Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

800 S. Halsted St.

Chicago, IL.  60607-7017



In her book, Twenty Years at Hull House, the late Jane Addams (1860-1935) wrote: “Another Sunday afternoon in the early spring (of 1889), on the way to a Bohemian mission in the carriage of one of its founders, we passed a fine old house standing well back from the street, surrounded on three sides by a broad piazza which was supported by wooden pillars of exceptionally pure Corinthian design and proportion.  I was so attracted by the house that I set forth to visit it the very next day, but though I searched for it then and for several days after, I could not find it, and at length I most reluctantly gave up the search.”

Later accompanied by Miss Ellen Gates Starr, they succeeded in finding “the fine old house” and established Hull House.  The house was built in 1856 by Charles J. Hull (1820-1889), an early real estate promoter who did much to develop the west side of Chicago.  Soon after Hull moved into this residence, his wife died and left him with two small children.  Before passing away she asked her husband’s cousin, Miss Helen Culver, (1832-1925), to give up her teaching job and move to Hull House to care for the children.  This she did and raised the children until the Civil War broke out. Some believe that the ghost of Mrs. Hull may still be present in the room that she passed, occasionally rocking back and forth in a rocking chair.

During the war, she became a field nurse and after the war returned to the residence to care for the children.  Here she nursed them during illnesses, which finally caused their deaths in 1866 and 1874.  Eventually she inherited his fortune and donated the mansion.  She is buried in Rosehill Cemetery.

In 1868 Hull closed his residence and moved to another part of the city.  Vacant and deserted, the house someone survived the great Chicago fire of 1871.  The city grew around it, immigrants came and soon the neighborhood was a crowded tenement section.  It had a half-skeptical reputation for a haunted attic, so far respected by the tenants living on the second floor that they always kept a large pitcher full of water on the attic stairs.  Their explanation of this custom was a survival of the belief that a ghost could not cross running water.

The mansion was taken over by the Little Sisters of the Poor and used for a while as a home for the elderly.  Then it became a secondhand furniture store and when Ms. Addams saw it that Sunday afternoon, it was being used as an office and storeroom for a factory that had been built at the rear.

Mrs. Louise Bowen was a life-long friend of Jane Addams.  Allegedly mysterious figures occupied their bedchamber on the second floor.  Canon Barnett and his wife had restless evenings there, as did both Jane and Mary Smith who claimed to have seen a woman in white who glided away and passed through a locked door.

Some girls preparing for a Christmas play reported seeing a lady in white sitting on a box and looking at them.  That was the last reported appearance of the figure.  These stories come directly from Jane Addams book Second Twenty Years at Hull House.

Mrs. Bowen stated that on at least three separate occasions she put out fires that started in an upstairs room from no apparent origin.  The fires would not scorch or singe anything nearby and sometimes go out by themselves almost as though a pyrokinetic poltergeist was at work.  Jane turned that room in a storeroom and then a dressing room for the Hull House Theater.

In that same room on the southeast corner of the building the curtains never want to stay closed and reports of shadowy monk-like figures have periodically been observed peering out from deep inside the room.  The building is completely locked up at night with only campus security on patrol around the outside.  These monks are completely without any natural explanation.

In the spring of 1985 a woman named Stuart saw the shutters of the north windows flapping by themselves as though some unseen person was moving them back and forth.

In the fall of 1979 during a visit to Hull House, this author photographed four distinct shadowy monk-like figures standing on the interior staircase leading up to the second floor.  The figures are semi-transparent because you can see the stairs through their bodies!  The figure directly in the center actually appears to be shrouded in monk’s habit and its two hands are locked together in prayer.  These figures were invisible to the naked eye and only captured with a 35mm camera that was equipped with black and white infrared film.

There have been reports of a strange night watchman often seen sitting in a chair in the rear of the building at night.  He was observed smoking a pipe and reading a newspaper. The only problem with this story is, again, there isn’t anyone in that building after regular business hours.  This strange figure was reported by a group of about five people on an Excursions Into The Unknown, Inc. tours.  Of course, we immediately rushed around to see this strange figure and when we arrived there moments later, not only was the figure gone but the chair he was sitting in had vanished as well, however the smell of cherry pipe tobacco was strong in the area!

Perhaps the most fascinating and fanciful story connected with Hull House happened around the turn of the century and was reported by Ben Hecht (1893-1964) a famous Herald Examiner reporter.  It seems that rumors began to circulate a woman living at Hull House had given birth to what might be best described as a Devil’s Child.  An infant with cloven hooves for feet, horns on its head and a small tail.  According to Hecht, every lead that he ran down brought him right back to Hull House.  Jane Addams actually devoted over forty pages of her autobiography Second Twenty Years at Hull House to try to dispel some of the rumors.

Seems that people came to the house demanding the Ms. Addams bring out that strange baby and mother while others mildly asked to see this strange incarnation or offered to buy an admission.  No baby was ever discovered and eventually the story just died away.

Jane Addams died in Chicago on May 21, 1935.  Her legacy and the work she accomplished survive to this day, and so do the many spooky tales!  If you ever have a chance to visit this most haunted museum in Chicago, please be sure to bring along a camera.  The building is extremely photogenic and many people have captured something quite strange on the film.  Perhaps you will take the next ghost photographed at Hull House!



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