Poltergeist 2014: It’s Heeeere

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A hit event with a history returns on October 25.

What does the word “poltergeist” bring to mind? A likely answer is the voice of a little girl named Carol Anne saying “They’re Heeeere” as she converses with ghosts through a staticky TV. This is a scene from Poltergeist, the classic 1982 horror movie about a family terrorized by a demon overlord and his ghost followers. However, to a group of Junior League of Chicago (JLC) women the word brings back memories of a fabulous Halloween event that started 30 years ago.

Poltergeist guests of the 1980s and early 90s experienced several different venues, including the Chicago Armory, Goose Island Clybourn, Berghoff Brewery, and North Pier (now the River East Arts Center). An advertised ticket price in the 80s was $20 and included beer, wine, and sandwiches.

Costumes showed signs of the times, Calvin and Hobbes, The Addams Family, and the Energizer Bunny were a few. One guest came as a “cereal” killer wearing a very bloody shirt with cereal boxes taped on. An orange, typewritten topics ad from 1989  stated guests are “STRONGLY encouraged to wear their most ghoulish or garish couture!”

In the mid-90s current Sustainer, Molly Riley was the Poltergeist Chair and the role was life changing. She says:

“I wound up on the Poltergeist Committee because I was an Associate late to my first Placement Fair. I fell in love with special events and the path led to my position as the Executive Director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I have this job because of my development work in the JLC.”

When Molly began her JLC career the event was at Sluggers in Wrigleyville. By her third JLC year she was the Poltergeist Chair. Under her direction the event matured from a bar party to a fete of almost 300 guests at Lincoln Park’s Park West concert venue.

Due to Development restructuring Poltergeist ended in the late 1990s. Past leader Julie Rogers made the heartbreaking call letting Molly know the event would not return. Molly moved on to the Gazebo Committee. She is happy to hear Poltergeist is returning and summed up her own experience:

“The event was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love. It was great fun and raised needed funds for the JLC.  I enjoyed being the Poltergeist Chair and it prepared me to take on even larger roles, including Development VP and JLC Board Member.”

When it comes to horror movies Molly is typically not a fan, but she is a Poltergeist fan. “It’s a classic movie of the times,” she said.

You won’t find ghosts (hopefully), possessed TVs, or creepy children (must be 21 to enter) at JLC’s Poltergeist 2014, so if you want a fright watch the movie. Hint: If you’re afraid of horror movies and live in a high rise—Part III probably isn’t for you.

Poltergeist 2014 invades on October 25 at Crimson Lounge. Click here to purchase your ticket!

By Beth Riney, JLC Recording Secretary

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