Camp Douglas Investigation

The GRS was among the first paranormal teams to ever to investigate Camp Douglas on May 5, 2013!

Camp Douglas which was located on the south side of Chicago became a place of brutal misery to the Confederate prisoners imprisoned there. Stories of rat infested overcrowded conditions circulated through the southern newspapers during the Civil War. And the camp soon earned the name it would later come to be known by, “Eighty Acres of Hell ".

It is now estimated that 6000 plus men died at Camp Douglas of scurvy, smallpox, and starvation. The camp was closed down in the summer of 1865 and the remaining prisoners were made to take an oath of loyalty to the United States and set free. The camp was officially closed in November of 1865 and the buildings were torn down shortly after.

Governor Yates put Colonel Joseph H. Tucker, commanding the 60th Regiment, Illinois State Militia, in charge of building the camp. Yates also appointed Tucker as the camp's first commander. State militia troops called the Mechanics Fusiliers, who were apprentice and journeyman carpenters, built the barracks in October and November 1861. These troops mutinied on December 18, 1861 when the State of Illinois tried to press them into service as infantry upon completion of their work on Camp Douglas. The State further aggravated them by paying them less than they believed they were promised for their work. Regular troops had to suppress the rioting construction troops and restore order to the camp. After the Mechanics Fusiliers repaired damage that they had caused to a fence, they were allowed to return home.

By November 15, 1861, Camp Douglas housed about 4,222 volunteer soldiers from 11 regiments. In an ominous preview of the effects of living at the camp on the future prisoners, the recruits, who were in better physical condition than the later prisoners, suffered forty-two deaths from disease by February 1862. About 40,000 Union Army recruits arrived at the camp for outfitting and training before the camp was permanently converted to a prisoner of war camp. Colonel Tucker's job as camp commander was not easy even before the camp was converted to a prison camp. He had to use increasingly hard measures to curb considerable drunk and disorderly conduct by recruits in camp and in the city of Chicago, where the soldiers abused pass privileges.

By the end of 1864, the Official Records showed that 2,235 prisoners had died at Camp Douglas but Levy states this may be 967 short of the true figure. Another 867 died in 1865, making it the worst short period for mortality of prisoners at the camp. The official death toll at Camp Douglas has been put at 4,454. Others have estimated that from 1862 through 1865, more than 6,000 Confederate prisoners died from disease, starvation, and the bitter cold winters (although as many as 1,500 more were reported as "unaccounted" for), based in part on an 1880's memorial in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery which states that 6,000 Confederate dead (4,275 known dead) are buried there in a mass grave. On the other hand, it was discovered that unscrupulous contractors buried some crude empty coffins in the relocated graves to increase their profits.

In the aftermath of the war, Camp Douglas eventually came to be described as the North's "" for its poor conditions and death rate of between seventeen and twenty-three per cent, even though the death rate was lower than at Andersonville and its conditions were better. An exact accounting of the number of prisoner deaths at Camp Douglas is now impossible, but despite arguments for a higher number, the best estimates, which place the number of deaths at about 4,454 and the percentage of prisoners who died at the camp at about 17 percent, appear to be reasonably accurate.

Today, condominiums fill most of the site where Camp Douglas stood. For many years, the Griffin Funeral Home built on the site maintained prisoner records and a The African-American funeral home, located at 32nd and King Dr., was initially founded by Ernest Griffin who died in 1995. From then until the funeral home closed, it was being run by Alyce Griffin, who was 89 when the business closed December 31, 2007.

Located at: within Lake Meadows Park, 3117 S. Rhodes Ave., Chicago, IL

Hauntings: It was not long before the tales of Confederate ghosts on and around the former prison camp site started. People over the years have quite often reported screams of pain and cries of help coming from the area where the prison camp once stood. Many times over the years people have claimed to smell the horrible smell of bodies decaying in the area. The sound of men marching is quite often reported.

Today the Lake Meadows Condominiums are now located where the prison camp used to be and the tales of paranormal activity continue. People who now live at the Lake Meadows Condominiums claim to hear men talking inside their units and some have claimed to see the ghosts of men in ragged clothing. A one armed man dressed in a ragged confederate uniform has been seen inside the condos of several different residents. Over the years construction projects in the area have uncovered many graves of Confederate dead. And every time a grave is disturbed the level of paranormal activity goes up.

