On July 24, 1915, employees of the Western Electric Company packed up their families and boarded the SS Eastland in Chicago for a day of fun and relaxation. The ship was bound for a company-sponsored picnic in Indiana, but the idyllic day turned into a nightmare when the vessel rolled completely onto its side during boarding and sank 20 feet to the river’s bottom.
The sudden rollover trapped hundreds of men, women, and children underwater, while hundreds more struggled to stay afloat in the river, a sight witnesses described as “a moving sea of bodies.” Despite the best efforts of nearby ships, 844 people perished in the incident, including 22 entire families. Now, some say, the ghosts of the doomed passengers linger on.
According to reports in the Examiner and Ghost Research, pedestrians strolling near the site of the disaster at times hear screams and splashes coming from the water. However, when they stop to investigate, the river is calm and no one appears to be in any trouble. Other passerby reportedly see hundreds of ghostly faces peering up at them from the water.
It seems the disaster site isn’t the only place haunted by Eastland victims. Shortly after the disaster, Chicago officials set up a makeshift morgue at the 2nd Regiment Armory. The armory is now the home of Harpo Studios, site of the Oprah Winfrey Show and several other productions. According to a former Harpo security guard, a woman in gray haunts the studio and several workers have been spooked by crashes and bumps in the night.
“I can say for sure there are spirits walking the halls,” guard Robin Hocott told the National Enquirer in 1993. “There were sounds of people whispering and glasses clinking together, like someone toasting. Doors would open and slam shut. I’d try to chase down the source and hear children laughing and giggling in the distance.”
The Eastland disaster happened exactly 99 years ago today. Do you think there’s something to the ghostly claims? Or are the stories nothing more than creepy tales inspired by a horrific tragedy?