I first remember hearing about the Ghoul Pool as a young boy. My father and uncle mentioned it one year but wouldn’t tell me what it was. As a young recruit, I again heard there were a group of detectives who ran a pool each year by this name.
It was never the type of thing you’d want to get out to the general public. The morbid gallows humor behind it wasn’t the sort of subject that went over well with those who didn’t share our outlook on life. After all, placing a bet on what district will have the first homicide of the new year isn’t something the blue-haired ladies want to hear over the dinner table.
The pool was simple. You picked a district and if the first homicide of the year occurred in your district you won the pool. Some years it was over minutes after midnight and other years might take several days. If a person lingered in the hospital, we awaited the news of a death pronouncement ghoulishly. Some years it was hotly contested as two homicides might occur within seconds of each other and the reporting officer’s accuracy in determining the time of the homicide might determine the winner.
Safe bets were always the busier districts. Those with high rates of crime were treasured as a better bet. But in Chicago, we can have a homicide anywhere and last year the winner was the 017th District. A relatively slow Northside district compared to many of the higher crime rate West and Southside districts.
Just yesterday I saw a post on Facebook asking for everyone’s pick for a Ghoul pool winner. Now rather than district, it was down to the beat level. Each district has several beats so there are many more options. It’s been a busy post with everyone submitting their best guess. No money involved in the pool, just bragging rights.
Interesting how it has gone from something whispered among police officers to a post where the general public can see it.
I’m curious if other departments have something similar. Obviously smaller departments might not have as many districts or beats to choose from and might switch to time after midnight.
Yeah, it’s calloused and morbid to bet on where or when the first homicide of the year occurs. It’s not something any department would condone or want their citizens to know about. In Chicago, it’s a coping mechanism to deal with the violence and evil the officers are exposed to every day. If you don’t laugh you will cry. If you can’t find a way to detach, it will only tear you down inside.
We have had a year where more officers died by suicide than in the line of duty, so I’m willing to forgive the officers their Ghoul Pool to help cope with their job.
I’m picking Beat 1532 this year. I have a good feeling.
Happy New Year everyone.
Stay safe, run low and zigzag.
– Robert Weisskopf (Lt. ret.)
Note: You can read all of Robert Weisskopf’s articles at https://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/author/robertw332/ and find all his books on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2PsbT4t.