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2045 North Lincoln Park West
Lincoln Park (Former Chicago City Cemetery)
Status: Legendary Haunted Tomb; Urban Legend
This location is not only a Chicago legend but also the only visible reminder that Lincoln Park used to be the Chicago City Cemetery.
Ira Couch was quite wealthy and a real estate and hotel mogul who died in 1857 in Cuba. His remains were returned to Chicago and his brother, James, had the tomb built for $7,000 ($255,000 in 2023 dollars) in 1858 for him.
He is the only person which historical record says is buried in the vault. However, no is really sure how many people are in the tomb – Ira’s grandson suggested there are exactly 7 people interned here by the early 20th century – but some people have suggested as many as 80 including family members and friends as well as a man who died in Couch’s hotel.
What’s truly mysterious is that there are tombstones for most of the people the grandson mentioned in Rosehill Cemetery including one for Ira himself. However, Rosehill’s records show no mention of Ira ever being buried there.
Burials in the cemetery stopped in 1866 and it was converted into the park that it is today. Families were responsible for moving their loved one’s remains but many of the people buried there had no living family. Hence it is unknown how many bodies are still buried in Lincoln Park even today.
In the Great Chicago Fire in October of 1871 when the flames swept through the park/cemetery it is said they avoided the tomb completely while utterly destroying the rest of the area.
It is the only physical reminder that the park was once a cemetery although it is unclear why it was left behind. Probably the Couch family deemed it too expensive to move the 500 lb tomb and the city’s park administration department did say later – in 1899 – that it was far too hard and expensive for them to move it.
The real mystery is that there were other mausoleums in the cemetery and they were all moved.
No one even knows exactly what is inside the mausoleum as it has been sealed shut by a large piece of metal since the early 20th century. One paranormal investigation did slip an iPhone under the metal sheet only to find there is a sealed metal door behind the sealed piece of metal.
Mysterious or not this mausoleum has become part of Chicago’s legends and is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon or ever.
Many stories have been told by people who claim to accessed the tomb over the decades but not one has ever been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
An Urban Legend from the 1880’s – one that was even printed in newspapers of the day – was that if you faced the tomb preciously at midnight stared at the Couch name above the door saying “The graves belong to the dead; not the living” three times the tomb would open and a glowing white human shaped ghost would emerge.
Many people claimed to have seen this ghost in late 19th century.
To this day a large white glowing ghost is seen in the vicinity of the tomb although no one claims to follow the directions of the urban legend today; not openly anyway.
Other Activity both near the tomb and in the park: misty apparitions moving far more quickly than humanly possible more commonly seen after dark; vortexes forming mid-air; disembodied voices; phantom footsteps; light anomalies; electrical disturbances and feelings of being watched.
140 E Walton Place
Status: Historic Luxury 4 Star Hotel
By <a href="https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q95689885" class="extiw" title="d:Q95689885"><span title="Engineer, wrier, and researcher, born in Carmel, California in 1953.">Gregory Ford Henderson</span></a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Hotel magnates Tracey and John Drake bought the property the Drake sits on from Potter Palmer in 1916. The Drake cost $10 million ($270 million in 2022 dollars) and took 4 years to build.
When it was built the hotel served as a dividing point between the upscale residential Gold Coast and the burgeoning upscale retail area that we now know as the ‘Magnificent Mile’.
William and Elizabeth Drake lived in the hotel until the family lost it in the Great Depression.
Frank ‘The Enforcer’ Nitti kept his offices in the hotel while he was head of the Chicago Outfit – a division of the Italian-American Mafia.
Thanks in part to it’s location – and unlike so many other old school luxury hotels – the Drake never went out of fashion and the trendy part of the city never moved away.
In 1996 Hilton International bought the hotel and shut it down to do $45 million in renovations before opening again 2003. In 2005-06 a fitness center, corporate lounge and new furnishings were added at a cost of $15 million.
