I have been meaning to share the following incidents on this site for some time. These paranormal occurrences happened between mid 1991 and early 1993 at an apartment that was located on York Street in Elmhurst, Illinois. The apartments are now gone and the upstairs and downstairs have been completely renovated. The building presently houses an Irish restaurant/bar.
I decided to keep notes of these incidents during the time I was living at this address which has been invaluable in keeping the chronology correct. In my mind many of these incidents happened later or in a different order than my notes state. It proves the fallibility of relying only on one's memory, especially after so many years have passed! For the most part I am just going to write exactly what my notes state with clarification added where needed. This will be a somewhat lengthy account as it details multiple incidents over a two year period.
My wife Julie and I (we weren't married when we first moved in) moved into Apartment B (there were only three units) on July 1st 1991. I was twenty four and Julie was twenty three. It was a one bedroom place with hardwood floors, leaded glass windows, high ceilings, 1930s era light fixtures, a small kitchen along with a good sized living room, seperate dining room, two walk in closets, a large bathroom and entry foyer. It was quite a bang for the buck. We both shared a fascination with the building and were happy when the vacancy was made. The building has something of a mock tudor archetectural flair and exuded a very distinct personality not seen in too many buidings of a recent vintage. It was built in 1926 and the lower floor originally served (until 1942) as The Public Service Company of Northern Illinois. This sign, which was built into the building itself, was still there during our occupancy. When Julie and I lived there the downstairs was occupied by a German market called The Heidelberg. In the basement was a restaurant associated with the market called The Rathskellar (naturally enough). The outer walls of the building are extremely thick. Around four feet at its base and over three on the second floor. It remains the the most solidly constructed building I have ever lived in.
In our first three to four months living there we commonly heard eerie sounds of muffled voices and doors slamming and regularly had the feeling, when the other residents were out, of not being alone. Friends who visited us during our first few months also commented how they felt uneasy in the main hallway dividing the three units and particularly in our apartment when alone. There was a roof of an adjoining building that could be accessed by a window in the main second floor hallway and it was common for residents to relax out there when the weather was nice. A friend of mine named Greg returned onto the roof after having used the bathroon in our apartment and said he would never go in the place alone again. He was a no nonsense kind of guy and hearing him state this came as a real surprise.
After the the fifth month most of the above mentioned noises and feelings subsided in large part except for the occasionally stunning exceptions I will describe. The first "major" incident took place in mid-July, soon after we moved in. Like the other particularly notable experiences, it was also very strange. At around two o'clock in the morning, Julie woke me by intoning, "Do you see it?" Immediately I replied "Yes," as I saw a bluish, slightly luminescent mass of no particular form on the wall below a bedroon window opposite our bed. It moved and contorted slowly, seeming to ooze like a thick liquid. I felt an energy in the room and was so taken aback by the weird mass that I had trouble catching my breath. The light switch was next to me by the door and I snapped it on whereupon the luminescent form disappeared. Talking to Julie about the occurrence afterwards, it turned out she was not looking at the wall as I had been but had awoken to see a spinning blue object above her.
Piecing this together, what I have come to believe is that as soon as Julie asked me, "Do you see it", whatever it was moved instantly towards the wall below the window. The whole series of events took no longer than thirty seconds to play out. What's really intriguing is the apparent reaction this mass had to our voices. It makes me wonder if something was attempting a full materialization and had been interrupted? Was it some sort of plasma? Whatever it was, it remains an extremely baffling experience. Nothing quite like it ever happened again.
Several days after this one time manifestation, another singular incident took place. I was home alone in the apartment and the other tenants (only two at that time) were out. As I sat reading in the bedroom, a loud shrill cry, which sounded like that of a baby, broke the quiet. This sound most definitely came from the central hall of the apartments. Upon immediate investigation the hall was found to be empty and the building as quiet as before. This was the only time I ever heard that particular sound there.
Although I didn't note when the next occurrence began, it started soon after we moved in and continued, at intervals, for several weeks. Around 2:30 in the morning one night, Julie and I were awoken by a loud thudding sound that quickly began increasing in volume. Baffled, we both ran out into the living room where we quickly realised the sound was coming from our stereo speakers. The stereo was shut off but the little red monitor light on the receiver was pulsing in time to the mad banging. The only way to stop the sound was to pull the plug of the receiver out of the wall. This happened several more times, always at around 2:30 in the morning. It got to a point that part of our evening routine involved unplugging the stereo before going to bed.
