WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Could truant officers return to Chicago Public Schools? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The podcast episode has two segments. The portion dealing with our update concerning what happened to truancy officers begins at 8 minutes and 45 seconds into the program. The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">original report details why CPS truancy officers were eliminated </a>and how the district has struggled with chronic truancy.</em></p><p>There are lots of reasons why kids cut class: issues at home, issues with friends, undiagnosed disabilities, etc. But for a while now, Chicago Public Schools has been without a consistent, district-wide mechanism to physically find those students and bring them back to school. Years ago, CPS had a specific job position to perform this work. This is a short update on a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">question we answered about the fate of those workers</a>.</p><p>To refresh your memory, here&rsquo;s the original question we received from Curious Citizen Saundra Oglesby:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&rsquo;t there truant officers, riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>While we <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">answered Saundra&rsquo;s question</a> earlier this year, we learned that this job position was eliminated back in 1992. At that time, the district faced a $315 million dollar budget shortfall and, to close the gap, it laid off each one of its 150 truant officers.</p><p>So, if all of this is 20-year-old history, and we&rsquo;ve answered this question before, why look at it again?</p><p>Well, first off, we never heard from someone who actually did the work for CPS. We had tried to find a former CPS truant officer ... but failed. Luckily, though, a former truant officer found us after he heard our story, and he can now provide an account of the nitty gritty, pavement-pounding nature of his former job.</p><p>And, more importantly, we&rsquo;re tackling some news: A state task force took a hard look at this question, too, and it suggested some fixes for CPS to improve its record when it comes to keeping kids in class. It turns out the state of Illinois is interested in having truant officers return to CPS &mdash; at least in theory.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The trouble with truancy</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s clear that in the years since CPS let go of its truant officers, the district struggled to tamp down chronic absenteeism. A student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses nine or more days of school without a valid excuse. Back in the day, if a kid was missing much class, a principal could call on a truant officer to track the student them down. Since eliminating the position, the district has tried everything from robocalls to tasking traditional teachers with the work.</p><p>But truancy has remained a big problem. As <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf" target="_blank">Catalyst Chicago</a> magazine reported &mdash; and the district confirmed &mdash; a little more than a quarter of of CPS students were chronically truant during the 2013-2014 school year.<span style="text-align: center;">And a </span><a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html" style="text-align: center;" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a><span style="text-align: center;"> investigation revealed that one in eight elementary school students missed the equivalent of a month or more during the 2010 school year. In other words, if a student keeps at that pace, he or she could miss a year of schooling before beginning high school. Stats like that prompted the state of Illinois to create a task force to come up with fixes to CPS&rsquo; &ldquo;empty desk epidemic.</span></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe><span style="text-align: center;">&rdquo;</span></p><p>Among other things, the task force recommends that districts use consistent language and terminology when it comes to attendance and truancy. Task force members also want better, real-time attendance data that can be accessed by key stakeholders such as state agencies, district officials, school staff and and parents. They want better coordination between community and state service providers, so that families and students with insecure housing aren&rsquo;t lost in the system.</p><p>But number one on the task force&rsquo;s list: Bring back truant officers. According to the 150-page <a href="http://www.isbe.net/TCPSTF/pdf/tcpstf-final-report.pdf" target="_blank">Final Report of the Truancy in Public Schools Task Force</a>, &ldquo;the strategy most identified as necessary to combat absenteeism and truancy in CPS schools by reporters, researchers, community leaders and parents was the re-institution of truancy officers.&rdquo;</p><p>Again, Curious City tried to track one of those officers down for our first story &mdash; but we couldn&rsquo;t find one. True to form, one found us.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Meet officer Nelson</span></p><p>Patrick Nelson was right out of college when he applied to be a substitute teacher with CPS. But a chance run-in with the person in charge of the district&rsquo;s dropout prevention program steered him toward a full-time position as a truant officer. There were about 150 officers covering more than 600 schools at the time, so he was responsible for between five and seven schools. His territory was around the old Cabrini Green public housing development, which, in the early &lsquo;90s was overrun by poverty and crime.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pat%20nelson.jpg" style="float: left; width: 280px; height: 398px;" title="(Photo courtesy Patrick Nelson)" />&ldquo;It would often be the case that the parents themselves didn&rsquo;t have the way with all [sic] to understand the importance of education,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Life had given them such a thrashing, they&rsquo;re living in a situation of denial.&rdquo;</p><p>Nelson had to navigate those issues while also enforcing the compulsory education law, which states that every child age 6 to 17 be in a school setting. He describes one situation he had with a fourth grader living in the housing project. Every time he checked on the boy, he says, there were boxes &mdash; tons of them &mdash; just sitting inside the front door of the apartment.</p><p>&ldquo;She stated that &lsquo;I am only here temporarily,&rsquo;&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Well, I was at that school for two years and I would visit that kid off and on,those boxes were at that door. She was in a state of denial about where she was and what was important. I could only do what I could do to stabilize that particular student and make him feel welcome at school.&rdquo;</p><p>Nelson says he tried to be as positive and uplifting with children as possible, to show them that someone cared &mdash; and noticed &mdash; they were missing. He went to their homes and local playlots, but he steered clear of the kids who were getting into trouble or selling drugs on the corner. He believes his job called for the enforcement of one law, while the rest fell under local police&rsquo;s jurisdiction. And, Nelson says, he had a great relationship with the Chicago Police Department. If he saw a kid was up to no good, he filed the necessary paperwork; it worked both ways. He had his own safety to consider too.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t want to get in the way of someone&rsquo;s revenue stream,&rdquo; Nelson explains. &ldquo;Oftentimes in the community, the student who was out of the street, selling drugs or whatever, is one of the sole breadwinners of the family. And when you get in front of a family&rsquo;s revenue stream and you make trouble for them ... To me, that&rsquo;s not really positive.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A catch-all strategy?</span></p><p>Recall that a state task force recommended the return of truant officers to CPS. Actually, it&rsquo;s more complicated than that. The group does recommend the district re-commit itself to the idea of truant officers, but it&rsquo;s a new idea of truant officers. These attendance coordinators should do more than physically find students and return them to school; they should also have a background in psychology or social work, data analysis and training in counseling.</p><p>Jeff Aranowski with the State Board of Education says the task force did not get into the day-to-day function of the attendance coordinators, other than that they be &ldquo;the central person responsible for both community-basis, school-wide basis, a district-wide basis for those kids and tracking those kids.&rdquo; He says the task force didn&rsquo;t want to come up with a list of recommendations with price tags attached.</p><p>&ldquo;We were also cognizant that we didn&rsquo;t want to leave things off the list of recommendations that we thought would actually have a great impact,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>The task force shared its recommendations with CPS and the General Assembly at the end of July. In turn, the district shared a draft of its new <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_draft_report.pdf" target="_blank">attendance improvement and truancy prevention plans</a>. As for whether an attendance coordinator would have enough time in the day to pound pavement, crunch numbers, counsel families, report on and revisit individual cases ... Aranowski says he&rsquo;s not sure.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why we wanted someone where their role was attendance coordinator,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Whether that would mean an extra hat for an existing employee not having time to do that, I don&rsquo;t think that would be best practice. But again, putting the rubber to the road as it were, we&rsquo;re going to have to see what CPS comes up with in terms of their policy.&rdquo;</p><p>Aranowski says there are few statutory requirements of what an attendance policy would look like, and he thinks the task force will be able to weigh in, whether they agree with CPS&rsquo; policy or not.</p><p>As for Nelson, he thinks a catch-all position is doomed to fail.</p><p>&ldquo;You put too much plumbing in the works, you&rsquo;re gonna get clogs,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">Foll</a><a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101 Why so few white kids land in CPS — and why it matters http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 <p><p>Legal segregation may be over in Chicago, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/segregated-education-k-12-100456" target="_blank">racial isolation is well documented</a> in Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS can <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/MagnetSchoolsConsentDecree.aspx" target="_blank">no longer use race</a> as an admittance factor and more and more students are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604" target="_blank">eschewing their neighborhood schools</a> for other options. Education watchers argue there&rsquo;s a two-tier system in the district, and that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519" target="_blank">attracting middle-class families</a> is a Sisyphean task.</p><p>Our segregated school system compelled the following Curious City question from a woman who wanted to remain anonymous:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What percentage of white Chicago school age children attend public school?</em></p><p>Well, the short answer is 51 percent... according to the Census.</p><p>So roughly half of all white children who <em>could </em>go to CPS do, while the other half gets their education somewhere else. By comparison, the number of African-American school-age children who attend CPS is higher than 80 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>Part of this can be explained by a huge gap in the total number of eligible students based on race. More on that later, but first, let&rsquo;s take a closer look at how white parents decide where to send their kids to school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where should our kids go to school?</span></p><p>Of course, choosing where to enroll your child in school is an intense and private family decision. Some parents want their children to get a religious education, others want better resources, and sometimes where to go to school is simply a matter of logistics.</p><p>Alice DuBose lives in Andersonville and says she never had a problem with the neighborhood public school. But she did have a problem with its location relative to her job.</p><p>When her children were in elementary school, DuBose worked at the University of Chicago. She enrolled her three children in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;I could drop the kids off in the morning and go on to work and it was really great when I was working here because then I could just go over and see my daughters, participate in classroom activities to it was absolutely fantastic in that way,&quot; DuBose said.&nbsp;&quot;It was more convenient. If we had gone to a neighborhood school, I could&rsquo;ve never participated in classroom activities.&quot;</p><p>It also didn&rsquo;t hurt that Laboratory is a well-regarded private school with lots of resources. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s children go there.</p><p>&ldquo;Lab&rsquo;s terrific,&rdquo; DuBose continued. &ldquo;Great teaching, smaller classrooms. All the things that we all want for our children.&rdquo;</p><p>DuBose&rsquo;s daughters attended there until 8th grade and then went on to attend Whitney Young &ndash; a CPS selective enrollment school. Now DuBose hopes her son follows in their footsteps.</p><p>The reality is many middle-class parents, including those not initially in CPS, jockey to get their children in selective public high schools like Whitney Young.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools&rsquo;</span></p><p>Not far from Lab in Hyde Park, is a white family who was committed to CPS from the very beginning.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joy%20clendenning%20michael%20scott%20hyde%20park.jpg" title="Joy Clendenning, left, and Michael Scott, right, live in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. All four of their children have enrolled or graduated from a Chicago public school. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></div><p>Joy Clendenning and Michael Scott live in Hyde Park. They didn&rsquo;t choose the neighborhood because of the schools. Scott grew up there and has strong family ties and Clendenning loves the quirky intellectualism of the area. The couple say they believe in public education and always knew their children would attend CPS. A sign in their window says &lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools.&rsquo;</p><p>All four of their children attended Ray Elementary through sixth grade. The oldest went to Kenwood Academy&rsquo;s 7th and 8th grade academic center and stayed for high school. He&rsquo;s now a freshman at Occidental College. The second oldest is a sophomore at Whitney Young and started in its academic center. Their twins are currently in 8th grade at Kenwood. &nbsp;</p><p>Ray is a neighborhood school that also accepts students outside its attendance boundary through a lottery. 20 percent of its students are white and 55 percent black. Kenwood is the neighborhood high school and is 86 percent black. Their son was one of only a couple of white students in his graduating class.</p><p>&ldquo;Kenwood was a very good place for Sam and we never thought &#39;this was too black,&#39;&rdquo; Scott said.</p><p>Clendenning says they&#39;re concerned about how many schools and neighborhoods are segregated.</p><p>&quot;And we definitely think it&rsquo;s a problem that people in our neighborhood don&rsquo;t give the public schools a serious try,&quot; she added.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yearbookphoto1.png" title="Sam Clendenning was one of only a handful of white students in his graduating class at Kenwood Academy. (Photo courtesy of Joy Clendenning) " /></div><p>Our Curious City question asker &ndash; who again wants to remain anonymous &ndash; raised a similar point in a follow-up email:</p><blockquote><p><em>I asked this question because I&#39;ve noticed in my small sampling of visiting public schools, other than a few of the magnet schools, it seems that we have a segregated school system along race lines.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few school-age white children in the city</span></p><p>We know Chicago is almost equal parts black, Latino and white, but that&rsquo;s not the case when it comes to the city&rsquo;s youth. So while roughly a third of Chicago&rsquo;s total population is white, most of those numbers skew older. That means there aren&rsquo;t that many white school-age children to begin with.</p><p>Of the some 400,000 students enrolled in CPS K-12, 180,274 are Hispanic, 163,595 are black and just 33,659 are white. Even if all 65,259 eligible white students in the city went to CPS, they&rsquo;d still be far outnumbered by students who are black and brown.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/school%20age%20eligibility1.png" title="Data measures K-12 enrollment. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago Public Schools " /></div><p>Why does any of this matter?</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, when you look at the data, it&rsquo;s very disturbing,&rdquo; Elaine Allensworth told WBEZ. Allensworth is the director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I do think we think of ourselves as a multi-ethnic city, a city of racial diversity. But then when you look at the numbers and you see how many schools are one-race schools and how segregated schools are based on race, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s where we want to be as a society,&quot; she said.</p><p>Segregation is made worse by the low number of white students overall.