Esoteric Chicago

This is a brief rundown of the major esoteric features of the Chicago area.

Gangster Ghosts

Chicago's ghost population includes some active souls and ka'u of gangsters from the Roaring Twenties. Some try to continue their gang rivalries, but the point has gone and what would they do, kill each other? Gangster ghosts are more prone than most ghosts to striking deals with occultists, doing favors in return for prana or for other favors.

Stockyard Ghosts

Cattle don't often leave ghosts, but when you have as many cattle slaughtered as you have had in the Chicago stockyards, you'll get a few. Sometimes, people find uses for them – astral sacrifices, bizarre familiars. Since the stockyards are now history, the population of ghost cows slowly dwindles as they find their way off to their proper afterlives.

Fire Elementals

These did not cause the Chicago Fire, but were inspired by it; a lot of occultists have conjured fire elementals while trying to cash in on the Chicago Fire one way and another. Some linger and a few have individuated, though only at an animal level. They appear (mostly to esoterics) as sparks, flames, or firebirds.

Air (Wind) Elementals

Mages have been conjuring air elementals in the Windy City for a long time, and many have escaped or been released; a few have individuated at an animal level. They appear (mostly to esoterics) as dust-devils, breezes, odors, flying insects, bats, or birds.

Mitch the Lake Monster

A serpentine lake monster is spotted in Lake Michigan from time to time and called "Mitch," though there's nothing to indicate that it's the same one each time. Chicago esoterics suspect that it is attracted by heavy prana use and so constitutes something of an omen of restless times.

Aeolus Society

The largest and most organized group of Chicago esoterics is the Aeolus Society. (Even being the largest, there are only a couple of dozen of them.) They are a group of wind-mages with a civic-minded mission: they want to make Chicago (long nicknamed the "Second City") into the First City, not only first in the US, but first in the world, as near as possible to a utopian community; if not the New Jerusalem, then an anticipatory suburb of it.

Wind magic alone is not an adequate tool for that. They are also versed in nymic magic, geases, and austerities, and are trying to learn or otherwise acquire luck-casting abilities, all so as to figure out how to bless a whole city. At the moment, it's a research project more than anything else. (Be it noted it also produces information on how to curse.)

Meanwhile, they do what they can with fairy-godmothering, secret-super-heroics, and the like, alternately helped and hindered by the Sundering.

Although they are the most organized esoteric group in the city, their organization is still limited to having regular meetings with an elected chair, a vice-chair, and a secretary. They meet in each other's homes and on top of Chicago skyscrapers, weather permitting.

Other Groups

About half of all the human estoerics in the city are freelance, totaling less than a hundred. The main groups are several covens and colleges, each numbering a dozen or less, and the following:


This group is the parent group of the Aeolus Society. In fact, since it is an informal group united by nothing but a nickname, and since no one stormed out or excommunicated anyone, all members of the Aeolus Society are still, technically, Loopers, but the two groups tend to speak of one another as separate, rather than nested.

Loopers are wind mages who frequent the Loop, the downtown district of Chicago named after a loop in the tracks of the public transit system. There, they flit about the roofs of the skyscrapers and pull prana off the city's famous winds. The Aeolus Society tends to regard mere Loopers as slackers, while Loopers tend to regard the Aeolians as self-important, idealistic busybodies. No doubt both views have merit, but no fights have broken out and the two groups even help one another from time to time.

As wind-mages, Loopers practice flight and invisibility, control weather (usually on a very small scale like drafts and staying dry(-ish) in the rain), produce and banish odors, and have air elementals for familiars, which they use to fetch and carry and to deliver messages in the manner of Potterverse owls.

If the Loopers have any official meeting place (which they really don't), it's on top of the 110-story Sears Tower, tallest building in the western hemisphere.

The Onion Docents

Their name dates from a time when they did not take themselves quite as seriously as they do now, and refers to the origin of the name "Chicago," which is shikaakwa, a Miami-Illinois Indian word meaning "wild onions"; these grew on the banks of the Chicago River.

The Docents know lots of scholarly tidbits like that, and frequent the Chicago museums – the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Public Library, the McCormick Center, various art museums and libraries, and so on.

Besides having a great familiarity with these museums in a prosaic way, the Docents can flit from place to place within and between them, using a system of portals they laid down over the years, and regardless of public opening hours or security systems. They have also appointed themselves keeps (and owners) of various occult and esoteric items in the Chicago academic system. Many of these appear on no prosaic inventory, of course. Some of these items are words of power coined by the Docents for their own use.

A few of the older, higher-ranking members have living quarters hidden in the museums. The very oldest members don't live anywhere; they are ghosts who haunt the museums and libraries; some people just cannot leave a research project unfinished.

Though the Onion Docents are now a rather stuffy lot, they are not particularly organized. You become a Docent by being allowed in by several other Docents and unopposed by enough others. Once that is settled to the sponsors' satisfaction, they administer a membership oath, a binding geas dating from the founding days about a century ago. Leadership is a matter of charisma based on seniority and accomplishment, and is demonstrated by one's ability to get together a committee for whatever project one has in mind.

The Onion Docents are a resource of knowledge and training for other esoterics, and people come to them from all over the world. They have ties to the Kerdeans. There are a couple of people who are known members of both groups, and even more in the way of Kerdean infiltration.


The Ticket-Holders are a group, sometimes called a gang, of Chicago esoterics who use their magic to transmit prana and telepathic messages along the rails of the public transit system, draw prana by riding the trains, and, as their most spectacular trick, teleport along the lines and in and out of the trains. They have no organization; you get called a Ticket-Holder simply by learning the magic. A few very wander-lusty mages are both Ticket-Holders and Loopers. (Their magical theme is really Travel rather than Wind or Rail.) There are railroad-themed mages all over the world; this is just the Chicago-based population of them. See The El.

The El

Chicago does not have a subway system; it has the El, the Elevated Railway, which only occasionally goes underground.

The Black Line

With effort, a Ticket-Holder can teleport themselves and a small amount of cargo (e.g. one other person) along the tracks of the El. This is called "using the Black Line." With a little more effort, they can extend the Black Line along the Illinois Central and South Shore railway. Beyond that point (which does get them as far east as South Bend, Indiana, and anywhere with a railroad within Illinois), they have no advantage over other railroad mages.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010