After it had happened a couple of times, I assumed there was something wrong with the receiver and I took it in to an electronics repair shop. They thoroughly checked it out and said there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I had just purchased it new (it was a Sony) when we had moved in so it was only a couple of weeks old when it started making the banging/thumping noises. Satisfied everything was okay with it I attempted to keep it plugged in at night again. Sure enough, two or three days later, at the regular time it started up its banging sound which quickly increased in volume until it was shattering. The monitor light again pulsing in time to the sound. The next day I took it in to the store where I had bought it and they then checked it out. Again I was told it was in perfect working order. Two or three nights later the sound was again waking us up at 2:30. A thought that I have considered is that the sound was caused by a power surge of some kind. What makes me think it was paranormal, however, was that it only ever happened at 2:30 at night and otherwise worked perfectly (it didn't occur every night). It never made the sound during the day or early evening. It's also important to reiterate that it was turned off every time the sounds would emanate from the speakers. For the rest of the time we lived in the apartment we would unplug the stereo at night and plug it back in in the morning. I should add that the sound was very eerie, almost menacing. It rose to such intense volume it seemed as if it would blow the speakers. I wonder if it was something attempting to communicate.
The singular most impressive and completely stunning incident transpired early in the morning on August 17, 1991. The exact time the following event occurred was 4:03 am. This time was noted by the other person involved, my neighbor Jim, from Apartment A. We were both sitting on the small second story back porch of the building. The last people from a party Jim had thrown on Saturday night had left about forty minutes earlier (time never seemed to be a concern when I was in my twenties!). It was raining lightly but as none of the apartments had air conditioning, it was nice to enjoy the night air. The market below (the already mentioned Heidelberg) had been closed since 10 pm the night before and wouldn't re-open until 9 am Monday morning.
Jim and I were talking about nothing in particular when our conversation suddenly trailed off as a loud sound rose up from directly below the porch. It sounded like the back door of the store opened and slammed shut. This sound was immediately followed by the sound of something heavy being dropped very loudly--it sounded like a box full of metallic objects. Initially I didn't think anything unusual was happening and I leaned back in my chair and peered over the railing.
Just below me I saw a man standing wearing what appeared to be a long butcher's apron or smock. It struck me that he was wearing a smock because his legs only appeared from below the knees, the rest covered by what I took to be a smock. This figure was standing and was swaying slightly back and forth. The presence was shrouded by darkness and I couldn't make out facial features but I did notice the silhouette, including the hair which was short, wiry and a bit messy. Assuming it was an employee of the Heidelberg, I quickly leaned back forward and told Jim it was just someone from the store cleaning up. He instantly reminded me that no employee was presently working and told me the time. We both immediately looked back down but the "man" was gone.
Still surprised by the strange loud sounds and the figure I had seen, Jim asked what we should do. I said we should investigate and he wholeheartedly agreed. Upon descending the stairs we found the back double doors (an outer and inner door) locked securely. As it was raining lightly there was no evidence of a person standing where I had seen the figure. We went around to the front of the building and peered through the display window which gave one a full view of the interior. The lights were kept on all night in the store and it was empty and quiet.
After returning to the balcony having found nothing, the door leading to the apartments slammed violently in our faces! This was another jolt in an evening that was suddenly full of them. The door had been wedged tightly open and for it to have slammed as it did would have taken amazing strength. There was no wind to speak of. That served as the official end of the evening and Jim and I said goodnight. In thinking the next morning about the figure, it struck me that if it had been a living person he would have had to have passed by our line of sight to have left. This is because there is only one area that exits the rear of the building. Three sides of the back of the building were bordered by the building itself and tall fences on two other sides. The only open side was the entrance to the small rear parking lot for the apartments residents and employees of the store and restaurant. The only cars that were there were the three residents cars. Simply put, nobody could have left the back of the building without being seen as the porch gave a perfect view of the parking area. I must reiterate that what I saw appeared absolutely human and solid until it was simply gone. Jim didn't see the apparition himself but did hear everything I did and also had the door slam in his face.
The following weekend Julie and I decided to research the history of the property and went to the Elmhurst Library to check microfiche of old local newspapers and the Elmhurst Historical Society (located in the beautiful old Glos Mansion) to sift through their archives. We found out the property was occupied going back to the 1830s. Of utmost interest was the fact that before the present building there stood a store called Heinemann's Meat Market run by Edwin Heinemann. Heinemann butchered meat on the premises. We uncovered his obituary which proved very interesting.
On December 26th, 1906, Edwin fell down the outside stairs that led to the basement, broke his neck and died. The one doctor in Elmhurst at that time pronounced him dead at the scene. Edwin's brother Louis changed the business to a more modern deli and grocery store after Edwin's death and this remained in operation until the early 1920s. The telephone exchange was located in Edwin Heinemann's store. A second switchboard was then added to the Heinemann living room upstairs. Heinemann's wife and two daughters were among the operators.
