Fort Sheridan Investigation

The GRS was the first and only group to ever investigate this location.

History: This former Army base which has been shut down and is due to be divided into a half-park half-cemetery was established in 1872 and has trained American soldiers for service in the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II.  The fort used to occupy 729 acres on a high wooded bluff overlooking Lake Michigan .  But it has met its final fate due to defense budget cuts. The main fort was officially closed by the Army on May 3, 1993, the majority of the property was sold by the Department of Defense to commercial land developers.




Address: 42°12′45″N 87°48′38″W in Highwood, Illinois 60040




Hauntings: Peggy Flanigan who was the fort’s most informed storyteller, unofficial historian and public relations director has seen the most famous ghost at Fort Sheridan , the “Lady in Orange ”.  She has materialized in front of startled mess hall workers and Peggy herself had a very scary encounter.

“My most frightening experience was in the old officer’s mess, where staff have reported glimpsing the ‘Lady in Orange ’ - a figure of a lady who appeared to be dressed in bright orange.

“Once, I stayed there overnight.  At dawn, as I was getting ready to leave, I was suddenly overcome by an immense feeling of foreboding and the room turned ice cold.

“I made a dash for the door.  Suddenly the lights went out.  I crawled down the stairs in the pitch-black, feeling my way to the cellar, and escaped out a cellar door.

“A few weeks later I escorted a respected psychic into the mess hall.  She’d been given no details about previous happenings but after a few minutes told me: ‘I see a woman, her dress is very bright, possibly orange...she looks a little like Mamie Eisenhower...she is the wife of a senior officer, possibly a general...’

“As we were leaving, I caught a flash of something orange out of the corner of my eye like a wisp of orange in the air.”  Additional research by Flanigan did yield some photographs and one of the women looks a great deal like Mamie Eisenhower!

Flanigan discovered that sometime in the 1950's or 1960's, a general’s wife used to come to the dining room on a daily basis, talking to cooks, giving orders and drinking martinis.  She died and was buried in the post cemetery, directly across from the clubhouse.  Perhaps she became so fond of the clubhouse, she couldn’t stay away.   Perhaps she still wants to be the one thing in charge of the clubhouse kitchen.

In December 1977, official Army photographer Eric Lundahl of the Army Training Aid Services Center shot a bunch of photographs around Christmas at the base.  When the film was developed, he discovered a ghostly figure of a man standing by the side of the road.  There was nobody there when the picture was taken and he is at a loss for an explanation.

Military Police Officers have occasionally reported an unauthorized entry into the hospital cellar of a person described as a stocky man.  After repeated searches, he was nowhere to be found.  Other soldiers have heard footsteps inside locked barracks even though they were empty at the time.  Still other soldiers complained about being awakened by what sounded like German babbling.

A retired custodian used to tell people that a soldier dressed in Civil War garb would appear occasionally at the foot of the basement stairs.  According to legend, there was a young man killed in an accident in the building’s basement when the sewer system was being constructed.

During a 1974 production of Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Frank Conway, theater director, claimed a poltergeist began misplacing props during the performances.  The prop person put a back-scratcher and towel in place before a scene, but when the actors went to use them they were gone.

The lighting director said that light bulbs were constantly blowing out as fast as he could replace them for a time.  A light bulb would burn out, he would climb a ladder to replace it and as soon as he reached the stage floor, another one would go out.  The cast assumed the ghost lived in the building and affectionately named him “George Spelvin” as an inside joke.  Actors use that name in the production credits when they wish to remain anonymous.

A figure of woman, dressed like a nurse, occasionally appeared in the window of the top floor of Building 1.  An officer and his wife reported seeing an old blacksmith wander into their house on the post one day while they were watching television.  A Fort Sheridan maintenance man is also said to appear in certain buildings.  He was fatally shot by accident during World War II.

A former clubhouse manager said that in the early morning hours, he often had the feeling that someone was behind him.  Another officer, who perhaps was not liked by the ghost, could never make it from the kitchen to his office without his hot cup of coffee turning ice cold while other officers’ coffee stayed warm.  A bartender in one of the clubhouse lounges said she felt a presence after the last customer had gone in the wee hours of the morning.

 Flanigan said she and a friend visited the clubhouse dining room one morning around three AM.  Since the building was warm when they walked inside, they removed their sweaters and slowly walked into the kitchen.  Suddenly the entire room grew bitterly cold.  They felt a clammy force in the room and ran out of the building terrified.

The Ghost Research Society investigated Fort Sheridan on July 20, 1984. Team members included: Stephanie Willis and Dale Kaczmarek with help from Pat Shenberg of the Illinois Society for Psychic Research and PR Director Peggy Flanigan.









Personal experiences: I had the opportunity of meeting Peggy Flanigan in person with psychic Patricia Shenberg during an all-night investigation of the fort.  We gained entry into any and all buildings that we were interested in but limited our searches to the clubhouse, officer’s mess, fort hospital, an enlisted men’s barrack and the post cemetery.

Patricia sensed quite a number of interesting entities especially a Puerto Rican enlisted man who was very angry that he had to leave this earth ahead of schedule.  The post hospital was a very sad and distressing place so we didn’t spend much time there.  Our main focus after a brief visit to the post cemetery was the clubhouse where much of the phenomenon was centered including reports of the “Lady in Orange ”.

While sitting in total darkness in the clubhouse lounge, several members of our group did begin to see small swirling circles of orange a few inches below the ceiling.  They lasted for only a few moments though.  I then decided that we should split up in an attempt to try to cover as much of the clubhouse that we could at one time.  I took the downstairs.

While I was walking around and being a quiet as possible in the darkened basement, I suddenly heard such a loud commotion that I almost jumped out of my skin.  It was coming from the next closed room a few feet away and sounded like someone or something was throwing around metal pots and pans!  Now imagine yourself walking alone in a dark and unfamiliar location by yourself when you suddenly hear a loud noise just a few yards away.  It was definitely unnerving. 

I cautiously approached the door and with all the courage I could muster at the time. Quickly, and in one jerk, I yanked open the door expecting to see a total mess of cooking utensils inside.  To my utter surprise, there was nothing out of place!  The room was in fact a storeroom for stainless steel pots and pans but not a single one was thrown on the floor.  I was at a lack to explain this.  I closed the door, found a nearby chair and positioned it directly next to the door.  There I sat for thirty minutes or so with my hand on the doorknob waiting for a repeat performance.  Of course, no encore was to take place.

My fellow investigators were fairing well upstairs as well.  They had heard the sounds of footsteps and followed them to a room with no other way in or out.  The footsteps just disappeared into the solid wall!

We retired to the lounge again to await further happenings and during our wait Peggy informed us that if we stayed around until a little after 6 AM, we might see the phantom cook which had been reported numerous times coming up the back steps into the clubhouse.  Needless to say, we waited but no culinary ghost was observed.  We left a little after 7 AM with a greater appreciation of the many ghosts that so many people had seen at Fort Sheridan throughout the years.  Now that it’s no longer a fort, it will be interesting to see if the ghosts remain or relocate elsewhere.

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