A Day and a Night in Occult Chicago

A statue of the goddess Ceres tops the Chicago Board of Trade building, as seen from a classroom building at DePaul University.

For the third time in four years, we had a pre-conference event that tied into Pagan studies somehow. (Previously: Montréal, San Francisco.)

This was the Occult Chicago conference organized by Jason Winslade at DePaul University—his take on “Chicago Quarter,” an urban orientation class that all first-year DePaul students must take.

Imagine a bright new student who, however, does not know a Theosophist from a Chicago Bear. Suddenly she (who maybe just took this section because it fit her schedule) finds herself immersed in a world yogis, magicians, witches, astrologers, hucksters, publishers, and — this being Chicago — architecture.

Jason Winslade (black cap) points out the location of the former Chicago Masonic Temple on State Street, accompanied by “Occult Chicago” blogger Rik Garrett, right.

Those of us who attended the one-day version (see also Jason Pitzl-Waters’ review) heard some of the students’ capstone presentations, learned that the first skyscraper in Chicago was built by the Freemasons, listened to representatives of contemporary magical groups, and visited sites and building associated with occult organizations, hauntings, violent deaths, and publishing houses.

Mural on the tenth floor of the Fine Arts Building, Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

One highlight was the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., where at one time the Thelemite Choronzon Club held its meetings and the Akbar Lodge of Theosophists had its office.

The Pookah (right)  and friends pursue the skeptical German professor in a Terra Mysterium skit.

Finally came a performance by the Terra Mysterium steampunk theatre troupe. You might think that a classroom would not make the best performance space, but the performance was laced with academic parody, so it worked.

5 Comments

  1. Alan Salmi says:

    I agree, it was a great day and the performance simply provided a nice capstone on it all. After living in Chicago since 1984, I had some idea of how intense the city was in occult/magickal leanings, but this really helped to put it into perspective. One always thinks of New York or the west coast as the centers of “marginal” culture or “occulture” but I think Chicago certainly ranks up there.
    It was good meeting you there also!

  2. Jason Winslade says:

    Thanks for the review, Chas. One (slight) correction. As far as I know, the Masonic Temple Building was the first skyscraper EVER, not just in Chicago. This event was a lot of fun and exactly the kind of thing I wish I could do all the time. Hopefully, someone can make something happen in Baltimore. In the meantime, I hope we can create more of a Chicago scene with this stuff.

  3. Sounds like heaven. I would have LOVED to have been there.

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