Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Childhood Ghosts

In my post for the restaurant meme I mentioned that my son may have seen a ghost in the Lincoln Restaurant in Chicago.





The only previous ghost in my life was the fabled Resurrection Mary, a popular Chicago ghost legend. In that one, a man is driving in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago and sees a pretty young woman walking along the road in a dress gown at night. The man offers her a ride, and she accepts. She gives him an address, and as they pass Resurrection Cemetery, she asks to be let out. She gets out and simply disappears.

The legend was that she had been at a dance at the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, Illinois, and was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from a dance. Willow Springs was in the attendance area for my high school, Lyons Township High School, which probably contributed to the popularity of the story at my school.

My son's ghost story began with a cell phone conversation with his mother when he was about 2 years old. She and I had separated a few months before, but were cooperating in a friendly manner in raising him, at that point. My old friend Garrett was in town, and he was looking forward to seeing my son. Adam's mother and I had a short chat on the phone to figure out the logistics of pick-ups and drop-offs. Then she added one curious thing. She asked if I'd taken my son to the Lincoln Restaurant, one of his favorites, lately. I replied that I hadn't and asked why. She said that something odd had happened when she'd tried to bring him there recently. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I didn't ask her to elaborate.

The Lincoln is a favorite of Garrett's, too-- we used to go there a lot when he still lived in Chicago. We put Adam in my "umbrella" stroller and walked over there.

I took Adam out of the stroller, and folded it up. As we walked into the restaurant, Adam's eyes widened. Then he started frantically shouting, louder with each repetition, "Outside! Outside! OUTSIDE!" and fighting to get out of my arms in order to run out of the restaurant. He had a look of fear I'd never seen before-- or since-- in his eyes.

By the last "Outside," he was so loud that the entire restaurant, which is pretty large, had stopped to see what the commotion was. He started yelling "Outside!" again, and was really struggling with me. I sheepishly told the owner "I guess we're going outside."

Once he was outside, he quickly calmed down, and we went to a different restaurant. I was pretty rattled-- it took me a while to calm down.

I called Adam's mother and told her what had happened. She told me that the exact same thing had happened to her a few days before-- with the same result; she'd had to take him out of there.

About a year later, he and I went back into the Lincoln without incident.

As he got older, I asked him about it, but he doesn't remember it. This is odd, because he remembers details about people and places we lived when he was even younger than that.

I told the story to my friend Andreas, who told me flat-out that Adam had seen a ghost. He explained that children see them more frequently than adults-- that adults have learned to screen them out.

I'm not a big believer in ghosts and other supernatural stuff, but I do know what I saw that day. My son never acted like that anywhere, anytime, ever, except for those two times, once with me and once with my ex. The incident was unnerving enough that I remember it vividly over ten years later.

Ironically, when my future in-laws met Adam for the first time, not long after Kim and I started dating, it was over lunch at the Lincoln. He didn't seem to see any ghosts that day.

17 comments:

cheer34 said...

I believe that children see things adults have been conditioned to not see, feel, believe, or sense.

Natalie said...

I think children can see and do a lot more than adults. When I was younger I could fly. Not far, just a few squares of a city sidewalk. Then I learned it wasn't possible, and I couldn't do it anymore.

The music building at Sarah Lawrence is totally haunted. People get locked in practice rooms all the time. I once got shut in a stairwell. Spooky!

Skylers Dad said...

I believe there are other things out there that we cannot explain, and that children have sensory systems that are much more alive that an adults.

I will have to post my only ghost experience soon!

The Elk said...

Are you sure our good friend Mr. Charles wasn't working the Lincoln at that point? Evil Mr. Bunny would make any kid bolt for the exit poste haste.
While we're on the topic, The Wave of Plague in C-Town was haunted. I had an experience when I came back to town early. Something opened the front door and walked up the stairs. When I checked the door, it was still dead bolted and no one else there. Matt G. also had weird stuff happen when he lived there after me.
Probably the haunted spirit of the Dead Guy on the lawn wondering who stole his Pork Pie Hat...
Psst - If your out the Mr. Ferrish, it was Rex the Scumbag.....

Danielle said...

Children do catch energies we as adults often miss. We had a good friend who developed a strong connection to my oldest who was about a year old at the time. That friend committed a well planned elaborate suicide. His wife came over one day and retold the events and I came to the conclusion that she really did drive him to the edge and had no outward signs of emotions even though they had been married for 20 years and had two grown children. That night my son acted so strangely screaming at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason which continued for a good 30 minutes after trying everything in our parental arsenal I decided to loudly state to our friend how we felt about his wife and that we will always hold him dear and instantly my son was quiet. He doesn't remember anything of course but he face changes when he sees a picture of him.

deadspot said...

Even I've heard of Resurrection Mary, and I grew up hours away from Chicago.

We got a book on Weird Illinois a couple of months ago, and as I was reading through the entry on Resurrection Mary, I realize that we drive past that cemetery on the way to Chicago Fire games. Toyota Park is sort of right around the corner and a few blocks away.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I screamed like that once as a kid in a restaurant, but only because I saw lima beans was the daily special.

But yeah, I think your point was the plot to The Sixth Sense and that's probably the only thing I really loved about that movie.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That really is an eery tale. Does Adam know the story of his extreme reaction to the restaurant? I wonder what his take on all this is?

lulu said...

There is a Ghost at the cemetary between Chicago and Evanston too, what is it called, All Saints? I had a ghost in this studio apartment on Roscoe right of the Drive He was harmless.

BeckEye said...

I love that Resurrection Mary legend. I'm a big urban legend freak.

I believe that kids can see ghosts. I think animals can too. I hate when my dog starts growling at absolutely nothing. Creeps me right out!