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of neighborhoods in the city that are 90 percent or more African American or less than 10 percent African American. In fact, the vast majority of the city has that degree of racial segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.</p><p>In other words, if we don&rsquo;t live together, we don&rsquo;t tend to learn together.</p><p><a href="http://ec2-23-22-21-132.compute-1.amazonaws.com/chicagoschools" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolsPromo1_0_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Click to launch 2010 map. " /></a><span style="font-size:22px;">Segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools</span></p><p>Take Mt. Greenwood, for example, on the Southwest Side. 82 percent of the student body is white &ndash;&nbsp;the highest percentage in all of CPS. And that makes sense. Mt. Greenwood, the neighborhood, is a majority white community.</p><p>The same holds true for many majority black communities.</p><p>As a result, the schools that serve the neighborhoods are also highly segregated based on race,&rdquo; Allensworth continued. &ldquo;So we have many many schools in the district that are close to 100 percent African American.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Finteractive.wbez.org%2Fschools%2Fthe-big-sort.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEk2nK5oAwUsugvrZs7E0f7b8ZPzQ" target="_blank">Those poor-performing schools are typically in poor, black communities</a>&nbsp;that are suffering from substantial unemployment and lack of resources.</p><p>&ldquo;When we look at which schools are struggling the most, they are in the absolutely poorest neighborhoods in the city. &nbsp;We&rsquo;re talking about economic segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.&ldquo;There are other schools in affluent African-American communities that do not face the same kind of problems.&rdquo;</p><p>Segregated schools have always been an issue in Chicago, but it <em>looked </em>different back in the day.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20to%202013%20draft3.png" title="Sources: Chicago Public Schools Racial Ethnic Surveys and Stats and Facts" /></div></div><p>In the 1960s, CPS&rsquo;s student body was roughly 50 percent white and 50 percent black. Over time white students in the district steadily disappeared. Many neighborhoods transitioned from white to black. Depopulation also played a role.</p><p><span style="text-align: center;">In 1975, whites made up about 25 percent of the student body. By 2013 only 9 percent of CPS students were white.</span></p><p>WBEZ asked CPS officials to weigh in on these numbers. They failed to address the segregation issue and emailed some boilerplate language about &ldquo;serving a diverse population.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS 2013 pie chart3.png" style="height: 361px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Source: Chicago Public Schools Race/Ethnic Report School Year 2013-2014" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Where are the white students in CPS?</span></p><p>Again, we know half of white school-age children in Chicago attend CPS. But the question of where they go in CPS is also something that piqued the curiosity of our question asker.</p><p>She wondered if they are disproportionately attending magnet and other selective enrollment schools.</p><p>The answer appears to be, yes.</p><p>Overall, 9 percent of the CPS student population is white. But it&rsquo;s more than double that at magnet, gifted and classical elementary schools. And in the eight selective enrollment high schools &ndash; like Whitney Young &ndash; nearly a quarter of students are white.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very small number of students though because those schools don&rsquo;t serve a large number of students,&rdquo; according to Elaine Allensworth. &ldquo;We really haven&rsquo;t seen that much of a shift in terms of attracting more white students [overall].&rdquo;</p><p>Although our question asker focused on white students, there&rsquo;s another racial shift worth mentioning.</p><p>Beyond black and white, the real story of CPS today may be that it&rsquo;s becoming more Latino.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the requirements for attending Ray Elementary. It is a neighborhood school that accepts students outside its attendance boundaries through a lottery, not testing.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 Campus police: real deal or rent-a-cops? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/campus-police-real-deal-or-rent-cops-111071 <p><p>Say you are driving around Chicago and you happen to run a red light. There are no Chicago police officers around, but there is a university police car right behind you. Could you still get a ticket?</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what Jef Johnson was wondering when he started noticing University of Chicago Police Department cars all over his Bronzeville neighborhood.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the question Jef sent our way:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Are police forces at local universities real police or simply security companies? How much policing power do they have?</em></p><p>We found a straightforward legal answer about how this works in Illinois. There is a spectrum of authority that ranges from security guard to all-out cop. At the far end of that spectrum are Jef&rsquo;s own University of Chicago police. He didn&rsquo;t know it at the time but UCPD is almost unique, with a particularly strong hand when it comes to power and jurisdiction. Those officers don&rsquo;t just protect students, staff and campus &mdash; the UCPD serves as the primary police force for 65,000 Chicagoans, and most are not affiliated with the university.</p><p>That prompted a question that should interest anyone, even those who never encounter these officers: How can a private police force get jurisdiction over so much of the public?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Not your father&rsquo;s rent-a-cops</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with that legal distinction we found. If you&rsquo;re anything like Jef, you probably assume that campus police officers aren&rsquo;t real police, and they have little authority other than the power to break up rowdy parties.</p><p>&ldquo;I always thought somehow that they were rent-a-cops,&rdquo; Jef said.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not always the case, according Cora Beem, who manages mandated training for the<a href="http://www.ptb.state.il.us/aboutus.htm" target="_blank"> Illinois Law Enforcement Standards &amp; Training Board</a>. She said the big distinction to be made is between campus security guards and campus police. The latter undergo the same basic training and certification that state and municipal police officers do. With that certification, they have the same authority as any other police officer in the state, even if they are privately employed.</p><p>Illinois&rsquo; public universities employ campus police, but private universities can choose to hire plain old security guards. Those guards might be armed, but they don&rsquo;t have the power to give Jef Johnson a ticket, and they certainly cannot patrol off campus.</p><p>Like many private schools in Illinois, the University of Chicago voluntarily upgraded its security force to a police force 25 years ago. According to Beem, that means they are definitely not rent-a-cops.</p><p>&ldquo;They can write you a ticket. They can arrest you,&rdquo; Beem explained. &ldquo;They can counsel and release you, so yes, they&rsquo;re real cops.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction</span></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/embed?mid=zD1cveoHRWh8.kfGTEakNbuXk" width="620"></iframe></p><p>With more than 100 full-time officers, the University of Chicago&rsquo;s police department is one of the largest private police forces anywhere. Not only that, UCPD also has a really big patrol area &mdash; they cover 6.5 square miles, most of which is beyond the core of the University of Chicago&#39;s South Side campus.</p><p>But why can UCPD officers patrol so far from campus in the mid-South Side? According to Craig Futterman, a clinical professor of law at University of Chicago Law School, the department&rsquo;s status is almost unique.</p><p>&ldquo;The deal is that there is a city ordinance in Chicago that grants the police superintendent the power to appoint special policemen for the city of Chicago,&rdquo; he explained.</p><p>This <a href="http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Illinois/chicago_il/title4businessesoccupationsandconsumerpr/chapter4-340specialpolicemenandsecurityg?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:chicago_il$anc=JD_Ch.4-340" target="_blank">ordinance allows private police forces to assume the powers and responsibilities of municipal police</a>, not just on campus but in surrounding neighborhoods. UCPD is only one of two private forces in Chicago with this &ldquo;special police&rdquo; designation. The other force is that of Northwestern University Law School, but its <a href="http://directives.chicagopolice.org/attachments/S12-01_Att2.jpg" target="_blank">patrol area extends just a few blocks beyond its Streeterville campus </a>north of Chicago&rsquo;s Loop.</p><p>Once the ordinance was passed in 1992, UCPD negotiated its extended jurisdiction with Chicago&rsquo;s police superintendent. To the north, University of Chicago&rsquo;s main campus stops at 55th Street. UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction, however, extends all the way to 37th Street, even farther than Jef Johnson&rsquo;s home in Bronzeville.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/u%20of%20c%20charters.png" title="University of Chicago's Woodlawn Charter School, left, and Donoghue Charter School, right, are on the southern and northern ends of UCPD's extended jurisdiction. (Ellen Mayer/WBEZ) " /></div><p>Futterman says Chicago&#39;s police superintendent has granted UCPD more independence than it once had. In years&nbsp;past, university police needed administrative assistance to complete arrests.</p><p>&ldquo;The arrest, though, would be formalized and would be processed at a local chicago police department district station, usually whatever district the arrest was because UCPD operated in more than one Chicago police district,&rdquo; Futterman explained. Last year that changed. Now UCPD reports directly to the state and can process arrests independently. According to the university, this arrangement allows both departments to operate more efficiently.</p><p>Maintaining a large police force is expensive, but the university says its worth it. On this, an emailed statement from the UCPD reads: &ldquo;The extended patrol area enhances safety and security through the mid-South Side, which is home to a large number of University of Chicago faculty members, students and staff.&rdquo; The statement mentions the university&rsquo;s interest in protecting its charter schools and other properties within the extended patrol area.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The community speaks</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/meeting%20WEB.jpg" title="University of Chicago students and South Side residents held a forum October 29, 2014, at Hyde Park's Experimental Station to discuss UCPD's presence in their neighborhoods. (WBEZ/Ellen Mayer)" /></p><p>UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction doesn&rsquo;t just include university students and employees; again, the department protects approximately 65,000 residents. How do they feel about UCPD&rsquo;s presence in their neighborhoods?</p><p>On Wednesday, October 29, <a href="http://www.experimentalstation.org/" target="_blank">Hyde Park&rsquo;s Experimental Station</a> held a forum for students and South Side residents to discuss exactly that. Organizers also invited former UCPD chief Rudy Nimocks. He was at the helm when UCPD expanded its jurisdiction. As he recalls it, the university received community support as it broadened its jurisdiction.</p><p>&ldquo;We had public hearings,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were asked to come in. At each one of the sessions I said, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll stay here as long as you want us.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s how it&rsquo;s been ever since.&rdquo;</p><p>Nimocks has a point. Almost every speaker at the community forum expressed gratitude that UCPD has made their neighborhoods safer. That being said, almost every speaker also had a story to tell about UCPD racially profiling black residents who live within the extended jurisdiction.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/triggs%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 246px; width: 370px;" title="Jamel Triggs, who attended the recent forum on neighborhood UCPD presence, says he's been stopped by UCPD six times since returning from the Marine Corps in May. (Ellen Mayer/WBEZ)" />Jamel Triggs, a young black man who works at the Experimental Station&rsquo;s bike shop, said he had been stopped by UCPD six times since he returned from the Marine Corps in May. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re supposed to be protecting and serving us. That&rsquo;s supposed to be the goal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Triggs, the neighborhood doesn&rsquo;t feel safer if he has to worry about being stopped by UCPD. He said he is also concerned about the safety of the younger kids he mentors at the bike shop. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want these kids walking around being scared of the police and being scared of the gangbangers out in the streets,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I was, and it hurts.&rdquo;</p><p>A student group called South Side Solidarity Network has launched a campaign to end perceived racial profiling by UCPD. The trouble is, all their evidence is anecdotal. To firm up accusations of wrongdoing, SSSN has asked UCPD to release records indicating the race of residents the department stops and searches. So far, the department has refused.</p><p>Another emailed statement responds to accusations of racial profiling. &ldquo;The University of Chicago Police Department does not deploy tactics that support racial profiling,&rdquo; it states. &ldquo;As a department, we often and openly discuss our policing strategies to ensure our officers are not engaging deliberately or inadvertently in bias-based policing.&rdquo;</p><p>Without releasing records and data, however, UCPD is asking the public to take them at their word.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Private police and public accountability</span></p><p>This is where Jef Johnson&rsquo;s curiosity about &nbsp;potential traffic stops in Bronzeville morphed into a much bigger question about the transparency and accountability of a private police force. The 1992 Chicago ordinance that allows for the creation of special police includes technical language about certificates and licensing fees, but it doesn&rsquo;t address the public&rsquo;s right to information when a private force takes on the responsibilities of municipal police. UCPD is not a governmental agency, therefore it is not required to release records under Illinois&rsquo; Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>The University of Chicago does have a <a href="http://safety-security.uchicago.edu/police/contact_the_ucpd/complaint_process/" target="_blank">process for investigating complaints against UCPD</a>, but that process will soon get an overhaul. Until now, all investigations were performed in-house, by a fellow UCPD officer. In response to <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140311/hyde-park/university-of-chicago-police-no-longer-accountable-petition-claims" target="_blank">criticism about UCPD&rsquo;s perceived lack of oversight</a>, the university recently announced the hiring of a new director of professional accountability. This new position will not be filled by a uniformed officer.</p><p>So what did Jef think about all this?</p><p>&ldquo;This is much bigger than I thought when I asked the question,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I worry about a private police force. It just sounds like maybe we&rsquo;re handing too much power to them.&rdquo; Jef said he is most concerned that the average Chicagoan might never know that UCPD had such a huge jurisdiction.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s scary in that sense,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m just finding this out, and I&rsquo;ve been living in this area ten years.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jef.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 5px;" title="Jef Johnson asked our question about university police after noticing UCPD officers far from campus. (Photo courtesy of Jef Johnson)" />Judging by the number of questions Jef Johnson has submitted to our <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">list of question-based story pitches</a>, he is one very curious guy. (For the record, that would be seven ... and counting!) If you haven&rsquo;t run across any of his questions we haven&rsquo;t answered yet, you might remember Jef as the truck enthusiast who launched <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631" target="_blank">our investigation about pickup truck laws in Chicago</a>.</p><p>It turns out this question about university police was also inspired by Jef&rsquo;s driving habits. He says he first began wondering about UCPD&rsquo;s authority on a day when President Barack Obama was visiting his home in the Kenwood neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;They blocked off a lot of my streets, so I was taking some back streets and I saw University of Chicago Police cars in areas that seem far away from the University of Chicago.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>When Jef isn&rsquo;t thinking up questions for Curious City, he&rsquo;s a wedding minister employed by the city of Chicago.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @</a>ellenrebeccam.