Monday, October 15, 2018

Guest Post: Seeing Spirits, by Katie Hopkins

Note from Amelia: I reached out to friends and followers in hopes of gathering some true ghostly encounters to share each week during the month of October. Last week, we heard from Clarence Goodman about a haunted bar in Chicago's Little Italy. This week, I would like to continue by welcoming paranormal enthusiast Katie Hopkins, who shares this encounter from the Buchanan County Home, a recently abandoned abbey and former poor farm in Independence, Iowa:

This story demonstrates how I took a grasp on my abilities as an empath. This spirit had intentions of me being able to "see" it.

In July 2015, some friends, family, and I went out to investigate the Buchanan County Home. The night started off pretty quiet, nothing really happening, not even feelings of being watched. We decided to go walk around and get more of a feel for the building to see if we could find the "hot spots" that night. We didn't like to go in certain areas, as the holes in the glass on the doors now allowed for the bats that were in the attic to come down to the main floors. So we decided to go to the stairs that were on the second floor, just down from the chapel. They had a landing at the top of them that then turned to another set of stairs leading to the third floor.

We started to conduct an EVP blast to see if we could even get any voices coming across that. There was not much, we almost were ready to call it quits. Tyler and I were sitting on the second floor stairs, about three stairs up. Then I felt it. The dark, ominous, vile, disgusting feeling this guy puts off. I could "see" him coming down the stairs from the third floor. He was slowly making his way down, and then he got to the landing of the stairs. He started to peek around the wall, just looking Tyler and I over. Sizing us up, wondering what move we'll make next and what can he do to us. He smiled this crooked, gnarly grin, and that's when I said, "Tyler, get up now!" Tyler and I stood up as fast as we could, and I told everyone what I had seen. I didn't know what to think at the time, as this was the most vivid vision I had ever had. I had never "seen" a spirit that close and that detailed before. I also had never felt more terrified from a spirit like I had from him.

We got up and Tyler started to complain about his back hurting and that it was really hot. So we looked at Tyler's back to find scratch marks in the shape of a backwards "L." There were two marks going down and three marks across. This was a large scratch, too. There is no possible way Tyler could have done this to himself. The scratches were raised, too. I told everyone we needed to leave before something worse happened. My question, though, is why Tyler? If I was the one seeing him, and feeling him, why didn't he do this to me? Instead he decided to pick on Tyler who couldn't see him or feel him. I was keeping these feelings to myself too as I could "see" him coming down the stairs. I didn't want to sound crazy, not have people believe me, and/or scare anyone. Now I know I should have been telling them all along what I was "seeing."

This was the last time I was at the Buchanan County Home, and I never intend to go back.

Katie Hopkins is an avid paranormal enthusiast and historian. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in History (specialization in Civil War History) in 2010 from the University of Northern Iowa. She also has her Master of Science in Higher Education from Kaplan University. She is a member of the Unknown Darkness team based in Iowa and has been to many haunted locations around the United States.

"Seeing Spirits," copyright 2018 Katie Hopkins

Monday, October 8, 2018

Guest Post: There's a Little More There Than Little Italy, by Clarence Goodman

Note from Amelia: I reached out to friends and followers in hopes of gathering some true ghostly encounters to share each week during the month of October. I would like to start off by welcoming Chicago musician, historian, and tour guide Clarence Goodman, who shares this ghostly tale from the city's legendary Taylor Street in the Little Italy neighborhood:

Several years ago, when I was working for one of the local tour companies here, I was in my parents' neighborhood (Little Italy) and wandered into a bar there for a drink. The place was then known as Jay's on Taylor, and it was just the latest in a series of incarnations of that establishment during my parents' three-plus decades there.

A charming woman named Jennifer poured me a drink, and since she, the cook, and I were the only people in the joint, we talked. When she learned that my gig included Chicago's murderous, bizarre, strange, and paranormal, her eyes lit up.

"Clarence, you’ve got to bring a tour through here; this place is haunted."

"Do tell."

