Hello, happy campers! Here it is: post four (of six) that has been ripped from the cold, dead hands of my former blog. Re-posted here from 2007 for posterity, and may some relevant god have mercy on my sad soul. I give you Moral Turpitude. An Outrage.:

So, I was reading the RedEye this morning like a good little CTA rider, and I came across this small, glimmering gem of knowledge:

“One long-term study on rats showed that former binge-drinking rats—with a binge defined as exceeding the equivalent of a .08 blood alcohol level—had more trouble learning new things than rats that had never had a drop to drink. Tasked with swimming around a pool in search of a platform to stand on, the teetotaler rats were able to find the platform easily after it was moved, while the former binge drinkers—which had last been drunk three weeks earlier, the equivalent of six to seven human years—kept circling around the platform’s original location.”

Which just begs the question–if the average lifespan for a rat is 2-3 years, where are these rats being served? Clearly Chicago’s age enforcement for bars is not as stringent as we all thought. Shame on you, city enforcers. Shame on you. I move we discredit this study as unethical on the grounds that they must instead test on animals old enough to understand the effects of alcohol. Like turtles.

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The Murder Basement

March 22, 2010

(Note: this is not an actual photo of my former basement)

I am not crazy, damn it. At least, not with regards to my sensitivity to supernatural beings. I will admit to a heightened sense of paranoia and a major case of stopped-tracks ear-twitching that I experience in the event of creepy noises that come from strange places, things that fall over with seemingly no reason or visible motivation, or spontaneous smells and sudden changes in temperature. I’m well-aware that these are things that just happen sometimes, and still when I go to investigate what’s caused them, I don’t rule out supernatural occurrences from my list of culprits. More often than not, this proves to be overly suspicious on my part of the situation at hand; drafts, for instance, always get the better of my imagination.

Nonetheless, I know the difference between freaking myself out over a totally normal thing and the feeling of an actual presence, and I do feel presences from time to time. Sometimes where I live.

When I lived in my studio apartment over at 432 W. Surf St. from 2008-2009, I absolutely hated going down into the basement to do my laundry. This is one of those very old buildings that had formerly been a hotel in Lake View back in the early 1900s, and so the rooms were set up like old hotel rooms—a wall light mounted on either side of where a bed clearly had been, French doors, a tiny kitchenette with a little eat-in section. It was positively adorable. (See image below for what the kitchenette looks like, taken off the leasing site.)

It was also very poorly kept up. Every time a tenant would leave, the property managers would plaster over anything that needed it—I could barely put nails in the walls because the wall would crumble around them, and there is actually a place in my kitchen where I could push my finger through the wall if I applied enough pressure. This should not happen on a normal wall, in case you’ve never had walls and are wondering. This is the opposite of a wall’s purpose.

Rather than keeping the wood runners and wood on the French doors looking nice, they had painted them over white (even the glass on the French doors). Nothing worked well. My ceiling and bathroom wall was growing mass amounts of mold until I complained and they came and painted over it with more white. Yeah, shitty management company.

Anyhow, the basement was totally removed from everything else. When you came in and went through what once was the lobby, you could either go up the shitty falling-apart staircase to the several apartment units or into the doorway to the left that led to a barely fluorescent-lit hallway for the basement. If you are smart, you avoid the basement area every time. It smacked of the basement in Amityville Horror. There was certainly a wild-eyed stepdad going crazy down there around some corner, waiting to take an axe to his beloved. Certainly.

Also, if mass amounts of mutant, standing-straight-up-and-hissing cockroaches weren’t enough to deter you from taking your laundry through this nightmarish stretch of hall (I could occasionally hear the faint sounds of Splinter training them to be ninjas),  then the eerie remoteness would have been enough. Removed as it is, there is also a multitude of doors leading to seemingly nowhere, doors without handles, open wires hanging from the ceiling, and one doorway that led into complete and utter blackness that seems to have a wall directly inside that possibly was just torn apart—wall guts lay strewn along the floor. You walk down the desolate hall, increasingly aware you’re being led out of anywhere public, and end up at a floor-to-ceiling door with a long, wide peep slot at eye-level cut out of it. No glass in it, just a hole shaped like a large Pyrex tube on its side cut into the door. Inside that door is a really weird laundry room.

