For decades, firefighters at the Chicago Fire Department noticed an eerie hand print that left a permanent mark on a casement, which could not be washed, scraped or removed, despite several attempts. Legends circulated, and many believed that the hand print had a rather macabre history, belonging to a fellow firefighter who succumbed to an accident.
ABOUT TO DIE…
On April 18th, 1924, it was an ordinary day for the many firefighters working at the Chicago Fire Department. Apparently, ignorance is bliss. Francis Leavy, firefighter, was cleaning a window at the building. He had been odd all morning. He didn’t talk, didn’t smile or greet his peers, just busied himself with work, with an air of gloominess around himself. This reminds me of those famous lines:
Like some bold seër in a trance Seeing all his own mischance
Lady of Shallot, by Alfred Tennyson
Suddenly, Leavy foretold in a funereal tone, that he was, in fact, feeling that he was about to die that day. We can imagine a group of fellow workers giggling at this grim pronunciation, with a few purple threads of ill omens these feelings often bring.
Heroic firefighters jumped into the flaming ruins, fighting the wild flames from both sides of the building. But there were people caught up on the upper floors, helpless folk with depleting oxygen. They used ladders to access the upper floors, and so far, the rescue mission was going alright. But…
The fire began to show weird properties, it ran down to the lower stories down the stairs, like a liquid flowing down, a common phenomenon in oil fires. The waves of fire soon covered the entire building, the roof crashed first, followed by the walls, causing the death of many, many people who were smashed to the ground under heavy weight, among them, was Francis Leavy.
A MARK OF DEATH
Several died, while a lucky few were rescued, with heavy injuries. It was later found out that it was arson, an insurance fraud perpetrated by a novelties business at the ground floor of the building.
Astoundingly, firefighters noticed a strange phenomenon just the day after this tragedy. A strange hand print was left at a window, and not just any window, it was the same one Leavy was cleaning the other day! They tried everything from window cleaners to chemical solvents, but the prints remained. Eventually, they stopped trying in the memory of the martyr.
Sadly, a careless paper boy threw a morning paper upon the closed window on April 18, 1944, destroying the glass and the handprint.
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