Friday, August 10, 2012

The Forge

Candy has been a fixture in our lives since she and her brothers participated in the old Thanksgiving Food Drive. I’ve written about her sensitivities, and how she channeled someone in the warehouse our organization uses at Christmas. She also followed around our friends’, Faith and Crystal, when they investigated the apartment of a Blue Island notable.
Well, Candy and friends, Carmine, Anthony and Mitzy, started their own paranormal group, South Side Paranormal Research, and have come up with some surprising results. Recently, the group was invited to visit the Forge, which is located at 127th and Homan, and they invited me to join them.
We arrived as the regulars were leaving. The main room is an older, comfy barroom, complete with ceiling fans, dim lights and warm paneling, sports banners, etc. It was obvious even to me that there was nothing notable here. The others claimed to feel activity elsewhere.
Upstairs are two apartments that are approached by a flight of stairs rising from the pool room behind the main bar and right next to the exit to the beer garden. The basement and kitchen are entered from behind the bar.
Our host, Gus, asked one of the tenants to join us. We asked him if he saw anything or felt anything in his apartment. Well, he said, he awoke one night when someone touched his arm, but that could have been a dream.
Gus explained the building was built in the 1880‘s. It was always a bar, and had served as a brothel for many years. During the Depression it housed a hardware store, but then reverted back after the repeal of Prohibition. A few years ago, the front part of the building was lopped off when the railroad built an underpass.
We split into two teams. Carmine and Anthony investigated the basement while Candy, Mitzy and I went upstairs. We visited a tiny, four room apartment. It opens onto a porch, which leads to the other apartment and down stairs to the beer garden. Candy wandered from room to room, and out onto the porch. At last she declared the apartment to be ‘clean’.
We returned to the inside stairway. Candy paused and glanced around. “This isn’t clean,” she said. Apparently, we had interrupted someone’s business.
“What kind of business?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, but it isn’t legal. He wants us out of here now.” Candy doesn’t take ‘no’ easily, and I knew he hadn’t seen the end of her.
“What era?” I asked.
“1940’s, maybe.”
While we were upstairs, Anthony and Carmine went downstairs. That staircase is tiny, steep and twisted. One look at it, and I decided that even promises of great wealth wouldn’t entice me down those steps. The basement is used for storage, although there isn’t much stored there, and the floor is unfinished. They sat at the bottom of the stairs. One took photos while the other asked questions. “Who are you?” “Why are you here?” and so forth.
“It’s creepy down there,” Carmine commented when the guys returned. A little later, the girls took their place.
Meanwhile, Gus showed me photos he had found tucked away in a rafter. They were from the early part of the twentieth century. There several professional school photos and just as many taken at funerals. I copied the names from the photos, but couldn’t find anything about them online. I’m still checking. The one funeral took place in St Casimir Cemetery, and was very well attended. The man turned out to be a tavern owner from Cicero.
“You know," Gus said, “If you’re interested, we could have a public reveal."
We finished the evening in the barroom. Mitzy claimed her entire side was submerged in cold, cold air. We quieted down so Mitzy could ask questions. When she said the feeling had left her. Anthony said it had come to him.
We agreed that we would meet again two weeks later. We wanted better recording equipment and hopefully a camcorder. We discussed trigger objects. A suggestion was made that since the man on the stairs was ‘doing business,’ maybe a good trigger would be coins or a dollar bill. We listened to the audio tapes from Carmine and Anthony’s cell phones, and we downloaded the photos. We picked up very little.
Gus called at about 6PM on that day we agreed to meet next. “Forget it,” he said. The electricity went out. We caught our collective breaths. The ghosts were playing with the electricity. No, Gus explained later. Bad storm blew the power out in the immediate area.
About two weeks passed and Gus called to say, “Come.” We grabbed our bags and took off. Candy said she wanted to concentrate on the stairway leading upstairs, as well as to the basement. She was confident that she would find the  ‘business’ man in the same place because he seemed to be rooted there. In the basement she said she felt two presences. One was a dominant male while the other was subservient. She wasn’t sure of the gender, only that he or she was afraid of the other man. There was someone in the kitchen as well, but she didn’t find that person as interesting as the others.
On arrival, we rechecked our meager equipment. One by one, the cell phones shut themselves off, and the camera and flashlight batteries died. Thank God we brought more batteries. With a little encouragement and a lot of banging, we did get everything working again.
Their first move was to set trigger objects on the step where the man conducted his ‘business.’ Anthony went to work laying out a buck with coins on top as Candy set up and aimed the borrowed camcorder. “Is he around?” Anthony asked. “I can feel him.”
“He’s right behind you,” Candy responded. “He’s watching.” We left the room immediately. I retreated to the bar where I sat while the others took turns staking out the basement.
After a while Candy decided to check on the back room. She shut the doors dividing the barroom from the pool room. After a couple of minutes she returned, asking Mitzy to come with her.
They lit several flashlights and a candle, and directed the beams at the stairs. They returned a few minutes later, this time quivering from head to foot. “The temperature dropped about twenty degrees,” Candy said. “There’s a gust in the room and the candle is flickering like crazy.” She wanted the guys to join them, and yes, bring more flashlights.
”The flashlights are fluttering just as badly as the flame from the candle is,” Mitzy said.
 “It got really creepy,” Carmine said at the end of their session, “The only open door is the one leading from the stairs. Yet there’s a breeze and it’s cold in there.
“I swear,” Anthony said, “I saw the money I set on the stairs flutter.”
Later, Candy told me that she could see the man stomp up and down the stairs. At the bottom step, he’d pause and peek at her from around the corner.

A few days later Anthony charged into my house calling, “You’ve got to hear this. He’s calling my name!” He pulled out his phone and played an audio recording. During our last visit, he and Carmine were in the basement, asking for a response. Just beneath a question pertaining to whether the ghost knew he was dead, we heard a male whisper, “Tony....” We passed it around the room while Candy dug out the digital recorder. She was reluctant to listen, I think because she’d be devastated if she found it recorded nothing at all. When we played the recorder, and listened, and we heard very little. I made a point then to pick up a pair of earphones the next time I went shopping.
With the public reveal coming up, we put together a program. We were told to explain who we are and what we were doing, and we should bring along some spooky photos Candy had taken over the years. Even if we hadn’t caught much at The Forge, the older photos would provide us some credibility. And we wanted to take all the information, the recordings, the photos and the videos, and lock them into one file. So we began reexamining the evidence, watching the videos and sorting through the photos, and yes, relistening to the audio portion. Let me just say that it is amazing the difference even a cheap pair of headphones makes. Not only did we find new stuff on the recorder, but on the cell phone recorders as well.
On the night of the reveal, Candy introduced her team members. She explained a number of photos they had taken were of orbs, which are thought to be balls of energy left after someone passes. Of themselves they are not considered evidence of a haunting because water droplets, dust, whatever, take the same shape in photos. Used in conjunction with other evidence, they makes a stronger argument for the existence of the paranormal. One set of photos the group found compelling was of the staircase leading to the upstairs apartments. No matter what direction they photographed the stairs, up or down, to one side or the other, an orb maintained one spot not far from where Anthony stacked the money.
They also had EVP’s, or electronic voice phenomena, which is what Anthony had caught on his cell phone. Some were hard to understand, and a few were quite loud. They caught several sets of simultaneous footsteps, too. When the group left the pool room with the camera running, they caught a ball of light moving quickly down the stairs and out of the room. Candy showed off some of the more creepy photos taken at home and around a north side landmark. Finally, they closed out the program with one last EVP. As the group members were packing up on the second night, they caught a voice telling them very loudly, “GET OUT!”


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