Jeff Mudgett showing transition photography at the Portage Theater (a photograph of H. H. Holmes super-imposed over a composite sketch released by Scotland Yard of Jack the Ripper by first-hand accounts – photo super-imposed by John Stephenson)
This past weekend was a fun fact-filled historic and monumental event on a number of levels!
On Friday, the annual Chicago Ghost Conference began setting the stage at the Portage Theater on Chicago’s northwest side. Vendors and paranormal celebrities set up tables and rehearsed scripts anticipating an eager public.
Although Saturday’s weather stifled the would-be fans of the hereafter from venturing out, those who did make the journey were indeed met with a treat. Jeff Mudgett, author of Bloodstains, (pic above) with the assistance of para-photographer/videographer John Stephenson, presented a unique perspective on the silver screen of H. H. Holmes transitioning to the composite sketch of Jack the Ripper compiled by Scotland Yard. I must admit, to say the least, it was impressive.
Ursula Bielski sharing her childhood memories and her tales of haunting’s on the stage at the Portage Theater (pic-Ursula’s childhood home where mysterious footprints were seen embedded in the stairwell carpeting)
Following the revelation introduced by Jeff and John, Ursula Bielski of Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tours shared a very insightful historic account of Chicago’s most haunted sites, and she enthralled the audience with her very own personal childhood history of what her first experience with the deceased was like as a child (you’ll have to buy my book to read all about it – and believe me it is well worth every cent). Ursula is spellbinding!
On Sunday, Ursula Bielski had closed out the ceremonies in her delicate elegant style with a Devil in the White City tour. Jeff Mudgett, Jeff’s Executive Assistant Susan Sherman, his best friend Actor extraordinaire Kim Estes (Criminal Minds, Dexter, House, Higher Education, The Closer, The Fix, and many more, Kim will be starring in the upcoming film Crossroad), Ursula Bielski, myself, tour guide (historian and author) Adam Selzer, and 35 more people headed out on a Devil in the White City Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tour, and we were in for a wonderfully enriching experience.
Jeff Mudgett, Ursula Bielski and tour guide Adam Selzer ~ Chicago Haunting’s Ghost Tours ~ Devil in the White City Tour
As we embarked the bus, Adam Selzer, a walking encyclopedia of historic information, immediately captivated the minds and the attention of the guests. Adam seems to know more about Chicago’s dark past then any library could hold. Somehow Adam’s knowledge seems out of time, as if it is a first-hand account, which makes this tour the best I had ever attended.
And as for Adam’s warm smile and charismatic persona, he makes you feel as though you are merely a cousin dropping by for a Thanksgiving feast. It is apparent to see why Ursula and Adam make such a stellar tour guide team.
On the tour, our first stop was the H. H. Holmes murder Castle site at 63rd street and Wallace on Chicago’s south side in the Englewood neighborhood. Along the way, Adam and Jeff Mudgett, H. H. Holmes great-great grandson, offered a condensed lesson on the history of Dr. Holmes and the fiend’s evil deeds at the Holmes murder castle.
At the site where it is conjectured by some, over 200 victims lost their lives to the diabolic deeds of the demented Dr. H. H. Holmes, a long overdue prayer vigil and consecration vigil was witnessed by a small crowd who gathered at the tree, where it is supposed the bodies of Holmes’ victim would have slid down a secret greased chamber to the basement of the murder castle (based on archived maps and drawings), and this is the spot where they may be locked in an eternal battle of the hereafter.
H. H. Holmes Murder Castle site 63rd & Wallace on Chicago’s south side ~ prayer vigil and consecration in memory of the victims.