Numerous celebrities and political figures have stayed at the hotel including Walt Disney, Julia Roberts, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.
The hotel’s most famous ghost is the “Lady in Red”.
Legend says she danced New Year’s Eve of 1920 away in the ballroom starting with her fiancé but eventually moving onto to strangers who wanted some time with the beautiful woman in the blood red dress. As midnight approached, she looked for her fiancé to share a kiss with him but was unable to find him.
Thinking he must have needed a break she went up to the 10th floor to their room and strangely found the door unlocked. Her fiancé was in bed with another woman – who is said to have tried to pass off the other woman as a friend – so the scorned woman fled and took the elevator the roof of the building. Once on the roof she stepped off and plunged to her death.
Other versions say she jumped from the 10th floor.
To this day the apparition of the “Lady in Red” is seen in the 10th floor hallway. She is also seen near the Palm Coast Lounge and the Gold Coast Room perhaps remembering the last time she was happy.
Jacob and Flora Banks are other famous residents of the hotel who have stayed long after their lives ended. Their teenage son was kidnapped and murdered by 2 rich University of Chicago students in 1924 who did all for a lark. After the trial the devastated parents sold their estate and moved into the hotel where Jacob died 4 years later and Flora 9 years after him.
Their sorrow filled apparitions are still encountered in the suite their lives ended in. They also been seen elsewhere in the hotel seemingly just wandering for eternity broken hearted and in tears.
Adele Born Williams was a rich Chicago socialite when she returned to her room on the 8th floor of the hotel with her daughter. They found a woman dressed in black in their room who may have been waiting to kill them or perhaps was just a thief. Either way the woman pulled a gun and fired shooting Adele in the head fatally wounding her. The crime was never solved.
Strangely the gun used in the murder was found a week later on the stairs which had been searched repeatedly and the missing room key – which had been stolen from the front desk – just as suddenly appeared right back where it was taken from.
However, guilt must have trapped the woman in black in the hotel. Her apparition is still seen running down the halls of the 8th floor forever escaping the heinous crime she committed.
Chicago River (South Shore)
Riverwalk off of West Wacker Drive Between North LaSalle and Clark
Status: High Fatality Disaster Site
By Max Rigot Selling Company, Chicago - Set of 6 Penny postcard supplied by Kathe Kaul Estate Sales of Kansas City, MO, Public Domain, Link
The Eastland was commissioned in 1902 and built in the Port Huron Shipyards. She was named in May of 1903 immediately after completing her first voyage.
In July of 1903 while still in her inaugural season the Eastland struck and sank – at her dock – the tugboat George W Gardner.
Also, still in the inaugural season the Eastland had a mutiny of her firemen who refused to shove the coal into her boilers claiming they were not fed. The men were jailed and the Captain was replaced due to this incident.
At the end of the 1903 season the ship was returned to shipyards as she could not reach her advertised speed of 22 miles/hour and her keel was too deep for the Black River where she was supposed to dock and load passengers. An air conditioning system was also added.
In 1904 she had her first listing incident almost flipping with 3,000 passengers aboard in South Haven. In response her maximum load was lowered to 2,800 passengers; some cabins were removed and life boats were added.
In August of 1906 yet another listing incident led to a number of complaints to the owning ship company. In a typical move of capitalists, the issues weren’t fixed the ship was merely sold again for the 1907 season.
From 1907 to 1914 the ship was run between Cleveland and Cedar Point on Lake Erie. Despite some problems being fixed – most notably the removal of all remaining cabins and a shortening of her smoke stacks in 1909 – in 1912 the Eastland listed 25 degrees suddenly while loading passengers in Cleveland.
On July 24, 1915 the Eastland and 4 of her sister ships were hired to take the employees of Western Electric from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana – a major event for the employees and their families as most of them would never be able to afford a vacation in their lifetime.
The Eastland was dangerously top heavy; ironically because of added lifeboats due to new laws put through after the Titanic disaster in 1912.
