1633 North Cleveland Avenue
As they say, if you can hear the bells of St. Michael’s, you’re in Old Town. Now a much larger polygon, Chicago’s Old Town was originally a relatively small triangle between North Avenue to the south, Clark Street to the east, and the now-defunct Ogden Avenue to the west.
Completed in 1869, St. Michael’s Church sits toward the west bottom corner of the old triangle. Despite the abundant presence of St. Michael the Archangel, a famous archenemy of Satan, it seems that the Prince of Darkness has been in line for communion here on occasion. He gives this little sanctuary an ironic spooky edge.
If we’re counting demons, then yes! And again, not just any demon, but the Devil himself. Now, why would Satan pick St. Michael’s out of all the churches in the world to visit? Well, perhaps out of spite for their choice of patron saint—St. Michael.
It could also be because of Chicago’s surprising connections to Satanism. In fact, church of Satan founder Anton LeVay was born in Chi-town, a branch of the Satanic Temple operates here, and a satanic cult called the Ripper Crew terrorized the city in the early 1980s, with some of its members still remaining.
It all began one night in 1970 as St. Michael’s was having an evening mass, just like any other. Then the communion rites began, and worshipers were soon standing and shuffling out of the pews into a line toward the altar, ready to receive the body of Christ in the form of a traditional communion wafer.
The pastor stood with the small platter, delivering each one with the usual reverence. He was so focused on his task that he hadn’t noticed the figure in the dark robe, hood obscuring their face. They certainly seemed a little out of place with the otherwise nicely-dressed churchgoers, but it wasn’t entirely uncommon.
“The body of Christ…” the ordained minister recited, offering up the little round wafer.
It was then that he fully noticed the ominous presence standing inches in front of him. His face was still obscured by the hood, but the man of the cloth thought he heard a snort. And not just any snort, but a gravelly bullish sort of exhale.
Compelled to look down, he saw the figure’s feet protruding from beneath the dark-colored hem—slim, pointed, shiny black shapes. Not shoes, but cloven hooves.
With reality sinking in, the pastor froze. He wasn’t terrified, he felt protected by his faith, but it left him with an adrenaline rush. Since the beast made no move to collect the sacrament, the man simply continued to hold it out, the consecrated body of his Savior the only thing between him and the ultimate evil.
In another moment, the dark-robed one just vanished, and the ordained minister felt relieved. Regardless, his heartbeat slowed as the next person approached with a calm smile and open palm.
It could’ve been a hallucination, but the pastor was sure he’d come face-to-face with the Devil that night. And it wasn’t the last time members of the parish spoke of seeing a figure in a dark hood making deep raspy sounds during their masses.
No other minister ever had quite as much of a close call giving communion, though.
The earliest seeds of Old Town were very literal when 19th-century German immigrants moved to the land above North Avenue and began farming celery, potatoes, and cabbage. The area became known as “The Cabbage Patch.”
During World War II, Chicago’s Civil Defense Agency dubbed the expanded triangular town a neighborhood defense unit. It also picked up the name North Town until the first local art fair known as the ‘Old Town Holiday’ was held in 1945. The new name stuck.
The big red brick church designed by John Dillenburg and Augustus Wallbaum replaced the first much smaller wooden church built on the site in 1852. Along with the parish, also founded in ’52, it catered to the large population of German Catholics.
One of those was Michael Diversey, who originally immigrated to Chicago in 1836. His donation bought the land that the new St. Michael’s was built on. Sadly, he died the same year the church was completed.
Diversey had also run the popular Chicago Brewery with English immigrant William Lill and served as alderman of Chicago’s 6th and 9th wards from 1844-1845 and 1856-1858 respectively.
As brewmaster and philanthropist, Michael had been actively pro-alcohol in the face of the recently nationalized temperance movement, which sought to restrict and even ban it outright.
Diversey, like others, had cited several Bible passages and insisted that drinking was a moral privilege sanctioned by Jesus himself. Needless to say, the sacramental wine continued to flow at St. Michael’s.
Today, the masses here are led by Pastor Larry Sanders and Associate Pastor Ed Vella. They’re held daily, at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and at 9 p.m. Sunday.
If you’re looking to catch the Lord of Darkness, you may want to try coming in the evening. After all, 9 p.m. is closer to 1 a.m., which is said to be one of the Devil’s hours.