Who Is Leaving Chalk At the Harrison Red Line Stop — And Why?

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 20
Photo and forensic-looking annotations: Me.
I’ll get more pictures. You can’t see it as well from this distance but I wanted to show you how much there is on any given day. Maybe I should start an Instagram account just for this! Photo and forensic-looking annotations: Me.


There’s mystery afoot!

Actually, it’s underfoot — and it’s time to blow this thing wide open. I’ve been intending to write this post for months. Here we go.

Every time — and I mean every single time — I enter or exit the southwest entrance to the Red Line subway at Harrison, fresh, multicolored chalk is present on the stairwell down to the trains. These crumbles of chalk are fresh: Without fail, random, chocolate chip-sized chunks of yellow, blue, pink, purple, and/or white pieces seem to have been (very) recently crushed into the tiles in different spots on the landing between the two flights of stairs to and from street level, every time I come or go.

Yeah, it’s weird. I know. But I’m telling you: Someone is regularly dropping colored chalk on the Harrison Red Line subway stairs.

But who? And why?

Maybe the delay in sharing this peculiar discovery with you is due to my embarrassing — okay, delicious — fear that these chalk droppings (ew) are some kind of sign or signifier for a secret society and by noticing it and then cracking the case, I’m essentially making myself a character in a Dan Brown novel: The innocent blogger heroine plunged into the sick, twisted world of…something weird.

The novel — the first in the series, of course — would be called The Chalk Leaver and I would be very, very beautiful i this novel and in grave danger, having poked my nose and my laptop into places it does not belong! There would be a smolderingly attractive, precocious-but-mercurial young man who has crucial information that could be the key to everything — but he’s trapped in the receiving room! I would be on the run from this secret chalk society and at some point, me and the mercurial young man would be trapped in an elevator together and probably kiss. The end of the book would end with me and the mercurial young man in Tuscany, seamlessly blending into a crowd on a piazza. We wear Ray-Bans and…a map. Or something.

The second book would be titled something like Chalkduster and this book would go deep into my psyche as a character but also we’d get a lot of information about the secret society that marks its paths — its secret paths! — with chalk markings. Someone would die. I’m not sure who. Not me. Actually, the main villain would die but it would be revealed that he wasn’t even the baddest baddie and now that he’s gone, the real bad guy emerges in a cliffhanger for the third book!

The third book, Chalk Is Cheap, would be the best one yet, according to the New York Times. I’d definitely almost die. There would be a new love for sure, maybe a tall German…doctor. Something like that. And some of it would take place in the Sahara so that I could wear gorgeous khaki items and Isadora Duncan-y scarves and a pith helmet. There would be something about jewels and stolen art in this book. I would definitely be able to fly a Cessna in this one.

Seriously, though, I am really curious: What’s up with all that chalk at the Harrison stop? Has any other person in Chicago who uses this stop regularly noticed this? It’s kinda driving me crazy at this point; I do want to know. It’s weird, that fresh chalk all the time.

I would like to close on a dramatic note in the spirit of the Dan Brown novel series that is clearly good enough to option for a movie by this description alone. You’re going to help with this. Please imagine me in some kind of physical peril, like… Picture me dangling off of some craggy precipice — or at least imagine me very thirsty and underfed. And I look really good and I have lipstick on. Got it?

Okay, your line is:

YOU: Why, Mary? Why did you ask about the chalk? Just… Dammit, Mary! Why did you have to go looking for trouble? You could’ve just — (You turn away and put the back of your sleeve to your face , ashamed to let me see you cry.)

ME: (Smiling, sweet and frail.) Never stop looking at your feet, darling. You know that. You never know what you’ll find if you don’t look down. I think… I think it’s time to look…down at the world, now…

YOU: (Whirling on me, you shake me; I”m losing consciousness.) NO!!!

ME: (Hardly audible.) Don’t ever stop looking…for the…pink…chalk…

[the end for now]

20 Responses

  1. Colleen
    | Reply

    Best seller

  2. Cathy
    | Reply

    Love it! The titles are great and the suspenseful is killing me.

  3. Lisa Gainey Floyd
    | Reply

    You are hilarious. Maybe there is a chaulk factory nearby. Or perhaps a child who plays with chalk every morning before taking the Red Line. Let us know.

  4. Susan
    | Reply

    I’m hooked! When are you releasing chapter one for your very loyal (and glamorous!) Paper Girl readers?!?

  5. Patricia Gottshalk
    | Reply

    Oh no, darkness and drama in Mary Land. In Pat Land there is sunshine and lollipops. The chalk artist is none other then Dick van Dyke as Bert. Yes, Mary Poppins’ famous chimney sweep. It makes sense, he is from the mid-west and December is his birthday month.

  6. Linda
    | Reply

    Standing in the red circles summons the Hogwarts Express….and four black crows.

  7. Lisa Schmidt
    | Reply

    How that you have us all on the edge of our seats, I feel it is only fair that you skip a day of school and stake out the chalk filled station.We need closure 😀 Thanks for the fun post 🙂

  8. Tracy Volansky
    | Reply

    Ok, you’re imagination and writing are fantastically funny. But seriously… what about the chalk? I really need to know where it’s coming from and why it’s there. Would you mind planning some kind of 24-hour stakeout to find the culprit? You can’t just leave us all hanging like this!!!

    • Mary
      | Reply

      I know! I mean, the chalk is SO WEIRD, right?? I promise to have updates. I do have a desire to get to the bottom of it. Maybe the post will catch someone’s eye — someone who WANTS to be discovered! ooooo 🙂 m

  9. nadine donovan
    | Reply

    Hahaaha- love your sense of adventure over chalk!!!! Can’t wait for the full novel to come out!

  10. Mary
    | Reply

    Looks like you need an overcoat, sunglasses and a steaming cup of coffee for your stake out!

    • Linda Duff
      | Reply

      And the chalk person will be some cute guy drinking HOT COCOA !!!!!! 😛

  11. rmsreid
    | Reply

    I love your fascination & curiosity with something most people probably don’t notice. My coworkers make fun of me as I am disturbed that the garbage trucks in TX have FL license plates.

  12. Karen Morrell Johnson
    | Reply

    Why?!?! Why Mary why?!! You KNOW you shouldn’t look down! We’ve talked about this SO many times! Avert your eyes, delete this post and go into hiding for at least a month and MAYBE you’ll be free from this bound-to-be-bloody drama! I fear for your safety, Mary!

  13. Kelly
    | Reply

    This post is amazing! As well as an amazing mystery! Do you know if it’s only the southwest exit? (That’s the covered one on Polk, right?) This is about a half block from my office, and you’ve got me dying to go check it out! Let us know what you find out!

  14. Jeanann Montney
    | Reply

    I thought at first that it was the remains of a chalk outline left by the police. Happy to know that the chalk being used is colored, or DO police agencies use only white chalk? Another unanswered question.

  15. Carla E
    | Reply

    The chalk is part of a ‘living art’ project. The artist drops chunks of chalk in various colors, then lets the commuters ‘paint’ the commute. It is being photographed at the end of every day and it will be a series.

  16. Carla E
    | Reply

    Just realized that I didn’t indicate that I am just making this explanation up! It is where my mind went when I tried to think of an explanation.

  17. Nancy McFall
    | Reply

    Your family must love your goofy side

  18. ZB WonderWoman
    | Reply

    Handsome doctor. Hot mail pick-up guy.. Subway exit. Chalk. Criminals scattering chalk ends to entice adventurous women into becoming dust mules in exchange for a glimpse of…

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