Good Samaritans help free magnet that became stuck at Montrose Harbor during magnet fishing

Have you ever heard of magnet fishing? It's a growing hobby in Chicago.

But when you're dealing with thousands of pounds of magnetic force, things don't always go the way you planned, which led to a group effort Wednesday to free a magnet that got stuck at Montrose Harbor.

Madigan Burke of Rogers Park was looking for a new hobby this spring and decided to give magnet fishing a try, hoping to pull some scrap metal from the bottom of Lake Michigan for an art project.

Madigan went big, spending more than $150 on a brand new "Terror Magnet" with a pulling power of 2,200 pounds.

"This is a very intense magnet," said Burke.

So intense, that it did something unexpected when Madigan tried it out at Montrose Harbor on Monday.


"I had the really big feeling of excitement like I had caught a shopping cart or a bike. It was really heavy. I was pulling it in and then all of a sudden I did hear like a thwuck! And that was game over."

What Madigan caught was the steel wall under the pier.

After hours of pulling and prying went nowhere, Madigan left some handwritten notes, comparing it to King Arthur’s sword in the stone and promising to buy dinner for anyone who could free it.

"It would be like the sword in the stone, except it's not a sword, it's a magnet and you don't win a kingdom. Just free dinner and a potential friendship if you're cool," said Madigan.

On Wednesday, the magnet mystery got posted to social media, which prompted Loyola law student Jack Balch to get involved.

"I’m on spring break right now so I thought I’d check it out," Balch said.

Balch bravely stripped down to swim trunks and dove into the 35-degree water. But no luck.

"I was able to move it down a little bit, a few inches maybe."

Then along came engineer Hogan McHugh, armed with something called a power puller — or Come Along tool — that's strong enough to pull a car out of the water.

And after a couple false starts, it was finally a success — the magnet was freed.

"This is so exciting," Madigan exclaimed as the disc-like magnet popped out of the water. "How fun! Great job, great job!"

It was a magnet so powerful, it pulled three strangers together into friends.

Now, will Madigan use the Terror Magnet again?

"Somewhere not near metal. Like a wooden pier."