LOGAN SQUARE — Not scared of ghosts? Then take a stroll on the Bloomingdale Trail this fall and listen to tales of Chicagoans’ encounters with the phantom world.
Ghosts on the Bloomingdale Trail is a self-guided listening experience with 15 “ghost train stops” along the popular former train line turned trail, also known as The 606.
Each stop has a QR code visitors can scan on their phones to hear a roughly three-minute audio narration of a ghost story experienced by a Chicagoan. Transcripts of the stories are available at each stop.
The listening experience is free and wheelchair accessible, located along the trail between St. Louis Avenue and Humboldt Avenue It will run until Nov. 15.
Coya Paz Brownrigg, artistic director at Free Street Theater and interim dean of the Theatre School at DePaul University, selected the ghost stories for the project.
“All the stories are real Chicago ghost stories in that a Chicago resident told me that ghost story,” Brownrigg said.
Some stories are told by residents who encountered the ghost themselves. Other stories are performed by Free Street Theater artists who read a transcript of the story — perhaps because the owner of the ghost story wants to stay anonymous, Brownrigg said.
Audio engineering was done by Lucy Saldana, founder of Radio Luzifer, a bilingual Chicago podcast about the supernatural.
“We recorded the audio in a way that it would sound like a phone call,” Brownrigg said. “We really wanted it to sound like you were calling a friend and hearing the story.”
Each “ghost train stop” was designed by artists at Chicago Mobile Makers, a Humboldt Park based nonprofit that develops design skills and thinking for youth.
Brownrigg has collected hundreds of ghost stories over the last five years. She directed Free Street Theater’s 2016 play, “100 Hauntings,” which was based on ghost stories told by over 400 Chicago residents.
None of the stories contain adult content, but they do range in tone. Brownrigg enlisted the help of her 12-year-old daughter, Ida, who listened to all the stories to make sure they wouldn’t be too scary for kids. If they were, the stories were marked with a content warning.
Ben Helphand, president of the board of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, knew he wanted to do something spooky on The 606 in the spirit of Halloween and el Día de los Muertos.
“If the Bloomingdale Trail could talk it would have a century of stories to share, some of them rather spooky,” Helphand said in a statement.
Ghost stories can mean different things to different people. Some ghost stories are a way for communities to keep the memory of an event alive, whether good or bad. Others are just about a weird feeling someone gets in their kitchen alone at night, said Brownrigg.
“Ghost stories have a lot to do with how we feel about the spaces we’re in. Whether or not the ghost story is real,” isn’t as important, Brownrigg said. What matters is that “real things are hidden in the ghost story.”
Free Street Theater and Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail are always looking for ghost stories and spooky tales from Chicagoans, whether it be for another ghost stories event or next year’s Ghosts on the Bloomingdale Trail. Submit your story here.
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