Note, I only ever did laundry in here about 4 times while living there. Otherwise, I would take my laundry somewhere else and do it for much more money. That is how much it meant to me not to spend unnecessary amounts of time here. The room itself was strange enough—really old laminate paneling formed a wall to the left where a wall clearly had not been originally, and a doorway cut into that artificial wall that had been paneled over with the same laminate. The door frame was still there, but a wall was made where the door should open. What’s back there? Um, aside from a giant cockroach resort, spa, and brothel? I’m not sure. But it felt unpleasant to be back by that wall for some reason, I can tell you that.

The first time I went to do my laundry down there, I was minding my own business, loading things into the wash machine, when suddenly I stopped what I was doing. Note—generally, I am not afraid of ghosts. There have been times I’ve felt the presence of something, and as long as it doesn’t feel hostile, I often will just say hello and go about my business. So, let me just preface this by saying I wasn’t swept over by sudden fear because the basement was a little creepy. No, I was hit by a different feeling than fear. I glanced back at the door peep hole, suddenly, very much expecting a set of eyes to be looking directly at me from the other side. I was just sure of it. Nothing. So, I continued to load things into the washer.

But then it swept fully over me—my stomach was suddenly sick, like I had eaten something bad, and I felt very disturbed. I wasn’t sure why. Just very agitated, horrible, like something was very wrong, and I knew very much that I needed to leave. And I left. I waited for my roommate Eddie to get back home before I went down to pick up my stuff, because I was not feeling okay being there alone. That was the first time.

Eddie said he felt nothing down there, by the way; I was just being crazy. Okay. Fine.

I went down to do laundry a few more times after that, even once with another tenant (that time, we were standing there talking, and the entire front panel on the wash machine fell completely off in front of us. The wash machine had not been on, and we had not been touching it). And all was not well in the state of Denmark. Each time, I usually felt fine at first, and after a few minutes, the same sick feeling would come over me, and I’d need to leave. After awhile, the only time I went down there was to take guests to be like, “See? Huh? Right?” And they’d agree. One friend of mine didn’t even want to walk past the door into the room. He’d had enough, and he wanted to not be there anymore. I certainly didn’t argue.

But the rest of the time in that building was fine. My particular apartment unit never felt threatening at all, not even when I was home alone or had watched a scary movie. It was just that basement. I moved out after my lease was up, and since then I’ve only brought the creepiness of the basement up a few times. I fully assumed that something bad had happened in that laundry room back when it was a hotel, maybe behind that angry laminate wall, and that the remnants of the act still linger. But meh, not like I’ll ever know.

Then, last week a friend of mine was doing some research and came across this information: the building directly next door to my former apartment and another apartment, 2800 N. Pine Grove (less than a block away), were “among the homes occupied at various times by the founder and leader of the North Side Mob, ex-singing waiter and floral artist, Dion O’Banion, in the early 1920s. 2800 N. Pine Grove stands opposite the Commonwealth Hotel, where, a few years later, entertainer Joe Lewis was brutally attacked after he switched venues from a Capone-controlled bar (where the Panera now is on Diversey by my former apartment) to a North Side Mob saloon.” Ooo. That’s scary. Okay.

So, I’m thinking if this was going on in the building next door, very possibly someone had done some very bad things around the area. Perhaps someone was brutalized in the building next door, or even in my own building, or had hidden something there or something. Maybe, right? Maybe.

I ended up having a terrifying dream a couple of days after having found this information, wherein I had printed out my friend’s mob email and walked into the lobby of my former 432 W. Surf residence late at night. The place was a tomb—I mean, no one was stirring there (but then, no one really ever did. I often wondered if there were more than a couple other tenants even in the building, since it was a big multi-occupancy building, and I only ever saw like 3 other people). I had been about to walk up the steps to where my old unit was, but on instinct, I turned on my heel and walked into the hallway to the basement. I got inside the creepy hall of certain doom, and there was just this voice—either in my head or whispered at me, that said very clearly “GET. OUT.” I responded, “Okay, I’m leaving,” and turned around to go, only my ponytail was grabbed and tugged hard, and I couldn’t move. So there I was doing the Scooby Doo, running but not getting anywhere, until I noticed my hair had been caught (and hung) on the door hinge. I unattached it and started running toward the lobby door (which was being held open for me by an invisible force), still feeling like my hair was being tugged the whole way. I got to the threshold of the door, when my hair got pulled hard again, and it hurt. It was stuck on this outer door hinge now, too, inexplicably, so I freed it and went running out and down pitch-black Surf Street. Scary shit.