Equipment setup: A Command Center was set up along with four infrared cameras facing in different directions. A REM Epod was deployed near one of the excavation sites and Stan ran a wi-fi for an audio setup.

Experiments performed: EVP, ghost box and Ovilus X sessions were conducted at each of the excavation sites and near the command center where high infrasound readings were encountered.

The Ghost Research Society investigated Camp Douglas on May 5, 2013. Team members included: Stan Suho, Sandy Weber, Kathie Para, Jim Piscopo, George & Vaune Martens and Dale Kaczmarek, This event was sponsored and assembled by Len Dorman. 








Personal experiences:

George & Vaune Martens: The evening investigation was preceded by a presentation. George Levy author of To Die in Chicago gave a brief slide show and overview of the history of Camp Douglas. The following is copied from the book jacket: "The story of Camp Douglas is one of brutal guards, deliberate starvation of prisoners, neglect of the sick, sadistic torture, murder, corruption at all levels, and a beef scandal reaching into the White House. As a result of the overcrowding and substandard provisions, disease ran rampant and the mortality rate soared. By the thousands, prisoners needlessly died of pneumonia, smallpox, and other maladies. Most were buried in unmarked mass graves. The exact number of those who died is impossible to discern because of the Union 's haphazard recordkeeping and general disregard for the deceased. Among the most shocking revelations are such forms of torture as hanging prisoners by their thumbs, hanging them by their heels and then whipping them, and forcing prisoners to sit with their exposed buttocks in the ice and snow."  Mr. Levy concluded that given the history, the area should be rich with paranormal activity.  

The investigation site was a public park, boarder by a school to the north. Train tracks to the east. Apartments/Condo’s to the south and west. The park was closed to visitors after 9:00pm . The GRS set-up on the south-west side of the park near a tree with a small hole at its base.  In this location a trigger object had been set-up. The “Wooden Mule” was a torture device – simplistic in its design, pure evil in its results. A thin wooden plank was suspended across two saw horse like supports. The prisoners were sentenced to ride the wooden mule – straddling the thin plank for hours, usually with weights added to the legs. Many passed out and few were able to walk afterwards.  Near the trigger object was a small patch of ground – where an archeological dig resulted in the unearthing of some camp artifacts – belt buckles- buttons etc. A second dig site was west of this near the street side of the park. We set up my IR camera facing east across the first dig site. Two other cameras shot the same location one facing the north and the other facing west. Another monitoring station was setup further north in the field – facing south.  

The team began scanning the area with EMF devices. I used my K-II Meter and immediately, began getting high readings. Other members were having similar results. I began walking a grid. George marked off my steps – we eventually found the pattern following a line to a gas main that George found earlier. We also found cross lines every 10-20 feet. Unfortunately with so many “natural” readings, the EMF meters were of little use in this area. George also used his Cell Phone App to show all the available WiFi … The place was loaded with WiFi activity most likely from all the apartments and condos.  

The Team began an EVP session on the first dig site. Dale began by using the Ovilus. The battery drained almost immediately. Dale switched to the ghost box. The session didn’t seem to be having any paranormal activity, but a review of the recordings may prove otherwise. Dale switched out the batteries on the Ovilus and again they drained. Could this be an entity trying to manifest?  

The next EVP session was held on the second dig site. Dale began with the Ovilus. I seemed to work a bit better in this location.  We also used the Ghost Box in this location.  I did not take notes during the sessions so I’m not sure what responses occurred at with location, but one question was asked – Who is the president and the response was Jackson.  Another asked for a name and the answer was Rose – something. The readout on the Ovilus was fragmented – the Last name was too long to show on the screen. Again review of the recordings may shed more light.  

Sandy was using her FLIR (Thermal Imaging) device and noted a Cold Spot in front of the tree. I walked over to the area and moved around until I was near the spot she was seeing. I didn’t feel a cold spot, but a breeze area about waist high. The temperature was reading a 2 degree difference, but it was constant and at the same height throughout that location. I concluded that I was feeling a natural breeze way. I do not believe the natural breeze way, was what Sandy was picking up on the FLIR, because she was seeing a spot. And I was getting the -2 degree reading in a straight path about 10 feet long at waist height.  I do not know what the FLIR was picking up.  

