An inside look at Chicago real estate

Almost Famous: Who used to live in your house? Maybe it was, you know, that guy

Kay Severinsen By
Kay Severinsen
   | Home Ownership

When we bought our two-story home 13 years ago, we were only vaguely aware that it came with a “third story.”

The previous owner was getting transferred by Bungie, a company that had been headquartered in Chicago before Microsoft bought it.

It was interesting to us since Bungie is a video game company and our two sons loved Bungie games. But later we figured out that the seller had composed the award-winning music in the uber-popular game series Halo.

Halo Composer Martin O'Donnell

Halo Composer Martin O’Donnell

“He lived here,” we tell our friends, most of whom just stare blankly. So we embellish our story: “He probably wrote part of the Halo music right here in his basement studio.”

But if the listeners happen to be twenty-something Halo fans, their eyes glaze over (which may be a side effect of too much video game play) and eventually they say one word: “Du-u-ude!” They nod at our home, which is now bleeping awesome.

The music, I might add, is also awesome. We take some vicarious pride in it, even though we had nothing to do with it.

While every resale home has had previous residents, most of the time those residents pretty ordinary and are anonymous to the buyers. But if you ask around a little bit, sometimes you’ll hear some interesting stories.

The stories have little resale value, unless you happen to buy an actor’s or pro athlete’s home. But most of the time, the story’s main value is just as a good tale to tell, something that makes your home a little different, a little special.

A few years back, some friends of ours bought a home in Skokie. It was odd-looking, they thought, but its back story was even odder.

Their unusual, stone-clad home was built around 1960 by reputed mobster Rocco Fischetti, Al Capone’s cousin. Fischetti, who put the name Ralph Fisher on his mailbox, apparently had enough revenues from his gambling operations to add some classy touches to the home: parquet floors, a stone fireplace, a sunken, wood-paneled dining room, and high-end kitchen appliances. He also heated his garage and added a plaster ceiling and paneled door, the better to entertain some of his business associates.

My friend Debbie and her husband have examined some of the home’s unusual panels and built-ins, but after more than a decade they have still not found any hidden hordes of cash.

“It didn’t make any difference [in our decision to buy it],” Debbie says. “It was more important that it was two or three blocks from my old neighborhood.”

Still, she says, “We think it is cool to live in a house with a story. And we always tell people when they come by. Supposedly Frank Sinatra and other celebrities came to this house and the police would sit outside and watch the house.”

Does your home have a “third” story – a tale to tell about its previous residents or past? Feel free to share your story in our comments section.