As a Chaplain and a member of the clergy, Jeff Mudgett asked me and I was given the great honor of anointing and consecrate the murder castle grounds. After a few moments of silence in honor of the victims, I stated the following:
“Father in Heaven, we have gathered on these grounds to pay homage to those victims… who at the hands of an evil diabolic creation lost their very lives here… on these unholy grounds. We stand united as one and plead for their eternal release from any and all control the evil one may have over them even in their deaths. As we consider the horrors they endured… and the dark black cloud, which has enshrouded this place and the neighborhood of Englewood for the past 124 years… Father God we ask You to anoint this ground and we consecrate this place and the victims of the horrible crimes associated with it… in Your Holy name. May all that come of 63rd and Wallace… and the darkness of this place glorify You and Your cause. May You bring peace to the victims, their surviving family members and the members of the Englewood neighborhood. May all associated with the evilness of 63rd and Wallace… glorify Your name. And may the victims finally be at rest and find peace and be forevermore be released from their unholy state… and join with You in the Heavens. We unite and pray these things in Jesus Holy name. Amen.”
Stated by Jeff Mudgett, “As far as we can tell, this is the very first public vigil ever held on the grounds of the murder castle and I am relieved it has finally happened. I can’t tell you what a burden it is carrying with me the knowledge that my ancestor killed those people, they deserved better, they deserve this!” Jeff intends to erect a monument at the site in honor of the victims. He has expressed his wishes are to exclude the name of his great-great grandfather from the monument as it would disgrace the victims. “The monument will have only the known victims names and a memorial to the unknown victims,” according to Jeff.
As we concluded the vigil, Damian Plaza, an Englewood resident shared a statement, barely able to get the choked up words out between tears;
“I have been living in Englewood and working next door to the Post Office (murder castle site) for many years. It is nice to see there are people finally recognizing that Englewood is more than crime and oppression. It’s not a slum and it’s things like this [the vigil and monument] that can and will turn peoples impression of Englewood around. I want to thank you all for doing this and caring about my neighborhood and my home.”
Attendee’s of the H. H. Holmes prayer vigil.
As we left the vigil and Englewood, we drove past the Museum of Science and Industry, where it is said, according to Adam Selzer, the ghost of Holmes has been noticed on the steps of the museum and walking the streets of the old Victorian era town exhibit at the museum. Unfortunately, a Holmes sighting was not reported by any of the tour guests.
Then we headed for Japanese Zen Garden at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, a spectacular soul-enriching garden where tour guide Adam Selzer said, “This is where we can get rid of any ‘bad’ that may have followed us from the murder castle.” I’m not sure of its power to rid of “bad”, but it was a magnificent site.
We then headed for the glass-bending factory once owned by Holmes where Adam Selzer, through extensive research, believes H. H. Holmes had dumped many victims’ bodies. The site located near Fullerton and Elston on Chicago’s north side was intriguing, but I didn’t “feel it”. I took several pictures, no anomalies. However, I did allow my digital recorder to record the entire time we were at the site and I have yet to analyze the session. Thus, in my mind, pending EVP analysis, the search for the glass-bending factory continues.
This concluded our Devil in the White City tour. My hat’s off to Ursula Bielski and Adam Selzer for presenting a thought provoking educational and fun tour. There were other highlights of the weekend as well; on Saturday evening, a group of a dozen or so of my peers including, Jeff Mudgett, Kim Estes, “Cpr” Matt, Traci Ann, Susan Sherman, and others decided to take in a late dinner at Sabatino’s Restaurant on Chicago’s northwest side. Despite waiting an hour and a half for soup and having a tray of beverages spilled on me, soaking me in alcohol and sticky soda, from a server in a hurry to end her shift, the restaurant owner, Enzo, made good and we all had fun and made the best of it.
My good friend Jeff Mudgett and I
I was also able to connect with a dear friend I had not seen in 13 years, Karl Kochman. Karl is a great guy and when we noticed one another, we embraced and shared war stories and our lives tales, the condensed version of course, and to tell the truth it was as if we just saw one another yesterday. It was a great feeling. It was equally great to meet people at the conference and the tour whom I met on Facebook and I can finally place a profile picture with an actual physical person. I met new friends as well, and I look forward to solidifying those friendships.
All in all – it was a fantabulous weekend!
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