brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I’m tired but can’t get to sleep.

I hate having insomnia.

I did, however, seize this chance to write a new Secret Chicago piece, so check it out.

I’m also working on an essay for a contest. It’s 1500 words, completing the thought “I never thought I’d…”

My first thought was “I never thought I’d utter the words “Don’t eat that, it’s no longer food!” ” and then talk about being a parent of a toddler. Then I thought that might be too trite and not inspiring enough, so I’m going to write about how I never thought I’d enjoy math but I had a (female) teacher who didn’t assume I couldn’t do math because I have a vagina, and who encouraged me to tutor other students in Geometry, and now I’m an adult and am tutoring other adult women in basic math so they can get their GEDs, go to college, improve their lives, etc and for the first time in their lives they feel that they CAN do math, they CAN understand it, they CAN use it… that they are smart and can get math things done even though they are lady-types and lady-types suck at math. Math is beautiful and elegant and I wish teachers had SHOWED ME that as a kid.

I might write the “no longer food” essay anyway and post it online someplace.

036 Black Cat

Thursday, 17 December 2009 14:25
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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There’s a small elementary school not far from Balmoral Race Track, in the distant South Suburbs of Chicago, not far from Indiana. Near that school was an abandoned church, which was torn down in the late 1990s after a series of disturbing events.

During the late 1980s and very early 1990s, locals were very disturbed to find cats nailed to the door of the church on what seemed to be random dates. Concerned parents set themselves up in deer blinds to try and catch the perpetrator or perpetrators, however no one was ever caught in the act. Further, nobody in the vicinity ever reported their pets going missing, leading some to deduce that the perpetrators were either using barn cats or feral cats (tricky animals to catch), or else importing cats from miles away.

Parents and teachers admonished local children about witchcraft and satanism, warned them to stay away from grave yards and strangers, and chalked the proceedings up as an unsolved mystery.

One bright autumn morning in 1991, two teens walking through the woods found a wallet. Opening it, they found no ID or credit cards, but they did find money and condom still in its wrapper. One of the pair took out the money and then pocketed the wallet, resolving to turn it in to the cops after their walk– a walk that was interrupted by them tripping over what turned out to be the nude, half-eaten corpse of a young man. Most of his face was gone, as were his hands, making indentifcation difficult. The forensic examiner determined that the majority of bite marks on him were feline in nature, but was unable to determine cause of death. No more cats were found nailed to the church door, and it stood abandoned until it began listing to one side, under the effects of winter and neglect.

It took a while to resolve ownership of the building, but it was condemned and torn down. The small cemetery attached to it remains, and continues to be a local hang out for teens escaping parental supervision.

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035 Organ

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 10:11
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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The stretch of houses on St. Louis between Lawrence and the River is primarily brick two and three flats. One of these, a dark red brick two flat with the front porch converted to an enclosed sun room, and blown roses leaning limply against the iron fence, is frequently host to odd music. Passers by notice this music at random hours of the day and early evening, rarely at night. It sounds like a polka played one and a half times normal speed, on an organ. Nobody in the neighborhood plays the organ, and although pedestrians and neighbors pinpoint the music’s location consistently as being this particular house, those within the house claim never to hear it while indoors.

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brigid: (Default)

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I’m cutting back Secret Chicago updates to twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I just couldn’t maintain an every day schedule… the ideas clogged up in my brain arteries. The habit of writing at least 100 words every day was a good one, though, and one that I need to continue.

Does anyone have suggestions for short story publications, especially horror, that I can submit actual short stories to? I’ve been doing research on my own, but do you have a favorite magazine or webzine that you read or submit to? If so, please comment with links/info.

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brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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In 1988, a Russian vessel mistakenly emptied its bilge into Lake St. Claire. The living contents of that bilge water migrated through the great lakes, some of it ending up in Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Every few summers since then, residents of Chicago notice that the water, which comes from the Lake, tastes odd. Some describe it as “greenish” tasting, or “almost grassy.” The City issues bulletins and news casters make announcements. The water is safe to drink, the water is perfectly fine. There is simply an overgrowth of zebra mussels, which affects the water’s taste but nothing more.

