The Ghostly Handprint of Francis Leavy

Francis Leavy, a career firefighter for the Chicago Fire Department, was hard at work on maintenance and clean-up around the engine house when his co-workers around him felt he was behaving quite aloof and not his usual self. On April 18, 1924, it was while Leavy was washing one of the buildings windows that he came to an abrupt stop, leant against the window and said that he had the strangest feeling that he was going to die that day. At that very moment, the phone rang and broke the heavy atmosphere brought on by the fireman’s words. A fire was raging at a building quite a long way from the fire department, and no time was to be wasted. Just after 7pm the first crews arrived at the 1363 S. Blue Island Avenue property and set to work. The blaze was fought from both inside the building, fighters and their fire hoses winding their way through the inferno, and from the outside, the upper floors being accessed via ladders.

Everything seemed to be on track to rescue everyone from the building. Then, suddenly, the flames engulfed the lower part of the building, and the roof caved in. The fire had sufficiently weakened the structure of the building and the roof collapsed about half an hour into the fight. As soon as this happened, the walls came crashing down, pinning many people under the rubble—including Leavy. Leavy’s grim premonition came true. He lost his life that day trying to save others. 
Later it would be discovered that it was arson, an insurance job perpetrated by a sporting goods and novelties business that was located on the second floor of the building. They were tried and convicted of arson and murder.

The day after the tragedy something strange was noticed back at the engine house – on a window pane was a strange stain. At first those staffing the engine house tried to wash it off, scrub it off and then scratch it off but nothing would remove it. Over the following days the pattern of the stain started to become clearer – it soon became obvious that it was a handprint. Eerily, it was the very same window that Francis Leavy was busy washing the day before.

The firemen cleaned the window again, but the print stubbornly refused to disappear. For many years, the handprint remained on the window in spite of chemicals used to try and remove it. Unfortunately, decades later, on April 18, 1944, a paper boy was doing his rounds when he carelessly threw a morning edition newspaper through the window, destroying it and Francis Leavy's handprint.


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