As mentioned, the present building was then constructed in 1926. Although I found no information about the construction of the building, I have often wondered if the present building was constructed on the foundation of the old building. The basement, which I visited often because of the restaurant, seemed older than the structure above, both in appearance and the old stones that made up its outer walls.
Julie and I uncovered a photograph of Edwin Hienemann, along with three children (I assume his) taken in front of Heinemanns' Meat Market. Looking at the old newpaper clipping I was stunned at the appreance of Edwin. He was a stocky man wearing his butcher's apron and had thick, wiry hair. Was he the figure I saw standing just below me eighty one years after his death? As the years have gone on I really do think it was his apparition I saw. The strange sound Jim and I heard could have been an audial replay of him coming out the rear door of the older building and the long apron the apparition was wearing could be explained by Heinemann's occupation.
Further research into the area led me to another possible identification of the apparition. Louis Balgemann had run a blacksmith shop which had been opened in 1870. It stood immediately next door to Heinemann's. This shop remained in operation until the 1940s. Since the apparition I saw was definitely wearing an apron, the possibility that it could have been Balgemann or another employee of the blacksmith shop can't be overlooked. Blacksmiths wore heavy aprons. If the apparition was a onetime blacksmith, the sounds heard could have been a replay of tools being dropped. Either Heinemann or Balgemann, I do feel this full apparition seems likely to have been one of them.
One year after the appearance of the apparition I compiled my notes and prepared papers documenting the paranormal occurrences with special attention paid to the full materialization and gave one copy to local Chicago area paranormal investigative group, the Ghost Research Society's president and the GRS research director. Julie and I were also involved with the GRS at this time. Howard, the research director, along with Julie and I then attempted to capture the phenomenon again, or any other unexplained occurrence exactly one year after the first appearance on August 17, 1992.
This was a long way from equipment now used in the field of ghost research. We employed two 35mm cameras on tripods (using color and TRI-EX black and white film, one hand held 35mm camera, a camcorder, tape recorder and compasses (to detect magnetic deviation) in an attempt to capture something. Our all night vigil sadly revealed nothing of profound interest. Only some intense magnetic deviation was noted in the front walk in closet of our apartment. As most readers on this site know, apparitions and all other types of paranormal activity can be notorious no shows when investigations are made.
On January 8th 1992 at 2:30 in the morning (that time again) Julie and I were awoken by the intensely loud noise of what sounded like a car squeeling its tires--as in burning serious rubber. This sound was so loud it literally seemed as if the car was in our parking area right below our bedroom window. We looked out the window and the lot was empty of any person and utterly still, yet the sound continued at an incredibly loud and clear volume. Soon after the sound began there was a thick and heavy smell of burning tire rubber that filled the bedroom! Making this even more bizarre was that all the windows in the apartment were tightly closed as it was winter. We had to evacuate the room and put a fan on to disperse the incredibly thick smell. The sound lasted a full five minutes but the smell took over a half hour to finally disperse.
The next morning we searched the pavement of a parking garage that stood next door to the building and all streets in close proximity but no tire marks were found. I have to stress that if what we heard was a car there definitely would have been heavy marks. This remains one of the most off the wall and puzzling incidents that happened at York Street.
On a related note, a few days after this occurrence, our neighbor Jim and his then wife Karen (Jim had just married by this time) who occupied Apartment A at the front of the edifice had a three night period where a disused wind up alarm clock (the old fashioned two bells on top variety) would ring at exactly 2:30 in the morning. The clock was on an upper shelf in their bedroom closet. Neither of them had set it and both became quite spooked. When Jim mentioned this to me I told him about the weird car tire screeching and realised the alarm clock ringing started the same night and at the same time Julie and I had heard (and smelled) the phantom tire squeeling. Neither Jim or Karen heard the tire sound. I also asked Lisa, the occupant of Apartment C, if she heard the sound and she had heard nothing. It really has to be stressed that all three of the other renters should have heard the sound.
The final incidents were less dramatic but not less baffling. In late June, 1992 at around 5:30 pm (a day in which I was home all day studying) I was suddenly jolted by a voice emanating from the telephone (yes this was pre-everyone in the world has a cell phone) intoning, "Please hang up and try again." I initially thought the voice was coming from a car phone (what are those someone reading this screams) outside, as the window behind me in the living room, was open. This thought was quickly discarded when a loud busy signal one used to get when a phone was off the hook started up its annoying pattern. I hadn't used the phone since around 10:30 that morning and I noticed the phone was slightly askew. Immediately I hung it up and picked it up again to see if I'd get a dial tone--I did.
