Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Book of Hope 6: The Incubus

Father Mac showed up on Tuesday in a really great mood. He was all like, "Hot diggity damn!" when he came in the front door carrying a brown wooden box with a stack of papers on top. "We got a name for your ghost, toots! William Draper--Billy." He bustled into the kitchen and spread some papers on the dining table. Chris and Jo and I followed him in and looked at them--Kerry, predictably, had chickened out and unofficially moved in with Chaz for the time being. Well, you couldn't blame her--the rest of us would of done the same thing if we'd had anybody to move in with.

"First I went to the Trib, then I tried the old Daily News records--they're housed in a special collection," he was saying, "That's where I found these"-- and he waved a bunch of Xeroxes around. "Problem is, none of them had the name of the subject, just the house address. So then I thought of going to the Archdiocese archives on West Monroe. They know me there, you see. And sure enough," Farther Mac said, chomping on his cigar proudly, "Jackpot!" We all sort of shuffled through the papers like retards until he got impatient and told us the story himself.

William (Billy) Draper (he said) was a sales clerk in a big department store on State Street. He was living with his wife and two small children in our house in 1903, when Bronzeville was still a blue-collar white neighborhood. According to the Daily News story, (though it didn't name him), he and his wife had been at a Halloween party when he suddenly got sick and started choking to death. What happened next was his neighbors carried him back home and sent for a surgeon. Father Mac said that back in those days most people couldn't afford to go to a hospital, which would usually be closed after dark anyway, so unlicensed surgeons and dentists would make house calls. That's what happened to Billy Draper--the surgeon arrived, the patient was lain out on the kitchen table, where it was discovered that his tonsils had swollen up and were blocking his throat. The surgeon gave him laudanum or opium most likely--ether was only used by the most advanced doctors back then--and then cut his tonsils out. But afterwards he didn't stop bleeding. His neighbors carried him upstairs to the big bedroom--"Just above the bathroom with the bloodstain," said Jo--where he bled to death over the next few hours, screaming and moaning.

"What I still don't get is the buckskins," I said when Father Mac had finished. "What's that about?"

"It was his Halloween costume. Billy went to the party dressed as Buffalo Bill."

OK, cool. But it's one thing to solve a mystery--and a whole other thing to like, you know, do anything about it. That was the problem, said Father Mac. We might know why Billy Draper was haunting us, but that didn't necessarily mean we could talk the poor soul into giving it up. After all, he'd a whole lot of practice. A hundred years of it, in fact. But Father Mac was willing to try. Under his raincoat he was wearing his surplice and hassock, which I guess was still OK as long as he didn't wear them in church. But he didn't want us around while he actually performed the exorcism, so, sort of like with the Black Flag pesticide bombs, we had to put our coats on and go wait outside: "Across the street!" he insisted. "I don't want any accidents." It had warmed up a bit since Sunday, so the snow had turned into a miserable soaking cold rain. We huddled under a pair of umbrellas in front of the lesbian librarian's house and tried to guess what was going on inside ours.

"He's probably going from room to room swinging a censer and praying," Jo said.

"They use something called a 'passing bell'," I told her.

"I'm sure he's spraying holy water," Chris said,

"'Sprinkling', not 'spraying'," said Jo, who was always correcting Christina's English. Well, and my and Kerry's too, to be fair.

Around two o'clock, after we'd been standing there about an hour, the postman walked up the front stoop to our house. We all three started screaming at him from across the road, but he didn't seem to hear us. He was reaching for the box with a handful of junk mail, when our front door suddenly exploded open with a noise exactly like a vacuum cleaner bag bursting, a sort of whooshing thump. For a moment it looked like he was standing in a heavy wind--his hat blew off, and his sleeves and pants-legs whipped around him like clothes on a line. Then he turned and walked off quickly, almost running, just like the Orkin man did, leaving his hat behind. After a few minutes, Father Mac came out and just stood on the stoop. He was covered in soot and his cigar had gone out again. One or two of the Xeroxes fluttered out through the doorway behind him, I kid you not. I plucked up my courage and crossed the street to talk to him.

