By Taylor Leonard
Chicago is mostly known for its world famous urban architecture, museums, and sports venues. Due to countless tragedies and horrors over the years it’s also one of the more haunted metropolises in the United States. If you’re traveling to the Windy City or live there now you might want to check out the following Chicago locales notorious for paranormal activity:
Site of the Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903
On the afternoon of December 30th, 1903 a fire broke out above the stage of a vaudeville theatre packed with families. Due to infamously faulty building design over 600 people were suffocated, burned, trampled or crushed to death in the ensuing inferno and panic. One-third of those killed were children.
A cinema was built on the site in 1926 and over the years many moviegoers and employees have claimed to smell and see smoke accompanied by the sounds of screams despite no fire being found. People walking behind the theater in what is known as “Death Alley” for the number of fatal plunges made into its pavement during the fire have reported hearing the screams of children as if they’re descending rapidly from floors above.
Congress Plaza Hotel
Built to accommodate the influx of out-of-towners visiting the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel has played host to presidents and celebrities for over a century. Al Capone was said to have been a guest, though if he was it was under another name. Whether or not he stayed there, guests have claimed for decades to see Capone’s ghost casually walking the halls at night.
Less benign spirits are said to manifest themselves in two infamous areas of the hotel. One is the 12th floor, where it’s said there’s a room so haunted hotel staff have permanently sealed it from the outside. The second is room 441, where numerous guests have been frightened out of their beds by the spectre of a woman standing in the shadows. Some guests even claim they’ve been physically shaken out of bed by this apparition.
Hull House is undoubtedly the quintessential “haunted house” of Chicago. Located on the Near West Side, Hull House has survived the almost complete demolition of a once sprawling complex dedicated to social causes for the poor. Although operations to serve the community ended in 2012 the house remains open to the public as a museum.
The building has had a reputation for paranormal activity for practically its entire existence. The wife of original owner Charles Hull died in the house in the 1860s and occupants have claimed to see her ghost in the form of a “woman in white” standing in a second floor bedroom. Jane Addams, co-founder of the settlement complex, was one such witness to this ghost. Hull House was briefly used as a home for the elderly during the 1870s and many people subsequently passed away in its rooms. Occupants and visitors over the years have claimed to hear the distinct coughs of the elderly only to discover there wasn’t a single person in the rooms they heard the sounds coming from.
Site of the SS Eastland Disaster
On the morning of July 24, 1915 the steamship SS Eastland, anchored in the Chicago River, took on passengers to full capacity. Many were headed for vacation. In an ironic albeit tragic twist of fate the already top-heavy ship was further imbalanced by lifeboats installed in the wake of the HMS Titanic disaster. When a rush of passengers moved to one side of the ship it tipped over into the river trapping, crushing, and drowning hundreds of passengers. 844 people perished total, including 22 families.
Generations of pedestrians walking along the southern bank of the Chicago River between LaSalle and Clark streets have reported two distinct types of paranormal events at the site of the tragedy. Many have reported hearing shouts and splashes from the water, only to see nothing upon further inspection. The other persistent experience recorded throughout the years is one where passersby look into the water and see hundreds of faces staring back at them. The mouths move as if to scream before the rippling water breaks apart the apparitions entirely.
The Windy City is one of those must-see places everyone should experience, packed with art, culture, and entertainment. It’s also notorious for ghostly activity. If you ever visit Chicago and feel a shiver go up and down your spine, it might not be because of the famous wind chill.