By 7:10am the ship had already loaded her limit of 2,572 passengers – many believe the number was closer to 3,000+ - and many passengers were on the port – away from the dock – side. The ship began to list slightly and the crew attempted to fix it by emptying some of it’s ballast tanks.
At 7:28 many passengers rushed to the port side – for an unknown reason – creating a list that was unrecoverable from. The ship went over on the port side and sunk to the bottom of the river; only 20 feet deep so half the ship remained above water.
Many passengers had gone beneath decks to escape the rising heat and to get ready for the voyage. Many were crushed as furniture and things like pianos suddenly slid with the list; the rest drowned being unable to escape the rushing water.
844 passengers – including 22 entire families - and 4 crewmen perished despite the ship being at dock and the rapid response of another ship – Kenosha – to come to the rescue.
The Western Electric Company paid about $100,000 ($2,933,000 today) in recovery efforts and relief to the families affected by the disaster. The President and 3 other officers of the Steamship Company as well as the Eastland’s Captain and Engineer were charged with manslaughter. Of course, they were never convicted of such crime.
Many of the nearby buildings were used as temporary morgues as so many bodies were retrieved from the river.
Since the disaster many people have reported the faces – sometimes reaching for the surface with arms outstretched – under the surface of the river. Most of these reports come from the Clark Street Bridge but also from the Riverwalk and a restaurant on the riverbank. The police have been called many times to rescue the drowning victims only to find no one in the river at all.
The Reid-Murdock Building was one of the temporary morgues set up to house the victims after the disaster. Since then, unexplained noises are heard in empty rooms, doors open and close on their own; sometimes slamming; sometimes creaking slowly shut, light flickering and going on and off on their own and – usually after hours – shadow figures moving through the building.
A tour guide for ghost tours in Chicago has stated people would see lights flickers in formerly dark rooms in the building immediately after this story was mentioned on the tour. The flickering lights were seen from the street.
The majority of the bodies went to the Second Regiment Armory and this building would eventually become Harpo Studios were Oprah Winfrey would tape her famous talk show for many years. Oprah had no idea of the history of the building until some of her staff told her.
The sound of ghost children was frequently heard in the hallways especially in the quiet after hours. In the one of the women’s washrooms the sound of a woman violently sobbing could be heard from an empty stall. The apparition of a woman in a grey out of date dress was often seen; seen so often Oprah herself nicknamed the ghost the Grey Lady.
Harpo Studios has since been completely demolished and replaced with a McDonald’s corporate headquarters – McDonald’s has not made any statements of the paranormal activity or lack thereof.
On the 100th anniversary of the disaster many attempts at communication were made with the ghosts of the Eastland. There were many successful recordings of the ghosts answering such questions as “were you on the Eastland?” but interestingly enough many sounded like gibberish until they were run through a translation software program which revealed the sounds as Czechoslovakian language.
The majority of the victims who died in the disaster were Czechoslovakian immigrants.
The Eastland was sold to the US Navy who used her as a training ship in the Great Lakes. There are no records – the Navy would have quashed them instantly – of ghosts on the ship but imagine how many there must have been and what those sailors stationed aboard her must have seen.
Couch Place “Death Alley”, “The Alley of Death and Mutilation”
Behind Nederlander Theatre (Iroquois Theatre, Colonial Theatre, Oriental Theatre) 24 West Randolph Street
Status: Public Alley
By Unknown author - <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="http://buildingfailures.wordpress.com/1903/12/30/iroquois-theatre-fire/"></a>, Public Domain, Link
This theatre was originally opened on November 23, 1903. The location was picked by the owners specifically to bring in women – and their children – traveling into the city for day trips. It was thought they would prefer a location near the heavily police patrolled Loop area.
December 30, 1903 – just a little over a month after the supposed fire proof theatre opened -was just another day. The matinee performance of Mr. Blue Beard for that day was completely sold out – estimated between 2,100 – 2,200 people - mostly women and children.
