Monday, October 27, 2008

Ghosts of Chicago's past

One aspect of local history that seemed odd to me growing up was a lack of a Native American presence in the Chicago historical narrative. Where were the Indians?

They exist, but you have to go back to before 1833 when the city was founded and the Indians were relocated to states further West. One prominent Indian of the time was Alexander Robinson, a Pottawatomie chieftain (who was part white, which explains his European name).

When the Pottawatomie were relocated, Robinson was given some land where he and his descendants resided well into the 20th century. That land has since been acquired by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and is named the Catherine Chevalier Forest Preserve and Robinson Woods. It's on the eastern side of the Des Plaines River, not too far from O'Hare International Airport.

While I'd heard of Alexander Robinson, I didn't know about Robinson Woods until I went on a ghost bus tour about 10 years ago. One of the stops was this family burial ground in the woods, which some people have claimed as haunted. They report finding ghost images on their film after taking photos here.

I didn't find any ghost images after taking photos during my visit to the family burial ground last week, but I was reminded of a piece of ghost lore that I learned on that tour.

Before being converted to farmland, Illinois had vast stretches of prairies that were subject to natural and man-made fires. But along the rivers, especially the eastern banks, you'd get large groves of Oak trees, mostly burr Oaks. They would survive the fires because they were protected by their thick bark and the rivers to their west, since most of these fires would be coming from a westerly direction.

On the tour we learned that it's on these eastern banks of the rivers that you'll find the most hauntings, as this is where people found it the safest to live and build homes.

As I stood in the burial ground and took photos, I tried to be sensitive to those who had come before me. I may not necessarily believe in ghosts, but I do like to think that part of a person's essence or spirit may linger. In reality, all I saw were lots of cars zipping by on the nearby street, plus a few squirrel and deer.

I'm participating in Manic Monday today with the theme of Ghost.
Click here for more about Manic Monday and to view other participants.


  1. I love that first photo, the angle adds to the eerie feeling and completely ties in with the Ghost theme for Manic Monday. Of course, I like the other photos too, but I especially loved the first one.

    I believe in ghosts... and I'm scared of them. hehe

    Hi Hales!

  2. Thanks Reggy. I thought the picture was a little unsettling at that angle too.

    As for ghosts, I haven't ruled out the possibility, and I suppose a malevolent one would scare me. I just have no first-hand experiences.

  3. That was a great post. When I lived in Toronto I would go right downtown and often think about the history we could see and the history buried under all that concrete.

    I'm catching up on MM, sort of. :)


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