You would be wrong if you thought nothing more could be written about Chicago ghostlore. Chicago Haunted Handbook: 99 Ghostly Places You Can Visit in and Around the Windy City (2013) by Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds discovered new gems among well-worn territory. Though a little dated at this point, it still offers enough tales to delight readers.
Published by Clerisy Press, Chicago Haunted Handbook is part of the “America’s Haunted Road Trip” series. At 226 pages and with a retail price of $15.95, this book invites you to, “Join in Chicago’s Grandest Ghost Hunt.” It features 99 haunted places, along with four “places that didn’t quite make the book.” The locations are divided into five sections: Cemeteries; Bars and Restaurants; Roads and Bridges; Parks; and Museums, Theaters, Hotels, and other Buildings.
The authors are an unlikely pair. Jeff Morris, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is an experienced author with several titles under his belt. Vince Sheilds was born in Elgin in 1984 and moved to Chicago in 2006, where he formed the Chicago Paranormal Investigators.
I’ve read just about every book on Illinois ghostlore, so I look at them with a discerning eye. Chicago Haunted Handbook has several good qualities that make it worth owning. First, it features several locations seldom covered by other books. The old Huntley Grease Factory is my favorite, but the Polish Museum of America, Joliet Potter’s Field, Tyrell Road Cemetery, and The Drinkingbird, are all relatively new.
Second, the book contains an appendix of day tripping “mini tours.” Each features a couple of different stops (or days), with a different location for each stop. There is even a haunted pub crawl and a gangster tour. I enjoy extras like this, especially since it allows you to explore these places at your own pace (as opposed to going on a bus tour).
Finally, there is a clear criteria for including each location in the book. This is highlighted by the “places that didn’t quite make the book.” Specifically, each location had to be somewhere you could actually visit (no private homes) and the authors had to believe it was actually haunted.
Of course, no book is without its problems, and Chicago Haunted Handbook has its fair share. To begin with a pet peeve of mine, the authors do not cite any sources, but we know they must have read other material in order to write this book. This book has four appendixes, but not even a bibliography or a “works cited” page. In their acknowledgments, the authors even talk about “our countless hours of research into this vast array of haunted locations.” So why not give credit where credit is due?
Also, in his introduction, Vince Sheilds claims that “there is no other book that includes information such as visiting hours, exact directions, history, and the ghost story for each of these locations.” As someone who has written and published such a book, I’m in a position to say that this claim is completely untrue.
There are other books that do as well. Richard Crowe’s Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural comes to mind. In the proceeding paragraph, Sheilds even says “To be honest, I have read them all,” in reference to “haunted Chicago type” publications. Ok, so, again, let’s give credit where credit is due.
My final criticism is relatively minor, but somewhat important. Chicago Haunted Handbook contains places that are located far from Chicago. Some of these include Tyrell Road Cemetery in Gilberts, IL; Axeman’s Bridge in Crete, IL; Blood’s Point Road in Cherry Valley, IL; The Gate in Waukegan; Antioch Downtown Theater in Antioch; Huntley Grease Factory in Huntley, IL; and Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, IL.
For Pete’s sake, Cherry Valley is 63 miles west of O’Hair Airport! There’s nothing wrong with writing about these places, but if you are writing a book about “places you can visit in and around the Windy City,” I feel you should be a bit more geographically constrained.
Overall, Chicago Haunted Handbook is definitely worth adding to your collection. Every book has flaws, but the new and interesting places Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds include in this book more than make up for them. So get in your car and go explore the Windy City!