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/campus-police-real-deal-or-rent-cops-111071 Who cleans up crime scenes on Chicago streets? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/who-cleans-crime-scenes-chicago-streets-111055 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The audio version of this story is contained in the podcast episode above. It begins just before minute seven. </em></p><p>Peter Normand&rsquo;s question for Curious City begins with an unusual email he received on July 13. The email was from his alderman, the 49th Ward&rsquo;s Joe Moore.</p><p>The message referenced William Lewis, a 28-year-old photographer who had just moved to Chicago. Just one day earlier, Lewis had been killed by stray gang gunfire on the 1300 block of W. Devon Ave.</p><p>&ldquo;I happened to be on Devon only a block from the shooting and heard the gunfire,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.ward49.com/site/epage/153765_322.htm" target="_blank">read Ald. Moore&rsquo;s email to constituents</a>. &ldquo;I looked up to see the assailant, who appeared to be a teenager, continue to fire his weapon at a group of fleeing youths. It is something I will never forget.&rdquo;</p><p>What Moore wrote next saddened our question-asker and piqued a morbid curiosity:</p><p>&ldquo;Later that evening on our way to a neighborhood block party, my wife and I drove past the scene of the shooting and noticed that bloodstains remained on the sidewalk. We went to a nearby store to purchase some water, bleach and a brush to clean the sidewalk. By the time we returned, Milton, a resident of the building adjacent to the sidewalk, had already undertaken the grim task. We helped him finish the job.&rdquo;</p><p>Peter Normand, a 36-year-old architect and resident of the 1900 block of W. Morse, was moved enough to ask Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Who cleans up the blood on sidewalks and playgrounds after shootings?</em></p><p>We pressed Ald. Moore&rsquo;s 49th Ward office to explain the events he described in that email, <a href="http://chicago.everyblock.com/crime-posts/jul13-man-killed-devon-avenue-shooting-6253739/" target="_blank">which he also posted to the neighborhood web forum EveryBlock</a>. The office declined repeated attempts for any more information than what Moore provided in his online account.</p><p>Regardless, the story raises some interesting questions. For one, whose responsibility is it to clean up blood in the public way? And, if it&rsquo;s not done quickly (or, if it&rsquo;s left behind), what kind of risk does that pose for legal liability and for public health?</p><p>Through conversations with city agencies and private contractors, we parsed out the city&rsquo;s process for cleaning up after homicides and other traumatic events. And we found not everyone agrees the city is doing it the right way.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Washdown&rsquo;</span></p><p>After the police department&rsquo;s detectives, forensic investigators and evidence technicians have finished investigating the scene of a homicide, they&rsquo;re directed to call for a &ldquo;washdown,&rdquo; according to <a href="http://www.chicagopolice.org/2013MayDirectives/data/a7a57be2-12946bda-6b312-9483-7cdab14bcdee3789.pdf?ownapi=1" target="_blank">Special Order S04-02</a> from the Chicago Police Department&#39;s procedure for crime scene protection or processing. The Illinois State Police follow the same procedure, a spokeswoman said.</p><p>A washdown is when the Chicago Fire Department sends an engine crew to blast the area with &ldquo;copious amounts of water [until] there is no longer any residue left behind,&rdquo; according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. While a very old crime scene might require the addition of disinfecting chemicals, he said, almost all crime scenes on public property are cleaned with plain water &mdash; albeit water blasted from a high-pressure firehose.</p><p>&ldquo;Even dried blood is a hard match for an engine putting out water at that pressure,&rdquo; Langford said. Police and other city agencies also call CFD for a washdown to clean other messes. &ldquo;It could be an accident scene, a drop of material on the street,&rdquo; Langford said. &ldquo;A truck could have spilled honey, and that would be a washdown too.&rdquo;</p><p>If the call for a washdown is considered urgent, Langford said, crews are supposed to show up within three and a half minutes.</p><p>If the crime scene is on private property &mdash; that can include Chicago Housing Authority or Chicago Park District holdings &mdash; it&rsquo;s up to the owner of the property to clean up. They usually hire private contractors, such as Aftermath Services LLC, a crime scene cleanup and biohazard removal company based in Aurora, Illinois.</p><p>The work often involves managing emotional burdens, as well as any physical legacy.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What we try to do is take as much away from them so they don&#39;t have to worry about the physical clean up,&rdquo; said Kevin Reifsteck, Aftermath Services&rsquo; vice president. Sometimes the jobs include consoling bereaved friends and family members. &ldquo;When you really start getting down to specifically what we&rsquo;re going to be doing, I think that&rsquo;s sometimes when it really becomes a reality for the family.&rdquo;</p><p>Aftermath&rsquo;s work varies by job, which can range from a few hours of disinfection and carpet removal to weeks of biohazard cleanup. (<a href="http://www.abc2news.com/news/local-news/investigations/grief-stricken-customers-complain-about-high-bills-for-crime-scene-clean-up" target="_blank">After a series of complaints about pricing</a> between 2010 and 2013, Aftermath changed its policy to always give upfront estimates of a cleanup job&rsquo;s price, which can be thousands of dollars.)</p><p>But one common element among those privately-contracted jobs is that they use more than just water. Reifsteck did not want to comment on the Chicago Fire Department&rsquo;s practices without witnessing them firsthand, but another private contractor was blunt about the matter.</p><p>&ldquo;Calling in for a washdown is antiquated,&rdquo; said Andrew Yurchuck, board president of the American Bio Recovery Association, an industry trade group. &ldquo;It&#39;s not proper. If a private person did that they would be fined.&rdquo;</p><p>Yurchuck said many cities follow protocol similar to Chicago&rsquo;s, but he favors San Diego&rsquo;s approach, which is to hire private contractors like his for crime scene and accident cleanup. Private contractors often use absorbent booms and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect blood and other liquids, cleaning on site instead of washing blood into the sewer system. &ldquo;Rather than spraying and sending it out down into the river,&rdquo; Yurchuck said, &ldquo;we try to absorb it right there.&rdquo;</p><p>He thinks Chicago officials could be skirting laws governing the disposal of medical waste. We found legal and scientific reasons why that may not be the case.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityCopBlood-1 shawn allee.jpg" title="A stain on the sidewalk from a crime scene on the 1600 block of W. Morse Ave. in Rogers Park. While Chicago police have a washdown protocol for cleaning up crime scenes, our question was inspired by two apparent cases where the public took on the task. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div></div></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Clean enough?</span></p><p>Langford said the Chicago Fire Department is under no legal obligation to sanitize city streets and sidewalks, which he points out are not sterile places to begin with. &ldquo;It doesn&#39;t make sense to disinfect a panel of the sidewalk,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If something is to the point that it&#39;s dangerous it would be a level one hazmat situation. We would send the hazmat crew.&rdquo;</p><p>But even blood, which typically merits a simple washdown from CFD, can convey diseases if not properly handled. The <a href="https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&amp;p_id=10051" target="_blank">Occupational Safety &amp; Health Administration</a>&rsquo;s Blood Borne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) recommends training and protective gear for handling substances like blood that could convey HIV, hepatitis B and other serious illnesses. Langford said firemen don&rsquo;t need special gear because they never come into contact with biomatter on crime scenes &mdash; they just blast it with water from afar.</p><p>Illinois&rsquo;<a href="http://www.ipcb.state.il.us/documents/dsweb/Get/Document-12277" target="_blank"> code for potentially infectious medical waste (35 Illinois Administrative Code 1420.102)</a>, which includes blood, instructs &ldquo;all persons who generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of&rdquo; such waste to use detergent and low-level disinfection techniques like bleach. But the code only requires those measures if the blood results from medical procedures.</p><p>&ldquo;Anything that&rsquo;s done in a crime scene cleanup is not diagnosing or treating humans or animals,&rdquo; says Beverly Albarracin, who oversees the potentially infectious medical waste program for Illinois&rsquo; Environmental Protection Agency. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not regulated as medical waste.&rdquo;</p><p>She says the public health risk is vanishingly small.</p><p>&ldquo;The odds of a disease lasting, for one thing, outside of a human body and remaining virulent or able to cause disease,&rdquo; Albarracin says, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a very very minute possibility.&rdquo;</p><p>But what about legal risk? Scott Burris, a professor with Temple University&rsquo;s Center for Health Law, Policy and Practice, said while he hasn&rsquo;t investigated the issue in depth, it&rsquo;s &ldquo;hard to imagine a transmission happening accidentally or that someone could be consider negligent under the circumstances.&rdquo; The risks of infection are low, he said, although new fears of Ebola might change the equation.</p><p>Both federal and state representatives from OSHA and the Department of Public Health were unaware of any complaints against the Chicago police and fire departments related to crime scene cleanup.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not surprising to Dr. Carl Bell, a medical expert on youth violence and a psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.</p><p>&ldquo;Having lived in Chicago my entire life, it&rsquo;s very clear to me that Chicago is characterized by cosmetics,&rdquo; Bell said. &ldquo;And having blood or bullet casings on the street is not good. So they&rsquo;ve done a very good job of cleaning up after homicides. &hellip; I think it&rsquo;s always been the case.&rdquo;</p><p>As for taking steps to disinfect crime scenes before a washdown that could flush biological material into the city&rsquo;s sewers, Bell said &ldquo;it&rsquo;s probably not that risky,&rdquo; because most blood-borne pathogens are short-lived outside the human body.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s say the city doesn&rsquo;t clean blood quickly and community members pass by the scene. Is there potential to traumatize them? Dr. Bell says yes, but memory is complicated. Consider the<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-06-18/news/ct-chicago-murder-memorials-met-20140618_1_memorials-shrines-human-toll" target="_blank"> makeshift memorials that mark the sites of homicides</a> and car accidents across the city. These are odes to lost loved ones, but also a daily reminder of violence in neighborhoods where they are all too common.</p><p>&ldquo;Those spots are traumatic reminders for some people,&rdquo; Bell said, &ldquo;whether the city cleans up after it or not.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?&nbsp;</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker.jpg" style="float: right; height: 375px; width: 300px; margin: 5px;" title="(Photo courtesy Peter Normand)" />Architect Peter Normand lives in the same area, Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side, that sparked his question about crime-scene blood and who&rsquo;s responsible for cleaning it when it&rsquo;s on the public way.</p><p>Notably, he had two occasions to consider the question, not just one. There&rsquo;s the email from Ald. Joe Moore mentioned above, but he had also seen blood on the sidewalk for himself, just a few months earlier. &nbsp;</p><p>On the night of April 10, he was on the 1600 block of W. Morse Ave. and came across blood left from a shooting earlier that evening. He was surprised to see it the next morning, as he walked to work.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s where a lot of kids have to walk to go to school,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s less than half a block from New Field [elementary school].&rdquo;</p><p>Maybe the kids noticed the blood, or maybe they didn&rsquo;t, he said. He hopes few did.</p><p>&ldquo;Eventually it doesn&rsquo;t look any different than salsa spilled on the sidewalk, but it&rsquo;s not salsa,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Peter&rsquo;s accounts greatly informed our reporting. Among other things, his story about the April shooting suggested at least one example of where citizens, not the city, had disposed of blood on the sidewalk. (Officials have no record of clean up at this spot). His recollection of the location led us to the Hadima (she would only give her first name), who owns SK Food Mart. The shooting victim had bled in front of the store.</p><p>She remembers seeing the blood, too. She said she had a janitor in the building clean it.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to see blood in front of my store so I had to wash it out,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance reporter</a> and regular contributor to WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at cabentley.com and on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/who-cleans-crime-scenes-chicago-streets-111055 We ain't afraid of no (Chicago) ghosts! http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/we-aint-afraid-no-chicago-ghosts-111017 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174477845&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&amp;ion=1&amp;espv=2&amp;ie=UTF-8#q=haunted%20chicago" target="_blank">Search &ldquo;haunted Chicago&rdquo; online</a> and you&rsquo;ll get a list of websites and articles, each clamoring to be your number one source for all things ghost related. The lists are long enough to occupy you for an eternity.</p><p>Which makes sense, given that Chicago <a href="http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/2012/10/29/map-haunted-places.php" target="_blank">has a reputation for being terribly haunted</a>. The city is the home of America&rsquo;s <a href="http://harpers.org/archive/1943/12/the-master-of-the-murder-castle/">first serial killer</a> (reference to &ldquo;murder castle&rdquo; included), as well as <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/" target="_blank">the cloven-hooved &ldquo;devil baby</a>.&rdquo; And, don&rsquo;t forget the swanky, downtown nightclub that once served as the morgue for victims of the <a href="http://www.eastlanddisaster.org/history/what-happened" target="_blank">Eastland disaster</a>.</p><p>Fibbed or fact-checked, these stories and dozens of others have been told and retold, spun into ghost-tour monologues and stamped into scary story books.</p><p>Well, we&rsquo;re taking our turn in re-spinning two of Chicago&rsquo;s spookiest stories, but this time in service to two <a href="https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.614491515325495.1073741829.207340619373922&amp;type=3" target="_blank">Curious Citizens</a>. The first wanted to meet the local specter who has (allegedly) been seen the most often. The second asked to find the location that ghost census-takers say is crawling with spirits.</p><p>To ease into this, let&rsquo;s consider what good can come out of a ghost story, especially if you&rsquo;re on the skeptical side. For this, we turn to folklorist Sue Eleuterio, who says these stories fulfill a number of psychological needs. Among them: Supernatural stories transform real-life dangers into ghoulish monsters. In theory these tales spook kids away from sneaking out after dark.</p><p>&ldquo;We know there are risks associated with certain behavior, so being out alone when it&rsquo;s dark, or you know, after a certain time, is dangerous, or can be dangerous,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Ghost stories can also make it safe for young people to experience uncomfortable emotions. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s something thrilling about being afraid, especially if it feels controlled,&rdquo; Eleuterio says. &ldquo;One of the things I love about folk culture is we still have that need. We have all those needs to be afraid, we have those needs to be reassured, we have those needs to be warned and protected.&rdquo;</p><p>With this in mind &mdash; and with help from an antique dealer and a couple of ghost experts &mdash; we pursue two ghost stories that answer our Curious Citizens&rsquo; questions. Along the way we learn how ghost tales can not just haunt us, they can help us, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Legitimate ghost?</span></p><p>For both questions we enlist the help of <a href="http://www.adamselzer.com" target="_blank">Adam Selzer</a>, the author of <em>The Ghosts of Chicago</em> and a local ghost tour guide. Selzer traces his interest in the supernatural back to his childhood, which was spent watching <em>Scooby Doo</em>. That detail, though, doesn&rsquo;t mean he&rsquo;s light when it comes to comparing legends to facts.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re interested in ghosts you deserve better,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You deserve proper backstories.