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Halloween Adds Ghostly Spirit To Chicago Housing Market

Halloween – the eerie, windy, and dark late autumn event – is when Chicagoans are more aware of ghostly visions, goblins, creaking eves, and noises in the night.

In Chicago’s crazy North Side housing market, buying or selling a home in 2023 can be a pretty scary event, especially if the property seemingly has a haunted or paranormal past.

Real estate brokers generally refer to such parcels as “stigmatized properties.” They include sites of murders, notorious representations, or environmental contamination. And, of course, homes that allegedly are inhabited by spirits or ghosts.

However, not all properties classified as stigmatized are undesirable. Those inhabited by spirits or ghosts may actually attract some buyers rather than dissuade clients.

According to Dale Kaczmarek, president of the Ghost Research Society in Oak Lawn, Illinois, there are thousands of haunted homes and businesses in the Chicago area alone.

Kaczmarek (left), who has been involved since 1975 in researching supernatural phenomena, says most ghostly encounters are benign and most spirits are playful and mischievous – not evil.

One of Kaczmarek’s best ghost stories is about Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in south suburban Midlothian. Apparently, visitors report seeing the apparition of a phantom Victorian farmhouse in the woods near the cemetery. As night falls, witnesses report orbs of blue lights twinkling and floating near the house. However, if you walk toward the lights, they vanish.

“Some people say an orb – or ball of light – is the spiritual energy ghosts gather before manifestation or poltergeist activity,” noted ghost hunter Celeste Busk, a retired Chicago Sun-Times reporter who has written many haunted house stories. “To be a true orb of light, it has to move with purpose.”

This autumn, while preparing her vintage Chicago condominium for sale, Busk took a digital photo (right) of her beloved pet dog, and noticed a white orb in the upper right corner of the picture. This writer viewed the photo, and there really was a white, softball-size orb in the background.

“Orbs are thought to be a spirit and/or white balls of energy the spirit is using to manifest itself, or use for poltergeist mischief,” Busk explained.

In the 1980s, Busk witnessed the appearance of an orb of light in a garage being investigated by ghost hunters because the former homeowner hung himself there.

“It was dark and quiet at midnight when an orb of light appeared and zig-zagged with intelligence all the way to the garage floor where it disappeared,” Busk recalled. “I was awestruck and couldn’t move. The professional ghost hunter captured it on video.”

Did you know nearly half of all Americans believe in ghosts and poltergeist activity, according to spirit experts? Just in time for Halloween, this writer offers Home Front readers these classic ghostly apparitions:

Baby-sitter ghost. A young mother tells the tale of Tom, the friendly ghost, who enjoyed haunting her baby son’s room in her two-flat on the North Side in the late 1980s.

“Our vintage oak rocking chair would mysteriously rock by itself. Sometimes, a hand-crank ‘Swing-O-Matic’ baby swing would start slowly moving by itself, and the non-motorized mobile over the crib would spin,” she recalled. “And lights would come on by themselves, and stereo music would play.”

Once at 3 a.m., the baby was found laughing while sitting on the floor near his crib.

“I sat down on the bed and had a heart-to-ghost chat with Tom, explaining that he was a spirit and had to move on,” she said. “The ghost finally ended his haunting.”

Grandma’s perfume. Just before midnight on Christmas Eve in 2020, a senior citizen homeowner was relaxing by his fireplace, reading a book. Suddenly he noticed the heavy aroma of perfume wafting from a nearby corner curio cabinet in the living room, where his wife displayed photos of her late grandmother and late grandfather.

The aroma flowed into the library, and lingered. Then, the fragrance concentrated in the bedroom that once was occupied by Grandma Ruth, the builder who erected the home in 1965. Gradually, the aroma faded.

“We recently had completed renovation work on our 55-year-old house, which we purchased from the family estate,” said the wife. “It seemed like grandma came back on a midnight spirit’s tour to review our upgrades. Her fragrance was Tabu. She loved to read. The new library seemed to be a magnet for her, and her 1950s ‘Little Book Club’ leather bookmark was on the shelf.”

On Christmas Day, the wife witnessed poltergeist activity. The terrace swing moved, but there was no wind. Later, the aroma of grandpa’s cigar smoke wafted across the deck.

Four of their grandchildren simultaneously experienced the haunting.

Flickering lamp. On a recent visit to the getaway house this autumn, a couple started happily chatting about all the work that they had completed on the home over the past decade.

“If my father were alive, he wouldn’t believe how much we improved the house,” said the wife. Simultaneously, the bulb in a vintage table lamp that once belonged to her father began flickering on and off in a sign of approval. No electrical problems were found.

Haunted “blue room.” In late October 1985, a young couple purchased a vintage English Tudor home in the Sauganash neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side. They were only the second owners of the house, which dated to the 1920s.

After doing a total renovation of the house, the new owners decided to leave one of the bedrooms intact because they liked its deep blue color. So, the walls were freshly painted the same color of blue. A matching blue bedspread and curtains were added.

Soon afterward, however, thumping began inside the blue walls of the second-floor bedroom. Just noisy heat ducts or plumbing, they rationalized. But the noise continued even when the furnace wasn’t on.

A year later, a house guest stayed in the blue room, with no mention of the “haunting.” Within minutes of retiring for the evening, the house guest raced down the stairs in hysterics.

“There’s something in that room,” she said. “I heard heavy breathing and groaning, and it’s freezing cold in there.”

While researching the house’s past, the new owners found that the only prior resident had built the home in the 1920s and lived there happily for more than 60 years. His family said their father had passed away of lung and heart difficulties in the blue bedroom only months before the couple had purchased the house.

Because of the credibility questions supernatural phenomena raise, the National Association of Realtors encourages states to adopt legislation based on model language provided to each state Realtor association.

The model language asks Realtors to declare that “all psychological impacts or stigmas associated with real property are not material facts and need not be disclosed to a potential purchaser or lessee.”

Although it may take supernaturally creative marketing campaigns to sell an allegedly haunted house, buyers are out there.

Is your hair standing on end? Do you have goose bumps after reading this column? Happy Halloween!

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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