Sunday, October 24, 2010

I LIVED IN THIS HOUSE (and a Halloween Story)

for about 6 months or so. This is the side view and here's the front of the house -
That was 30 years ago (?)
WOW! that just flew by, I mean it doesn't feel like yesterday but THIRTY years...
I digress.
It's the Looney Mansion as in John Looney, the gangster.
It had changed hands a few times and then was divided up into little "apartments".
My apartment was actually more of a "room". I had a teeny tiny oven with a flickering pilot light that I watched constantly and 2 little burners on top. My refrigerator was a little compact one and my bed was a Murphy bed. If you are not familiar with Murphy beds, those are the ones were you open up a closet and pull the bed down and out.
30 years ago... I thought it was SO COOL!!!
I remember my Dad and step-Mom stopping by to see it when I first moved in and later I would hear that my father was just MORTIFIED. Back then I was so young and NAIVE. I swear, I believed absolutely EVERYTHING anyone told me. I believed all people were honest and trustworthy and meant me no harm. So that was why I wasn't alarmed that a fire escape came directly up to my window and the window wouldn't lock.
This photo shows a close-up view. My window is the one on the second floor on the left next to the balcony. The fire-escape has been removed but it used to come up the side of the house with a landing in front of my window.  There was also a small iron ladder hanging from the side of the balcony, so that a person could escape down to the landing.
Usually I had to park on the side street so I would enter in the far back door at the side of the house and walk down a hallway into the huge foyer and go up the ornate carved curved stairway to the second floor and down the hall to my room. The landlady lived in the room opposite the foyer and she told me the reason that she had her door standing open most of the time, was because that way she could sit on her sofa and watch her "stories" and also watch whoever came in the front door by looking above the TV set into the huge mirror above it.
She also had said that all the rooms were rented....but I never saw a single person, other than her, the entire time I lived there. Oh sure, sometimes I would see a door crack open for a moment and then close but I was too busy sprinting down the halls and running up the stairs to stop and see a face.

I also had to share a bathroom and only ONCE did I have to wait for someone to get out of there. I waited inside my room next to my door until I heard the bathroom door open and close and another door close down the hallway. Then I grabbed my bucket and ran. I had a bucket full of cleaning supplies and I would scour out the clawfoot tub that looked clean already before using it. Thankfully, I wasn't home much in those days. I worked a full time job at a bank and most evenings worked at a popular bar & grill. Off hours were spent out with friends or at Diamond Gym's (yes! I actually worked out!)
or at the Family Y swimming. I remember swimming laps with the senior citizens before going to work at the bank in the mornings and I liked the Y because I could take showers there!
I recently watched the HBO series True Blood (just the first season so far) and I found myself thinking back to those days and my life back then, The character of Sookie Stackhouse reminded me of myself so much.
She's young, naive, fit and blond. She is so trusting of everyone and everyone is in love with her. When I was her age, I also had boys and men proclaiming their love and I would just giggle. I was so critical of myself that I always thought they had to be kidding. How could they possible ADORE me? Inside I felt like the chubby outcast grade schooler that I had been. Just like the HBO show, my manager at the bar was always telling me how much he loved me and one of the elder lawyers at the bank would always hold the elevator for me and tell me he liked my dress or offer to help me with my parking tickets or whatever and I would just blush and giggle.

And now, well...I recently ran across a photo of the author of the True Blood books. Charlaine Harris.
I think I look more like her NOW than I do Sookie! sigh.....
(Hmmmm, not to be mean, but Charlaine really needs a better bra!)
So now you have a background story on me and here's a bit more of the background on the house.
10 to 15 years ago, the house was purchased by new owners who started working on returning it back to a home. Here is part of the newspaper article about the sale of the home:
"Visitors to the Looney House found no bullet holes in the walls, no skeletons in the basement, and although there have been rumors of tunnels that lead out of the house to nearby homes, none has ever been found.
What they did see was a 5,000-square-foot mash-up of antique charm and modern conveniences in the form of the home built in 1897 in Rock Island’s Highland Park Historic District for the city’s most notorious gangland figure, John Looney.
The home, at 1635 20th St., is being sold by its owners, Ray and Vonnie Berger. Tours were offered to those interested in buying or just curious about the home and its history. The price is set at $349,000.
Although the purpose of the tours was to find a buyer for the home, many of those taking the tours are curious about the house and its original owner.
Looney was Rock Island’s most prominent crime figure in the early 1900s, building his fortune through pimping, racketeering, extortion, illegal liquor and gambling and running a scandalous newspaper.
He was convicted of murdering a saloonkeeper who wouldn’t pay him protection money and was sent to prison. After his release, he moved to Texas, where he died in 1942. His life was the basis of the graphic novel “Road to Perdition” written by Muscatine’s Max Allan Collins, which was adapted into a 2002 movie starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.