&rdquo; For him, that translates into &ldquo;digging through old newspaper archives, old 19th century books, stuff from the property records, the legal archives occasionally, contacting relatives when possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Alright ... but for the record: Does our ghost expert believe in ghosts?</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen some strange stuff,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but not necessarily anything that I would swear in front of a panel of scientists was really a dead person. But certainly some things that I can&rsquo;t explain.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/part 1 topper.jpg" title="Anna “Mary” Norkus, above, died on the night of her 13th birthday in 1927. Ursula Bielski holds that Norkus is the inspiration behind Resurrection Mary ghost story. (Image courtesy Ursula Bielski)" /></div><p><span style="text-align: center;">Ok. Onto our first question, which comes from Chicagoan Ben Albers, a self-described history buff and ghost enthusiast:</span></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Which is the most legitimate ghost story in Chicago?</em></p><p>And ... here&rsquo;s his caveat: He&rsquo;s looking for evidence. &ldquo;Anyone can make up a ghost story,&rdquo; Ben says. &ldquo;A new bar owner, in order to get publicity, they could say that Al Capone used to sit in that booth and eat his lasagna. It&rsquo;s just [that] you need the evidence to back it up in order for it to be legitimate.&rdquo;</p><p>Whew. Well, Ben meets Adam Selzer and producer Katie Klocksin at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, a southwest suburb. Selzer explains that, for him, evidence &ldquo;is primarily first-hand accounts, actual stories of somebody seeing the ghost.&rdquo;</p><p>By this metric, the winner for most legitimate ghost story is that of Resurrection Mary, sightings of which began in the early 1930s. Selzer has encountered a few dozen first-hand accounts. &ldquo;So a few dozen is a lot more than we&rsquo;ve got of everything else, really,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>According to Selzer, Resurrection Mary sightings usually go like this. First, someone will be driving near Resurrection Cemetery &mdash; our ghost&rsquo;s namesake. Then, they&rsquo;ll see a girl. &ldquo;Now and then you&rsquo;ll hear a story of somebody dancing with her, but mostly it&rsquo;s just they see her by the side of the road crying,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;They offer her a ride home, and then she disappears outside of Resurrection Cemetery.&rdquo; Sometimes she&rsquo;ll jump out of the car near the cemetery, but &ldquo;usually they just look over at the passenger seat and find that she&rsquo;s gone.&rdquo;</p><p>The disappearing act happens one of two ways: Mary either gets out of the car the old fashioned way or ... she just vanishes. Selzer recalls a story from a man who believes he encountered Resurrection Mary when he was a high school student in the &lsquo;60s. The man thought he recognized a girl sitting by the side of the road crying, so he pulled over and offered her a ride. &ldquo;And when she looked up he saw that it wasn&rsquo;t the girl that he thought it was,&rdquo; Selzer says. Still, the driver still felt like he had to make good on his offer of a ride.</p><p>&ldquo;So she got into the car and just kind of pointed him down road. They were only about a block away from Resurrection Cemetery. Then, when he looked into passenger seat she was just gone,&rdquo; Selzer says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Was there really a Mary?</span></p><p>Ghost experts have tried to link the Resurrection Mary legend with actual people who died around the time the sightings began. One theory involves Mary Bregovy, a girl who died in a car accident in 1934, according to Adam Selzer. &ldquo;And we like to talk about her as a possible candidate,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;mainly because she fits the template so well: died on coming home from a dance.&rdquo;</p><p>But Selzer notes that the Resurrection Mary sightings had already begun by the time Mary Bregovy died. Also, Resurrection Mary is usually described as a blonde, which Mary Bregovy was not. According to Selzer&rsquo;s research, there are 60 to 70 young Marys buried at Resurrection Cemetery, all having died during roughly the right time period to be candidates. &ldquo;And even then, we&rsquo;re really just making the broad assumption that it&rsquo;s actually a girl named Mary at all,&rdquo; Selzer says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ressurection%20cemetery%20flickr%20pklza.jpg" style="float: right; height: 422px; width: 280px;" title="Resurrection Cemetery is the resting place of Resurrection Mary, Chicago's most legitimate ghost story. (Flickr/pkize)" />Another candidate for the Mary ghost is a girl named Anna Norkus. The case for this &ldquo;Mary&rdquo; is described by historian and author <a href="http://chicagohauntings.com/bio.html">Ursula Bielski</a> in her book <em>Chicago Haunts</em>. Bielski writes that Norkus began using Mary as her middle name because of her &ldquo;devotion to the Blessed Mother.&rdquo; Norkus did have blonde hair. Also, Norkus died in a car accident after going out dancing on the night of her 13th birthday on July 20, 1927.</p><p>In Bielski&rsquo;s account, Norkus was scheduled to be buried at St. Casimir Cemetery, near Resurrection. But there may have been a problem. Bielski cites fellow ghost lore researcher Frank Andrejasich, who noted that grave-digging in the 1920s was difficult manual labor and strikes were common. Andrejasich discovered a man named Mr. Churas, who was in charge of the gravediggers at the time Anna Norkus died. During strikes, Bielski writes, Churas would retrieve unburied bodies in wooden boxes and temporarily bury them at Resurrection until the strike ended. This practice was necessary, &ldquo;because of poor coffin construction and the lack of refrigeration,&rdquo; Bielski writes.</p><p>If grave diggers at St. Casimir were striking when Norkus was scheduled to be buried, her body may have been temporarily buried at Resurrection. &ldquo;If the strike dragged on, identification at the time of relocation could be gruesomely difficult,&rdquo; Bielski writes. She concludes: &ldquo;The result? A mislaid corpse and a most restless eternity, if only one is willing to believe.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Vanishing hitchhikers: a broader trend</span></p><p>Sue Eleuterio says folklorists consider Resurrection Mary a vanishing hitchhiker story, variants of which appear all around the world. &ldquo;There are legends in China, there are legends in Korea,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;As immigrants have come to the United States they&rsquo;ve often brought these legends with them.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, a vanishing hitchhiker story told in Northwest Indiana has elements of the traditional Mexican story of &ldquo;La Llorona,&rdquo; the weeping woman, she says.</p><p>While there&rsquo;s often discussion about whether or not urban legend style ghost stories are true, Eleuterio says &ldquo;what&rsquo;s more interesting to me is that it always has a pattern, and then there are variations in the pattern. ... A vanishing hitchhiker story is always going to have some aspects of a ghostly figure that appears, and then disappears,&rdquo; and the stories are always connected to a specific place.</p><p>Ursula Bielski suggests a psychological cause for some vanishing hitchhiker sightings, rather than restless ghosts. &ldquo;Night travel along cemeteries may encourage the unwitting creation of phantoms to inhabit these curiously and suddenly empty lengths of highway,&rdquo; she writes. &ldquo;The dreamlike state imposed by lonely late-night driving could be the culprit in so many of these cases.&rdquo;</p><p>Our questioner, Ben Albers, got this investigation started with his question about a legitimate ghost story. Adam Selzer&rsquo;s strongest evidence for Resurrection Mary is several dozen first-hand accounts.</p><p>How does this sound to Ben?</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is the most convincing case, just because there&rsquo;s been so many sightings of her and first-hand accounts,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;This is definitely the most convincing and legitimate ghost story I&rsquo;ve heard in Chicago, and I think your evidence backs it up.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/part%202%20topper.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">Our next Curious Citizen with a penchant for the supernatural is Paul Vaccarello, who says he loves two things: being afraid, and being afraid during Halloween.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">Little wonder, then, that he submitted this question to Curious City:</p><p><em>What&rsquo;s the most haunted place in Chicago?</em></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">But how the heck should you quantify &ldquo;most haunted&rdquo; in this case? Expert ghost guide Adam Selzer had offered up these options:</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: left;">A. The place with the most number of ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">B. The place with the most frequently seen ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">C. The place with the best quality of ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">D. The place you&rsquo;re most likely to get sucked into the netherworld.</p><p style="text-align: left;">E. The place you&rsquo;re most likely to get possessed.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: left;">With help from Paul, we settle with: &ldquo;<strong>A. the place with the most number of ghosts.</strong>&rdquo; That is, we settle for <em>quantity</em> over quality.</p><p style="text-align: left;">&ldquo;My goal is to see a ghost,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;To experience something supernatural, you know? See something that I can&rsquo;t explain.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;The alley of death and mutilation&rsquo;</span></p><p style="text-align: left;">Luckily, Selzer knows just the spot for Paul to maximize his chances for otherworldly experiences &mdash; or at least hear accounts about them.</p><p style="text-align: left;">On the night of October&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.space.com/27358-total-lunar-eclipse-blood-moon-complete-coverage.html" target="_blank">blood moon</a>, we meet in front of the Oriental Theater on Chicago&rsquo;s Randolph Street. We then curve around the corner into an alley. There, we see a ghost segway tour. (That&rsquo;s right. Selzer says he&rsquo;s seen them before.) A guy takes out the trash. It kind of smells like pee. (Something Selzer says he&rsquo;s noticed many times.)</p><p style="text-align: left;">&ldquo;Right now we are in an alley that the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> once called the alley of death and mutilation,&rdquo; Selzer says, as he pulls out a news clipping to prove it. He scrolls through his iPad to show this:</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alley%20of%20death%20and%20mutilation%20chicago%20tribun.jpg" title="A Chicago Tribune illustration published December 31, 1903, the day after the Iroquois Theater fire, depicts the alley before the flames were extinguished. " /></div><p style="text-align: left;">Selzer tells us we are standing right in the spot this illustration depicts &mdash; just about where that lady on the bottom left is falling to her death.</p><p style="text-align: left;">The image depicts a tragedy that happened in this alley on December 30, 1903. The building, then known as the Iroquois Theater, had caught fire and 600 people perished inside the building and in this alley. (It&rsquo;s safest to say &ldquo;about 600 people&rdquo; died, as figures run between the high 590s and a tad over 600). The blaze was the deadliest single-building fire in United States history until the World Trade Center towers were destroyed in 2001. While the Iroquois Theater fire eventually led to monumental leaps in nation-wide fire code improvements, it also led to the reason why Adam Selzer says the alley behind the Oriental Theater is the most haunted spot in Chicago.</p><p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:24px;">The Iroquois Theater: &lsquo;Absolutely fireproof!&rsquo;</span></p><p style="text-align: left;">The Iroquois Theater was built in the summer of 1903 and opened around Thanksgiving that same year. It had 1,600 seats, three main thoroughfares, and enough French-Renaissance architecture to rival the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuileries" target="_blank">Tuileries</a>. A program distributed on the day of the theater&rsquo;s opening boasted its &ldquo;many avenues for exit&rdquo; and called its interior the &ldquo;most majestic in this city or in this country.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: left;">On the day of the fire, the theater was packed beyond capacity. The crowd, mostly women and their children, had arrived to watch a matinee of a show named Mr. Bluebeard (If you&rsquo;re not familiar, this is a French folktale about a wealthy guy with a blue beard who murders his seven wives, and nearly kills his eighth. It was considered a children&rsquo;s Christmas show. This song,&nbsp;<em>Let Us Swear It By The Pale Moonlight, </em>was&nbsp;playing as the theater fire began to spread. <a name="song"></a>(Special thanks to <a href="http://bluepolicebox.com/">Andrew Edwards</a> for his performance of <a href="http://digital.library.ucla.edu/apam/librarian?VIEWPDF=NSO012003PDF">the sheet music</a>).&nbsp;<iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174565688&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left;"><a href="http://chicagology.com/PDF/IroquoisProgram.pdf" target="_blank">The show&rsquo;s playbills</a> advertised the theater as &ldquo;absolutely fireproof.&rdquo; At the time, this was an admirable (and profitable) attribute, considering the Great Chicago Fire just 32 years before.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/iroquis%20playbill%20screenshot.PNG" title="The playbills at the Iroquois Theater had advertised building as fireproof, even on the day a massive fire killed 600 people. (Image courtesy of chicagoalogy.com)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;"><p>And, as Selzer likes to say, most of the theater <em>was</em> fireproof. It&rsquo;s just the things inside it that were not.</p><p>He cites the theater&rsquo;s ornate wood trimming and hemp-stuffed seats as obvious examples of the theater&rsquo;s flammability. Selzer also points out that the asbestos fire curtain required of all theaters had, in this case, been blended with cotton and wood pulp.</p><p>The Iroquois Theater wasn&rsquo;t an anomaly in this. A lot of theaters at the time were just as flammable, says Judy Cooke, an antique dealer in Elkhart, Indiana. Years ago, while liquidating the estate of a descendant of William J. Davis, the Iroquois&rsquo; owner, she found a trunk full of documents that sparked her interest in learning more about the Iroquois tragedy.</p><p>One popular narrative, she says, is that Davis cut corners trying to open the Iroquois before the busy holiday season. She says there&rsquo;s truth in this, but there&rsquo;s more to the story, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t make any excuses for the man because he simply wasn&rsquo;t paying attention to details,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;But what is sad, and not ever communicated in books and newspapers is that that theater was his crowning achievement. He&rsquo;s a bit of a Horatio Algers story.&rdquo;</p><p>Davis came from modest means, Cooke says, and the Iroquois Theater was his chance to prove to the world what he could do. While she says Davis ultimately bears responsibility for that day&rsquo;s deaths, she adds that it&rsquo;s not enough to say the Iroquois was a death trap; instead, she prefers to say the theater experienced &ldquo;a perfect storm&rdquo; on the day of the fire. The circumstances included a flammable &ldquo;fire curtain,&rdquo; bad ventilation, as well as locked or unmarked fire exits. Cooke says the large presence of women and children in the crowd didn&rsquo;t help, either, because women wore floor-length skirts that prevented them from running or climbing over seats.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theater panorama.png" title="The Iroquois Theater after the fire. (Photo courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div></div></div><p>In the alley behind the former Iroquois, Selzer can point to another detail, one just a few dozen yards above our heads. That&rsquo;s where the Iroquois&rsquo; single accessible fire escape used to be. Selzer says the fire escape couldn&rsquo;t hold all the people fleeing the theater that afternoon, so many, many people simply fell over the rails. Or ... they were shoved over them. In one account, the pile of bodies rose six feet high.</p><p>Like it or not, Selzer says the grim details pertain to Paul&rsquo;s question. Death by sudden and traumatic head or spine injury, he says, cause the dead to enter a spiritual no-man&rsquo;s-land.</p><p>&ldquo;Imagine you&rsquo;re getting shoved off a fire escape and what&rsquo;s going through your head the last split seconds before you hit the pavement,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;That kind of heightened state of emotion, some people say, is where ghosts come from &hellip;. the reeks and fumes of your puddled brain.&rdquo;</p><p>If you subscribe to this theory, it wouldn&rsquo;t surprise you to learn that several hundred ghosts roam the former Iroquois Theater and the &quot;alley of death and mutilation&quot; behind it.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Wouldn&rsquo;t <em>you</em> want to haunt them, too?</span></p><p>But there&rsquo;s another reason that makes this alley a candidate for the most haunted place in Chicago: Nobody was ever punished for cutting the corners that made the fire so deadly.