Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Echos of the Eastland
Perhaps one of the most terrible tragedies to hit the Windy City short of the Chicago Fire was the Eastland disaster. On a sunny July day in 1915, nearly 3200 passengers boarded the Eastland steamer moored on the Chicago River. Bound for a company picnic, eager men, women and children crowded the boat, excited for the lovely day they had planned. No one's sure what happened next, but when the Eastland pulled away from the dock, the boat capsized sending people sailing from the top decks into the river and trapping many other poor souls inside. What had been laughter moments before turned into terrified screams as onlookers from the nearby bridge and boats did their best to save as many as they could. Sadly, what began as a rescue mission swiftly turned into a recovery mission as rescue workers including police divers and local volunteers hauled corpses out of the river. In the end, 840 people including 22 entire families were among the dead in the makeshift morgues set up in hospitals, warehouses and even the 2nd Regiment Armory. The victims of the Eastland may be gone, but they ensure they aren't forgotten. On occasion, those passing over the bridge where the boat sank have heard terrible screams rising from the otherwise calm river. At the old Armory, now Harpo Studios, ghostly footsteps, sobs, and childish laughter have all been heard and an eerie woman in gray has appeared not only to employees but on security camera footage as well. Echos to remind us that even the seemingly happiest of days don't necessarily have a happy ending.