At 3:15 pm, just as the second act was about to begin, a small fire sparked out of a light and onto a cotton curtain. Stagehands attempted to put on the fire with chemical fire extinguishers but couldn’t get the chemical to the height of the fire above the stage. The fire quickly spread the gallery above the stage gaining access to a number of highly flammable painted scenery canvas. The stage manager tried to lower an asbestos curtain to protect the seating areas from the fire but it became hopelessly snagged. This curtain was later tested and found so cheaply made – full of wood pulp – that it would have been useless as fire protection.
By this time – despite pleads from the stage – panic was setting in amid the audience. Their escape was stopped by many different factors. Even those who found working fire escape doors were baffled by the strange locks on the doors. Others were trapped in hallways that looked like they led to doors but didn’t. In the worst example of this 200 people were trapped in a dead end unable to escape until they asphyxiated.
Much like the Third-Class passengers onboard the ill-fated RMS Titanic people were trapped behind metal screens. This time it was a reflection of that disaster as it was the most expensive seats that were sealed behind the curtains to stop patrons from leaving the cheap seats to sneak down to the expensive ones – something that was completely unnecessary with the theatre being sold out. Despite these horrors – which resulted in many deaths – we still haven’t covered the worst part. This fire was one of the major disasters that led to the laws we enjoy today – most importantly that all doors that could/will be used as emergency exits have to open outwards. The doors to this theatre opened inwards making it impossible for people to get the doors open once the crowd behind them built in a desperate attempt to escape themselves. At the back of the building the actors and theatre staff were making their own more successful attempts to escape the expanding fire. Many left via the large stage doors for moving the scenery in and out – this had the unfortunate effect of feeding the growing fire a new supply of oxygen making it grow ever bigger. The large doors on the north side of the building caused such an influx of fresh air that a fireball was created which swept through the orchestra pit and the lower level seats – this fireball incinerated everything in its path including many trapped customers. More people attempted to leave the building on the fire escapes which were incomplete and a number of them were killed by falling off of the icy metal stairs. Students from Northwestern University in the building behind the alley even rigged up a ladder over the alley and saved a few that way. Approximately 575 people died in the fire (212 of them children) – 30 more died in the days that followed succumbing to their injuries - and the alley behind the theatre was used as a temporary morgue with bodies stacked – in some cases 6 feet high. By contrast the Great Chicago Fire that burned for three days and destroyed a large area of the city killed only 300 people. Fire laws were changed and those responsible for death trap theatre were arrested – but as is the norm as much now as then they were rich and eventually acquitted. The theatre was gutted and a new one called the Colonial Theatre was opened – despite the extensive damage and loss of life the exterior of the theatre suffered little damage.
In 1925 the building was completely demolished and the Oriental Theatre was built on the site. The theatre was renamed the Nederlander in 2018 and shows Broadway plays. Contrary to popular belief there is a memorial to this fire. It was first in a nearby hospital where many of the victims were taken but it was moved to City Hall when this hospital was torn down. The memorial has no markings identifying it as having anything to do with the Iroquois fire leading to some confusion.
The theatre itself is not reported to have any paranormal activity – although that may be an attempt to distance itself from the fire now over 100 years ago. The alley behind the theatre is much accessible to the general public and has stories of paranormal and ghostly activity dating back more than 100 years.
The most common activity is cold gusts of wind that will suddenly tear down the alley – of course in a Chicago winter freezing blasts of wind would be the norm. Hearing your name whispered in your ear is also a common occurrence in the alley.
Other Activity: apparitions of the former theatre goers including children, feelings of not being wanted, feelings of being watched, feelings of unease, touches, pushes and pulls by unseen entities, disembodied voices, cries and screams and light anomalies.