</p><p>In the trials after the disaster, the jury recommended Davis&rsquo; arrest and the arrest of seven others &mdash; including the arc light operator, William McMullen (the fire was caused by this light shorting out, and the sparks igniting the closest curtain). Five of those men were charged with manslaughter for negligence, but none was convicted.</p><p>The only person to serve any jail time, Selzer says, was a man who stole a wristwatch off a corpse in the alley. And even by graverobbing standards, that&rsquo;s pretty basic.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of the first people inside of the building were not rescue workers or firefighters,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;They were people yanking necklaces off dead bodies&rsquo; necks, cutting off women&rsquo;s fingers because it was faster than shimmying the rings off.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ghouls.jpg" title="A newspaper clipping describes one event involving grave robbers after the fire. The newspaper refers to them as ghouls. (Image courtesy Judy Cooke)" /></div><p>The combination of traumatic death and lack of political accountability &mdash; especially on such an enormous scale &mdash; Selzer says, makes the alley a breeding ground for ghost stories. And there&rsquo;s one more factor to consider, too: lack of commemoration.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, ghost hunters don&rsquo;t agree on much,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;We all have our own theories about everything and think everybody else is a quack. ... But one thing that everyone seems to agree about is when there&rsquo;s some kind of lack of commemoration there do tend to be more ghost sighting there.&rdquo;</p><p>At least on the numbers of dead, he&rsquo;s got a point. Roughly twice as many people known to have died in the Great Chicago Fire died within 15 minutes during the fire at the Iroquois. Yet, there are only a handful of easy-to-miss monuments to the event.</p><p>Shortly after the fire, a memorial sculpture was dedicated to the victims and placed inside the Iroquois Hospital, which was demolished in 1951. The memorial then spent nine years in City Hall storage until it was moved to <a href="http://chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.com/2011/09/city-hall-county-bldg-iroquois-memorial.html" target="_blank">its current location near the building&rsquo;s LaSalle Street entrance</a>.</p><p><a href="http://graveyards.com/IL/Cook/montrose/iroquois.html" target="_blank">A couple of cemeteries also have plaques or small monuments dedicated to the victims</a>. But you won&rsquo;t find anything about the fire in the spot where it occurred. Not even the Oriental Theater, built over the Iroquois&rsquo; grounds, bears any visible reminder of the tragedy.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Ghost story as &lsquo;a people&rsquo;s history&rsquo;</span></p><p>Simply put, the story of the Iroquois fire barely permeates the city&rsquo;s public memory unless, of course, you count the people showing up for ghost tours.</p><p>On that count, Selzer says <a href="http://www.mysteriouschicagoblog.com/2014/02/ghost-pic-in-alley.html" target="_blank">he&rsquo;s got some pretty weird photographs</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alley%20ghost%20courtesy%20adam%20selzer.jpg" style="height: 372px; width: 620px;" title="(Photo courtesy Adam Selzer)" /></div><p>Above, the ghost of what Selzer says may be Nellie Reed, a trapeze artist who died in the fire, appears on the top right of the image &hellip; or it could always be a trick of the light.</p><p>&ldquo;I have occasionally been pretty freaked out here,&rdquo; Selzer says. Occasionally, he&rsquo;ll see a silhouette of a woman in a tutu that he can&rsquo;t explain, or strange, human-like shadows zipping across the walls.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/nellie%20reed%20funeral2.png" style="float: left; height: 401px; width: 300px;" title="Nellie Reed, a trapeze artist in a show at the Iroquois Theater, was the only cast member killed as a result of the fire. Figures similar to the one above sometimes appear in photos people take in the alley. (Image courtesy Judy Cooke)" />Paul, though, sees no ghosts during our visit evening to the alley. But, he says, that&rsquo;s okay.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think of a ghost story you don&rsquo;t really think of the actual events that occurred to cause this ghost story to happen,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You normally just think: &lsquo;Oh, ghost! Cool!&rsquo; ... But hearing all these facts makes it a lot more real.&rdquo;</p><p>We turn to Selzer, to see whether the Iroquois fire is even really a ghost story at all.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t have to exaggerate it too much,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Sometimes, it&rsquo;s the ghost stories that&rsquo;s all that&rsquo;s really keeping these stories alive.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A postscript</span></p><p dir="ltr">After leaving the &lsquo;alley of death and mutilation,&rsquo; we thought we&rsquo;d see how Adam Selzer&rsquo;s insight into ghost storytelling and history sits with Judy Cooke, who, again, has researched the Iroquois fire. She feels ghost stories aren&rsquo;t enough to satisfy true historical curiosity, and she prefers a vertical route &mdash; diving deep into individual stories. So far, <a href="http://www.iroquoistheater.com/" target="_blank">she&rsquo;s researched and written nearly 300 accounts of people affected by the fire on her website</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want every single person that was at that fire to have something said about them,&rdquo; Cooke says, referring to herself as a genealogical completist. &ldquo;If you start going into a deeper exploration per person, you turn up more information. You turn up family histories in the geneology.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">And many of the family histories she&rsquo;s excavated often don&rsquo;t align with newspaper stories or even coroners&rsquo; documents at the time of the fire. Many immigrants&rsquo; last names were misspelled, for example. She also found accounts in which people were documented as dead, but were very much alive. Conversely, she says some of the dead were left off the list of victims.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fbook%20page%20screenshot.PNG" title="A screenshot from Judy Cooke's facebook page, where she documents the stories of people affected by the Iroquois fire." /></p><p dir="ltr">And consider the perspective that ghost tours might leave out. Cooke mentions a particular detail that sticks in her mind. The son of Iroquois owner Will Davis wrote the following in his father&rsquo;s obituary: &ldquo;He never recovered after the fire.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The bottom line: Cooke finds it hard to believe any story she&rsquo;s read about people who died at the Iroquois &hellip; much less their ghost stories.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Before I was going to start believing in the spook, I&rsquo;d want to make sure that spook was even at the fire, you know?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;That person might not have even died.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But she doesn&rsquo;t fault people like Selzer for keeping stories about the Iroquois Theater alive. She says she&rsquo;d just rather ask the ghosts herself.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">We&rsquo;ve got our answers. Who asked the questions?</span></p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/asker-%20Ben%20Albers%201.jpg" title="Question-asker Ben Albers at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Katie Klocksin)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Ben Albers</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">For Ben Albers of Chicago&rsquo;s Buena Park neighborhood, history and ghosts are inextricably linked. He&rsquo;s not only interested in the spooky elements of ghost stories, but also &ldquo;the rich history behind&rdquo; these tales. After going on a ghost tour, Ben even did some of his own research into the intersection of local history and ghost legends. Which is not to say Ben doesn&rsquo;t want to see a ghost. He does.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I really want to experience one,&rdquo; he said &ldquo;but I never had the opportunity to go into the field and do it.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s heard creepy sounds, &ldquo;but I never really think that&rsquo;s a ghost. I never get real excited like: &lsquo;Oh, there&rsquo;s a ghost in my house, I need to investigate more.&rsquo;&rdquo; Before Ben, Adam Selzer and producer Katie Klocksin left Resurrection Cemetery, Klocksin asked what should be done if they would come across a hitchhiker. Should they give her a ride? Selzer replied, &ldquo;Absolutely,&rdquo; and Ben seconded</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Yeah. I agree one hundred percent,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;When you have your chance you&rsquo;ve got to take it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 334px; width: 250px;" title="(Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello) " /><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Paul Vaccarello</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">You might remember Paul Vaccarello from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453"> another question he submitted to Curious City, the one about the Amish at Union Station</a>. We like to think Paul&rsquo;s satisfaction with our answer led him to a heightened state of curiosity when he asked us about Chicago&rsquo;s ghosts.</p><p dir="ltr">But, instead, Paul said asked about ghosts because ... he just happens to like Halloween (in fact, it&rsquo;s his favorite holiday). And that&rsquo;s one of the reasons he asked us this question about Chicago&rsquo;s most haunted spot. The other? He wanted affirmation he&rsquo;s sought all his life: proof of the <em>after</em>life.</p><p dir="ltr">While our investigation didn&rsquo;t quite convert Paul into a (ghost) believer, he said learning about the &ldquo;alley of death and mutilation&rdquo; from a historical perspective taught him something else: You don&rsquo;t have to believe in ghosts to believe in ghost stories.</p><p dir="ltr">Another takeaway? Scope out the fire exits next time you&rsquo;re at a matinee.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer in Chicago. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>. Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/we-aint-afraid-no-chicago-ghosts-111017 Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 <p><div>These days Wacker Drive rivals LaSalle as the epicenter of Chicago&rsquo;s financial district. The drive&rsquo;s high-rise office buildings tower over the Chicago River like walls of a canyon. But a break in the skyline at the intersection of Wabash and Wacker makes way for a building that is only five stories above street level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The structure looks nothing like any of its rectilinear neighbors, which favor steel and glass. Instead, it resembles a concrete space ship with a round, white, windowless facade from the second story up. And, the building has nothing to do with financial power. As spelled out in enormous letters spanning its curved wall, it&rsquo;s the home of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cs church wide.jpg" title="Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist sits on a corner of prime real estate at the intersection of Wabash Ave. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Monica Schrager asked Curious City how the church has held on to the property for so long. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>This distinctive structure caught the eye of Monica Schrager, who works right across the street on the 10th floor of the old Jeweler Building. &ldquo;It has an interesting look,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s this small &lsquo;60s-style building that you never really see anyone coming in and out of in the middle of all these skyscrapers.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s the question she asked us to look into:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><em>I&rsquo;m curious about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist that sits on the corner of Wabash and Wacker: how it came to have that prime real estate and how it&rsquo;s managed to hold on to that prime real estate for so long.</em></div></div><p>It turns out Monica has a nose for a great story. As we look into the church&rsquo;s history, we learn how the tenets of a distinctive faith were translated into concrete and steel by an idealistic, but non-believing architect. And, we follow a devoted congregation as it risked building in a once-abandoned portion of the city ... only to have that neighborhood bloom decades later.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Which faith are we talking about?</span></p><p>Not to be confused with Scientology, Christian Science is a branch of protestant Christianity. It was founded in Massachusetts in the late 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that the material world is a temporary illusion, while the only reality is spiritual. This belief informs all aspects of Christian Science practice, including its most famous: devout Christian Scientists don&rsquo;t seek medical treatment. Eddy taught a form of spiritual healing that is inspired by Jesus&rsquo; own healings in the New Testament.</p><p>Mrs. Eddy also taught that God does not communicate by way of a few chosen figures, like preachers or popes. God, she said, communicates directly and equally with all of his followers, so Christian Science is a non-hierarchical, democratic faith. Each church elects readers who serve a short term before passing responsibility to another church member. As the congregation&rsquo;s current First Reader, Lois Carlson, states: &nbsp;&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have many big cheeses.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Quakers, Christian Scientists also emphasize the importance of individual testimonies; during Wednesday services, church-goers are encouraged to stand and share their personal experiences with Christian Science healing. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;To uplift a neighborhood&rsquo;</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s notable that the intersection of Wabash and Wacker has any church at all, since there are few standalone churches around downtown. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed many of them, and many more relocated to quieter residential areas. In 1907, an unknown author penned an op-ed piece for the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune </em>which reads: &ldquo;One of the changes most noticeable between old Chicago and new Chicago is the disappearance of the churches which used to surround the courthouse square or line Wabash or Michigan avenue.&rdquo; Later, the author notes &ldquo;Chicago has nothing downtown to express the spiritual life of its people.&rdquo;</p><p>So, when the Seventeenth Church was established downtown in 1924, it was a bit of an anomaly.</p><p>For decades the congregation rented several downtown venues including, at one point, Orchestra Hall. By the late 1940s, though, the congregation wanted a church of its own. Members remained committed to being downtown. In this, they bucked a trend of building Christian Science churches in outer neighborhoods such as Beverly, Uptown and Hyde Park. Current members of the Seventeenth Church don&rsquo;t have records that indicate why the congregation prefered downtown, though member Dave Hohle has a hypothesis. &ldquo;I think a church will uplift a neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, it seems like the corner of Wabash and Wacker might be the perfect candidate. Not so, according to Hohle. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t really interest them because it wasn&rsquo;t very central,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just sort of over here on the river.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Carlson points out that Wacker Drive was not always a major thoroughfare. &ldquo;It used to be that Michigan Avenue was its own entity and the Loop was its own entity, and there was no sense of connecting the two,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lot%202%20FOR%20WEB.png" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duo3.png" title="Site of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist before construction in the mid-1950s. (Photos courtesy Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia) " /></div></div><p>Obviously the congregation <em>did </em>decide to buy that property, after almost a decade of searching. At the time, the corner contained nothing but a parking lot and a short, rundown building, which they later demolished to make way for their new church. When they finally made the purchase in 1955, Wacker Drive was just starting to develop.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Kindred spirits: A radical faith and a non-believing architect</span></p><p>Say Hohle is right and the Seventeenth Church congregation wished to uplift their future neighborhood. Surely, then, the church would need uplifting architecture. Over two years, the congregation considered 34 architects, including celebrity designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an architect with Christian Science roots. In 1963 they settled on a Harry Weese.</p><p>You may not know Weese by name, but there&rsquo;s a chance you&rsquo;ve seen his work in Chicago: the Time Life building, the towering Metropolitan Correctional Center on Van Buren street, and several others. His resume stretches as far as Washington, D.C., where he designed a cavernous metro, famous for its waffled concrete ceilings. