Nostalgia, Memories and Friends!
As I approached the entrance of the historic Portage Theater on Chicago’s north side, it was as if I were walking back in time. Back in the early ’80′s, I owned an apartment building in the Portage Park neighborhood and I would frequent the theater quite a lot.
It has been many years since I have ventured back to the area and I was surprised to see the changes; new businesses replace the old “stores” I once shopped.
I recalled the first movie I had taken in at “The Portage” as area residents referred to it, Apocalypse Now (1979 – United Artist). My brother, Frank, and I went to The Portage on opening day of the Francis Ford Copolla film and it was the first, and only, time my brother and I had ever taken in a movie together.
This time walking into The Portage was much different. Back in 1979 it was elbows and wall to wall people scratching their way in the doors to get the perfect seating. Today, it was as if I had walked into a ghost town of the Wild West.
Rumor is The Portage is haunted, but I have a difficult time believing The Portage would be a place anyone would care to hang around in the afterlife and I personally have no knowledge of any ghost or spirits tied to The Portage.
Perhaps I am tainted by my prior knowledge of The Portage and the neighborhood, however The Portage as a time-capsule is intriguing and it sets the perfect tone for an annual ghost conference. The latent aroma of popcorn spews from the chipping paint off the walls of the concession area.
Entering the theater, the worn out carpet runners lining the isles leading to an out-dated stage directs your attention to the tattered and stained yellowed stucco walls. The rows of blue metal seats with thin padding, torn and badly stained, held impressions of once engaged moviegoers glued to the silver screen.
Back out in the theaters entrance area, I could hear the bustle of eager paranormal patriarchs preparing for their inquiring visitors. Placing stickers on posters, tables with doodads, pictures and pamphlets, jewelry and candles, books and paraphernalia, all laid out just perfectly to grab the attention of the person passing their table. My objective: take in all I could and record the weekend’s events – I am a writer.
My early arrival offered me the opportunity to greet some friends and meet new ones. Jeff Mudgett author of Bloodstains was there as was Chicago’s foremost ghost tour guide Ursula Bielski. Author, paranormal scientist and lecturer Dale Kaczmarek and I were excited to finally meet.
In addition, I spent a few moments with Pete Crapia who is heading some of the most recognized work at Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. As they were setting up shop for the weekend, there was a host of others I talked with and met. I do have to admit, event coordinator, Mr. Willy Adkins, appears to be bringing together the A-Team of guest speakers and a monumental event lineup.
Personally, I am stoked about Saturday’s events; hearing Jeff Mudgett present evidence linking H. H. Holmes to Jack the Ripper at 5:30 pm, Ursula Bielski presenting The Ghost of Chicago at 6:50pm, and the Booth Brothers film The Haunted Boy (based on the secret diaries and the inspiration for the movie the Exorcist) Saturday at 8:00pm.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway, pop on by at 4050 North Milwaukee Avenue on Chicago’s north side and see what Chicago’s Ghost Conference holds for you. Or just stop by and say, “Hi!”
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