While zebra mussels are an invasive species that have fundamentally changed the nature of the lake, and while they do have life cycles that rise and fall, it is not the zebra mussels that change the taste of the water.

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033 CTA

Thursday, 3 December 2009 17:03
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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It is somewhat surprising, perhaps, that despite the large number of deaths due to accident, murder, and suicide, that the CTA trains are not thickly haunted. Some theorize that the electrified third rail keeps spirits at bay, the live electricity having the same effect running water is said to have on supernatural entities.

Buses, however, are a different matter.

Henry Collins had the night route for the 92 Foster bus. It was a nice night, clear and calm, and ridership was low. He was heading westbound when he pulled over for someone waiting at Pulaski. The passenger boarded the bus, a girl “about 11 or 12 years old,” wearing a red pea coat, dark grey pleated skirt and knee socks, black shoes, and no hat. She laughed and dashed down the aisle, ignoring his “fare, miss.” and taking a seat at the back of the bus. Mr. Collins, a large man, stood up and went down the aisle after her. She startled visibly as he approached her, and to his utter amazement, vanished.

Although he kept his eyes open, Mr. Collins never saw his ghostly rider again on the Foster route.

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032 Knock

Wednesday, 2 December 2009 14:31
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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The unseen preys most heavily on those who are alone: those who are alone for the night, and those who spend their lives alone. Prey animals are most vulnerable when separated from the rest of the herd, after all.

When alone, one might barely hear a soft knock at the door. The sound is so faint that one will pause and listen again. It is odd, how so faint a sound can carry through whatever else one is doing. The knock will come again, weak, slightly louder. There may be a compulsion to check the door, to check the lock, to check the chain. There may be a compulsion to open the door and see what brushes against it.

Do not open the door.

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brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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It is not common, on dark lonely nights, to see the family dog rise suddenly and advance towards an otherwise innocuous spot, hackles raised and growling. Perhaps it is a closet door, a closed door on an empty bedroom, a spot on the wall, the dining room. It is of the utmost importance to pay attention to these occurrences, and to act. Invite a priest into the home to cleanse and bless it. Keep the home well lit. Do not stay there alone, but invite loved ones to spend time with you.

Conversely, a cat acting the same way can safely be ignored.

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y halo thr

Monday, 30 November 2009 16:42
brigid: (Default)

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I missed some Secret Chicago posts, so I went and posted a lump of them. I was going to backdate them and pretend that nothing had happened, but then I got lazy. Hurrr.

I’m going to try and work on a buffer so this doesn’t happen again. I considered easing back on daily posts for Secret Chicago, but then decided that I need the exercise and the discipline so I’m going to try and keep doing it.

In other news, we’re still unpacking (but finally have a kitchen that looks like a kitchen), we have a baby who thinks sleep is for loser assholes tyvm, and the cookies I made for Thanksgiving were a super huge hit.

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030 Laurel

Monday, 30 November 2009 16:39
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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In late November of 1941, Myrna Mitchell finished feeding her 8 month old son, Laurel, breakfast. She left him in his high chair with an arrowroot teething biscuit and a spoon “to keep him occupied” while she went into the kitchen to wash up from breakfast. Halfway through her last load, she heard a small sound. She turned the water off, and heard Larry laughing and jabbering to himself. She went back to her dish washing, wiped down the counters, and swept the floor.

When she returned to the dining room, she found a gnawed-on, still damp teething biscuit on the floor next to the high chair. His bib had been removed and placed on the seat of the high chair. The child was gone.

Myrna called the police, who found all the windows closed and the front and back doors both locked. No one in the neighborhood had seen any strangers in the area at the time of the abduction. No ransom note was forthcoming.

One sensationalist newspaper reported that a strange foot print was found beneath one of the dining room windows, and that it was shaped like a goat hoof. It’s true that a foot print was found, and casts were made of it. The police report denotes it as a shoe print, although the cast has been lost.

In December of 1941, one month after Larry’s disappearance, Myrna thought she heard a child’s voice over the speaking tube leading up from the lobby of the two flat she and her husband lived in. She ran downstairs, finding no child. The spoon Larry had been playing with was neatly laid on the bottom step, however; shining gently. Snow had fallen a few hours previously and not yet been cleared away. There were no foot prints.

