The Terrifying History Behind Chicago’s Bubbly Creek

The southern fork of the Chicago River has an interesting nickname that’s typically only known to residents of the city: Bubbly Creek. How’d it get such a name, you ask? Because it bubbles, of course.

But why does it bubble? That’s where things get interesting. See, back in the early 20th century, there were several meat packing plants upriver from the future Bubbly Creek. Before the EPA and regulations and things like that, those companies were free to kinda do whatever they want. It wasn’t until author Upton Sinclair came along and wrote a semi-fiction book titled The Jungle that detailed all the misdeeds of Chicago’s meat industry that things started to change.

So what does a meat packing company with no restrictions do with the tons of entrails and fat and gallons of blood left over from the day’s processing? Naturally, they just dumped that shit straight in the river. The bubbles in what came to be known as Bubbly Creek weren’t oxygen– They were the gasses escaping from decomposing animal remains that had been dumped there.

The worst part? The creek remains toxic to this day. Residents say it still bubbles and stinks on hot days.

Maybe it’s the pollution… or maybe it’s the ghosts of thousands of angry animals, just waiting for the day their disgusting, waterlogged corpses rise out of the creek and seek revenge. But it’s probably pollution.