1665 West Fullerton Avenue
Status: Former Homeless Shelter; Former Residences; Scene of Multiple Murders; Bar and Nightclub
Legend says 3 people were murdered here and that they were all murdered in the exact same corner on the second floor. As with all legends – especially the urban ones – there are some truths to this but it is not completely the truth.
The axe murder in 1958 can neither be confirmed or denied. There is no historical proof nor any newspaper articles proving it did not happen; but no proof it didn’t either. This is said to have happened in the so-called “haunted corner”.
In 1955 a resident of the building was shot and nearly killed but he was outside of another bar at the time.
In 1968 there was a homeless shelter operating in the building and 2 men John Parlea (70) and Samuel Castell Jr (27) got into a fight over who owned a pair of pants. The fight got violent and Castell beat Parlea severely with a pop bottle and threw him out of a second story window resulting in his death. It is unclear but this may have happened in the “haunted corner”.
The final murder was in 1986 and can be verified. However, it took place in a third floor bedroom – not even on the same floor as the other verifiable murder. Frank Hansen owned the bar on the main floor with his wife, Julia. He was rather small statured and she was a large woman who teased her husband about his size. One night they had an argument over money and she physically assaulted him; he responded by getting an axe and chopping her up. Julia’s remains were left in the apartment for 6 days before Frank called the police.
Julia was found to be pregnant at the time of her murder.
The Liar’s Club has owned the building since 1995.
In 2010 a man got into a bar fight in the buildings and did have his throat slit but he survived the assault.
The “haunted corner” is said to have powerful negative energy turning people’s thoughts to violence and bloodshed.
The ghost of Julia has been seen a number of times in the bar – most frequently by staff and friends when the bar isn’t open. Its possible she appears when the bar is open but is mistaken for another patron.
Julia is also seen in the bathroom on the second floor. One woman saw a woman in the bathroom crying and excused herself. When no one came out after 15 minutes she went back in to find the bathroom completely empty. Julia is also seen in the former bedroom where she was murdered.
The apparition of a man is seen on the stairs and thought to be John Parlea.
At least one person has reported having their arm pulled on by an unseen entity. Other people have reported having their hair pulled by something unseen.
There is one report of an attempted possession by something very unpleasant in the 3rd floor bedroom.
People have been suddenly overcome with waves of fear and anxiety that they had to leave the building.
2001 N Clark Street
Status: Former City Burial Ground, Operating Zoo
Paranormal Investigations Available
This zoo is the 4th oldest zoo in North America and one of the few left in the United States that still has free admission.
The zoo has 1,100 animals and 200 species.
The zoo was created in 1868 with the donation of a pair of swans from the city of New York.
What is not generally known is that previous to the creation of the zoo – 1843 to 1859 – this land was the city’s burial grounds. It was decided to move the bodies due to their proximity to the city’s drinking water – Lake Michigan.
Unfortunately, the job of moving the bodies was to have begun on October 8, 1871 – the night of the Great Chicago Fire. The fire destroyed the tombs and grave markers in the cemetery making it all but impossible to find all the bodies.
The city did its best but it is estimated that approximately 25,000 bodies are still buried in the ground beneath the zoo.
Ghosts have been reported at the zoo since the day it opened.
People in Victorian clothing are seen walking through the zoo. They appear suddenly out of the blue and disappear just as quickly. They are generally completely oblivious to the people around them and do not interact with the living.
The most common apparition is that of a woman near the lion enclosure – she seems to be oblivious to the living visitors around her. She is also seen in the nearby ladies washroom where she is seen in the mirrors; witnesses turning around see no one.
There was also a bridge in the vicinity of the zoo in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It had to be torn down because of the large number of suicides. People had taken to jumping off the bridge with a noose around their neck.
Other Activity: electrical issues including lights flickering, doors opening and closing on their own, light anomalies, feelings of not being alone and being watched.
Although the activity seems to be centered around the zoo apparitions and other paranormal activity has been reported in all areas of Lincoln Park.