E.A. Stuart: “SHE WANTS A HAUNTED HOUSE”

A Name and an Address

Beyond a name and address, I know next to nothing about the second person to be awarded Honorable Mention in the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame. In fact, all I know comes from a few articles in Chicago newspapers. Let’s start with one that comes from the January 22, 1901, issue of the Chicago Tribune. Since this might be difficult to read, I transcribed it immediately below.

Trib Article 1

SHE WANTS A HAUNTED HOUSE
Mrs. E.A. Stuart, 10 North State Street,
Desires to Live in One and In-
vestigate Ghosts

Mrs. E.A. Stuart, 10 North State Street, wants to rent a haunted house in any part of the city. She is going to devote the remainder of her life to disproving the popular superstition concerning the spirit world, and already has started her investigation by writing to Captain O’Neill of the Woodlawn Police Station inquiring about a haunted house not far from Lake avenue and Forty-third street.

Mr[s]. Stuart is willing to move into any house reputed to be occupied by a family of ghosts assiduous in their attentions to the lessees. She does not care to waste her time on second-rate spirits that get out of the cemetery only once a month. They must be on hand every night, clank through the corridors in their chains, open and shut doors mysteriously, and shriek murder until sleep is out of the question. Mrs. Stuart admits that she has never seen a ghost, but would be convinced if, when facing one, she could see the buttons on the back of his coat.

“I once lived in a haunted house in Chicago,” Mrs. Stuart said, “and the peculiar things which happened there started me out on the inquiry into the truth about haunted houses. I will take any place which is not a tumble-down ramshackle and set up housekeeping there. Then we shall see about the ghosts. I am not going to stop hunting for such a place until I succeed.”

Mrs. Stuart has four boarders, but no ghosts, at 10 North State Street.

Yikes, that reporter really makes it clear where Stuart lived, huh? But it’s also interesting that Stuart is seeking a haunted house in order to debunk “the popular superstition concerning the spirit world” — even though she’s had some creepy encounters herself.

The Accomodating Captain O’Neill

Captain O’Neill must have been a good sport about Stuart’s plan. According to an article printed two days later in Chicago’s Daily Inter Ocean, he accomodated her request by suggesting she investigate the old Lane house, down in the Kenwood neighborhood. That article then summarizes the spectral manifestations experienced by Mary Hanford Hall, a former resident of the haunted house who apparently had a friendly rapport with the ghost of John Lane. (A few years earlier, the Inter Ocean had run a more-detailed article about Hall’s happy haunting, which is available here.)

Lane House
“HAUNTED HOUSE AT NO. 4801 LAKE AVENUE,” from an article titled “Ghost of John Lane,” published in The Sunday Inter Ocean on Sept. 4, 1898.

Stuart Stirred Interest in Ghost Hunting

Now, Stuart is conferred “Honorable Mention” in the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame rather than being awarded a “full-fledged” spot in it. There two reasons for this: on the one hand, she apparently passed on O’Neill’s suggestion of the Lane house — and I’ve found no evidence that she accepted any others — but, on the other hand, she also inspired others to take up ghost hunting. Well, she inspired cheapsakes to joke about becoming ghost hunters. Yet another article in The Inter Ocean says it all. This one was published on January 30, 1901, and it’s even tougher to read. Again, my transcription follows immediately below.

Inter Ocean Article 2

HAUNTED HOUSES IN DEMAND
Applicants are Willing to Dwell with
Spooks if Rent is Free

Captain Francis O’Neill of the Woodlawn Station is still dealing with the subject of ghosts and haunted houses. Ever since Mrs. E.A. Stuart asked the captain to find her a haunted house he has been receiving all kinds of literature on this subject. Mrs. Stuart wanted to rent such a house and the captain found her one at Forty-Eighth street and Lake avenue, but for some reason this property did not suit her.

Now comes a woman who claims that any one who is willing to dwell with ghosts should at least have the privilege of doing so without paying for it. Her name is Mrs. F.P. Lanigan, and she lives at No. 57 Boston avenue. She argues that if she lived on the property for a year it would convince even the most timid person that there are no such things as ghosts, or at least if there are they are harmless. The house would then be of some value to its owner, as it could be rented.

Mrs. Lanigan has several rivals who wish to secure a home that is inhabited by spooks free of rent.

Even if readers are meant to chuckle at folks offering to go spook-snooping so long as it comes with free lodging, Stuart still drew attention to the time-honored tradition of ghost hunting.

There’s one final point of interest — well, interesting to me. Captain Francis O’Neill is less remembered for being accommodating to Chicagoans, even its ghost hunters, than for his hobby. He spent a lot of his free time gathering and documenting traditional Irish folk music, and his collection still impacts how this music survives today. I like to think that his appreciation of Irish culture begins to explain his kind acceptance of those interested in ghosts.


Go to the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame page.

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