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tai%20flickr%20dc%20metro%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px;" title="Harry Weese, the architect who designed Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist building, also designed the Washington, D.C. metro stations. (Flickr/tai)" /></div><p>Weese had an impressive resume, but then again, so did his competitors and, interestingly, he was not a religious man. (In interviews the church asked each candidate about their religious affiliation. Weese responded, &ldquo;My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I&rsquo;m an architect.&rdquo;)</p><p>According to Robert Bruegmann, the co-author of <em>The Architecture of Harry Weese</em>, the congregation was impressed by the architect&rsquo;s ambitious, post-war vision for American cities.</p><p>&ldquo;The suburbs had sapped a lot of the vitality of the city,&rdquo; Bruegmann says. &ldquo;A lot of the city architecture and infrastructure was old. The city was in a pretty bad state and Chicago was no exception.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Weese wanted to build a new, more humane city, so he sought contracts for large-scale urban works such as the DC Metro. But Weese also believed architects could revitalize cities by designing new, monumental public buildings. &ldquo;So for Harry, a chance to build a church in the center of the city where the churches had been fleeing for a hundred years was a real opportunity, and he really seized it with both hands,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s simply conjecture (again, the congregation has no records of this), but we do know the Seventeenth Church congregation was impressed with the architect&rsquo;s plans, if not the architect himself. According to Dave Hohle, the church approved Weese&rsquo;s design on the first round, a rare occurrence in architecture circles. &ldquo;There were, like, no adjustments,&rdquo; Hohle says. &ldquo;It was presented and it was unanimously approved.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Faith translated into design</span></p><p>The congregation&rsquo;s first reader, Lois Carlson, says that Weese&rsquo;s radical building, completed in 1968, matches Christian Science&rsquo;s radical theology. &ldquo;I think what&#39;s so beautiful about this building is that it&rsquo;s so clearly an idea that matches the metaphysical substance of the Christian Science faith,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Specifically, Bruegmann says Weese knew that acoustics were critical to a democratic congregation that valued every voice. That led him to fashion the main auditorium of the church as a greek-style amphitheater, which is ideal for projecting sound. There are 800 seats, and each is within 54 feet of the room&rsquo;s center.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/inside%20church%20flickr%20dpyle%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist can hold up to 800 people, but a typical Sunday service is attended by about 40 people. (Flickr/dpyle)" /></div><p>Quite unusual for the time, Weese also worked with an audio engineer who created a system of hidden microphones and speakers so that members&rsquo; testimonies could be amplified. This audio system was so advanced it received a write-up in the Journal for the <a href="http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=1500">Society of Audio Engineers</a> in 1970.</p><p>A year after the church opened, it received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA recognized the structure not just for its democratic design, but also for Weese&rsquo;s expert problem solving. To keep out the noises of a bustling city, the congregation did not want windows in the auditorium but, like most churches, they wanted space and light. So Weese built a tall, domed ceiling with an oculus-like skylight at the very top, which he called a lantern. To make sure the sunday school was equally well lit, Weese created a moat-like sunken garden around the church so that there could be windows into the basement levels. &nbsp;</p><p>Then of course, there is the building&rsquo;s eye-catching exterior. Bruegmann points out that the facade is modern but still achieves the kind of monumentality that Harry Weese admired in classical buildings. &ldquo;That dome that rounds that corner is one of the grandest urban gestures of virtually any city I know of,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">If you build it they (might) come</span></p><p>When the Seventeenth Church triumphantly opened its doors in 1968, the congregation established something few other churches had attempted: a place of worship in Chicago&rsquo;s bustling downtown. The trouble is, membership didn&rsquo;t grow, at least not on the national level. &nbsp;According to sociologist Rodney Stark, the Christian Science movement&rsquo;s membership started to drop in the 1940s and, by the 1960s, was in serious decline.</p><p>So what happened? Stark suggests that early in the 20th century, Christian Science was the fastest-growing faith in the country, but there&rsquo;s a caveat. He believes Christian Science always <em>seemed </em>more successful than it actually was, mostly because members tended to be well off financially. &nbsp;Like the Seventeenth Church, other congregations had resources to establish and build new churches around the country, even after membership began to decline.</p><p>Another theory from Stark: Medical treatment was very crude at the time that Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. &ldquo;We had no antibiotics,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Part of the time they really didn&rsquo;t have any anesthetics. Doctors were pretty untrained and a lot of them were butchers.&rdquo; &nbsp;By comparison, spiritual healing seemed like a strong alternative. Stark argues that interest in Christian Science decreased in the mid-1900s after Western medicine improved.</p><p>Lastly, Stark argues that the first generation of Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t produce a second generation. From the beginning, Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t have a lot of children so they had to rely on new converts to expand. Converting new members is often difficult compared to raising children within a faith.</p><p>We can see how this affected the Chicago area by reading <em>The Christian Science Journal</em>, which lists every Christian Science church around the world. The religion was popular in Chicago; over the span of 61 years Christian Scientists opened 23 churches across the city. After the 1950s, Chicago churches began to close. By the new millenium, 13 of the original 23 churches were gone. Today there are only six.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10th%20Church%201%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The former site of Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist. (Flickr/Jamie Bernstein)" /></div><p>The remains of these closed churches are dotted all around Chicago. Some have been sold to congregations of other faiths. Thirteenth Church in Beverly has been converted into 16 loft condominiums. The abandoned 10th Church in Hyde Park was sold to a developer, but it&rsquo;s now in foreclosure and falling to pieces.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Holding onto your religion ... and property</span></p><p>So how did the Seventeenth Church hang on? This is the second part of Monica Schrager&rsquo;s question, and it&rsquo;s a good one, when you consider two things: The church now sits among prime real estate, and the congregation is modest in size.</p><p>In the 1980s Wacker Drive saw a major boom in office construction. Eventually Wacker replaced LaSalle as the center of Chicago&rsquo;s financial industry, with massive, glassy skyscrapers to show it. In 2013, <a href="http://s1156.photobucket.com/user/ksershon/media/2013USsMostExpensiveStreetsforOfficeSpace.jpg.html">Jones Lang and LaSalle listed Wacker Drive as the 20th-most expensive street for office space </a>in the country. Next door to the church, a hotel developer &nbsp;bought a narrow empty lot for 5 million dollars. (That&rsquo;s over one thousand dollars per square foot. The developer is now in the process of building a Hilton Garden Inn on that site.) Right next door to that, the historic motor club building was auctioned off in 2011 for 9.7 million. Word is, that building will soon be a hotel as well. &nbsp;</p><p>There may be a competitive real estate market raging outside the walls of Seventeenth Church but, believe it or not, the church says it&rsquo;s never gotten a serious offer from any kind of buyer. Still, Seventeenth Church is a big building, while the congregation is likely small.</p><p>Christian Science branch churches never publish their membership numbers because they don&rsquo;t want to be distracted by material measurements, so we can&rsquo;t know the exact size of the Seventeenth Church congregation. However, when I attend a recent church service, I count approximately 30 people in the 800-seat auditorium. Dave Hohle says that number is likely low, adding that perhaps forty or so attendees arrive for typical Sunday services.</p><p>If you think there&rsquo;s a mismatch between the building&rsquo;s stature and the size of the congregation, Lois Carlson notes the church was paid off in 1978, and members cover maintenance costs.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, even though we&rsquo;re a small congregation, we&rsquo;re an incredibly financially committed group,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s likely additional income. On occasion, the church receives a visit from a big movie studio. The Seventeenth Church amphitheater was the set for the &ldquo;choosing ceremony&rdquo; in the blockbuster film <em>Divergent</em>. The church&rsquo;s exterior played a cameo in <em>Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.</em> (In the film, the church was spared, while robots laid waste to the rest of downtown Chicago.) The church did receive income from those films but does not disclose the amount.</p><p>The congregation, regardless of costs, seems to be just as committed to downtown as it was when it first sought property in the 1940s. First and foremost, Lois Carlson says, the church can be a resource for what she calls &ldquo;hungry hearts that are looking for a deeper understanding for God.&rdquo; The church operates a reading room in the lobby six days a week. Carlson says tourists and curious passersby come into the reading room regularly. A small handful of people have become members this way. &ldquo;We just feel like we belong here because the need is so great,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In keeping with that, the congregation regularly shares Harry Weese&rsquo;s architectural gem. They lend their auditorium to interfaith groups, and the local alderman conducts community meetings there. A couple times each month the church welcomes tour groups from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In October, more than 4,000 visitors arrived as part of the Open House Chicago event.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Down the road?</span></p><p>For now, it seems like Seventeenth Church congregation wants to stay put, but what about over the next decade or two? Will it be able to sustain itself? Professor Bruegmann is concerned that the building might not survive if the congregation were to move or dissolve. In fact, many of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings have already met the wrecking ball. Bruegmann argues that buildings from the &lsquo;60s and &lsquo;70s are no longer new, but they are not yet considered historic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s exactly at that moment when they&rsquo;re middle-aged buildings that they&rsquo;re most vulnerable,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Like Monica, he&rsquo;s very aware of the competitive real estate market on Wacker Drive. &ldquo;The economics of having such a small building on such a prominent, very expensive site are going to weigh so heavily in the balance,&rdquo; he worries. &ldquo;If the current congregation moved out, it would be extremely difficult to figure out what to do with a building like that and how you might save it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mschrager.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Monica Schrager submitted our question about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Photo courtesy of Monica Schrager)" />Monica Schrager was thrilled that our investigation made a connection between her current home &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood &mdash; and Washington, D.C., area, where she grew up. The relevant detail? Architect Harry Weese designed the Seventeenth Church as well as the DC Metro!</p><p>Monica is a web developer by trade but her interest in architecture is responsible for her question about Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</p><p>&ldquo;I love the variety of architecture we have in the city, from Mies Van Der Rohe to Frank Lloyd Wright,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Monica works right across the street from Seventeenth Church in the old Jeweler Building. She sees the church every day outside her office window and she&rsquo;s definitely rooting for the church to survive, especially now that she has seen the inside. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the whole combination of the lighting and the acoustics is kind of really neat,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You almost don&rsquo;t feel like you&rsquo;re in the middle of the city. It&rsquo;s an oasis of sorts.&rdquo;</p><p>Her bottom line? She thinks Wacker Drive needs an oasis more than it needs another skyscraper.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 Why buses arrive in bunches http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/172338843&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s a situation that plays out every day in Chicago. Riders show up at a bus stop, and the bus doesn&#39;t show up on time. Then all at once, two appear together.</p><p>The phenomenon is called bus bunching. Corrin Pitluck noticed it often while riding and driving around Chicago, so she put this question to Curious City:</p><p><em>I&rsquo;m interested to know about the urban physics involved in bus bunching, how it happens. I&rsquo;d also like to get drivers&rsquo; perspectives on how they feel about it and how they deal with it and what tools they have to unbunch their buses.</em></p><p>Most CTA bus riders have been frustrated by bunching at least once, but it&rsquo;s not just a problem for them. Bunching is a symptom of a bus system that&rsquo;s not running efficiently, and that creates more street traffic for everyone: bus riders, car drivers and bikers, too.</p><p>And don&rsquo;t be fooled that bunching is simple to combat. Not only is the problem practically inevitable, short-term fixes can sometimes make bus riders feel worse.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A typical scenario</span></p><p>We watched bus bunching play out on a recent weekday morning at the 66 Chicago bus stop at Chicago and Milwaukee avenues.</p><p>Passengers getting off the Blue Line at Chicago waited for buses downtown, while bus riders worked to get off and board the &ldquo;L.&rdquo; Both groups converged at the bus stop, leaving bus drivers to wait while each got where they were headed.</p><p>Meanwhile, three 66 Chicago buses all rolled east down Chicago toward the stop together.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, don&rsquo;t get me started,&rdquo; Matt Zachar said while waiting for a bus to arrive. &ldquo;It is inconceivable. I don&rsquo;t understand why one can&rsquo;t just wait and be on schedule like he&rsquo;s supposed to.&rdquo;</p><p>Many riders feel just like Zachar, unable to figure out how two, three or more buses can even be in the same place at once. Bus bunching is ninth on the Chicago Transit Authority complaint list, the subject of around 2 percent of all calls. It seems like there should be something the Chicago Transit Authority can do to keep the buses on schedule.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not always the case, though, according to University of Chicago Professor Donald Eisenstein.</p><p>Eisenstein studies self-organizing systems, like workers in a production line. As a system, buses by design are set up to bunch.</p><p>&ldquo;A bus system by nature has bad dynamics,&rdquo; Eisenstein said. &ldquo;Left on its own, buses will bunch.&rdquo;</p><p>Big gaps between buses, he said, will get bigger, while small gaps will shrink. This reality makes it almost impossible to eliminate bunching on a route unless there&rsquo;s a lot of time between buses.</p><p>&ldquo;Zero isn&rsquo;t a possibility,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The natural dynamics fight against you. I don&rsquo;t think you&rsquo;ll ever get zero bus bunching, so your goal is to reduce it as much as possible.&rdquo;</p><p><a name="slideshow"></a><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bus-bunching" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bus-bunching/">Click here for a full screen and shareable version</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;At the mercy of the street&#39;</span></p><p>Mike Connelly, the CTA&rsquo;s vice president of planning, said bus bunching isn&rsquo;t a major issue for the agency. According to CTA performance metrics, only around 3 percent of bus trips experience bunching, which the agency defines as a gap of less than 60 seconds between buses at a stop.</p><p>Of course that percentage is greater during morning and evening commutes, as well as along the busiest routes. Still, for Connelly, bus bunching is a smaller part of making sure the buses are on time and consistent.</p><p>&ldquo;Though everyone may be affected at some point, we feel that it&rsquo;s something we work at and that we have a very high standard for [being] unbunched,&rdquo; Connelly said.<a name="routes"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/Z5XAO/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The main way the CTA tries to combat bunching is scheduling. Each bus is equipped with a GPS tracker, and four times a year the CTA analyses the data to see if there&rsquo;s a more efficient way to run the buses.