"What happened?" He relit his cigar and shrugged.

"Billy must have been a good Catholic in life, bless his heart," he said. "The mass blew him right out the front door."

"So he's gone for good?" Jo asked from behind me.

"Oh no. He's back inside again now. That goddamn mailman showed up just at the wrong moment--Billy saved himself by hanging onto the guy's ankles. Sorry about that, kiddo--you win some, you lose some."

Well, after that you can easily imagine that none of us wanted to spend another night in that place. So we didn't. We dashed back in and packed as much of our stuff as we could and crammed it into our cars and drove over to Chaz's where we spent the next few nights camping on his living room floor while we apartment-hunted. Chaz was pretty OK with that, but he wasn't exactly the nicest guy in the world, either (well, I'm sorry, Kerry, but he wasn't--you said so yourself after you dumped him.) However, he was way easier to live with than Billy Draper! Incidentally, just to give you an idea of what Chaz was like, here's a convo I had with him once when we were alone in the apartment:

Him: I can't decide if I want a rail or a goatee next.
Me: What about ear-rings?
Him: So I'm thinking of maybe doing each side of my head different.
Me: You could get a piercing.
Him: I already had my tragus pierced. And I have a pretty large tattoo on my shoulder. Wanna see?
Me: No thanks.

Next to fantasy literature, murder mysteries are my favorite reading. Did you know there was even a Victorian detective called 'Carnacki the Ghost-Catcher'? (we could have used him at Hell House for sure!) I especially love writers like Dorothy Sayers and Elizabeth Peters--in fact, when I was at St Mary's, I started my own detective series, which I'm still way too embarrassed to show to anybody. Point is, I'm pretty good at research--which is just the academic term for 'snooping'. I decided that the only way we'd ever get our money back or avoid being sued was to track down the owner of the house and confront him. Surely he knew about the ghost, I mean everybody else did. Yet he had knowingly rented his house to a bunch of college women anyway. What kind of person would do that? The only thing I knew about him was what Mrs Grandy had told me, that his name was 'Professor Darcy'. But naturally when I searched the faculty register online there was no search person, ditto with Loyola and UIC. Did I really just type 'search person'? Wow. 'Such person.' You can see how this topic upsets me. Anyway, I was stuck at Regenstein for like an hour between tutorials so I decided to play--I just typed any name I could think of from Jane Austen into the search fields: Knightley, Bingley, Dashwood, Bertram. etc etc. I figured Mrs Grandy might have been confused and remembered the wrong character. I even typed in Mr Palmer from Sense & Sensibility, who is my fave, mostly because he's played in the movie by the actor Hugh Laurie, who, I gotta confess to you, I would happily marry tomorrow if he asked me! I'm a huge fan of the TV show House, as you might be able to guess. But whatever, it wasn't him either. So, just when I was about to give up, I thought of Lady Katherine de Burgh--and bingo! Or "Jackpot!" as Father Mac would say. Here's what I found, along with a little black and white pic:
William de Burgh

Associate Professor of Behavioral Science in Creative Marketing

Ph.D., (psychology), University of Chicago, 1982; B.A., (parapsychology/ philosophy), Trinity College, Dublin, 1976.

Research Activities
Experimental study of social cognition and the paranormal; perspective taking; and intuitive human judgment.

Selected Publications
De Burgh, W., & Chartoff, T. (2002). The dollars and sense heuristic: Why sensibility is insufficient. Psychological Science, 27, 311-318. Kruger, J., de Burgh, W., Connors, J., & Engh, Z. (2001). Persuasion by email: Can we sell as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 925- 936. Roberts, J., & de Burgh, W. (2000). Pride versus prejudice: The sales power of irrational beliefs. Psychological Science, 46, 826-832. de Burgh, W., Reyes, B., Van den Bold, L., & Chartoff, T. (1994). Occult ritual in egocentric anchoring and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. de Burgh, W., Bell, K., & Chartoff, T. (1990). Empathy Neglect: Reconciling the spotlight effect and the correspondence bias in Blogging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 300-312.

