On the evening of October 16th I changed out of my work clothes and headed up to the city to experience my very first ghost tour. Many of my friends have done these type of things here in Chicago and I know most major cities offer them during the Halloween season. The Windy City’s past is loaded with gangland violence from the days of Al Capone and Prohibition while also boasting one of the country’s first documented serial killers. Mild-mannered Dr. H. H. Holmes would lure visitors of Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893 to his hotel (later dubbed a “Murder Castle”) for the sole purpose of killing them. In the end he’d confess to twenty-seven slayings, though historians believe that number to be much closer to two hundred.
Such a violent past can not leave any metropolis without its fair share of myths and legends, and tonight I would learn that one of Chicago’s major attractions, The Lincoln Park Zoo, was resting on secrets of its own.
The seeds of this event were actually sewn during Svengoolie’s appearance at “The Squared Circle” (covered HERE). I mentioned in that post meeting a couple of zoo keepers from The Lincoln Park Zoo; one of whom, Marisa, had arrived with local Chicago Red-eye writer, Elliott Serano. Elliott’s a fellow Svengoolie fan and had just written a big story on the host. He’d brought Marisa along that night so she could sign folks up for her zoo’s AAZK Chapter’s (American Association of Zoo Keepers) “Bowling for Rhinos” with Sven as one of their celebrity guests. Svengoolie has graciously assisted my own Brookfield Zoo AAZK chapter with our annual Vital Grounds fundraiser (providing opportunities for the New England Terror Dave, David Albaugh, to meet him as covered HERE and HERE) and accepted her invitation…even if appearing only as his mild-mannered alter ego, Rich Koz.
This past Saturday was a day I both dreaded and anticipated with a flurry of events (none of which I wanted to miss) all converging at once. For starters, it was the weekend of G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) which I’ve attended faithfully with my kids since 2004. In fact, if you’re a Japanese monster fan, your entire calendar year pretty much revolves around it. Though it offers plenty of activities throughout the weekend, Saturday evenings are known for being the show’s climax with their highly anticipated costume contest.
The earlier portion of my day was spent covering an event hosted by my Brookfield Zoo AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) Chapter and, after that, a Svengoolie appearance.