</p><p>Next, buses are monitored and controlled at key spots on the route, called terminal points. A street supervisor can speed up or hold a bus back to make sure it leaves that point on time and with enough space between it and the bus in front.</p><p>From there, &ldquo;we&rsquo;re at the mercy of the street,&rdquo; Connelly said. There are a few go-to methods, but each comes with a cost: financial costs to the CTA or potential to frustrate bus riders.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#slideshow"><strong>Check out our visual explanation of bus bunching to learn more about how CTA tries to stop bunches</strong></a></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A driver&rsquo;s view</span></p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s job is complicated by us, the riders, who need to go to a specific point and in a predictable way, so buses can&rsquo;t always go the fastest or easiest way possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For us, the bottom line is that we carry people, so the people have to be our bottom-line,&rdquo; Connelly said. &ldquo;If we were UPS, where you load the boxes and we go, we could make a choice not to deliver down this street at 9 a.m., because there is something going on this street and we could come back at 2 in the afternoon. That&rsquo;s not our choice. Our choice is that there are people waiting at the stop and we&rsquo;re going to go pick them up.&rdquo;</p><p>While bunching can be an annoyance for riders, it&rsquo;s even more stressful for the drivers themselves.</p><p>Michael Toomey is an 11-year CTA veteran and current bus operator on the 77 Belmont route. He said the main thing he wished customers understood was how the smallest disturbances on the street can lead to big delays on his route.</p><p>&ldquo;[It&rsquo;s] minor factors most people wouldn&rsquo;t notice, like a double parked car that I get stuck behind and the bus behind me comes straight through,&rdquo; Toomey said. &ldquo;So if I become two minutes late on a route that runs every four minutes, that&rsquo;s the same as being 15 minutes late on a route that runs every 30 minutes. I get more stress knowing I&rsquo;m two minutes behind schedule and the next bus is scheduled four minutes back, which means I&rsquo;ve got twice as many people to pick up.&rdquo;</p><p>Drivers can do a few things on their own to stop bus bunching, such as leapfrogging the driver in front of them or skipping unneeded stops. On larger problems they coordinate moves with the control center and street supervisors.</p><p>&ldquo;If I see my coworker in front of me, he has a standing load, I pull up and say &lsquo;Come on, you guys. I&rsquo;ve got room&rsquo; and we work together,&rdquo; Toomey said.</p><p>Though Toomey can spot many bunches starting &mdash; he knows how much time an extra load from the Belmont &lsquo;L&rsquo; stop will add, for example &mdash; he sometimes gets as mystified as riders.</p><p>&ldquo;Some days it&rsquo;s wide open, the next it&rsquo;s bumper to bumper stopped,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s something we as operators ask, too. We&rsquo;re throwing our hands up, expecting something major, and there&rsquo;s not.&rdquo;</p><p>Toomey said he wished customers could see the bunching and delays from his eyes, as a problem they share.</p><p>&ldquo;I rode the bus for years, so I&rsquo;ve seen both sides,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I wish more people had the opportunities to experience it firsthand, because if people could actually see what was happening behind the scenes they&rsquo;d be more understanding.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/corrinpitluck.jpg" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Corrin Pitluck asked Curious City about how bus bunching works. (Chris Hagan/WBEZ)" />Our question-asker, Corrin Pitluck, takes a lot of trips from her Logan Square home with her kids, heading to school or visiting friends. Both as a CTA bus rider and a car driver, she&rsquo;s been fascinated by bus bunching.</p><p>&ldquo;I might be waiting for a bus and it&rsquo;s clear two buses are coming up, or might be driving and making a right turn and trying to be a good citizen and not turn in front of a bus, but waiting back there a ways behind a queue of buses,&rdquo; Pitluck said.</p><p>Growing up in New Jersey and Southern California, she&rsquo;s seen lots of different types of public transportation, and she&rsquo;s seen how easy it is for a bunch to form.</p><p>&ldquo;I have wondered and shook my fist at this bunching problem for decades now.&rdquo;</p><p>We love that she took this empathic element so seriously. It prompted us to speak with driver Michael Toomey and convey the gist to her.</p><p>She was just as shocked as we were when Toomey told a story of a seven-bus bunch he was involved in early in his career at the intersection of Cicero and Chicago. Utility work and an accident shut down all but one lane, and it took him more than a half hour to go one block.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my gosh, that&rsquo;s unbelievable!&rdquo; Pitluck said.</p><p>Pitluck said the experience helped her understand the position of drivers and the difficulties they face on the road.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot that&rsquo;s out of their hands,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They have some tools but they&rsquo;re kind of limited in dealing with this ... that buses bunch.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Hagan is a web producer and data reporter at WBEZ. Find him on twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/chrishagan"><em>@chrishagan</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941 Chicago quietly phasing out red 'X' program http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-quietly-phasing-out-red-x-program-110924 <p><p>Earlier this year, Curious City reported on a small symbol with a big impact on Chicago&rsquo;s built environment. Now we&rsquo;ve got an update.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">In June we brought you the story of Chicago&#39;s red &quot;X&quot;</a> &mdash; sturdy, metal signs that the Chicago Fire Department affixed to 1,804 vacant properties between June 2012 and July 2013. Not every vacant building received a sign, just those that could pose a hazard to firefighters and other first responders in the event of an emergency there.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/010%20%283%29.JPG" style="float: right; height: 206px; width: 275px; margin: 5px;" title="Chicago firefighter Edward Stringer lost his life when a vacant laundromat collapsed during a fire. Mother Joyce Lopez, right, asked what's to happen to a signage program meant to warn first responders about structurally unsound buildings. (Photo courtesy of Michael Torres) " />We <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">reported on the confusion those signs sometimes create</a> in neighborhoods where the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; is a common sight. We also found out the grant money that funded the program had quietly expired. That last part inspired a follow-up question from Joyce Lopez, a reader with a deep personal interest in this story:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>In reference to the red &quot;X&#39;s&quot; on abandoned/vacant, structurally unsound buildings, what can I do to see to it that additional funding is secured?</em></p><p>Lopez is the mother of Edward Stringer, one of two firefighters who died on Dec. 22, 2010 when an abandoned laundromat collapsed on him and dozens more while they swept the burning building for people trapped inside. That incident spurred the creation of the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; program in the first place.</p><p>Lopez, who retired to Lavaca, Arkansas, after working in personnel for the Chicago Fire Department, declined to comment for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">our original story</a>. But she is troubled to learn that the program established to prevent tragedies like the one that befell her son appears to have fizzled out.</p><p>So too is Michael Torres, Lopez&rsquo;s other son and Edward Stringer&rsquo;s stepbrother.</p><p>&ldquo;I hope and pray that they have a system in place that would prevent unnecessary deaths of our first responders, like the death of my brother. We feel it was preventable. And the city will always bear a little bit of the blame for that,&rdquo; says Torres. &ldquo;The red &#39;X&#39; program was initiated to prevent that from happening in the future, and I think that pacified us a little bit &hellip; But when we&#39;d been told that the funding dried up, I think that the city&#39;s priorities are mislaid. I&rsquo;m skeptical.&rdquo;</p><p><a>Lopez&nbsp;</a>is in touch with many other &ldquo;survivors&rdquo; who have lost friends and family in the line of duty. She says many of them want to see the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; program continue.</p><p>&ldquo;Put me up in front of a building with a can of spray paint,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll put the &#39;X&#39;s up there!&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">From red &ldquo;X&rdquo; to red text</span></p><p>Since <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">our story</a> ran in June, several city officials have said they wanted to see the program continue. Ald. Debra Silverstein, who sponsored the original red &ldquo;X&rdquo; ordinance, told us she wanted to find more money for the program. At least since WBEZ first reported that the program had run out of money, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford says they&rsquo;ve been hunting &ldquo;anywhere [they] can&rdquo; for more grant funding.</p><p>But now the department talks about the program in the past tense. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We have not seen where any such money is readily available,&rdquo; says Langford. &ldquo;We did not get new funding and expanded the electronic side of the system to continue the awareness for first responders.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RedX%20Follow-1.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 407px; width: 610px;" title="The city affixed 1,804 red X signs to buildings deemed structurally unsound. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>The fire department won&rsquo;t put up any new red &ldquo;X&rdquo; signs for now, Langford says, but it will continue to register dangerous and structurally unsound buildings in an electronic database called the CAD, or Computer Aided Dispatch system, administered by the city&rsquo;s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC).</p><p>In addition to spearheading the ordinance that created the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; program, Ald. Silverstein also led the charge on requiring more regular data updates for OEMC&rsquo;s CAD system and other databases.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the [red &ldquo;X&rdquo;] program worked well, but there&#39;s no money to fund it,&rdquo; says Silverstein. &ldquo;I trust the Fire Department to take the best course of action to keep firefighters safe, because safety is the most important thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Langford says the electronic system works like this: When dispatch is alerted of a fire at a specific address, they pull up information on that location using the OEMC database. Firefighters print out that information before they leave the firehouse, but it will also appear on firefighters&rsquo; mobile terminals on site &mdash; in red letters.</p><p>So from the firefighter&rsquo;s perspective, Langford says, the electronic information communicates the same information as the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; was designed to provide. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If the [red &ldquo;X&rdquo;] program can be reestablished ... we will see under what conditions,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As it stands now the electronic system will provide redundant and new data.&rdquo;</p><p>The electronic alert system is not dependent on grants, unlike the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; program, which was funded through a $675,000 award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.</p><p>Why not just apply for that money again? That initial funding was provided through the <a href="http://www.fema.gov/welcome-assistance-firefighters-grant-program" target="_blank">Assistance to Firefighters Grant program</a>, which requires applicants to compete each year for a limited number of awards. Don Mobley, a local fire program specialist for FEMA, said that in 2011 the agency received more than 2,400 applications and gave out grants to just 201.</p><p>We asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office several times about City Hall&rsquo;s opinion on the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; program, and whether any money could be found in state or local budgets to fund the initiative in the future. The office did not return our requests for comment.</p><p>At any rate, Langford says, the electronic database is enough.</p><p>&ldquo;The OEMC system allows us to achieve the goal of protecting firefighters,&rdquo; Langford says, &ldquo;without having to mark buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If owners of red &ldquo;X&rdquo; buildings bring their property up to code, the Fire Department will still remove the metal signs, Langford says. But no new red &ldquo;X&rdquo; signs will go up unless they find new funding, which has proved elusive for 15 months.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Communication and clarity</span></p><p>Meanwhile, in neighborhoods where red &ldquo;X&rdquo; signs are common, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">so is confusion over their meaning</a>. We <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315" target="_blank">reported earlier this year on myths and misconceptions surrounding the symbol</a>, as well as the impact of this scarlet letter on redevelopment efforts in areas of the city already troubled by disinvestment and foreclosure.</p><p>&ldquo;I can certainly understand how someone would think it means the building&#39;s being demolished or something else,&rdquo; says Ald. Nick Sposato, a former firefighter. While Sposato says he supports the program, he&rsquo;s not sure a red &ldquo;X&rdquo; would keep firefighters out of dangerous situations &mdash; sometimes, he says, that&rsquo;s part of the job. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I know how aggressive Chicago firefighters are,&rdquo; Sposato says. &ldquo;A red &lsquo;X&rsquo; won&#39;t keep them from trying to help someone who might be inside.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="620" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/redx/embed.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>(Data obtained from the Chicago Fire Department list the 1,804 locations where the city affixed red &quot;X&quot; signs. The last sign was placed in the summer of 2013. Map: <a href="http://wbez.is/1hMvplH" target="_blank">See the signs across the city and search by address</a>)</em></p><p>Originally the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; was also designed to inform the community of dangerous conditions in abandoned structures. Now that no new signs will be put up, that communication aspect is lost. But the Fire Department&rsquo;s Larry Langford said back in May that boarded-up and condemned buildings do a good enough job of making that clear without a red &ldquo;X.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;If someone sees a red &#39;X&#39; building they should stay out of it, because legally they&#39;re not allowed to enter it,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But it&#39;s private property anyway, so even if it didn&#39;t have a red &#39;X&#39; you&#39;re not supposed to enter it.&rdquo;</p><p>And just like the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; signs, the information communicated by the OEMC system isn&rsquo;t meant to rule out entry for first responders, just to advise caution in certain circumstances.</p><p>For our question asker, Joyce Lopez, providing that information to firefighters is the important part, no matter how it reaches them.</p><p>&ldquo;To know they are aware before they get to a structure, that eases my heart at least. Unfortunately they don&#39;t really know what they&#39;re going to encounter when they get to a fire, but if they&#39;re given a little warning, I hope that could help prevent what happened to my son and Corey [Ankum] from happening to someone else,&rdquo; she says. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to see another family, and especially another mother, suffer the loss of her son or daughter,&rdquo; Lopez says, &ldquo;because of something that possibly could have been prevented.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance reporter</a> and regular contributor to WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at cabentley.com and on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 12 Oct 2014 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-quietly-phasing-out-red-x-program-110924 Tensions and torches after the Great Chicago Fire http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tensions-and-torches-after-great-chicago-fire-110908 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/171250855&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The Great Chicago Fire has been a key part of Chicago&rsquo;s identity since the fateful dry, windy night of October 8, 1871, when the O&rsquo;Leary barn caught on fire. The blaze is represented by one of the stars on the city&rsquo;s flag. It&rsquo;s cited as the reason Chicago became a beacon of innovative architecture. And, it&rsquo;s often referenced with pride as an example of Chicago&rsquo;s indomitable, can-do spirit.</p><p>But University of Chicago history major Angela Lee asked us to skip all that. Instead, she asked us this question, which gets to a less-commonly discussed aspect of the disaster &mdash; how it affected residents&rsquo; relationships with each other.