I told this dream to my friend, you know, to blame him for my interrupted sleep that night. A few days later, he sends me this:

“More nightmares—this one was your building:

SON OF MA BARKER ARRESTED – Arthur “Doc” Barker, son of gang leader, “Ma” Barker, was arrested here in his apartment at 432 Surf on January 8, 1935.

The real “Doc” Barker was a notorious criminal who committed various crimes throughout the 1920s and ’30s, from bank robberies to kidnapping and murder. His mother, “Ma” Barker, made headlines as the leader of the crime gang made up of Doc, his brothers (Herman, Lloyd and Fred) and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (so called, because of his sinister grin).

Doc was arrested in Chicago on January 8, 1935 and was sent to Alcatraz prison in 1936. A map found in Doc’s apartment led to the discovery of Ma Barker’s hideout where a shoot-out with the FBI left her and Fred Barker dead.

On January 13, 1939, Doc Barker and two other Alcatraz inmates attempted escape. None made it off the island however, and Doc was killed by a shot to the head during the melee.”

I just want to pause to say how much I love the word “melee.” Anyway, continue.

“In January 1935, agents of the U.S. Justice Department’s Division of Investigation–soon to be renamed the FBI–were closing in on the notorious Barker-Karpis Gang, nearly a year after their successful $200,000 kidnapping of St. Paul banker Edward Bremer. On the night of January 8, the G-men raided two apartments on Chicago’s North Side. At 3920 North Pine Grove, they arrested Byron “Monty” Bolton and two women. Another gang member, Russell “Slim Gray” Gibson, elected to shoot it out instead. Donning a bulletproof vest and arming himself with a Browning Automatic Rifle, Gibson ducked out onto a fire escape and was brought down by a .351 rifle slug which penetrated the front of his vest. He died soon afterward in a Chicago hospital. That same night other agents, led by Melvin Purvis, arrested Arthur “Doc” Barker and his girlfriend Mildred Kuhlman outside their apartment at 432 Surf Street. “Where’s your gun?” asked Special Agent Walter Walsh. “Home,” replied Doc Barker. “Ain’t that a helluva place for it?”

In the Pine Grove apartment, agents recovered a small arsenal, including a .32 Colt automatic, a .38 revolver, two B.A.R.’s, a 20 gauge Ithaca Auto Burglar gun, and a .351 Winchester rifle fitted with a Thompson foregrip and Cutts Compensator, along with a large quantity of ammunition.  A search of the Surf Street apartment revealed a Thompson submachine gun. The serial number was filed off but the gun later proved to be one taken from wounded police officer John Yeaman during the August 1933 holdup of Stockyards National Bank messengers outside the South St. Paul Post Office. Officer Leo Pavlak was killed in the same robbery.

Among “Doc” Barker’s effects agents discovered a Florida map, with the Ocala region circled. Barker refused to say anything about this but Byron Bolton was more cooperative. He revealed that Fred Barker and Arrie “Ma” Barker were living beside a Florida lake and that Fred enjoyed hunting a large alligator known locally as “Old Joe”; according to Bolton, Fred circled the lake in a boat, towing a pig as bait and hoping to shoot “Old Joe” with his Tommygun.”

WOW. Okay, this is awesome! That is some confirmation for me. That feeling I had had? I guarantee you bad things went on in this laundry room or behind those handleless doors. I’m now fairly certain I lived above a MURDER BASEMENT. Is that a term? It is now. But seriously, I could feel the undeniable ugliness and the negative energy, the ghosts of anguish past, stirring around in this room and that hallway.

I am way creeped out. And now I want to go back there with this knowledge, only I can’t. Apparently I have really easily grabbable hair.

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