Other Interests
Bicycling, dog breeding, new technologies.

Two things were immediately obvious from his CV: one, that he was into the occult, and two, that he was even more into his imaginary connection with Jane Austen. Either should have warned me off. But, hey, I never said I was smart, right? So the moment I'd finished teaching my next class, I ran over to the Business School building on South Woodlawn to see if he was in. "He's in Ireland for the rest of the year on sabbatical," the purple-haired grad student-secretary slut in the department's front office told me rudely, so I waited until she was distracted by her cell phone or a thorn in her paw or something and snuck down the hall past her. Sure enough, his office was locked and looked totally deserted. So I was back to square one. But at least I knew who to look for now.

The university's motto is: “UChicago: Where Fun Goes to Die.” The upside of this is there's so little do on campus that a trip downtown to the County Clerk's office can actually seem like fun, for the first hour or two anyway, if you aren't worrying too much about your parking space. I think you're supposed to bribe the recording clerk for title searches, but luckily the guy on duty was into me and kept doing lots of extra stuff just so he could flirt. The owner of our house was listed as a property development company called 'WEdeBunker, LLC.' There was a business address for it just a few blocks away. "They've been buying up single residences all over town," my admirer told me, "But there's something kind of weird about them. I'll go check it out for you." In appearance he was sort like a cross between Ugly Betty's boyfriend Walter and Kerry's boyfriend Chaz but slightly older and overweight and sounding like a Soprano, so I was busy thinking up excuses when he came back.

"I thought something was just wrong," he said triumphantly. "They're a 'stigmatized property' firm. They specialize in buying and selling houses where there's been like ghosts or mass murders and stuff. Right now they're trying to unload the property where Judge Lefkow's family got whacked." When he handed me the list of all 'WEdeBunker's' transactions in the past year, he asked me out--and I panicked. So I committed what has gotta be the absolutely stupidest moral crime there is: the unnecessary lie. Because it always comes right back to bite you in the a--, usually by instantly coming true.

What I said was, "I'm sort of seeing someone." So sure enough, I paid for it right away. Because when I found the WEdeBunker offices two blocks from the Sears Tower (they were just a suite inside one of those generic rent-a-space office deals where everybody shares a secretary and a server), the only person in the whole place was Professor de Burgh who I immediately recognized from his photo, right down to his thinning grey hair and little ponytail. The irritating thing was that he sort of smirked at me like he recognized me, too. I hate that. I also hated how icy-blue and bright his blue eyes were when they stared at me. I could feel a really bad blush coming on. So I said the nastiest thing I could think of: "I thought you were supposed to be in Ireland."

"Oh, my heart is always there," he said, his smile not missing a beat. And I gotta tell you, that quirky smile and the sound of his voice turned my knees to jelly, because he had this really thick sort of Anglo-Irish Ulstery accent. And I'm a total ho' for an accent.

So I was like, "You have a heart?" which on reflection maybe wasn't the smartest thing to say, either, because after I'd bitched him out about the house and he'd agreed to look into it, he asked me out for a drink. So I said yes, you know, just so I wouldn't have that lie to the recording clerk on my conscience. And that's how our thing started. You know, the thing that went on for the next few months on and off. The thing Kerry was teasing me about at the beach.

Continued here...


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi babe,

Good work on your site! Too bad you couldn't get ur facts straight! ha ha, only kidding. But I don't remember that about Chaz. Right now i can't remember anything about Chaz tho, because guess what? i met the guy i'm going to marry. He just doesn't know it yet! He's an investment broker at Saloman and he's from Connt. He's also older, so i guess i'm adopting your philosophy! I'm online from his place right now--gotta go! Do what you like with my photos--dunno about Jo tho, she's pretty private.

Love, Kerry

5:22 PM  

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