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How did the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 affect where Chicago&rsquo;s wealthy and poor lived?</em></p><p>Significant gaps in the historical record create problems answering this question with much precision, but there is a lot to learn. Among other things: Chicagoans at the time were uneasy when it came to the mixing of the social classes. And months after the fire, social tensions were stoked by &mdash; of all things &mdash; the type of materials available to rebuild.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Before the blaze</span></p><p>In 1870 Chicago was home to 298,977 people. Lacking modern zoning and planning sensibilities, the city was also a hodgepodge; homes, businesses, and even small manufacturing establishments were located near each other. According to Anne Durkin Keating, professor of history at North Central College, Chicago&rsquo;s working class and poorer areas tended to be near the river, on undesirable polluted land and close to jobs. The neighborhood where the fire began on the South Side, for example, was packed with small, wooden homes of immigrants according to Karen Sawislak, the author of <em>Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire, 1871-1874</em>.</p><p>The wealthy were also spread out, often near the emerging central business district, Keating says. One wealthy enclave was north of the river, centered around Washington Square Park on the Near North side. Large homes in that area were owned by families with familiar names like McCormick, Ogden, and Kinzie. Another wealthy enclave that was not affected by the fire was Prairie Avenue between 18th and 20th Streets.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">During this era Chicago also had a large immigrant population, many of whom were homeowners. &ldquo;Rates of immigrant home ownership from 1850 to 1920 were incredibly high,&rdquo; says Elaine Lewinnek, the author of <em>The Working Man&rsquo;s Reward: Chicago&rsquo;s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl</em>. In some of the city&rsquo;s poorest neighborhoods (as well as some areas just beyond its border), she says, home ownership rates among the working class neared 95 percent. &ldquo;It was really this immigrant-led American dream. It trickled up.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/fire+demographics+story/burned+district+map+larger.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/burned district map for story.jpg" title="An illustration in Richard's Illustrated shows the districts of Chicago affected by the Great Fire. 1871. (Photo courtesy Newberry Library)" /></a></div></div><p>In contrast, renting was common among wealthy people with deeper roots in the country. &ldquo;Native-born Americans weren&rsquo;t so interested in owning homes. There was more prestige in some renting areas,&rdquo; Lewinnek says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">After the fire, an &lsquo;awful democracy of the hour&rsquo;</span></p><p>Many accounts concerning the fire have been preserved in personal letters. Mrs. Aurelia R. King penned a note to friends that reads:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The wind was like a tornado, and I held fast to my little ones, fearing they would be lifted from my sight. I could only think of Sodom or Pompeii, and truly I thought the day of judgement had come. It seemed as if the whole world were running like ourselves, fire all around us, and where should we go? &hellip; Yet we are so thankful that if we were to be afflicted, it is only by the loss of property. Our dear ones are all alive and well, and we are happy.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>During chaos of the fire, people from all walks of life fled their homes with a few treasured possessions and valuables. They waited for the fire to pass wherever they could: in the lake, on the prairie, in parks and in tunnels. People even sought shelter in abandoned graves. Bodies had been removed from City Cemetery years earlier, but the actual graves had not yet been filled in. These empty graves made a convenient, if creepy, place to seek shelter.</p><p>The usual divisions between groups of people vanished as Chicagoans endured this epic fire together. In fact, this jumble of different types of people was an element of <em>why</em> the fire was so distressing to some. &ldquo;This is the Victorian age. It was a time when people wanted their spatial separations to be clear. It wasn&rsquo;t clear right after the fire, part of the pressure in rebuilding is to make things clearer,&rdquo; Lewinnek says.</p><p>Reverend E. P. Roe later recalled the tunnel under the Chicago River at LaSalle Street: &ldquo;There jostled the refined and delicate lady, who, in the awful democracy of the hour, brushed against thief and harlot. &hellip; Altogether it was a strange, incongruous, writhing mass of humanity, such as the world had never looked upon, pouring into what might seem in its horrors, the mouth of hell.&rdquo;</p><p>When the fire finally stopped, rumors swirled about more potential trouble. Survivor Ebon Matthews recalled &ldquo;one who was not an eyewitness can hardly imagine the fears of incendiarism, looting, etc., which prevailed. Stories of all kinds were afoot concerning thefts, murders, and the like.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CHM illustration.jpg" title="Witnesses recounted avoiding the flames for two days. Image: Scene on the Prairie, Monday night. Alfred R. Waud, Pencil, Chalk, and Paint Drawing, 1871 (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></div></div></div><p>According to Sawislak, there was an undercurrent of uncertainty about what could happen next. Yet, she says, after the first couple of days passed things were orderly. &ldquo;After reading through records of contemporaneous accounts, you sense this huge fear of disorder, further explosion and disruption in the aftermath, but really everyone who was charged with public safety is kind of constantly saying: &lsquo;You know? It&rsquo;s really quiet. People are going about their business and being very helpful.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Military presence</span></p><p>Nevertheless, a feeling of unease remained. &ldquo;Very quickly business leaders in the city basically prevailed upon the mayor to cede civic authority over peacekeeping in the aftermath of the fire, and give it to the army. It became a military operation commanded by General Philip Sheridan,&rdquo; Sawislak says.</p><p>According to an account in historian Carl Smith&rsquo;s <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/U/bo5625323.html" target="_blank">Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman</a></em>, former Lieutenant Governor William Bross recalled &ldquo;Never did deeper emotions of joy overcome me. Thank God, those most dear to me and the city as well are safe.&rdquo; Bross said without Sheridan&rsquo;s &ldquo;prompt, bold and patriotic action, &hellip; what was left of the city would have been nearly if not quite entirely destroyed by the cutthroats and vagabonds who flocked here like vultures from every point of the compass.&rdquo;</p><p>This brief period of defacto martial law was controversial. &ldquo;His soldiers mostly were stationed to patrol the ruins of the banks and the hotels and the big commercial structures and safeguard what they thought was wealth that was sort of buried in the rubble. But they didn&rsquo;t go to work handing out food or helping people clean up the damage or building structures for temporary shelter. That was not considered to be part of their job,&rdquo; Sawislak says. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re not really there to help. They&rsquo;re there to guard, and that&rsquo;s a whole different project.&rdquo;</p><p>In 1872 Elijah Haines, a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, spoke to that body about the brief military presence in Chicago. &ldquo;They are men with bayonets, bringing complete military armament. For what purpose? For war?&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Smith does note that General Sheridan &ldquo;requisitioned relief rations and supplies from St. Louis.&rdquo;</p><p>He also describes an incident that may have hastened the end of this period of military involvement. &ldquo;Theodore Treat, a twenty-year-old college student on volunteer curfew duty, shot Thomas W. Grosvenor, who died the next morning. Grosvenor was a former Civil War officer and successful lawyer&rdquo; Smith writes. He continues, &ldquo;Grosvenor may in fact have been a victim of the false reports of rampant criminality that put Treat fatally on edge.&rdquo; &nbsp;Three days later, on October 23rd, 1871, General Sheridan resigned from his temporary post overseeing Chicago&rsquo;s security.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The class and ethnic divide</span></p><p>As Chicago emerged from this tense environment, the city discussed how to rebuild the burnt district. Foremost on some people&rsquo;s minds: preventing a similar disaster to the one they had just endured. This school of thought proposed new building rules, the most strident being that, for safety&rsquo;s sake, only brick and stone would be allowed for construction within the city limits. The problem with this idea? Wood was cheap. For the immigrant homeowners on the North Side, maintaining their homes trumped even fire safety.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/fire+demographics+story/lincolnParkLarger.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/smaller%20lincoln%20park%20refuge.jpg" title="Illustration from Harper's Weekly featuring refugees in Lincoln Park during the Chicago Fire of 1871. (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></a></div></div></div><p>&ldquo;People were furious,&rdquo; Lewinnek says, &ldquo;especially the German and Irish immigrants who lived on the North Side who had been most burned out by the fire, were furious they might not be able to rebuild.&rdquo; They tended not to have reliable insurance and felt they wouldn&rsquo;t be able to afford to keep their land if wood construction was not allowed. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d say things like: &lsquo;We don&rsquo;t care if the city burns again, we need our own houses,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lewinnek says. Populations affected included those of German, Irish and Scandinavian background.</p><p>Karen Sawislak says, circling this debate was a hard question: Who&rsquo;s a good American? &ldquo;It was the immigrant community, specifically Germans, Scandinavians, who pushed hard to not have the fire limits extended over their neighborhoods, because effectively that would have meant that some very large percentage wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to rebuild any time soon or possibly at all, because of the expense of construction with stone or brick,&rdquo; she says. She adds that it became a political fight over &ldquo;the right to better yourself in your new country through this hard work and investment you&rsquo;ve made versus the need to protect a bigger, more abstract public from another possible disaster.&rdquo;</p><p>This conflict came to a dramatic head on Monday night, January 15, 1872. Immigrants gathered and marched by torch light to City Hall. Reports vary between the local English language newspapers and the foreign language papers, but Lewinnek says between 2,000 and 10,000 people marched to city hall. They carried signs with slogans like, &ldquo;No Fire Limitz [sic] at the North Site,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Leave a House for the Laborur.&rdquo; Again, reports vary about what happened when they arrived at City Hall. The German-language <em>Staats-Zeitung</em> wrote that six windows were broken, while the <em>Chicago Times</em> declared &ldquo;ALL THE WINDOWS BROKEN,&rdquo; and called the event &ldquo;the most disgraceful riot which ever visited Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>In the end, the North Side immigrants won the right to re-build with wood on their existing property. Areas north of Chicago Avenue and west of Wells Street and Lincoln Avenue were outside the new fire limits. After another significant fire in 1874, the fire limits were finally extended to the city, according to Elaine Lewinnek.</p><p>By that time, most of the North Side immigrants had managed to rebuild their homes, and so their wooden homes were &ldquo;grandfathered in&rdquo; according to Lewinnek.</p><p>In terms of how the fire changed the layout of Chicago, existing trends quickened. In general, property owners and even wealthy renters tended to remain where they were before the fire. Suburbs continued to grow. Distinct districts &mdash; residential, manufacturing, and the downtown area &mdash; developed. Downtown land prices rose.</p><p>Also after the fire, Chicago&rsquo;s population changed. The Relief and Aid Society had given out free rail passes to people who wanted to leave town after the fire. Some left, while new residents arrived. &ldquo;Immediately after the fire 30,000 people moved to Chicago to help rebuild it. So you don&rsquo;t actually have the exact same population,&rdquo; Lewinnek says. Many of these newcomers rented or lived in suburbs. The city&rsquo;s population grew from just under 300,000 in 1870 before the fire to 503,185 in 1880. (As of the most recent census, in 2010, Chicago&rsquo;s population numbered 2,695,598. Chicago&rsquo;s highest census number was recorded in 1950, with 3,620,962 residents.)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Telling silence, shared memory</span></p><p>Since the fire, of course, this era has been remembered as a triumphant moment in the city&rsquo;s history. In 1872 Frank Luzerne published a work titled <em>The Lost City! Drama of the Fire-Fiend! or Chicago, As It Was, and As It Is! and its Glorious Future!</em>. Citing nearly 5,000 newly-issued building permits, Luzerne wrote &ldquo;there will be no interruption in the work of rebuilding until the new Chicago arises from the ashes of the old, in more substantial grandeur, rehabilitated, immeasurably improved, and all the better for her thorough purification.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rebuilding 2.jpg" title="Before the fire wood construction was common but afterwards it was proscribed in much of the city. Image: The Rebuilding of the Marine Building; Glass Lantern Slide, ca. 1873. ichi-02845 (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></div></div><p>Sawislak takes issue with this narrative. &ldquo;Basically, I think that the Chicago fire is this very proud moment in the city&rsquo;s history, but it&rsquo;s a very heavily mythologized history,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;In many ways the disaster very much reinforced existing barriers between classes, between ethnicities.&rdquo;</p><p>Events surrounding the fire were extensively documented, but significant segments of the population were not included in that process and therefore their experiences were lost to history, Sawislak says. There are a wealth of first-person accounts of the fire, but says they were written only by people of means. &ldquo;We have very few records from working class people that are contemporaneous accounts of the fire,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually rather hard to find a record of how most Chicagoans experienced this signature event in the history of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>This imbalance, Sawislak argues, extends even to the estimated three hundred people who died in the fire. &ldquo;Even the fact that it&rsquo;s always an estimate tells you something,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Most victims &mdash; virtually all &mdash; were working class, immigrants, in very densely packed immigrant neighborhoods that were most impacted by the early stages of the fire on the South Side.&rdquo; Even following years of research, Sawislak says she&rsquo;s never discovered a comprehensive list of names of the deceased.</p><p>Combine this, she says, with the fact that the working poor left behind so few written accounts of the fire, and you&rsquo;re struck with an uncomfortable truth.</p><p>&ldquo;The silences are really kind of what&rsquo;s telling.&rdquo; she says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/angela%20lee%20photo.jpg" style="float: left; height: 268px; width: 200px;" title="(Photo courtesy Angela Lee)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Angela Lee thinks a lot about cities, history, and demographics. She&rsquo;s originally from New York City. &ldquo;I&#39;ve only lived in cities,&quot; she says. &quot;I&#39;ve always been curious about why certain neighborhoods are located where they are, and why the divisions can be so extreme sometimes.&rdquo;</p><p>Her interest in where people live is long-standing. She began paying attention to real estate when she was just ten years old, she says. Now she&rsquo;s a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago, majoring in history. Thinking about the London fire of 1666 made her wonder, &ldquo;They had to completely rebuild the city, I thought something similar might have happened in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Special help for this story comes from Carl Smith, author of <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/U/bo5625323.html" target="_blank">Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman. </a>He also curates <a href="http://www.greatchicagofire.org" target="_blank">The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory</a>.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tensions-and-torches-after-great-chicago-fire-110908 Chicago without the Fire http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-without-fire-110894 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/fire-1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WBEZ&#39;s Curious City&nbsp;<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/">imagines what Chicago would look and feel like without the Great Fire of 1871</a>.</p></p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-without-fire-110894