appearance of the balcony when our party reached it
was the most terrible that human eye could
contemplate. wedged together on the stairways or
standing upright were dead men, women, and children,
so entangled that it was difficult to separate them,
that the bodies might be taken out. Many clutched
the banisters, while others sat bolt upright in
their seats, apparently unharmed, with their
lifeless eyes denoting the terror they felt during
their last moments.
appearance of the dead, especially those brought to
the Northwestern college building, indicated that
they had succumbed to suffocation rather than to
death by fire. Many bore the only evidence of a
struggle on their hands, which were torn and badly
lacerated, as if they had fought for life or injured
themselves in the agony of death.
maids, little children, and aged men and women were
tenderly borne out by the police and firemen, l and as one after another was enfolded
in the sheltering blanket the thought was simply
impressed on the onlookers: 'How uncertain is life,
and often how brief the span from mirth to sadness!'
the bodies were disentangled and drawn by ropes over
the roughly constructed bridge from the theater to
the Tremont House [Northwestern], one was forced to
ask himself if all were human bodies, and whether
it could be possible that they were in the full
enjoyment of life but a few moments before."
in newspaper interview two days after the Iroquois
one of several priests on the scene at the Iroquois
who administered last rites to individual victims as
well as to groups of victims at Northwestern and at
Thompson's diner. A few out of town newspapers
toyed with an improbable – and unsupported – tale of Muldoon as a hero who led the
rescue effort, but the story didn't survive the first
day of post-fire coverage. He granted
sacraments and selected the official Iroquois
Theater fire hymn (Lead, Kindly Light, 1833).
St. Charles Borromeo
Church in Chicago
The church in the prairie
west of Chicago had ample acreage at 12th and
Cypress* on which to grow but the conservative middle
class congregation kept an eye on the budget and did
not expand prematurely.
For it's first eleven years,
one house served as
St. Charles Borromeo's church, rectory and
Mass was said
on the first floor while Sisters of Charity
taught students on the second floor.
When the church registry
numbered twelve hundred
families, a new building was begun
Designed by Martin Carr, the
impressive structure was
completed in 1897.
By 1899 there were
twenty Sisters of Charity teachers and Bishop Muldoon
had three assistants.
Three months before the fire, twelve
hundred students registered for school at St.
Charles. One of those,
Mary Donahue, lost her life at the Iroquois,
as did the choir's former organist,
Reverend Peter J. Muldoon
Assigned in 1895 to the prairie
parish, twenty-six year old Father
chancellor of the archdiocese
and secretary to the to the archbishop.
within the church was helped by an exhibit he
produced for the 1893 Columbian Exposition Worlds
Fair. The exhibit highlighted Catholic schools
in the Chicago diocese.
native, Muldoon was educated at St. Mary's colleges
in Kentucky and Baltimore. Nine months prior to the Iroquois
Theater fire he was appointed Vicar-general by
In 1908 Muldoon
left St. Charles Borromeo to become the first bishop
of a new diocese in Rockford, IL. Six hundred
Chicagoans turned out to wish him good luck in his
new assignment. Twelve years later it incorporated
one hundred fifteen priests
and one hundred fifteen churches,
thirty-nine schools, sixty-five
hundred students, an
orphan asylum, six hospitals and two retirement
St. Charles Borromeo was
razed in 1968 and is today the site of a high-rise
parking lot, across the street from the FBI.
While St. Charles still stood
it was rumored that Father Muldoon haunted the place.
Brothers Rocco and Daniel Facchini wrote a book about the
haunting: Father Muldoon, a True Chicago Ghost Story: Tales of a Forgotten Rectory.
If Muldoon was inclined to haunt, 'seems he would have
picked a church in his last diocese, Rockford, but
then what do I know about priestly ghosts?
Ordered a copy of Facchini's book to learn the
Discrepancies and addendum
* Today 12th street is Roosevelt
Road, renamed in 1919 to honor the late president
Teddy Roosevelt, and Cypress is Hoyne Avenue, and
their corner is a few blocks southwest of the
University of Illinois on Taylor St.
One of his many wives
died at the Iroquois
James Strong lost his
family at the Iroquois Theater
If you have additional
info about an Iroquois victim, or find an error, I would like to
hear from you. Chaos and communication limitations of 1903
produced many errors I'm striving to correct and welcome all the help I can get. Space is provided at the
bottom of stories for comments, or
me directly. To receive email notification of new content,
let me know.
(Don't expect your inbox to fill up with emails as I rarely consider
a story to be finished. For Facebook users, following the
Facebook page will mostly accomplish the same end since mostly
completed Iroquois stories are posted there. Mostly.)