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About Leyla

Hello! My name is Leyla and I spend my time working in the arts in Chicago. I'm an advocate for the preservation of old buildings and a lover of history. My interest in Chicago began in high school, when I discovered Chicago based alternative bands. Since then, my love of local music has become a love of history and architecture in Chicago and around the world.

My time as a cellist in Chicago started in 2007, with my experience focused on working with bands over orchestras. I've done live shows, recording sessions, and weddings, street performing, and more. In 2011 I co-founded Chicago Street Strings, a collective of musicians-for-hire with friend and violinist Hannah K. Watson.

I am a movie palace expert with a focus on old theatres in Chicago. I have been leading tours on the subject since 2011, and have put together tours both independently and with Atlas Obscura, along with other organizations, on the subject both in Chicago and in London. 

In 2014, I started the website Dead in Chicago, which focuses on finding nearly forgotten stories of ghosts, murder, accidents, & other strange stories of Chicago's past from local newspaper archives. Currently, I lead tours (virtual and in person) via Dead in Chicago every fall. 

I am a founder of Effing Chicago, a collective of "tour guides behaving badly". I frequently give virtual talks on the site on different facets of Chicago tour guides, along with co founders Adam Selzer, Mandy Crypt, and Patti Swanson. I'm also on the Board of Directors for local history non profit Chicago for Chicagoans, which is dedicated to providing pay-what-you-can walking tours and lectures to all Chicagoans.

Beyond the above, I've worked as an event planner in late 2015, when I began planning and running events for Atlas Obscura. I've also been a professional haunted house clown (hands down my favorite job), a flying trapeze instructor, and one time managed to hire my cat out as a professional model.

In my free time, I like to read books, take care of my plants, and do historic research. I frequently dye my hair different colors, enjoy thrifting and antiquing, and reading every day.

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