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Chicago, Illinois

Livonian Wolves at the Leaping Wall

In one Chicago park, a trio of werewolves are waiting to devour their fallen brethren. 

On a residential block in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, a small park features an unusual sculpture depicting three wolves leaning against a stone wall. One is reading a book as a raven looks over his shoulder. 

The sculpture was created in the early 1990s by Ellen Nesvick, in association with Columbia College. It’s based on an illustration called “Legends Rustiques,” drawn by Baron Dudevant Jean Francois Maurice Sand in 1858. 

The story goes something like this: in Livonia (think the Baltic, not Michigan), Christmastime saw men turn into ravenous wolves devouring everything in sight, beer and humans included. After their debauchery, they’d gather at the town wall where they’d take turns leaping. Those who didn’t land successfully—usually the fattest and softest among them—were devoured by their fellow canids.

Not bad as folk tales are concerned, but this story takes a creepy turn when one learns of Thiess of Kaltenbrun, a man put on trial in 1692 for believing himself to be a werewolf. He was convicted of heresy, flogged, and banished for life. In Thiess’ defense, he claimed to be a “werewolf of God,” but whatever his actual identity, his trial contributes to the wonder of this modern depiction of wolves at the wait.

No visit to the wolves is complete without a quick tour around some of the other sculptures on site, including some large spheres and a rather creepy specter lurking beneath a stone altar. You’ll also find an uncomfortable figure perched atop a 12-foot pole.

Know Before You Go

The park is easily located on the corner of S Wabash Ave and 11th St in the South Loop.

Contributed by
Jeff Wagg
Edited by