The dead firefighter Francis Leavy’s ghostly handprint remains an unsolved mystery

For twenty years a mysterious handprint was visible on a Chicago fire station’s window. It could not be cleaned off, buffed off or scraped off. Many believed it belonged to Francis Leavy, a firefighter who was cleaning that very window when he predicted his own imminent death in 1924.

The Story Of The Chicago Firefighter Francis Leavy And The Ghostly Handprint

The dead firefighter Francis Leavy's ghostly handprint remains an unsolved mystery 1

Francis Leavy was a dedicated firefighter during the 1920s. He loved his job, and his peers loved him for his dedication and charming nature. He was a pleasant man, always ready with a smile and a helping hand.

The April 18th, 1924 Chicago Curran’s Hall Fire Disaster

On April 18th, 1924, Francis’ colleagues became aware of a change in his demeanour. Suddenly, he was an unsmiling, grunting guy washing a large window at the Chicago Fire Department, not looking at anyone or talking. After a few minutes, Leavy suddenly announced that he had a strange feeling ― a feeling that he might die that very day. At that very moment, the phone rang and broke the heavy atmosphere brought on by the fireman’s words.

A fire was raging at Curran’s Hall, a four-story commercial building on Blue Island Avenue in Chicago, which was quite a long way from the fire department. Therefore, no time was to be wasted. In just a few minutes, Francis Leavy and his fellow firefighters were on the scene, assessing the situation and helping those trapped on the top floors.

The Building Abruptly Collapsed
April 18, 1924, Chicago Fire, Francis Leavy Handprint
The Firefighters during the April 1924 Chicago fire

Everything seemed to be on track to rescue everyone from the building. Then, suddenly, the flames engulfed the lower part of the building, and the roof caved in. As soon as this happened, the walls came crashing down, pinning many people under the rubble ― including Leavy. Leavy’s grim premonition came true. He lost his life that day trying to save others.

The dead firefighter Francis Leavy's ghostly handprint remains an unsolved mystery 2
Firefighters at the Curran’s Hall, April 18, 1924

That day, eight Chicago Fire Department firefighters died, and more than twenty were injured. A ninth firefighter died from his injuries eight days after the fire, and one civilian also died while trying to help rescue firefighters from the rubble.

Engine 12 lost six firefighters in the collapse: Lieutenant Frank Frosh, Firefighter Edward Kersting, Firefighter Samuel T. Warren, Firefighter Thomas W. Kelly, Firefighter Jeremiah Callaghan, and Firefighter James Carroll, the last of whom died from fatal injuries on April 26. Engine 5 lost two firefighters: Captain John Brennan and Firefighter Michael Devine, and Firefighter Francis Leavy was from Engine 107.

The Mysterious Handprints

The very next day of the tragedy, trying to come to terms with the great losses, Leavy’s colleagues sat at the firehouse thinking about the events of the previous day. Suddenly, they noticed something strange on one of the windows. It looked like a handprint smudged onto the glass.

Firefighter Francis Leavy Handprint unsolved mystery
A mysterious handprint was visible on a Chicago fire station’s window.

Eerily, it was the very same window that Francis Leavy was busy washing the day before. The firemen cleaned the window again, but the print stubbornly refused to disappear. For many years, the handprint remained on the window in spite of chemicals used to try and remove it. The strange mystery remained unsolved, but came to an abrupt end when a newspaper boy threw a paper against the window in 1944, causing it to shatter into pieces.