We did one final EVP session on the other side of the tree. Dale had been getting some readings off the Belfry Bat Detector in this area.  Again we had some equipment issues. Sandy’s FLIR locked up.   I recorded this session and will update this report after reviewing the evidence.  

The evening’s investigation was not filled with over whelming personal experiences. The area was very noisy, lit by street lights, with lots of traffic and train noise. It will be difficult to review the audio, but I’m not so sure we didn’t have some activity. With all the equipment issues and the few obvious responses to EVP questions I look forward to the review to see if we do have any hard evidence. On a personal note I was very excited to be a part of the first ever investigation of Camp Douglas. The history of the camp was a surprise to me; I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and never heard of Camp Douglas, until Dale mentioned it as a possible investigation.  I do regret not talking with the people from the area. It would have been interesting to see if the people now living in homes built on parts of the Camp are having any sort of activity.  

Conclusion: Final conclusion pending review of evidence. I have one EVP session to review, the footage from the IR Camera and pictures from my digital camera. I forgot to mention that one of the equipment failures was my film camera I believe I have one photo, before it stopped working. I will send it in for development.     

EVP Session Camp Douglas : Last EVP Session –Under the Tree  

Unfortunately because we were outside in a public area I have to discount many of the sounds on the tape. I do have a few sighs on the tape that I have to discount as well. I’m pretty sure they are fellow GRS members, but you never know…..  Tossing that aside the only direct evidence comes from the Ovilus.  I’m not sure what to make of the session, initially I thought I really didn’t have any evidence, but then after reviewing it a second time I realized that we were getting responses to questions, even if the answers didn’t make sense. The timing of the response seems to be in line with the questions. A couple is relevant to the questions. Here is a brief summary:  

Now’s the time to talk to us…….. STIRRED (Ovilus)  

Do you have anything you want to tell us? ……. You hear static coming from Stan’s equipment on the table a few feet away.  

We are here tonight to try and make contact with you- Now’s the time…..The static gets louder

Is that you trying to tell us something……. DIGITAL (Ovilus)  

Can you tell us what you’re doing here...ALONG (Ovilus)  

Are you messing with Sandy’s FLIR...COMMUNICATE (Ovilus)  

We heard there were a lot of punishments at this camp, can you tell us about them…… TWO (Ovilus)


Can you please tell us your name….Rose Lin-----? (Ovilus) The Ovilus truncated the last name/word so we do not know what LIN stand for. Also I noticed that the Ovilus seemed to respond before or about the same time as the question was asked. Note: The word was Rose Line.  

Is that your wife...Are you a women or a child...Is your name Rose…. WED (Ovilus)  

Do you miss Your Wife...MAP (Ovilus) We all had copies of a Map of Camp Douglas.  

We ended the EVP session when Sandy’s FLIR showed a cold spot moving slowing in front of the tree.  

Video Evidence: IR Camera

After reviewing the tape we found no evidence of paranormal activity. The area was to public with traffic noise, people talking, and wind contaminating the audio. The visual is contaminated with street lights, people walking about and car lights throwing all kinds of shadows. The bunny hopping around in the background was cute, but not paranormal.  

Digital Pictures: Samsung

We found no evidence of paranormal activity on any of the photos.  

35MM Film Pictures: 35MM Cannon

We found no evidence of paranormal activity. The camera malfunctioned – the film never advanced.  

Conclusion: The investigation did not produce any major evidence of paranormal activity. However there seemed to be a few incidents that could point in that direction. The overwhelming equipment malfunctions throughout the evening- was this just a strange coincidence or was something trying to use the energy from the equipment to manifest?  The Ovilus during EVP sessions appears to be responding to questions, even though some of the responses were odd, the timing, lead us to believe they are response. The history of the area combined with the few incidents described above, makes it impossible to say –no there is no activity. George & I personally believe this investigation should be tagged as inconclusive, but feel that the Camp Douglas area warrants a second look, and would love to give it another try.