When my wife came home from work at a quarter to six she told me she had tried, on and off, since 11:30 that morning to get a hold of me. She had contacted the operator, who had the ability to cut into a conversation, and was told the phone was completely out of service. This meant that the only way for the phone to work again would be to have a phone repairman out and indeed Julie told me one had been contacted and would be out in about an hour. Luckily he called to check the line first and I was able to tell him he wouldn't be needed. According to the operator the phone should not have worked after I hung it up. As well, wouldn't a buzzing noise have started much, much earlier than 5:30 pm if it had been off the hook since 11:30 am? I wasn't anywhere near the phone after 10:30 am! What's to be made of the voice that said, "Please hang up and try again?" I wasn't calling anyone.
When Julie and I had done research on the building we did find an incomplete list of former tenants. Intriguingly, one of the tenants listed as living there in 1965 was A.E. Heinemann. One of the first operators to have worked in the previous building on the site was Amanda Heinemann, the daughter of the earlier mentioned Edwin Heinemann. Was A.E. Heinemann and Amanda Heinemann one and the same? It might explain this particular incident with the phone. Maybe Amanda was trying to make contact via her former occupation as a switchboard operator. Amanda would have probably been in her later 70s by 1965. It is food for thought.
On July 10th, 1992 I had a Hyatt Hotel confirmation slip (an actual piece of paper confirming my reservation back in the dark ages of the early 90s) which I had misplaced a few days earlier suddenly fly on to the floor from the bottom of a stack of letters and a pair of glasses which were sitting on a tall table! Everthing else remained perfectly in place. It has always struck me as a helpful paranormal gesture as I had been looking for the thing for a few days and had talked about it in annoyed tones to Julie. I wonder if a former resident thought they would perform a helpful deed? I thanked my invisible helper just in case that was the cause.
In August of 1992 the final possible unexplained phenomena occurred. Julie and I had just purchased a modest 35mm Olympus camera and Julie shot off a roll of film of our apartment and some friends who were over. One was a shot (taken from the sidewalk at the side of the building) of our friend Tim's pick-up truck which was sitting on the sidestreet next to our building. It was taken merely to fill up the roll. In another photo I am standing on the second floor rear balcony hoisting a mug. In both of these photos there appear some strange anomalies. Only these two photos had anything potentially "ghostly" about them. The rest of the roll was absolutely normal.
In the photo of me with the mug (maybe appropriately, a ceramic mug in the shape of a skull) there appears a wispy three dimensional white mass which seems to be materializing around my chin/cheek area. It looks like a three dimensional teardrop in shape, laying on its side. Coming down from the top of the photo and extending to my shoulder is a segmented, luminescent, green curved line. Both of these features are rather impressive and completely unexplained.
In the other photo of the pick-up truck, a zig-zagging bright orange line weaves its way around the truck--turning, flipping and making some reflections in the window of a door of the building behind the truck. At the points where the light turns, jagged electrical like rays break off, giving one the impression that whatever it was was moving very fast. There was no car passing by when the photo was taken, so the first obvious consideration that it might be a car's tail lights is excluded. Julie noticed none of these unusual features when taking the photos and they serve as interesting possible evidence of something paranormal. I would be very interested to hear of any alternative, logical, explanations of the anomalies in the photos. To me they are strange enough to share.
Besides the personal incidents I have mentioned here, other residents and friends have reported perplexing events at the location on York Street. Two friends of my then neighbor Jim were sitting on an adjoining roof (the one I mentioned earlier which was accessed by a window at the end of the central hallway of the apartments). This roof (it was a realtor's office beneath) was used for barbecuing and relaxing by the apartment residents. This couple--they were boyfriend and girlfriend--were enjoying the night air when they looked up in unison at the roof of a building next door. The figure of a man was looking down at them. At first they thought it was a person, naturally enough, but this "person" promptly disappeared! The couple were quite startled and never went on the roof again.
Thinking of this incident (which occurred before I had moved in) has made me wonder if it may have had some connection to the shade I saw of the man in the long apron. The property this apparition appeared on was where the blacksmith shop had once stood. It is now the Gibbon's Funeral Home. Regardless of what this apparition was, it at least outlines a second report of an actual materalization near the property. Of course it is all second hand but Jim told me of it because of his own unexplained experiences in the building.
In the final months of our occupancy, September until April 1st, 1993, nothing else of note happened of a paranormal nature. The vast spectrum of phenomena that transpired at this building (and near it) was unusual and no pattern seemed to exist. Most of the occurrences were one time events--except for the weird late night stereo thumping. Whatever was, and possibly still is, haunting the property is certainly creative and expressive. The "burning rubber" incident proves that! I have only been back to the building once, around 2004, and Julie and I ate lunch in what had once been our old apartment. The windows were all that remained recognizable from the time Julie and I lived there. You actually CAN go home again. Sometimes its just changed into a restaurant.
(Editor's note: exact address removed from title and story)