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Old Cook County Courthouse (21)
Feb17
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Tours & Attractions

Walking Tour: Haunted by Our Dark Side


The rise in popularity of true crime TV shows tells us something: we are fascinated — morbidly fascinated — by true stories of death and disaster. What is it in us that makes us seek out the darker side of humanity? Why do we feel compelled to learn about the villains among us? What attracts us to stories of suffering, and how do we process this as part of our history?

This tour explores a worldwide phenomenon called “Dark Tourism” — the growing field of interest in visiting sites of death and tragedy. On this 2-hour walking tour, we will cover the real stories behind some of Chicago’s darkest characters, like rival gangsters shooting each other in front of a church where they had just prayed, and psychopaths who went about life as if nothing had happened after murdering innocent people. We will talk about the origins of ghost stories, and the present-day hauntings of certain buildings in downtown Chicago. Do people actually see specters? Or do they just feel weird in a space because it lacks right angles? We’ll talk about how places can unfairly get labeled as “haunted” simply because of their eccentric design.

Covering just under 2 miles on foot (a mile at a leisurely pace is ~20 minutes), we’ll explore a few interiors where ghosts have made their presence known, and where gangsters welcomed fellow criminals as they ran the city. We’ll visit places that remind us of the real-life tragedies that stain Chicago’s storied past, from the Haymarket Affair to the Iroquois Fire to the Eastland Disaster. Our world-famous city has its beautiful side, which you can see on any of our interior architecture tours. But this tour explores the other side — the dark side. Come join us.


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