Hegewisch (pronounced heg-wish) is a neighborhood on the South-East side of Chicago. Actually, you can’t go any further South or East without leaving the City! One of my friends, an avid fan of all-things-Chicago, shared this story with me. This story is from the folks at http://hegewisch.net/ – check out their site and the other ghost stories they have there. Enjoy!
One of the most common ghost stories is Resurrection Mary. It was similar to the story of Large Marge in PeeWee’s Big Adventure or the song “Laurie”, about a girl who died on prom night and now returns every year to the school dance only to have some hapless date take her home to the cemetery before the stroke of midnight.
But in Hegewisch, the story does not involve a Mary, Marge or Laurie. The little girl’s name was Tola. What does remain however is the eerie feeling you get on moonless night when you walk the Railroad Tracks of the Mist.
According to some accounts, it was a bright sunny morning in Hegewisch, perhaps in the fall of 1924 or 1925. The air was filled with the smell of coal and sulfur from the trains that traveled all about Hegewisch and from the nearby Pressed Steel Car Company. Pressed Steel manufactured rail cars and the hands of immigrants Poles who lived in Hegewisch provided the labor. It was in this setting that a cheerful little girl, about eight years old would walk about four blocks every day, rain or shine, summer or winter to the outskirts of the factory and there she would meet her “Papa”.
Tola’s mother was at home with an infant child and was unable to take her husband lunch. But little Tola was more than happy to make this important errand every day. Indeed, it would have been easy enough for her papa to bring the lunch in the morning but then little Tola would be denied her important job.
Tola’s route never changed. From her house, she walked over to the old train tracks that ran just East of Torrence Avenue. She would follow the tracks south until they began to turn south-east along Brainard Avenue and then continued for some time until she reached the rail yard where she would meet her father.
On that day, she had just finished eating lunch with her father and he needed to go back to his job. A train was running along the tracks so little Tola walked along the side of the train as she headed back to her home.
Dozens of men saw her as she walked beside the train. All the men in the factory knew little Tola and they all smiled at her and wished her good day and she smiled back and gave the same greeting. By the time she reached the bend near Torrence the train had come to pass. In fact, the conductor of the train waived from the caboose of the train to little Tola who waved back.
He watched her as she crossed the train tracks at 130th but lost sight of her when a fog rolled in from the Little Calumet River. But the fog wouldn’t matter. From that point on, little Tola no longer needed to cross the tracks. In fact, she was only a few blocks from her home. Minutes later, her infant brother began to cry for no apparent reason. At the same time, the fog that had crossed the tracks made it to Tola’s house. Tola’s mother heard her daughter say “I’m scared Mommy” but Tola was not there! Her mother rushed next door and found a neighbor to look after her infant son. She immediately went to look for her daughter.
She traced her daughter’s footsteps to and from the factory. She talked to several people asking if they had seen her daughter. Everyone on the far side of the tracks reported seeing her but no one on the nearside of the tracks ever saw her come back. Later that evening the police questioned the Conductor of the train and he said he saw her crossing the track just behind his train. He swore there was no other train coming or going.
The police searched the area for three days and no trace of an accident or Tola were found. But on the night of third day another fog rolled in from the river and in the dark of night a glowing light of some kind led a policeman to a spot on the tracks, and there on the tracks was a small necklace that had belonged to Tola. The spot had been searched a dozen times before and nothing had been found. The policeman blew his whistle to get others to come to the spot. The first person to show up was a charming little girl. She came skipping along the tracks, stopped by the policeman and said “I’m bringing lunch to Papa. You shouldn’t stand on the tracks they are not safe”. and then she skipped on past.
The policeman turned to give chase as the little girl disappeared in the mist. A moment later several people showed up and heard the police man shouting “Tola, Tola! I found her!”
Many people shouted “Where is she! Where are you!”
The policeman answered back “I’m right here!”
And several people heard little Tola say “It’s okay mommy, the policeman will take care of me!”
A person shouted again “Where are you Tola? We can’ t see you because of the fog.”
Then the policeman said quizzically “Fog? There is no fog!” and then the fog lifted and the little Tola and the Policeman were no more. They disappeared without a trace.
The train tracks that ran just east of Torrence Avenue are no longer there. They were right on the outskirts of Hegewisch at the time. It was where these tracks cross 130th street that little Tola simply vanished the first time. Since then there have been at least dozen people who have disappeared along these tracks as they’ve stopped to help a little girl who is bringing lunch to her father. So, if you happen to be wandering along where these tracks used to run, and the fog rolls in on an otherwise still night, be on the lookout for little Tola. But heed this warning! Whatever you do, don’t follow her in the mist or you too will never return.