Kathie Para: I attended the first-ever paranormal investigation of this site with several members of our group. The location was once part of the 80 acre Army Camp Douglas that also housed several thousand Confederate prisoners of war during the civil war. The prisoners were treated so badly that some 4,000 died. Record keeping of these poor souls deaths were pretty much non-existent. The biggest area of the Camp Douglas site now houses condos, town homes and businesses. We investigated the Lake Meadows Park area where shadows are said to be seen.

We set up cameras in various locations. Other equipment used by the team included audio recorders, a flare camera, digital cameras, Melmeters, Ovilus and a ghost box. Throughout the night we had several malfunctions of our equipment such as batteries draining and cameras shutting off. Sandy’s FLIR camera would not allow her to take a picture while she was tracking something cold and circular. We could not find the source of this. She also could not turn the camera off no matter how she tried. There was also a trigger object placed in the area, a replica of the wooded “mule” that was used as a horrible punishment for the prisoners.

 We did EVP session is both of the excavation sites with some curious results. The ghost box seemed to give us the best results. There was also an area that had strange infrared readings that we chose for EVP session.

Being outdoors and in close proximity to Lake Shore Drive made for a lot of noise contamination. It was also windy during part of the night.

We did, however get some interesting evidence. Specifically for me, recordings I believe were communication through the ghost box and Ovilus.


Stan Suho: Well since this was the first time this place was investigated, we were eager to do it.  The weather held up for us (no rain) but it was a bit chilly. Since this wasn’t going to be a normal investigation, different techniques would be used. G.E.I.S.T. was not setup and there would be no cables running hither and yon. Instead a wireless TV link was setup using Stan's Cantennas to send the signals back to the makeshift command post.

This functioned fine until my Sony IR Camera started to act up. At the command post everything was recorded on a DVR and Laptop running Audacity.

When not busy at the command post I was walking around taking IR pictures of the EVP sessions. Since this was a City Park there was a certain amount of background light to deal with which decreased the effectiveness of the IR systems.


With a limited setup and shorter investigating time I had less media to review. Nothing showed up on any of my media. As usual we could have used more cameras and more crew to give us better coverage of the entire camp. A follow up investigation would be in order but during warmer months. I think the cold weather just saps the spirit out of everyone, both investigators and investigatees.


Jim Piscopo: The night started with a brief history by George Levy. After that we set up some equipment. I set up my night shot camera facing North West across the field. After 2 hours I moved the camera to face east across the field. We conducted a few EVP sessions during the night. I did not really experience anything during the investigation.


Sandy Weber: Date: May 4-5, 2013   Time: approximately 7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Investigator: Sandra Weber

Location: grounds of the former Camp Douglas, 3117 S. Rhodes Avenue, Chicago, IL

Weather: outside: low 40’s to upper 50’s, partly cloudy, dry, waning moon, somewhat dark except for lights in the park outside the area where we were stationed and lights in nearby homes/apartments

Other Investigators Present: Dale Kaczmarek, Stan Suho, Vaune Martens, George Martens, Kathie Para, Jim Piscopo

Equipment: Video camera set on night shot

                  EMF: (Tri-Field Natural EM Meter)

Thermometer: Infrared: FLIR


Phenomena witnessed by investigator


Time: Approximately 7:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. 


Before setting up, George Levy, author of To Die in Chicago, gave a presentation on Camp Douglas, consisting mainly of a slide show and question/answer session in a city park that covers much of the old camp site.  The presentation highlighted the poor record keeping at the prisoner of war camp which failed to account for the burial of a huge number of prisoners who died at the camp, mainly from disease in the overcrowded, unhealthy environment, in spite of efforts to improve sanitation.  

After the presentation we set up our equipment in an area that was part of the former parade grounds.  I set the Tri-Field Natural EM Meter on “electromagnetic” and took readings throughout the area.  Since the meter is very sensitive to movement, I held the meter at arm’s length and braced against my body, stopping every few paces to allow the needle to settle down before taking a reading.  I had one interesting spike to 4.0, which remained in that area for about 15 seconds but no further spikes.  Several more times throughout the investigation I repeated my measurements but found nothing above 0.5.  