In January of 1942, again on the anniversary of the child’s disappearance, Myrna discovered the shoes and romper he had been wearing stuffed into the mailbox.

In February, on that fateful date, Myrna discovered a small white envelope slipped in the morning newspaper. It contained a lock of Larry’s hair.

In March, near what would have been his first birthday, Myrna received a package in the mail; it was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, and had no return address. Herbert Mitchell, her husband, reports that she went very pale upon receiving it and rushed out of the house. She was later found dead in an alley. The package was never recovered; neither was Larry’s body.

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029 Father

Monday, 30 November 2009 16:38
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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One of the most well known ghosts in Chicago, or the world, the apparition known as “Resurrection Mary” has frequently been seen in dance halls and along road sides. People, primarily men, have reported dancing with her, speaking with her, and giving her a lift “home,” although she invariably vanishes from the car before any destination has been reached. “Mary,” who most likely died, young, in a car crash, seems desperate to reach “home,” which more and more seems to be the cometary she is buried in.

Less well known is an apparition that seems to be an adult male. Descriptions of him and “Mary” share common features: hair color, nose shape, a curl to the lip. He is seen on nights when “Mary” is active, pacing along the iron fence of Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue, or standing near the main gates. He acts much like a father, waiting up for his child who has missed curfew; or a pimp waiting for one of his prodigal hookers to return with his money.

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brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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There is a ring that floats from thrift store to resale shop to antique store, made of iron, with an amethyst intaglio about the size of a quarter. The intaglio, or cameo, is not a crisp carving. The edges are soft, blurred. However, it seems to depict a woman from the bust up. She has a complicated hair style and her hand, visible near her chest, holds a bundle of something… reeds, perhaps, or arrows.

One who obtains this ring, by purchase, trade, or theft, may wash it in a mixture of almond oil and rose water on the 1st or the 8th of the month. Applying this mixture of almond oil and rose water to the eyes will result in prophetic dreams.

The ring will soon slip away from its owner, to find someone else.

It is rumored that should the intaglio be removed from the iron setting, it will become much stronger, and possible to take permanent possession of it.

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027 Bakery

Monday, 30 November 2009 16:37
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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There is a bakery in Albany Park, nestled between a linen store and a children’s clothing store. It has a closed sign hanging in the door, but the lights are on. If you try the door, you’ll find it unlocked and will be able to enter.

The baked goods are reason enough to visit this particular bakery: the eclairs and cream puffs are excellent, as are the red bean buns and slices of tres leches cake. The real draw, however, is “the special.” It is not advertised in any way, and you must wait at the counter for someone to come out from the back room. After asking for it, they will retreat to the back and stay there for five or ten minutes. When they come out again, they will hand you a small white box tied with string and name a price. Do not open the box in the bakery.

The box contains a tart, slightly smaller than the palm of your hand. The crust is buttery and contains ground nuts. The filling seems to be chopped red seeded grapes in a thick, overly sweet sauce. Eat the entire tart. You may need a glass of water to rinse the sweetness out of your mouth.

After eating the tart, any chronic illness will be alleviated or healed. However, once the tart has been eaten, you will find yourself filled with the longing for a child. You will find that you have been rendered entirely sterile, however, and unable to conceive or cause conception.

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Son Of God

Thursday, 26 November 2009 22:24
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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There is a man with shoulder-length tangled hair who dresses in a white robe and a red sash, bearing a large wooden cross over his shoulder, who rides the CTA. He is most active during the morning commute, transferring at various stations down town, being visible. Most people ignore him, or surreptitiously take photographs to post online.

He believes he is Jesus, and preaches compassion and mercy.

Coincidentally, he is a direct descendant of Jesus’ youngest son, born to Jesus and his wife.

He does not know this.

It does not make him any less insane.

It does not make his message any less vital.

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025 TV Lives

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 12:17
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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In 1996, four students at Chicago University who were working together on a paper for a European History class, discovered that they had all been having the same recurring dream since childhood.

