Tag Archives: alley

Burning Down the House

Main Performance:

There’s a theater in Downtown Chicago called the James M. Nederlander Theater, back then known as the Iroquois Theater, which apparently burnt down once in 1903 with around 2000 people inside where at least 600 patrons ended up dead. The panic caused mass hysteria, the crowds of people tried to force doors that opened inwards, meaning that a wild crowd could not properly open them. Many other doors were locked by foreign locks, exits were not properly labeled, and the upper floor patrons as they were locked in as VIP 2nd floor rooms were locked from the outside as to keep the 2nd floor exclusive and not have anyone sneak in after the shows sold out. While many burned to death, others stuck on the 2nd floor threw their bodies out the windows, barely managing to cushion their falls from the bodies of those who fell before. The back alley served as a temporary morgue, accounts saying that bodies were stacked 6 feet high, and the area trapped the spirits of the dead to wander in and out of the back of the theater. Countless remarks about the inexplicable amount of noises, moving objects, and sightings of ghost inside and outside the theater and around the alley have been reported. The area is known as the Coach Place, Death Alley.


The informant, NC, is a friend from my highschool days who I bonded with over videogames and appreciation for animated shows who I still keep in daily contact with today. NC is particularly religious but loves to partake in the knock on wood superstition.


Because he was living separate from his family, NC did not necessarily have too many folklore or tradition to share and instead asked one of his friends if she had any interesting tidbits to share.

My Thoughts:

Reading up on the story some more revealed to me that there has not been a formal memorial marking the location of the incident, which might be the entire reason that these tortured souls have not been able to move on from their suffering in the first place. Much like how desecrated grave sites are the classic grounds on which angered spirits haunt those who disturbed their rest, this story feels as if these spirits haven’t been at peace at all. More than a ghost story, the entire thing reads like a historical account on how fire safety protocols were implemented because something horrific had to happen at least once for these things to be taken seriously. An infrastructure problem with the theater itself most likely led to many basic amenities and fire safety procedures we take for granted today. It seems strange that this particular location hasn’t been taken by the city’s government to be made into a tourist zone, one of the few examples of how things are left as they are and the story is allowed to speak for itself.

Alley Murderer


Informant: “Mhmm the murderer would come back and  jump out and kill the girl if she walked down the alleyway.”

Me: “Wait didn’t the murder occur, like, several decades earlier?”

There is an alleyway that school kids, including the informant, passed by every day coming home from school. The alley was a very convenient shortcut to get home. However, it was told among the kids that years before, a girl walked down the alley and was then murdered. The murderer got away. Now, only boys walk down the alleyway, and all the girls avoid it. They say that if a girl walks down the alleyway, the murderer will jump out and kill her too. So, instead of taking the shortcut, girls would walk about an extra 5 minutes around the large block and meet up on the other side.



The informant recalls this being an occurrence common in early middle school. The murder apparently took place several decades beforehand and the criminal got away. The boys didn’t pay much attention to the story because it was assumed that only girls would be targeted. He said that as they got older, it was talked about less, but the girls still avoided the alley.



The concept of a specific place, especially a route, being associated with death or murder is really interesting in this context. Kids at any point in elementary through middle school are beginning to deal with the realities of both death and violent crime. By creating a story (or perhaps propagating a fact) around the alley, they’ve drawn a connection between murder and a specific location and scenario: the alley, a girl, an un-captured murderer. To a certain extent, it’s an example of boys and girls segregating at the early stages of puberty. Perhaps it’s a rare opportunity to have just the boys talking in one place and the girls talking in another for 5 minutes after a day of school. Even more so, it’s almost an empowering way for kids to deal with death. By the girls avoiding the alley, they are effectively cheating what they associate with being killed. And for the boys, it’s almost a courageous act because they are confident they won’t be the victims, so they take the convenient route. It’s also worth noting that for something that happens on a daily basis, 5 minutes extra on a walk is sort of inconvenient. The story was obviously taken seriously enough to convince girls they should take the long way home.