By Jodie Jacobs
Ghost tours in the Chicago area have favorite stops that vary from Graceland and Resurrection Cemeteries to the Biograph Theater and Red Lion Pub. According to professional paranormals and ghost researchers, these sites have had active spirits. However, some of the legends associated with them have been debunked or the sightings stopped such as when the grave of Resurrection Mary was moved, when shadows were attributable to other phenomenon and when a building, such as the Red Lion Pub, was torn down. It’s still fun to hear their stories but the following five places are among those that continue to be confirmed by respected ghost hunters or by some people on site.
Chicago Water Tower
806 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
A landmark on the west side of Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Water Tower survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 along with the Pumping Station to the east. Built 1867-69, the limestone Water Tower and Pumping Station still stand proudly as recognizable symbols of Chicago thanks to a watchman. The story is that he and a friend dampened the roofs of both structures when they saw the fire in the distance. As the fire surrounded the two structures, the watchman is said to have hanged himself in the Water Tower where he was later found. His body was removed but sightings of the watchman hanging in a Water Tower window continue.
Congress Plaza Hotel and Convention Center
520 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
The hotel management prefers not to talk about sounds coming from a ballroom when no one is there or strange occurrences and sightings in corridors and below ground level. However, ghost hunters and staff security guards confirm that the hotel is indeed haunted. Originally called the Auditorium Annex to house guest performers and patrons of the Auditorium Theatre across the street, the hotel has underground corridors including one that goes under Congress Parkway where a presence is felt. A young boy has been sighted roaming the hotel’s North Tower and a room is known by security for calls about a ghostly woman who hasn’t checked out. Built in 1893, the hotel has accommodated Columbian Exposition visitors, both President Roosevelts and was a meeting place for assorted crime figures including Al Capone. Given Congress Plaza Hotel’s long, storied history, it is likely the ghost hunters are right.
632 N. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60654
The Excalibur Club has been part of Chicago’s River North entertainment scene since 1990. Just eyeing the foreboding Romanesque Revival granite block building makes it easy to believe tales that it is haunted. The gargoyles protecting the entrance add to its Gothic atmosphere. Perhaps unseen inhabitants have remained from when the Chicago Historical Society built the structure in 1892 after the organization’s original building burnt. Prior to the nightclub, the building was home to the Limelight nightclub, a magazine, a tech institute, the WPA and the Loyal Order of Moose. Staff and visitors have reported sounds that cannot be explained such as boxes being moved in an empty, locked room, figures that vanish and objects such as billiards balls moving with no one near them.
1658 Cortland St.
Chicago, IL 60622
The story is that after Bucktown Pub’s owner, a notoriously grouchy guy people knew as Wally, committed suicide upstairs in 1986, his widow thought he was gone. When Wally still seemed to hang around, she sold the place. Some changes were made to the interior under new ownership but Wally was said to make an appearance and move things. Customers have said that he has greeted them. Bartenders have reported bottles and glasses moved. There have also been stories that the jukebox would occasionally turn on and off on its own. The current staff says nothing has happened while they have been around so maybe Wally has finally left.
Old Town Tatu
3313 W. Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60618
Started by Rich Herrera as Odin Tatu in 2003, the tattoo parlor was renamed Old Town Tatu by friends who decided to keep the place going after Herrera died in 2006. The tattoo parlor is housed in a neighborhood landmark erected in the 1920s by the Klemundt Funeral Parlor. The building’s foundation may date back to an 1800’s structure. Stained glass, old woodwork and other architectural adornments exude an atmosphere fit for a tattoo parlor, funeral parlor or a haunted building. Herrera had told ghost-hunting teams that he was pushed twice in the back while walking down a staircase in the building. Some of the tattoo artists there agree that the place is still haunted.