In the dream, they all have various jobs (cook, stable boy, ale wench) at a Medieval-feeling inn. Each disclosed details the others remembered, vivid details about people and clothing and smells. In the dream, they relive the same day over and over again. In the dream, an otherwise ordinary night is marred by the murder of everyone at the Inn.

They decided they had all seen the same television show or movie, as children, and details had lodged in their brains. They could not, however, determine what that television show was.

Each student died of violence before the age of 35.

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024 Headstone

Tuesday, 24 November 2009 11:48
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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There is a vacant lot in Jefferson Park within easy walking distance of the train station. The area around it is entirely built up, but the lot is empty save for a large boulder near the middle.

Efforts, of course, were made to clear the lot and build there. When workers returned to the job site the morning after moving the boulder, however, they found it in its original position. Figuring at first that local youths were playing pranks, the boulder was removed from the work site entirely. As it had in the past, however, the boulder found its way home.

It is common knowledge among children in the area that the boulder marks the grave of an Indian Warrior. His ghost is disturbed when the boulder is moved, and he brings it back each night.

Of course, Aboriginal Peoples in the area did not bury their dead and mark the graves with boulders as headstones, leading to the question of what, exactly, the boulder marks.

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brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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Congestion of the head and chest is a common complaint in the Mid West, in the winter. There is a little known but very effective, if slightly difficult, cure.

One must catch a fish from the River and bring it, still alive, to the afflicted person. At this point, the afflicted person must exhale three times into the fish’s open mouth.

The fish, still living, must then be cast back into the River it was caught in.

Purchasing a fish, as from a pet store, will not affect a cure.

There was once a small frog native to the area that, when held in the mouth for half a minute, would affect a more complete cure. However, that species is now extinct.

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022 Vermin

Sunday, 22 November 2009 11:50
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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Chicago is a city of large, old buildings. Large, old buildings attract various vermin.

To rid your pantry of cockroaches, the following are effective:
1) lay a fine, powdery coating of boric acid along cracks, corners, and crevices
2) crumble several dried bay leaves in a bit of nylon to create a sachet, and leave them scattered in cabinets and drawers
3) wash your counters and floor down with a mixture of hot water, dish soap, and bleach

To keep moths at bay, mothballs do work well.

To rid your home of the scent of mothballs, lay out wide, shallow dishes of coffee grounds to absorb the odor.

To evict a ghost from a room, remove all furniture from the room and wash every bit of the room with hot, soapy water– including the ceiling, walls, windows, and closet. Paint the entire room white, and open wide all windows to let in fresh air and light. Then bring in lamps and light the room entirely, so that no shadows persist in any corner. Close the door, and leave the lights on for three days with the window still open.

At the end of this time, the ghost should be gone from the room.

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021 Footprint

Saturday, 21 November 2009 11:48
brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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At the same time the White City glittered and glimmered along the Lakefront, promising a bright future of electric lights, clean water, and a police force that prevented crime instead of chasing it after the fact, the man known as H H Holmes was firmly ensconced in his “castle,” murdering women with whom he’d had sexual affairs. Every light has a source of darkness, after all.

After his capture and arrest, investigators found a single, perfect footprint etched in the enamel of his incinerator door. They surmised that he had coated the floor with acid, and one victim had gotten that acid on her feet, burning her footprint into the door as she tried futilely to kick her way free. The City tore down the building in 1938, and erected a large post office on the site. As with most government buildings of the era, it has a bomb shelter in the basement.

The door to the bomb shelter is marked with a clear, perfect, dainty footprint.

The door has been replaced twice.

The footprint reappears.

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brigid: B&W photo of Chicago skyscrapers against a broody sky (secret_chicago)

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In folklore, when a baby smiles in its sleep that means an angel is near.

In actuality, when a baby smiles in its sleep it’s usually something far more prosaic: a bit of gas or a pleasant dream.

However, when a baby smiles while awake and begins looking about the room with such conviction that others look as well, and see nothing? That is the baby seeing the unseen. Something is definitely near. It is probably not an angel.

Should adults in the room become unusually chilled, it may be wise to take steps immediately to evict whatever presence is there.

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