Haunted Chicago: The Windy City's Spookiest Spots
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Halloween is a time when even the most timid Chicagoans may go hunting for thrills and chills. While amusement parks and "haunted" houses may pop up in and around the city, many locals may be missing out on Chicago's own ghastly history, and the many sites with traces of it, earthly or otherwise.
From reports of whispers and screams, cold spots and glowing orbs captured in photos, various places around Chicago are known for their paranormal presences.
Check out some of the city's most haunted spots, if you dare, and add your own sites and stories in the comments below.
Jane Addams Hull House
Believed to be haunted even before Jane Addams repurposed it as a settlement house, the Hull House is most famous for the "Devil Baby," a child rumored to have been born in 1913 with cloven hooves, horns and reptillian skin after his father welcomed a curse from the devil. Jane Addams' wrote about the persistent folk tale in <em>The Atlantic</em> in 1916 after countless visitors had come to see the baby, rumored to be locked in the home's attic after failed efforts to baptise him.
Eastland River Disaster Site
Requirements for increased lifeboat quantities following the <em>Titanic</em> disaster contributed in part to a devastating accident on the Chicago river that would be one of the most deadly the city has seen. An overloaded luxury steamship, the S.S. Eastland, had been chartered by the Western Electric Company of Hawthorne to take employees to a summer gala, <a href="http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?p=1,7,1,1,12" target="_hplink">WTTW11 reports</a>. But while docked in the Chicago River, the boat slowly rolled over, trapping many of the 2,500 passengers. Ultimately, 844 were killed, many of them children. Ghosts can be seen wandering in or near the river, and at a nearby site that today hosts Harpo Studios, where many bodies were laid out as they were recovered.
Site Of The Murder Castle
Called "America's First Serial Killer," druggist Herman Webster Mudgett, alias Dr. H.H. Holmes had already been connected to several mysterious deaths and disappearances when he built an enormous structure on 63rd St. in Englewood that would come to be known as his "Murder Castle," <a href="http://harpers.org/archive/1943/12/0020617" target="_hplink"><em>Harper's</em> reports</a>. Holmes, fascinated by the human body, customized the building's basement with "operating tables, a crematory, pits containing quicklime and acids, surgical instruments, and various pieces of apparatus...resembling mediaeval torture racks," <em>Harper's</em> reports. Both for insurance and other financial schemes and his personal interests in medical experimentation, Holmes is believed to have killed more than 20 victims, mostly women, disposing of their bodies in his various basement devices or selling them on the black market. His story is the basis of Erik Larson's<em> <a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/devilinthewhitecity/home.html" target="_hplink">Devil in the White City</a></em>.
Chicago nightclub Excalibur is hard to miss due to its looming gothic architecture--which isn't all that remains from when the building was host to the Chicago Historical Society. Victims of the Eastland disaster in 1915 were reportedly brought to the building, being used as a makeshift morgue, and some say they've never left. The site had previously held a building destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, where several women were said to have died, including the famous Lady in Red ghost. Excalibur reports cold spots, breaking glasses, and alarms set off while the building is empty, and hosts seances and other events intended to help connect with the many spirits trapped there.
The Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry, originally built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, is the only surviving structure from that exposition, which is said to draw many ghosts who died during the event, Chicago Hauntings reports.. The museum, which is situated along the shore of the Jackson Park lagoon, looks more like an ancient Greek temple than it does a center of science and technology. Perhaps it is that feeling of antiquity that draws the ghosts. One of the museum's most famous ghosts is that of Clarence Darrow, the celebrated lawyer whose battle with William Jennings Bryan in 1925 over the issue of teaching evolution in schools--a trial known as the Scopes Monkey Trial--has become a landmark case in the annals of jurisprudence and was also the inspiration for the play and movie, Inherit the Wind. Darrow figured prominently in many other high-profile cases, including the 1924 Leopold and Loeb case, in which he defended two stone-cold teenage murderers of a fourteen-year old boy and won them life imprisonment instead of the electric chair. Darrow lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood that includes the museum. He died in Chicago in 1938 and his cremated remains were scattered in the Jackson Park lagoon as he had requested. Every year a wreath-laying ceremony honoring Darrow is held at the bridge spanning the lagoon. In 1957 the bridge was dedicated in his memory and is now known as the Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge.
Congress Plaza Hotel
The Congress Plaza Hotel, built to accomodate traffic during the World Fair in Chicago, and later said to be a hotspot for gangsters including Al Capone, has seen its fair share of violence and gore, and as a result, is said to have several frequently-appearing apparitions. A longtime security guard <a href="http://travel.yahoo.com/p-interests-36436907" target="_hplink">described to Yahoo! Travel</a> frequent sightings of the ghost of a young boy in the north tower whose mother threw him off the roof before taking her own life and jumping, a female ghost in the banquet room who whispers in the ears of anyone when enters alone, and the shadowy outline of a woman in room number 441, where security is called more than any other room in the hotel.
Site of Fort Dearborn
One of Chicago's highest death tolls took place before the city itself materialized, during the War of 1812 at Fort Dearborn. After being told to flee the fort as British forces advanced, retreating Americans were attacked by Potawatomi Indians loyal to the British, <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=HpJaL7t7IyIC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=fort+dearborn+haunted+chicago&source=bl&ots=Xkpx2fIp1L&sig=dCsBEy9a1ZyByvS7kfSJqrvT8FI&hl=en&ei=HOSuTtngA8bk0QHBoYGNDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CGUQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=fort dearborn haunted chicago&f=false" target="_hplink">according to <em>Creepy Chicago</em></a>. Many were slain brutally with tomahawks and other hand-to-hand combat weapons--148 people total, including 12 children. Ghost-like figures reportedly appear frequently in photos taken in the area surrounding the fort's original site, which is marked with plaques along its perimeter in the Loop. Captain Wells, who lead the fort and survived the ambush, only to be killed later during a failed revenge attack, is the namesake of nearby Wells St. in Chicago.
Graceland Cemetery, Inez Clark Statue
Graceland Cemetery on North Clark St. in Chicago is notable as the final resting place of many famous Chicago figures including John Kinzie, Marshall Field and George Pullman, as the historic site of the city's oldest crematorium, built in 1893, and for the ominous "Eternal Silence" monument perched on the tombstone of Dexter Graves, according to <a href="http://www.gracelandcemetery.org/" target="_hplink">the cemetery's website</a>. But it is possibly most famous for the statue of a six-year-old girl who was killed by a lightening bolt in 1880, named Inez Clarke. <em><a href="http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-quirk/2011/10/chicagos-most-haunted-cemeteries/" target="_hplink">Chicago Now</a></em> reports that the girl's parents commissioned a statue in her likeness that was placed on her grave, with a glass box around it to protect it from the elements. But many cemetery employees and visitors have reported finding the box empty, or seeing the girl move about, especially during thunderstorms.
The alley behind the current Oriental Theater is said to be rife with ghosts from a fire at the site, then called the Iroquois Theater, on Dec. 30, 1903. Packed with nearly 2,000 people, the theater, advertised as "absolutely fireproof" despite tremendous violations of safety codes including emergency doors that were locked, became a virtual flame-filled death trap after faulty wiring ignited the building. In the ensuing panic, many were killed by flames, asphyxiation or trampling, trapping many patrons inside the building. In all, 602 people, including 212 children, were killed, according to Weird Chicago. It took police and fire crews nearly five hours to recover bodies from the building, and many were stacked in the alley, waiting to be transported and identified. Faint cries, cold spots and the touch of unseen hands are frequently reported in the rarely-used alley.