So now for the Halloween story.
That Halloween I had to work that evening at the Bar & Grill. At the time it was the popular Hot Spot in town and the place was packed with people in costumes. I dressed as a vampire. (Obviously I was WAY ahead of my time! LOL!) I had sprayed my hair BLACK with some Halloween stuff.

(I later had to wash it with PRELL to get it out!) I had the fangs and cape and the whole get-up. All my friends were either working with me or at the bar. EVERYONE was in costume. It was such fun! My sister was dressed as a HUGE stuffed M&M.
She looked so cute but had a hard time walking around or sitting in the booths. I remember one of my friends was wrapped in gauze as a mummy and was dodging cigarettes and dreading bathroom runs all night. Everyone had a great time.
Later, after we closed and cleaned up the bar, I went outside to my car and drove home in drizzling rain.
It was a perfect Halloween night. Dark and rainy and scary. I parked my car at the side of the house and RAN.
Ran across the yard with my cape flying behind me. I pulled open the door and ran down the hall, across the foyer and up the stairs and down that hall to my door. I fumbled with key. I felt like someone was chasing me. I think the Halloween NIGHT was getting to me.
I got into my room and locked the door. I collapsed onto the bed. I was SAFE.
I laid there for a few moments, catching my breath. Then I heard something.
It was footsteps. Slow footsteps coming down my hall. I had never heard anyone walk down my hall before. My door was the last one, except for the door at the very end that just lead out to the balcony.
I laid there frozen. Had I imagined it?
Then I slowly sat up, my ears straining for a sound..........
There was a very soft knocking on my door! I didn't move. I was wishing I hadn't left the light on.
Could whatever was out there see the light below the door? I waited, not wanting to make a sound.
The door knob slowly turned. But thankfully it was locked. I thought that I could hear my heart pounding in my ears!
Then I heard footsteps again but not walking away. They were headed towards the balcony door.
I sprang up! If it got out onto the balcony, it could climb down the little ladder onto the fire escape landing that was in front of my broken lock window!  I pulled the window up and stuck my head out to get a look.
There on the balcony I could see a HUGE figure leaning over the side towards my window! I couldn't really make out what is was but  I SCREAMED!!!!
Quickly it turned and ran back into the hallway and was knocking hard on my door!
The voice was yelling  "It's ME! It's ME!"
I recognized the voice and pulled the door open. There was my sister, the big M&M.
and the scariest part of the story is that no one came out of any of the doors to investigate what all the knocking and screaming was about!?

Here's a blue print sketch of the renovated house. On the second floor, my room is now the office/library with a closet that used to hold the Murphy bed. It looks to me, like they took down a lot of walls on the 1st and 2nd floors and made them into larger rooms.



Nita {ModVintageLife} said...

That was a great Halloween story. What a fabulous place to live. So creepy that you never saw any of the other tenants. This has the makings of a great Halloween movie. You should write a screen play. What a spooky looking home.

yoborobo said...

Wow! What a great Halloween story. I got chills. And I was like you, very trusting and naive. I got over that. lol!! I love that you lived in that house, and I agree - it would make a wonderful novel. xox!!

denise said...

I love the scariest part.....and it ends up being your sister! why the fahell didn't she say anything when she first knocked?

It's great that it happens to be the Looney Mansion. It'd be so different and boring if it were something like, the Smith Mansion.

great story

sassypackrat said...

Great story! As a child I lived for a short time in a similar house but smaller in Chicago and it was haunted by the ghost of a servant who committed suicide. Just seeing the Looney Mansion brought back memories. My poor haunted house was torn down years ago for parking for the University of Chicago.

I'm just thankful nothing horrible ever happened to you there!

Mundo Mundaca said...

Wow!This post was of going mad.. I loveeeeed a lot to read this everything!
That house that you live is fantastic.. who had given to have like this me the luck to live in a beautiful place... ok !seems frightening also.. but oh it is that entertaining :)
I adored her recounts yours and of your sister of her to get dressed of gigantic candy.. I laughed a lot!
also you sharpened my curiosity of seeing Tom Hank's film.. I still didn't see!
looks.. the most frightening thing than it happened was me when child I saw a greenish light in the high of the door of my room the night when it was everything darkness.. I thought if takes care of a ghost and me shook and I perspired but at the same time I wanted a lot him to go a ghost.. unhappily I ascended the light and I verified that it was just a lightning bug.

Anonymous said...

:-) :-) :-)
Great story :-)

I really like that house! A perfect horror movie house :-)

Have a great day now!

Sandra Evertson said...


Sandra Evertson

The Itsy Bitsy Spill said...

Love love love the story. It is a great house. I do love houses like that. Hey Cindi how are you sweetie pie pie! Stopped by to say hello and give a big air hug!

Jan said...

Thanks, that was the best Halloween story I have heard all day! Hope you have a fun and safe day!
s.I'm sure you look nothing like C. Harris.

An Urban Cottage said...

Wow, you were really buff!