The legend of this baby swept through the city and country, as people ventured forth, to see the devil incarnate.
The building itself was built at 800 South Halstead Street in 1856 by Charles J. Hull (hence the name of the building). The neighbourhood was seen to be quite 'fashionable' and life looked to be good for Hull, his wife and their children. Unfortunately Hulls wife passed away leaving him to care for their two children who also passed away within a decade of another and quite young.
Hull eventually moved to another part of Chicago but it would seem his deceased wife chose to stay, haunting the room she died in.
The house itself survived the Chicago Fire of 1871 but the neighbourhood did not fair so well. Soon the area became filled with immigrants and the reputation of the area dropped significantly. In the mid 1870's the house became a home for the elderly poor and no doubt saw more deaths during that time.
Although many more mysterious events took place in the building (small unexplainable fires, the appearance of a woman in white, figures seen about the halls, curtains refusing to stay closed in one of the empty rooms) it was not until 1913 that an event began that saw Hull House enter the more mysterious side of Chicago's history.
A Settlement House gets a Devil Baby...
But it was one day in 1913, after many years of successfully running this settlement house, that events took on a strange and possibly sinister turn...
Three Italian women entered the building with much fuss and excitement. They demanded to see the devil baby!
The residents (Hull House volunteers) stated they had no idea what they were talking about but the excited women persisted. They knew the devil baby was in the building and they kept demanding to see it.
Although the Italian women eventually left they were but the first of many, many people who made their way to the house in order to see this devil for themselves. Hundreds, thousands of people from the neighbourhood all made attempts to see the devil baby, some even offered to pay for the opportunity. However none were able to see the child for the residents stated time and time again that it never existed.
It was not just the poor or superstitious who made the journey to the house but even physicians who had heard of the child wanted the opportunity to study it. Soon people from outside of the Near West Chicago area were calling by, people from all over the country wanted to have a good look.
For about six weeks there was a heavy flow of traffic throughout the neighbourhood as people made their way to Hull House, all to be told to leave that the story was just an 'old wives tale', albeit one that had gotten some pretty good legs under it.
Who was this 'Devil Baby'?
A devoutly Catholic woman hanged a picture of the virgin Mary on the wall but her aethiest husband tore it down. He stated that he would rather have the devil himself in residence in the home rather than that picture on the wall. Several months later the woman gave birth to a deformed child – hooves, claws, tail, pointed ears. The shock was too much for her to bare and she passed away, the husband took the child to Hull House and left it on the door step.
The other version concerns a man whose wife gave birth to six daughters. The husband was enraged by the lack of a son and cried out one night that he would rather her give birth to the devil than another girl... and you can guess what happened next.
They were able to recapture the baby and then had it locked in the attic of the house.
From there it is not known what happened except somehow this story got around and now thousands of people were turning up to get a look.
The visitors and the story seemed to run out of steam and the legend was all but forgotten.
More to this Tale?
Jane Addams, although bothered by the near ending flow of visitors, did find this event in the homes history to be interesting, so much so that she wrote quite a long and extensive article about it in the Atlantic Monthly way back in 1916.
You can check that out here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/
What do you think?
Or maybe a deformed child was in care at Hull House, one that saw the start of this legend?