's aware of stories like those of Resurrection Mary, she is most intrigued by the gangster scene, which is what brought her to the event on Saturday.
As the event started, the shades were drawn and the lights were turned off, the glowing image from a projector providing the only light.
The story of gangster John Dillinger left the room silent as Bielski explained how he was set up by his girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, often referred to as the "lady in red."
"Rumors have it that women dipped their clothes in his blood," Bielski said, after explaining he was quite the ladies man.
The killing of Dillinger wasn't the only bad thing to happen in the alley where he was shot to death near the Biograph Theater.
From the 1950s until the 1980s there were three murders and one suicide in the alley, and there have been sightings since the 1970s of a man, who is bluish in color, falling in that alley.
Bielski said she doesn't believe the ghost is that of Dillinger, but there is no way to tell who it might be.
She also said Dillinger's last date with Hamilton could definitely be considered a "bad date."
Bielski said whenever there are a lot of strange occurrences in a given area, you have to wonder if it has something to do with the area or with one of the people who died there.
"There seems to be pockets throughout the city and around the world where things like this happen," she said.
Keeping with the theme of bad dates, Bielski shared the story of a bad date at The Drake Hotel in Chicago, which happened on New Year's Eve of 1920.
"A beautiful couple attended a party in the Gold Coast Room," she said. "The man excused himself to have a cigar with his friends."
Bielski said after the man's fiancee waited and waited, she decided to go look for the man and after not finding him in the cigar lounge she was walking past the Palm Court tea room inside the hotel and heard his laughter. She found him with another woman.
After finding her fiance with the other woman, she went to the 19th floor of the hotel, and threw herself off the roof onto Michigan Avenue. A ghost has been seen in the area ever since, Bielski said – sometimes in the Gold Coast Room, sometimes in the tea room and even on the 19th floor where she jumped to her death.
The two-hour program went on to cover stories of Al Capone and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, among others.
Bielski said Capone is probably the No. 1 story she's asked about, followed by Resurrection Mary, who is said to hitchhike late at night only to disappear or to ask to be dropped off at the cemetery where she is buried.
"The biggest question is why do some remain?" Bielski said. "There are a lot of different reasons, ties to loved ones and family, or to places, or sometimes due to religious beliefs they are afraid to move on, not knowing where they will end up."
Bielski said she has always been interested in ghost stories, ever since growing up in a house she believes was haunted.
She is the author of several books. To learn more about her and about Chicago's grisly and ghostly history, visit chicagohauntings.com.