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  1. The Daily News ghost sign, Grand Avenue west of Harlem Avenue

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  2. R.J. Rous Milk & Cream sign, Ogden and Kirkland Avenues

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  3. Squint your eyes and you can see that this Madison Street sign says "Relieves constipation."

    Photograph: Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  4. Boarding Stable ghost sign, Fulton Market in the West Loop

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  5. Collars Shirts ghost sign, Wells and Harrison Streets

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  6. Wildman Boilers and Tanks ghost sign, 3000 block of West Carroll Avenue

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  7. Radio & TV Tubes ghost sign, Roosevelt Road

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  8. "Children Cry for Fletcher's Castoria" ghost sign, West Madison Street in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. (Fletcher's Castoria was a laxative.)

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr 

  9. The Creator Auto Shop ghost sign, 5124 W Lake St

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  10. Regal Musical Instrument Co. ghost sign, 3215 W Grand Ave

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  11. Lyon & Healy ghost sign in the Loop

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  12. King Beer ghost sign, Laramie Avenue and 21st Street

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  13. Ghost sign in Blue Island

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  14. CeeBee Packing Co. ghost sign, 3840 S Emerald Ave

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  15. Binks Manufacturing Company ghost sign, 3126 W Carroll Ave

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  16. "It's All Good" ghost sign

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  17. "Good Food" ghost sign

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  18. "Peoria" ghost sign, 51st and Hoyne Streets

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

  19. Lawndale Forge ghost sign, 2100 block of South Spaulding Avenue

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  20. Pilsen Beers ghost sign, 4017 W Ogden Ave

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  21. Gösser Beer ghost sign, Milwaukee and Ayers Avenues

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  22. Garden Restaurant ghost sign, 5318 W North Ave

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  23. Made ice cream ghost sign, Madison Street between Hamlin Boulevard and Kostner Avenue

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  24. Ghost sign, 1535 N Pulaski Rd

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

  25. Pioneer ghost sign

    Photograph: Mercer52/flickr

     

Capturing Chicago, ghost signs edition

For this month's photo series, Chicago photographer Debbie Mercer captures ghost signs hiding in plain sight on city buildings

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Ghost signs sounds spooky, but to nostalgia-lovers it just means old, hand-painted signs or advertisements that have remained on buildings since the early 20th century. These faded remnants of another time have inspired blogs, Flickr groups both locally and worldwide, and legions of enthusiasts.

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to living in Chicago

Among those enthusiansts is Chicago amateur photographer Debbie Mercer, whose interest in Chicago architecture drew her to ghost signs. Now it's a full-blown obsession.

"The thing that interests me and others most about ghost signs is the history they represent—the manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers or other merchants that were important to Chicago decades ago," Mercer says.

"The other thing that people like about ghost signs is the joy of finding one you haven't seen before," Mercer continues. "Sometimes signs are revealed when an old building is torn down and a wall of an adjacent building is exposed. Other times you just happen to look up and find one that you hadn't noticed before. It's sort of a treasure hunt."

We've selected some highlights of her ghost sign shots above. Inspired to go on your own ghost sign hunt? Mercer suggests West Madison Street as a good place to start.

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