Located at 800 S. Halsted St. on Chicago's Near West Side, Hull House was well known for the work of social reformer and actrivist Jane Addams. It is also known for something not as good: the Devil Baby - it is said to have been the inspiration for the 1968 movie "Rosemary's Baby."
It was built in 1856 in the "fashionable" section of the city, but soon abandoned after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The area attracted Italian, Greek, and Jewish immigrants. By the 1880's the neighborhood had become a tangle of crime and vice. It was soon called the "darkest corner of Chicago," the Near West Side was overrun with crooked cops and politicians. brothels, saloons, and drug dealers. Criminals from around the city looked for asylum there, attracting more thugs. It was a miserable and dangerous place, and amongst it all, the immigrants tried to make a living.
These are the people Jane Addams was determined to help, and Hull House was where she started her lifelong calling for social equality. Addams, the daughter of a rich merchant, attended and graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary. During her last year there her father passed away suddenly. She was depressed and not sure of which path to follow for her life, she used her inheritance to travel through Europe when she found her niche in London's Whitchapel area.
When Jane returned to Chicago, she and her college friend, Ellen Gates, started plans for a settlement house. In 1889 they transformed a run down mansion into Hull House. A place for immigrants to be educated and improved. A comfortable home and communit center that offered food, shelter, education and protection from the dangerous streets around them.
Even with all their hard work, Hull House gained a reputation for its ghostly tenants rather than its human ones. Before Jane Addams took over Hull House, Charles Hull's wife died of natural causes in the second floor bedroom. A few months after that her ghost started haunting that room. Tenants that lived there before Jane, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the owners of a furniture store kept a bucket of water on the stairs at night, thinking that the ghost couldn't pass over it.
After Mrs. Hull's death the ghost continued to appear. Jane was staying in Mrs. Hull's old bedroom and one night woke up to loud footsteps. This continued for a few nights and when Jane told Ellen about it she said she heard it in her room too. Jane finally moved to another room.
Other guests also reported hearing the footsteps and other "strange and unearthly noises." Author Helen Campbell said she saw a ghostly figure standing by her bed in the "haunted room." When she lit the lamp the figure disappeared. In 1893 Louise Bowen and Cannon Barnett also heard and saw strange things. But everyone that saw the ghost said it appeared to be a sad but safe visitor and everyone just accepted her being there.
It was another visitor that gave Hull House it's unsavory reputation. It was supposed to be the shelter of the Devil Baby. Supposedly a dedicated Catholic woman gave birth to it after she tried to put up a picture of the Virgin Mary in her house but her atheist husband took it down. He said he would rather have the devil in the house rather than the picture. It seems that his wish came true: His wife gave birth to a baby with pointed ears, horns, scaled skin, hoofs, and a tail.
Reluctant to raise the baby themselves and not wanting it to have a tormented life, the parents asked Addams to take the child.
They say that Addams tried to have the baby baptized, but during the service it got away from the priest and started dancing and laughing. Addams was said to have confined the child in the attic. Rumors spread like wildfire about this child and hundreds of people went by the house to try and see the Devil Baby.
Every day Jane tried to tell everyone that the story wasn't true. She also tried to put the rumors to rest in her autobiography. Although many still believed in the existence of the baby, the people eventually stopped coming by.
Even today people say that the story is true - or at least part of it. Some have thought that it was actually a badly derformed baby of an immigrant woman that couldn't take care of it.