Sign of Ghosts or Ghost Signs?

Thanks to our awesome, Star Wars-vintage signs challenge winner, we’re a little obsessed with vintage signs lately. And while scouring the interwebz to get our vintage sign fix, we discovered something shocking: Ghosts are real…they’re just not the ones wearing white sheets that you might expect.

Have you ever looked at an old building and noticed old, faded, painted signs on it side? Well these have a name: Ghost Signs.
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Ghost signs (and I don’t mean signs of ghosts) are one of those things we pass every day and just kind of stop seeing after awhile. Here in Chicago, we have a ton of them. And these awesome photos by Chicagoan Mark Susina helps show the old parts of the city in a new light.Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 1.03.48 AMThere’s something super eerie about these signs. They’re hard to miss, but once you notice them? It’s hard to unsee them. It’s kind of like you’re able to see an alternate dimension of your city, trying to break through into your reality but only able to leave footprints, shadows of itself.

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On a slightly less sci-fi note, these signs are more than just remnants of old businesses and painted signs from yesteryear. They’re impressions of the past that remain.

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Because that old building with a ghost sign on it may be a Staples or Target now. But by looking at that faded, shadowy sign on the brick? You can get an idea not only of what the building used to be, but what the city used to look like – back before signs could be electric and neon.Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 1.07.33 AM

So what makes these signs stay? History refusing to be washed away? Some unseen force trying to make us all remember what the world used to be like? A city haunted by its past?

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Welp…lead paint, actually. See because back in that day, we didn’t have electric neon signs for stores. We also didn’t know lead paint was bad. So there’s that.Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 1.08.39 AM

So the next time you’re walking around your city or town, see if you can spot any of these ghost signs. But in the meantime, check out a few more of these awesome pics!

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Carlyn Hill

Dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I'm not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.