By Teodora Marinescu and Elizabeth Stalter
Posted: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018
Chicago is famously known for its sports teams, deep dish pizza, great hot dogs and fascinating architecture. However, the city is also home to an array of paranormal myths and legends that envelop it in a veil of mystery and darkness.
In 2012 USA Today ranked Chicago among the most haunted cities in the United States. While every city has its own paranormal folklore, what sets the the Windy City apart is its dark past, filled with catastrophic events such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Eastland Disaster, murderous mob wars and the horrendous crimes of serial killer H.H. Holmes.
“Chicago is one of those cities that has experienced an extraordinary amount of tragedy, which leads people to believe that the city itself is cursed,” said Rick Hale, a paranormal author and psychical researcher based in Chicago.
“You have the World Fair which saw a lot of death, and of course you have the fire which basically destroyed the entire city. So I think that you have a mixture of things that has created the perfect storm, paranormally speaking,” he said.
Hale and other paranormal experts say tragedy is only one reason for Chicago’s unfortunate reputation. Another is Chicago’s proximity to open, flowing water.
“ A long held belief in the paranormal circles is that flowing water is fuel to paranormal activity and the Chicago River attributes to that,” Hale said.
“Paranormal activity is electromagnetic in nature which makes water the perfect conduit for spectral manifestation,” Ursula Bielski, a psychical researcher, said in an interview with TimeOut Chicago.
Chicago’s many stories of lingering spirits — some that roam hotel rooms, theaters, abandoned cemetery plots and post offices — show the city is no stranger to eerie apparitions. The difficult part is determining how much is real and how much is myth.
Here’s a list of seven of Chicago’s most famous haunted locations:
Built in 1893 to house visitors of the World Fair, the Congress Hotel is surrounded by a myriad of spine-chilling myths.
Some of the supernatural apparitions include the ghost of a homeless man called Peg Leg Johnny, who was killed outside the hotel, and “the hand of doom,” which supposedly sticks out of the wall and it is believed to belong to a workman who got buried behind the walls when the hotel was being built.
Hale maintains that the most famous and most likely to be true story is that of Room 441. In the room, the shadowy form of a woman has been seen walking in and out and sitting on the bed, only to stare at hotel guests.
At Graceland Cemetery, two graves adorned by ornate statues stand out among the other tombstones. One is the glass-encased figure of Inez Clarke, a little girl who died after being struck by lightning. Legend has it that on rainy nights the statue comes to life and hides under the tree from the storm.
“That is folklore. I don’t believe that statues can come to life but I would consider the possibility that there is the apparition of a little girl,” Hale said when asked about the legitimacy of the story.
The other famous statue is entitled “The Eternal Silence,” commissioned in memory of Dexter Graves. Legend is that if people look at it for too long, it’ll give them a vision of their own death.
The location of one of the bloodiest days in mob history is now but an empty lot in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. On Feb 14, 1929, Al Capone ordered the killings of eight members of Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang at the 2122 N. Clark location.
Legend has it that the only survivor of the massacre was a German Shepherd by the name of Highball. It is said that he now haunts the lot mourning the death of his owner. People have claimed that their dogs act strangely when walking around the area, attributing it to Highball’s presence. There have also been reports of apparitions of men in suits holding guns.
Search: This chart compares Google search history of five haunted Chicago locations. The spots have drawn search interest throughout the United States.
The Oriental Theatre, or rather, the alley behind it, is said to be one of the most tragically haunted spots in the city.
Originally known as the Iroquois Theater, the Oriental was subject to a horrific fire which killed 2,000 people. It took more than five hours to retrieve the bodies, with the alley behind the theater functioning as a temporary morgue. Many have said that they have heard cries, seen apparitions, and felt cold entities following them.
David Olson, founder of The Chicago Paranormal Investigators, identifies a cold entity following you as a spirit. In fact, he recalls experiencing such instances himself, but reminds those experiencing a cold spot to check all other possible sources before calling it supernatural.
Another chilling location is the Englewood Post Office, which lies on the same ground as H.H. Holmes’ former home. Famous for being the first American serial killer, Holmes is believed to have brutally murdered around 200 women in this house, which subsequently became known as The Murder Castle.
Nowadays, the basement is believed to be haunted by the spirits of his victims. Construction workers have reported hearing screams, specifically, the sounds of women asking for help and some have reported seeing strange shadowy figures, Hale said.
The Hull House is right at the center of Chicago’s paranormal folklore, making it difficult to draw lines between the real spectral occurrences and the shock values stories. According to Hale, some of the folklore is exaggerated as a result of the anti-immigration feeling that was prevalent in the 1800s.
University of Illinois Communication Professor, Diem-My Bui discussed how culturally, people develop these paranormal stories to deal with “unfamiliar and weird things” instead of confronting the reality head on.
The most famous story is that of the Devil baby, a deformed child with horns and hooves that was born in the house. Story has it that Addams tried to baptize it but was unsuccessful as the baby jumped out of the holy water.
The Water Tower is famous for being one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1871. However, the history of the Water Tower is not devoid of tragedy. Allegedly, during the blaze, one man stayed behind. As the fire drew closer, and with no other mode of escape, he climbed to the upper floor of the tower and hung himself.
Multiple reports have stated that the shadow of a hanging man can be seen in the tower’s top floor windows.
“Certain buildings are able to absorb energies and project them into reality, especially buildings that have witnessed a lot of human emotion and tragedy,” Hale said.
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