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Hyde Park Offers A Hair-Raising Halloween

University Of Chicago

The University of Chicago campus (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) - Visitors to the South Side’s Hyde Park neighborhood this weekend will find quite the assortment of Halloween thrills – whether innocent family fun, nightlife, or chilling real-life sites.

The neighborhood’s biggest tourist attraction, the Museum of Science and Industry, is offering a schedule of “hair-raising activities, events and exhibits” fittingly called “Spooky Science,” through Sunday, Oct. 31.

Museum Of Science And Industry

The Museum Of Science And Industry (Credit: Museum Of Science And Industry)

The famous Coal Mine has been transformed into a “ghoulish” haunted attraction, if you’re on a tour that leaves 15 or 30 minutes after the hour. You can still take the traditional tour at 45 minutes after the hour, and on the hour.

Haunted tours are also available for the Pioneer Zephyr train.

Visitors can also channel their inner mad scientists and create their own ghoulish green slime, and use Morse Code outside the entrance to the U-505 submarine to decipher some chilling Halloween messages. And if you bring a recyclable item to the Smart H0me – even pocket fuzz – you’ll get some organic candy.

Spooky Spots
Meanwhile, if you walk just outside the museum, you’ll find a spot that legend claims is haunted by the ghost of a famous Hyde Parker.

Clarence Darrow was a fiery trial attorney who defended the infamous killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, and later represented teacher John T. Scopes as he stood charged with a crime teaching evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Darrow died in 1938 at his home near 60th Street and Stony Island Avenue, overlooking the Jackson Park Lagoon. Since then, some people have reported seeing his apparition on the back steps of the MSI, which jut out onto the lagoon, and on the memorial bridge that bears Darrow’s name just to the south.

The Ghost Research Society says in October 1990, a group of people said they saw an elderly man in a camel-haired coat standing on the back steps of the museum.

“As they called out to him, he did not answer or respond in anyway. It was like he really wasn’t there at all,” the Ghost Research Society said. “About a week later another group were at the same area and only some saw the apparition while others in the group did not.”

About half a mile inland on the University of Chicago campus, there are also rumors of hauntings at the Robie House, the century-old Frank Lloyd Wright home at 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“Workers restoring the place have heard footsteps coming down hallways and doors closing unexpectedly when only one person was inside, and there have even been accounts of a woman’s faint image in thresholds and doorways,” the University of Chicago Magazine reported.

No one reported seeing any ghosts when the Robie House held a nighttime “Secrets and Shadows” tour on the myths and legends of the home recently.

But tour guides clad all in black told the gloomy stories of the deaths of three successive residents. Original owner Frederick Robie’s father, George, died at the house, as did second owner David Lee Taylor, and the 25-year-old daughter of the third and last owners, Marsha Wilber, the U of C Magazine reported.

And a few blocks northwest, a once-stately mansion remains as the only relic from a gruesome crime.

Bobby Franks was the 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered by the aforementioned Leopold and Loeb in 1924.

Leopold, 19, and Loeb, 18, were both geniuses who had already graduated from college and were at the U of C for graduate work, when they kidnapped and killed Franks with a chisel wrapped in electrical tape in a Nietszche-inspired quest for “the perfect murder.” They dumped his body in a culvert in Wolf Lake along the Indiana state line and told his father the boy had been kidnapped, only to get caught when Leopold’s glasses were found alongside Franks’ body.

Leopold And Loeb

Nathan Leopold (right) and Richard Loeb killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 in their quest for the "perfect murder."

Leopold and Loeb’s family homes were demolished decades ago, but the Franks family mansion still stands, at 5052 S. Ellis Ave. The once-proud mansion is now vacant and in poor condition, after changing its function at least once since serving as a home.

“Strangely enough, this tragic site was recently a preschool,” the blog Hyde Park Progress reported. “The sign still hangs on a plywood board nailed over a window facing 51st Street. Very spooky.”

And if you’re looking for more, Hyde Park Progress also has a list of three more super-spooky buildings in Hyde Park.

For The Grown-Ups
By the way, adults looking for nightlife will also find Halloween happenings in Hyde Park. At the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., a Mischief Weekend gets underway Friday night. The Back Alley Party features food and drinks from around the city, as well as performance artists from Links Hall, burlesque instructors from Good Gyrrl, a graffiti artist demonstrating “old school tagging” and a live musical performance by the band Wild Jesus and the Devil’s Family Band. Tickets are $45.

On Saturday at the art center, Mischief Night is a nine-hour family festival starting at 1 p.m., with theatre workshops, dance performances, art installations, and writing and art workshops.

So even if Halloween may be scary sometimes, in Hyde Park there’s never any need to run and Hyde… er, hide.