Bubs said...

Wonderful story. I'm sure your son saw something you missed. My daughters are both like that, especially my youngest. I kind of feel cheated that I've never seen a ghost, but I think if I did it would scare the bejeebus out of me.

Glad you mentioned Resurrection Mary, too. Chicago has some great hauntings--there's a famously haunted cemetery and stretch of road out between Palatine and Barrington, the local cops actually station a squad car there around Halloween to control sightseers.

You remind me of a couple stories I need to post later.

Erik Donald France said...

My God, it sounds like he has "the Shining." Good idea to listen. I have a couple friends who see ghosts. They are lowkey about it.

Johnny Yen said...

Cheer34-
I agree. They certainly are observant when they're little. I laughed hard a few years back when he pointed out how silly it was having braille on the drive-up ATMs.

Natalie-
We had a haunted dorm at Eastern-- Pemberton Hall. There'd actually been a murder there, in the '30's, I think-- a custodian murdered a student.

Skyler's Dad-
I look forward to the ghost story!

Elk-
Rex the Scumbag stole from a dead guy?!!! That's low, even for him. He certainly has worked on keeping his nickname.

As Atwood was fond of pointing out, he may be a scumbag, but he's our scumbag.

Danielle-
That's an amazing story!

Since he was first born, my son has definitely had preferences for people. He and my friend Garrett are very close-- even when Adam was a baby, he was drawn to Garrett, who is one of the nicest people I've ever known. I truly wonder if Adam is his angel-- Garrett did a year-long tour of duty in Iraq unscathed. On the other hand, he cried every time my old janitor came near him, and tried to get away from him. We found out later that the guy was an alcoholic and a thief.

Deadspot-
Yeah, it's a pretty well-known story. I used to pass the Willowbrook all the time as a teenager-- it was on a bicycle route I used to ride a lot.

I love that Weird Illinois book-- I need to pick it up some time. Isn't Charleston's giant "Abe Lincoln flipping off the world" in there?

Kristi-
Ugh-- I'd scream too. Lima beans are one of the few vegetables I hate. And we had them all the friggin' time when I was a kid.

I actually liked the Sixth Sense and Signs. M. Shylaman Night lost me after that one. The "secret" formula is only going to work so many times.

Barbara-
I actually asked him pretty recently about it. He doesn't remember it.

Lulu-
That cemetary was, appopriately, the site of the stupidest thing I ever did-- what I referred to in today's post. Specifically, on Sheridan road, right there.

My best friend Jim has a ghost in his apartment, which is near where Ridge and Clark meet. It's a guy dressed in 1930's or 1940's clothes-- a suit and a hat. He is not malevolent, so Jim's okay with it.

Beckeye-
I remember our family dogs doing that too, and being weirded out by it. It was always late at night, when my parents were out somewhere.

Bubs-
Isn't that right where they found Frank Nitti's body? He was actually killed and dumped right around there (not shoved off of the Chicago Cultural Center by Elliot Ness, as depicted in "The Untouchables") Maybe that's the source of the haunting.

Erik-
Yeah, that's probably something you don't mention in job interviews, and things like that ;)

vikkitikkitavi said...

Eh, not so much into the whole ghost thing. Yeah, kids are very sensitive to things we don't notice, like smells that they don't like, and unpleasant lighting effects, etc. Adam could have been reacting to any of those things, too.

A toddler I used to care for every week was terrified of the oscillating fan on her dresser, but only when the room was dark. In the daytime she didn't care, but if you turned out the light in her room before turning off the fan, she would scream in terror like I've never heard any person scream, ever.

The Red Lion in Chicago used to be my neighborhood bar. It's supposedly famously haunted, and people were always trooping through there, trying to prove something. At one point, they brought in a photo taken in an upstairs room in which they said an apparition wearing a red cap could be seen standing to the side of one of the ghost chasers. One of the waiters looked at the photo and said "That's me! I was wearing my red baseball hat, and standing behind the photographer, and that's my reflection in the glass of that picture on the wall!" After looking at it again, the ghost people had to admit that that's exactly what it was. They were crushed.

Sorry, not trying to be a party pooper here.

Johnny Yen said...

Vikki-
I'm not either. My assumption was that there might have been a sound-- kids have a hearing range that is much, much wider than adults'. It drops off naturually around a certain age. The New York Times had an article about a merchant-- I think it was in Santa Monica-- who took advantage of this and had a machine that generated unpleasant white noise in that range, in order to keep high school kids out of his place of business.

What was weird was that it was so sudden, and so violent-- he's been really strong since he was a baby, and I had trouble keeping him under control. And that it happened twice.

The Red Lion ghost is a popular one!

The Biograph, down the street, plays into my family history-- my grandparents were there the night Dillinger was shot. Practically everybody in the neighborhood was: the Biograph was one of the only air conditioned buildings around then.

That's hilarious about the faux ghost!

I'm going to take both of my kids on the Chicago ghost tour soon. I know it's a lot of hooey, but they love it.

Tenacious S said...

We were driving down an LA freeway when Sweetness was 2 and all of a sudden she started yelling "Witches and ghosts! Witches and ghosts!" Then she threw up all over the back seat. I'm guessing it wasn't a psychic phenomena, but her 2-year old attempt to tell us that she felt very sick and scared. I could be wrong.

Big Orange said...

I feel ghosts around me all the time. I"ve yet to SEE one, but damn, if they 'ent THERE!!

I guess I'm just haunted. There's blogcake in there!!

My eldest daughter pointed up to the ceiling when she was 2 right after my mom's death and said "Gramma Bev is angel. Uh, huh."