Both Chicagoans and out-of-town tourists love Navy Pier. Each year, millions of them visit the pier. They enjoy its theaters, restaurants, arcades, shops, giant Ferris wheel, gardens, and old-fashioned lemonade and ice cream stands. Many people attend dinners and conventions in the grand ballroom at the end of the pier. Tour boats also line the pier to take people for short trips on Lake Michigan.
A Deserted Navy Pier
Not that long ago though, Navy Pier was as deserted as a ghost town in the Old West. There were no shops, no music, and no lights. Only a few fishermen spent their days angling along the pier’s concrete banks. The pier’s buildings themselves were mostly abandoned, including its former grand ballroom. The ballroom had once been one of the nicest, fanciest dance halls in Chicago. During World War II, the ballroom was shut down. The U.S. Navy used it as a school to train airplane mechanics.
After the war, the University of Illinois at Chicago used the ballroom as a gymnasium. When the school moved to its new campus a few miles away, the heat was turned off in the buildings on Navy Pier. Chicago’s brutal weather began to eat away at the ballroom’s beauty. The copper ceiling started to leak, and pieces of the roof began falling in. Be- fore long, weeds were growing between the cracks of the beautiful old dance floor. Security guards made matters worse. They used the walls for target practice!
A Ghost in the Ballroom
One hot August night, a lone security guard set out on a routine walk to the far end of the pier. Upon reaching the tip of the pier, the guard stopped to gaze out at Lake Michigan. The night air was still, with little breeze. A few boats filled with people bobbed up and down on the water. The beacon on the nearby lighthouse shone from the harbor. After relaxing for a few minutes, the guard began his long walk back to the security office at the front of the pier.
By that time, it was after two o’clock in the morning. The guard decided to walk through the buildings. He checked to make sure that everything was locked and secure. When he entered the old ballroom, his eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. He walked across the old wooden dance floor. Suddenly, he felt someone coming up from behind, although he hadn’t heard a sound. Terrified, he reached for his gun and whirled around. No one was there.
No sooner had the guard turned around than a freezing cold chill passed through his body! As strange as it seemed, the guard was sure that a man, or rather the ghost of a man, had passed right through him. As scared as he’d been, the guard told no one what he’d felt inside the old dance hall.
A year later, the guard returned to the ballroom with a friend. This friend had psychic abilities. She could sense thing that other people couldn’t. The guard thought that his friend might be able to communicate with the spirit he’d felt on that hot August night.
Sure enough, the psychic sensed ghostly presence right away! She felt that the spirit of a man who had often gone dancing with his wife haunted the ballroom. The man was waiting for his wife to die so that she could be with him. Then, they could dance together in the ballroom forever!
Today, no one knows whether or not Navy Pier’s ballroom is still haunted. These days, it’s as beautiful as ever and often full of life. It’s too noisy and too crowded for people to notice any ghosts that might still be hanging around. Still, the next time you’re at Navy Pier, take a walk to the far end. Peek into the windows of the grand ballroom. Imagine that you see people dressed up in fancy clothes, dancing the night away. Close your eyes and try to hear the music of the big bands. Then, close them a little tighter. Perhaps you will feel someone else there-a man who loved to dance . . . and, maybe at long last, the lady he was waiting for.