I walked the area with my night shot camera, but even though I was using an ultraviolet/infrared light attachment, I found the video to be too dark to be of value.  

Most of my time was spent using the FLIR, particularly during EVP sessions, when I continually scanned a circle around the group gathered for the sessions.  At one point, Dale pointed to an area where he had a positive reading on the “ghost radar,” but I was unable to detect a difference in temperature in that area. I attempted to take photos with the FLIR but later in the investigation, the FLIR was unable to take photos due to the cold.  I do not think that the cold compromised my ability to read temperature differences with the FLIR because occasionally I detected a rabbit, sometimes two rabbits, at a distance of approximately 200 feet from the area where equipment was set up.  The rabbits never came close to us.  Actually, I found it odd that there were not more animals in the vicinity, given that we were set up in a park.  Since we were probably displacing wild animals from their nests or grazing/hunting areas, I would have expected more animals to be hovering near the periphery of the area we were investigating, waiting for us to leave.  However, I do not know enough about the numbers and habits of wild animals in the area to draw any conclusions.  

The area was quite noisy.  There were railroad tracks adjacent to the park, and a night crew was making repairs.  A noisy expressway (South Lake Shore Drive) and street (31st Street) were nearby.  Occasionally people walked past the park, and there were homes nearby.     

Final Record

Rolls of film used:  NA

Audio tapes used:   NA

Video tapes used:   NA

Number of Psychic Photos:  None

Number of EVP recorded:  NA

Phenomena captured in photos:  None

Summation:  I made no paranormal findings.  

Investigator initials: SJW


Evidence collected:  

Digital.MPG while conducting an EVP session near the Command Center, Stan’s wi-fi begins to act up and make noise. A question was asked, “Is that you trying to tell us something?” The Ovilus says, “Digital.”  

Fight.MPG a whispery voice is heard in the background saying, “Fight.”  

Got a problem.MPG right after I had numerous battery problems with the Ovilus, a Ghost Box session was attempted and the first phrase out of the Ghost Box was, “Got a problem.”  

It hurts.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, “It hurts” comes through.  

Jackson.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, a question was asked, “Who is the current president of the United States?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Jackson.”  

Prison camp.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, a question was asked, “Did you die here in this prison camp?” The Ghost Box responds with, “prison camp.”  

Rose Line.MPG while conducting on Ovilus session a question was asked, “Can you please tell us your name?” The Ovilus responds with, “Rose Line.”  

Sigh.MPG while conducting an EVP session near the Command Center, a question was asked, “Are you messing with Sandy’s FLIR?” A sigh is heard in the background.  

Sigh2.MPG Jim Piscopo’s static IR camera picks up what sounds like a sigh followed by the sound of grass crunching underfoot.  

Sweet.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, a comment made, “The war is long over.” The Ghost Box responds with, “Sweet!”  

United States.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, a question was asked, “Tell us who the President of the United States is right now?” The Ghost Box responds with, “United States.”  

Whispery voices.MPG whispery voices are heard in the background but they are hard to understand.  

Whistle.MPG Jim Piscopo’s static IR camera picks up the sound of someone whistling followed by a strange streak of light.  

Yeah.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session, a question was asked, “Anybody from the 14th Kentucky Calvary here tonight?” The Ghost Box instantly responds with, “Yeah.”  

Conclusions: I found this to be an interesting investigation on a somewhat chilly Chicago evening by the lakefront. The area to be investigated was actually quite small but claims were interesting and some of the responses from the Ghost Box seemed to indicate that those responding still believed that they were in the time period of the former prison camp. We did not get the chance to travel to the other locations like the site of the former barracks, latrines or the smallpox hospital due to not wanting to leave our equipment completely unattended and we weren’t informed that the group was leaving. Interesting equipment hits included high infrasound readings, inexplicable FLIR contacts and other EMF fluctuations.

I believe that many people nearby are probably experiencing some form of paranormal phenomena from the old prison camp whether they be living in the nearby apartments or just drive-by or drop-in friends. Those who died and suffered there probably still haven’t moved on or are emotionally attached or earthbound to this location to this day. 

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