Dan Gibson, Storyteller/Banjoplayer
Sample Stories and Verse
Ghost of the Convent
Adapted by Dan Gibson from the Library of Congress American Memories Collection (1939)
In Chicago on West Taylor, near Throop Street, stood an abandoned convent. The people living
around this convent were Irish, Italian, Jewish, German, Russian, Polish, Bohemian, Greek, French,
Swedish, Norwegian people. All these people had children. Hilda was one of the children.
She and her friends played all sorts of games on the sidewalks and the street. They were all good
friends. Even if they did call each other names sometimes, they still shared their candy.
One night they were playing "run sheep run," when they saw a light in one of the convent windows.
The light moved to the next window, then the next. It appeared at each window for a few seconds,
and moved on. There were many windows in the convent, and the children watched breathlessly as
the light went to each one of them.
"Ghosts!" screamed Mary McGuire.
"Ghosts!" the children echoed.
"I'm gonna tell my mother," said Mary McGuire.
They all ran home to tell their mothers.
The next evening some of the neighbors came out to see for themselves. Sure enough, there was
the ghost again.
This ghost produced all kinds of fantastic stories.
One old Catholic woman said that the souls of the saints were rambling through the old convent.
Another version said that the saints must be unhappy about something. It was about this time that
the abandoned convent was to be sold to a group of Jewish philanthropists. They planned to
house The Chicago Hebrew Institute in it. So, naturally, a story was told that the saints were
objecting to the building being sold to Jews.
Hilda's mother knew the caretaker of the convent, and called on his family one evening.
"Have you heard the 'ghost' story?" she asked.
"What ghost?" replied the caretaker.
"My little girl told me that every night, as soon as it gets dark, a ghost appears at every window of
the convent, one after another."
"Oh, that ghost," he said. "Well, he is a pretty lively ghost, isn't he? That is a pretty spooky place. I
know that for a fact. The floors creak. The door hinges squeak. There is no electricity in the
building, so the lights don't work. And, every night, I have to go from window to window with a
candle to make sure they are all locked."