9. Hull House

HULL-HOUSE

Hull House was constructed by Charles J. Hull at Halsted and Polk Streets in 1856 at a time when this was one of the most fashionable sections of the city. After the Chicago Fire of 1871. In the 1880’s, Hull House was surrounded by factories and tenement houses and soon after, became one of the most famous places in Chicago.

A black and white infrared picture taken at Hull House in downtown Chicago, Illinois by Dale Kaczmarek in November of 1980. This is enlarged blowup of the interior staircase of this most haunted house in Chicago. There was nothing visible to the naked eye when the photograph was taken but what appears are four distinct shadowy monk-like figures standing on the bottom four or five steps. The one directly in the middle appears to be dressed in monk’s habit with his two hands together in prayer. There are two other figures to the left of the center monk and one to the right superimposed on the banister which apparently has no head!

hull house  2

Although it was never originally to be known as a “haunted house”… it would not be unscathed by stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Jane Addams died in 1935 but the Hull House Association continued her work at the settlement house until the 1960’s. At that time, the property was purchased by the University of Illinois, bringing an end to one of Chicago’s greatest achievements in social reform.

THE HAUNTING OF HULL HOUSE
In 1889, Jane Addams and another social worker took over the Hull mansion at 800 South Halsted and turned it into a community center. The house, now part of the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, is currently a museum dedicated to Addams and her work.

Mrs. Hull’s bedroom was first occupied by Jane Addams herself, who was awakened one night by loud footsteps in the otherwise empty room. After a few nights of this, she confided her story to Ellen, who also admitted to experiencing the same sounds. Jane later moved to another room.

But she would not be alone in noticing the unusual happenings. Helen Campbell, the author of the book PRISONERS OF POVERTY, reported seeing an apparition standing next to her bed (she took Jane up on the offer of staying in the “haunted room”). When she lit the gas jet, the figure vanished. The same peculiar sounds and figures were also observed by Mrs. Louise Bowen, a lifelong friend of Jane’s, Jane and Mary Smith, and even Canon Barnett of Toynbee Hall, who visited the settlement house during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

According to Jane Addams’ book, TWENTY YEARS AT HULL HOUSE, earlier tenants of the house, which included the Little Sisters of the Poor and a second-hand furniture store, believed the upstairs of the house was haunted as well. They had always kept a bucket of water on the stairs, believing that the ghost was unable to cross over it.

Regardless, the ghost was always considered to be rather sad, but harmless, and residents and guests learned to live with its presence. Unfortunately, it was not the only “supernatural” legend connected to Hull House!

THE DEVIL BABY OF HULL HOUSE
Hull House received its greatest notoriety when it was alleged to be the refuge of the Chicago “devil baby”. This child was supposedly born to a devout Catholic woman and her atheist husband and was said to have pointed ears, horns, scale-covered skin and a tail. According to the story, the young woman had attempted to display a picture of the Virgin Mary in the house but her husband had torn it down. He stated that he would rather have the Devil himself in the house that the picture. When the woman had become pregnant, the Devil Baby had been their curse. After enduring numerous indignities because of the child, the father allegedly took it to Hull House.

HULL-HOUSE-DEVIL-BABY

After being taken in by Jane Addams, staff members of the house reportedly took the baby to be baptized. During the ceremony, the baby supposedly escaped from the priest and began dancing and laughing. Not knowing what else to do with the child, Jane kept it locked in the attic of the house, where it later died.

Rumors spread quickly about the baby and within a few weeks, hundreds of people came to the house to get a glimpse of it. How the story had gotten started, no one knew, but it spread throughout the west side neighborhood and was reported by famous Chicago reporter Ben Hecht. He claimed that every time he tried to run down the story, he was directed to find the child at Hull House. Many people came to the door and demanded to see the child, while others quietly offered to pay an admission. They believed the wild story to be absolutely true!

Each day, Jane turned people away and tried to convince them that the story was fabricated. She even devoted 40 pages of her autobiography to dispelling the stories. Even though most of the poorly educated immigrants left the house still believing the tales of the Devil Baby, the stream of callers eventually died out and the story became a barely remembered side note in the history of Hull House.

As the years have passed, some people still maintain the story of the Devil Baby is true… or at least contains some elements of the truth. Some have speculated that perhaps the child was actually a badly deformed infant that had been brought to Hull House by a young immigrant woman that could not care for it. Perhaps the monstrous appearance of the child had started the rumors in the neighborhood and eventually led to Hull House.

Regardless, local legend insists that at some point, there was a disfigured boy that was hidden away on the upper floors of the house. The stories also go on to say that on certain nights, the image of a deformed face could be seen peering out of the attic window…. and that a ghostly version of that face is still seen by visitors today!

HULL HOUSE is located at 800 South Halsted Street in Chicago and is open to the public as a historic site. The West Side Levee District no longer exists but was once bounded by Madison Street on the south and running north to Lake, east to Halsted and west to Center Street (now Racine Avenue). The bordellos and saloons have been replaced by loft apartments, parking lots, a few ethnic restaurants and Oprah Winfrey’s HARPO STUDIOS on Washington Boulevard.

Hull House
Chicagoland area’s Legendary Haunted House.
Hull House 800 Halsted Street, Chicago
Phone: (312) 413-5353
Tours: Chicago Supernatural Tours; (708) 499-0300

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