Author: Luna Ramírez

Program of Study: PhD in Molecular Engineering, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME)

Abandoned temple in Hyde Park. (Photo taken by author)

Description: In this podcast, we explore the supernatural side of Chicago, from the ghosts and spirits that roam its alleys to the mythical creatures that lurk in abandoned buildings. Join us as we take you on a journey to the city’s hidden realm, where the invisible reigns.

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Transcript (provided by author):

Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2023. I’m your host, Luna, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s PME, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

So, a couple weeks ago, I was waiting for the shuttle bus downtown. But, the bus did not go to the stop because it suddenly turned around, so I had to walk to another stop to wait for the last bus. While walking, I noticed these shadowy omnipresent streets behind all the buildings. It surprised me to see a bright, full of life avenue suddenly followed by a barely visible, gloomy, smaller street. It was also really interesting to notice that most people didn’t even look at them. These are the Chicago alleys.

These alleys connect the city, and if you pay enough attention, you’ll see them all around, even behind your own house. They are designed to maintain order in the architectural intricacies of this beautiful city. From the movies and simple logic, you can understand that they house some less legal activities than throwing your garbage and parking your car. They are usually the best place for gambling, illicit deals, drug consumption, robbery, and many other illegal activities that although interesting are not the subject of this podcast.

Back to last Friday night, it was almost 10:30 when I got off the bus. Then, I decided to walk home since it was only 3 or 4 blocks away. But these blocks included a couple small alleys. While walking in front of them, I could feel something. You know, this sensation in the nape of your neck when someone is staring at you. However, when I turned around, there was no one I could see. So, I continued walking. But then, I felt it again, and this time I sensed the movement of shadows in the corner of my eye. Now, I know that there is something in the darkness of the alleys. Something that accompanies you at night through all the shadows in your way home.

When I finally got home, I had to ask myself “Well, if something was watching me in those alleys, what was it?”. If I had been in Greektown, maybe I could have thought of Phobos and Deimos—not the moons but the spirits or gods of fear and terror. On the other hand, if I had been in the Ukrainian Village, I could probably find a mara trying to get me lost in the dark limen of the Chicago Alleys. I kept thinking about the probability of being eaten by a monstrous Ayin or a Huapigui if I walked around Chinatown late on a weekday night. However, I was not in Greektown, Ukrainian Village, or Chinatown. I was in Hyde Park! The home of a historically African American community but also of many generations of students from all around the world.

Thinking about the mix of cultures you can find around the University of Chicago and Hyde Park also made me think about the mix of cultures, food, traditions, languages, and why not? Ghosts and spirits! in Chicago. Can you imagine all the invisible life flourishing in the liminal spaces of the city? Because, let’s be honest, Chicago is the perfect place for growing and hiding ghosts. We have the biggest network of alleys in America—more than 1900 miles of deserted, gloomy, almost invisible lanes that we never look at. We also have the Pedway in the heart of the city, where thousands of people walk every day. But, what happens during the night in these places? or even in your own house or neighborhood?

In my eyes, Chicago is like a cauldron where we have all the elements to produce a new and interesting fantasy. We have tons of interconnected liminal spaces, like the alley network, the pedway, all the abandoned buildings, or the rooms behind closed doors in our houses. We also have all the spirits, ghosts, and demons that traveled with their people on their journey to a new world.

Chicago alley network is a maze where fast-paced persons come across the specters that haunted humanity in the forests and jungles of the old world. Abandoned Chicago buildings are the new caves where the massive Grootslang serpent from South Africa guards its treasures. That’s why we feel an overpowering “sense of evil” when we pass by some of these. Waiting for poor fools passing under the L lines on moonless nights is probably more profitable for trolls than old bridges nowadays. It’s not hard to imagine the three ancients Moirai controlling the threads of millions of lives from the top of the Sears tower, maybe they even have offices and stock investments!

In conclusion, you may not believe that ghosts, spirits and demons dwell in the Windy City. But they are watching, waiting for us to get lost in the labyrinth of Chicago.

Like today! I was walking and figuring out the ideas for this episode and I was really distracted. Then, something caught my eye. I was in front of a huge building, with gothic columns and big doors. BUUUUT, something was definitely off. The windows were covered with wooden planks and there were cracks on the surface of the stone. There was dead ivy climbing the walls. I was surprised to notice that my daydreaming walk has taken me to an abandoned temple. For a moment I thought about the other Chicago and the strangeness of finding it looming in the less-expected moments, like a sunny summer day in Hyde Park. I am posting the picture that a really uneasy me took earlier so we can share the feeling together.

Thanks for listening to this episode of my podcast, THE OTHER CHICAGO.