We got the sad news late Thursday- the man who could certainly be called a pioneer in ghost hunting in Chicago, and very possibly the first local paranormal investigator most of us knew- Richard Crowe- has passed away due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Richard became a well-known figure when he would make appearances on radio shows with the late Chicago Eddie Schwartz and Steve and Johnnie- most appropriately, often after midnight. I first met him, I believe, back in the early 80s,when we were both guests on one of Eddie’s shows, and Richard told me both he and his mother were big fans of my “Son of Svengoolie” show.
Richard would tell stories of Chicago’s most haunted areas- among them-Resurrection Cemetery, the “destination” of the famed “Resurrection Mary”- a female ghost , dressed in a party dress, who seemed to be trying to get home after a dance- who would disappear from the car of anyone who picked her up to give her a ride; Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, where mysterious “ghost lights” often appear; the Red Lion Pub, where many supernatural incidents would occur; and the Jackson Park lagoon behind the Museum of Science and Industry, where the ghost of Clarence Darrow sometimes is said to appear.
He had extensively studied the “Resurrection Mary” case- uncovering about three dozen “substantiated reports” of sightings. The original story told about the ghost states that Mary had attended a dance with her boyfriend at the “Oh Henry” Ballroom- now the Willowbrook ballroom, considered another haunted site (hey- I’ve been there!)- and decided , after arguing with said boyfriend, to walk home on a cold rainy night- only to be struck and killed by a car. She was buried in Resurrection Cemetery in her white dance dress and shoes. Now, she appears on the road near the ballroom, and, as I said, when picked up by a motorist, either jumps from the car when near the cemetery or simply vanishes from the car. If my memory serves me correctly, Richard even found some bars on a cemetery gate that had been bent, as if with amazing strength!
A graduate of DePaul, Richard was, among other things, a journalism teacher, author, lecturer, and even worked in Chicago’s City Hall as a city planner at one point. The interest in ghosts and ghost hunting from the public convinced Richard to do a tour of haunted spots- hitting places like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, where the moans of the victims can supposedly still be heard- the alley where Dillinger was gunned down, and his ghost might be seen running down the alley-and more- back in the early 70s, and, eventually, with so many people intrigued by the supernatural, he became a full time “ghost hunter”- establishing the first Chicago ghost tours and lecturing on the haunted history of the city.
I have to admit- I think I might have made him a little peeved once. He was on a pilot for a television show that I once did, and had brought with some photos that supposedly included ghost in the shot. One photo had an attractive young woman lounging on a tombstone in a cemetery- and there was a large misty white mass in one part of the picture. I, of course, being a comedian, said “You know, at most stores, if your pictures turn out like that, they don’t make you pay for them!” I got the feeling he didn’t find that humorous.
In spite of that incident, he was a big friendly guy- and had vast knowledge of ghost and haunting, spreading his knowledge and interest long before it became as hot a topic as it is now, with multiple TV shows and tours, and many ghost hunters and investigators checking out the reports of spirits and poltergeist action. Richard Crowe was probably the best known ghost hunter in Chicago and beyond. One can only hope that, in his passing over, he will find answers to things he couldn’t discover in life.