She went on to tell me about an old man who came in, claiming to be the descendant of a man who had been murdered there when it was the Italian American Social Club nearly a century before. Apparently, this gentleman's grandfather had testified in open court against the Sicilian "Black Hand" and had been murdered there on the very afternoon of his testimony. Every year his descendants gather around the anniversary of the event to pay tribute, and he was hoping to have that year’s party at the proverbial (and literal) scene of the crime.

"That's a great story, Jennifer, but what has that got to do with a haunting?"

"I'm getting to that…"

And she did. In his hopes of celebrating his ancestor at Jay's on Taylor, the old gentleman brought copies of newspaper coverage and documentation of the event for Jennifer and Jay's (her husband) consideration a few days later. Jennifer dutifully read the articles, tucked them away in the cash drawer of their register, closed up, and went home. Upon her return the next day, she found the electricity fried and the basement floor covered with water.

"That's not a ghost, that's a bad pipe!"

"No. Wait. We had just had everything fixed. There was no explanation. Wait here."

I waited. She went and fetched the documents for me to read. As I did, the lights in the bar dimmed and increased back to their original brightness. She and the cook were the only other souls (of this world) who were there with me. I was curious.

Two weeks later (on my birthday, for goodness sake), I indeed took a group of clients from my regular tour in there for Jennifer's story. As she told the story, a single light illuminating an oil painting behind the bar dimmed and grew stronger, similar to the first "demonstration." I was more than curious.

It is perhaps all coincidence.

And it is also perhaps coincidence that in the almost forty years since my parents moved to that neighborhood, no business has lasted longer than a year or two in that spot. This in spite of the fertile hub of Taylor Street and all its nightlife.

And perhaps it's just coincidence, but in the nearly ten years since this strange tale happened, every time I walk by and sneak a peek, there are precious few patrons.

As always.

Clarence Goodman is a self-styled musician and historian obsessed with all things Chicago, his place of birth. For information about him, his work, and where to catch his act, go to or the always reliable Book of Faces.

"There's a Little More There Than Little Italy," copyright 2018 Clarence Goodman

Monday, October 1, 2018

#GiveBackGetInvolved: Write Across Chicago

This summer, members of The Society of Midland Authors were invited to contribute short essays on why we write to the Write Across Chicago project. Write Across Chicago is a month-long October initiative for Chicagoans of all ages to discover the joy of writing. Experienced writers, novice writers, confident writers, and tentative writers are all invited to meet in small writing groups in libraries, businesses, schools, churches, community centers, and other locations throughout the city. My essay, "On Writing," was included in the project, and I wanted to share it here in hopes of inspiring others to participate!:

There are so many different kinds of talents to have, and we all have at least one. My talent happens to be writing.

I have anxiety that needs managing daily. I also have the restless desire to reach out and take part in the world around me as much and as often as possible. Writing and sharing what I write help me to fulfill both of those needs. Sometimes it may feel like a private or solitary effort, but writing can provide us with a solid sense of place and purpose.

I try to write a little bit each day, mostly in the morning before work or during the day on my lunch breaks. I happen to be a morning person, but many creative types are also night owls who do all of their best work in the late to wee hours. I might pick up a pen and paper, type out a short poem or thought into the Reminders app on my phone, or, ideally, hammer out something great (well, to me, at least) on my laptop.

Sometimes I also schedule a little daytime retreat for myself, often at home or at a local café, where I can sit down and write continuously for hours and hours. It really depends on whether I am working on a single haiku, a short story, or compiling an entire book. Most importantly, I find the time to make writing happen.

Very luckily, I have also found the right people and publishers to help me share it. Social media groups, pages, and websites geared toward new and emerging writers are great places to begin looking for information and a network of fellow writers and potential publishers. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone starts with many questions.

My advice for new writers is to find the people who write what you want to write, and connect with them. Learn the steps of both the writing and the publishing process. Take it slowly, be patient, and act professionally at all times. Don’t give up, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and don’t be afraid to take an opportunity. This goes for whether you care to be a published author or not—sometimes, it takes all of the courage just to put words onto a blank page, even if just for yourself.

"On Writing," copyright 2018 Amelia Cotter