Book Review: Voices from the Chicago Grave

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

For the third of our four planned book reviews for Haunted October, I'd like to write about an incredibly scary book of ghost stories. Why so scary? - because it is TRUE. The book? Voices from the Chicago Grave: They're Calling. Will You Answer? 2nd Edition, by Scott Markus, published by Thunder Bay Press.  Scott divides the ghost stories into 14 well-researched - and hard to put down - chapters (i.e., fine food and spirits, city haunts, Chicago's darkest hours, our Mafia Town, etc.).  If you head to the accompanying website, you'll see more information and thousands and thousands of additional photos. We've donated all of the books from our Haunted October Book Reviews to a local high school - they are every excited!

From Chapter 1: Showman's Rest


We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Scott about his book, and work. Here's what he had to say...

WE:  Please tell us about your book, Voices from the Chicago Grave...

SM: Well, it's about eight years and three generations in the making.  In 1999 I combined two of my interests (ghost stories and filmmaking) to create a feature-length documentary called Voices from the Grave.  In researching for the video I found way too many great stories.  As great as video is, unless I planned to do a Ken Burns-length documentary series, Id have to make a lot of cuts.

I went to work exploring ideas for an extensive book on the topic with my
research partner, Mary Czerwinski.  It was the first book I wrote and I wanted
this one to be completely mine, so I decided to self-publish it without ever
looking for a publisher.  That book was completed and available for sale in

After the documentary and book came out, I put information about it on my
production company's web site,  It was amazing the amount of traffic just a little bit of haunted Illinois information generated for the
site.  I expanded it and allowed people to send in their questions and stories
to which I would reply.  In more recent years, Ive also made video responses to the various questions and stories that have been submitted.  These videos are posted on YouTube and on

Starting in 2000, I began speaking throughout Illinois during the late summer
and autumn months on ghost stories.  After the book came out, the web site
became a huge resource for people looking to learn more about haunted locations in their area.  It was in the message boards that readers contributed a wealth of information including first hand accounts and leads on other haunted sites in the area that have not yet been covered.

The 2003 book came with a CD-ROM containing 1,000+ pictures.  The idea was to give the reader the complete picture of what the different areas are like without having to actually go there.  For the second edition of the book, the photographs and hundreds more are now on the web site.


From Chapter 1: The Gate

WE:  How did you get interested in ghost stories and the paranormal?

SM: It was as simple as a group of friend who didn't know what to do with themselves one event and someone telling a ghost story.  One story turned into another and before we knew what happened, literally seven hours had gone by in the blink of an eye!  I realized that there was something interesting going on here, so the next day I started doing some research.


From Chapter 13: St. James Church Cemetery



WE:  With the exhaustive research you put into this book, you must have been surprised by a few - can you share your favorites/most surprising tales?

SM: My first surprise was how ghost stories are accepted as fact.  When I first
started researching, I thought the question was, Are ghosts real?  The answer
came back, Yes, and heres where you can go to find them....

Other than that, it was hard not to notice how many disasters have befallen the city.  Chicago boasts the worst single plane crash in American history (Flight 191 in 1979), the worst shipwreck (The Eastland Disaster), the worst theater fire (the Iroquois Theater Fire), and the list goes on.

Though events like that are obviously sad, Chicago's history is really a popcorn movie: generations of notorious gangsters and criminals like John Dillinger, a rich Native American history, it was the backdrop of world events like the Worlds Fair and the '68 riots, and the birthplace of invention with so many of America's first industrialists calling Chicago home.

The biggest surprise to me about the project overall was how much a casual
interest in ghost stories got me involved with American history in general, a
topic that I never had that much of an interest in prior to writing the book.


From Chapter 5: Grayslake Farmhouse



WE:  Are you busy in the fall, with speaking events?

SM:  Some are in the works, but none are set in stone yet.  However, I host a radio show on the paranormal every Sunday night on AM-1050 WLIP.  It airs out of Kenosha, WI.

WE:  What is up next for you? Are you still researching Chicago area stories?

SM: I am still learning more and more about Chicago, but I'm hoping to follow this book with Voices from the Minnesota (or Missouri or Michigan) Grave.





WE:  Do you think that Chicago has a higher percentage of ghost
stories/sightings/paranormal than other large cities? (and why?) There seems to be SO many stories in your book!

SM: I think, per capita, Chicago is no different than any other small or big town.  Part of it has to do with there being so much media attention within the city, people paying a lot of attention to the city's history and the overall openness of most Chicagoans to the paranormal.  With there being such a large industry of paranormal including tours, conferences, etc., ghost stories are being more and more accepted by the general public.  That helps these great stories find the light of day.

WE: Thanks so much, Scott. Your book is excellent - such great research, and very difficult to put down.