When I first became interested in the paranormal in 1982, we didn’t have the resources we have today. You couldn’t just walk into your local library and find dozens of books on ghosts and haunted places and the few you could find were typically by English authors. One of the first books I read was about haunted castles and authored by the late great British ghost hunter, Peter Underwood.
After reading the book, I immediately fell in love with haunted castles and dreamed of exploring their ancient stone corridors. Little did I know at the time, Chicago had its very own castle on the far south side, and like many of its European counterparts, it is very much haunted.
The Beverly Unitarian Church, or the Irish Castle, as it is called locally, was built in 1887 by wealthy real estate developer Robert C. Givins who had the idea to build a castle in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood while visiting Ireland. It’s said that Givins, spent his trip traveling along the River Dee, between Dublin and Belfast, sketching the many medieval castles he came across. After seeing the Irish countryside, Givins was determined to bring a bit of old Ireland to Chicago.
When he returned, he bought a plot of land on a ridge overlooking Longwood Avenue. He quickly went about the task of building his dream home using limestone quarried from nearby Joliet. Once built, the Givins family lived in the castle periodically between 1887 to 1909.
When the Givins left their beloved reminder of Ireland, the castle changed hands several times. The prestigious Chicago Female College rented the castle and offered a first-rate education that the local Chicago women might not get anywhere else.
Next came John Burdett and his wife. When they came into possession of the Irish castle in 1921, they went about the task of bringing the Irish castle into the 20th century by installing electricity. Following them, the house was owned by a local physician until 1942, when the last and current resident took over, the Beverly Unitarian church.
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After taking over the castle, the church spared no expense in changing the interior of the building to make it look more like a place of worship. In the process of making these changes, a former resident appeared to take notice.
The first encounter with the ghost of the Irish castle reportedly occurred in the 1960s. While the night custodian was performing her duties, she passed by a room and came to a sudden stop. She wasn’t quite sure, but she thought she saw a person standing in a room. Of course, nobody but her was supposed to be in the building at that hour of the night.
When she walked back, peering into the dark room, her suspicion was correct. A young woman was standing in the middle of the room with a puzzled look on her face. When the cleaning person approached her, the mysterious woman looked at the bewildered cleaning lady and commented the place looked much different when she lived there. The cleaning walked out of the room and when she came back, the girl was gone.
Following that initial encounter, the cleaning lady wasn’t the only person to experience the ghostly woman. The pastor of the church was touched by her, and she was witnessed by a handful of church members. A candle has been seen from the outside floating in windows and the sounds of a party have been heard late at night. When the pastor went to investigate, the sounds fell silent.
When looking into the history of the Irish castle, the pastor discovered in the 1930s, an influenza epidemic struck the student body of the female college. One student reportedly died from the illness. It’s believed the phantom woman that haunts the castle to this day was the young woman who perished from the disease.
Since 1942, the Beverly Unitarian Church has been an integral part of the far south side community. The church offers a very progressive religious experience that welcomes anyone, regardless of color and sexual orientation. The church gives tours of the building and has been known to allow paranormal investigators to look into the haunting of this unique, old, but yet new-world structure.
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