Where to find ghosts – and spirits – in Chicago

From the Saturday, Oct. 31, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


 By Dave Wischnowsky

When it comes to nightspots in Chicago, the city sure has a lot of haunts.

I mean that literally.

From the North Side to the South Side and from the West Side to the lake, Chicago is filled with bars and restaurants that claim to have both spirits and ghosts on the menu. And in honor of Halloween, I thought I’d take you on twirl around town to let you know a few of the places where you can scare up a good time.

In more ways that one.

The Red Lion Pub
2446 N. Lincoln Ave.

This venerable Lincoln Park bar was shuttered for six years before finally reopening in early 2014, but that long closure didn’t scare away The Red Lion Pub’s most famous patrons: its ghosts.

Billed as one of the most haunted bars in Chicago, the building was built in 1882 is said to be lousy with the spirits of past patrons who have died either inside or nearby. Among them is the ghost of infamous Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger, who was shot and killed by federal agents in 1934 just across the street outside the Biograph Theater.

It’s also said that a scruffy cowboy haunts an upstairs dining room, and current co-owner Colin Cordwell claims that the ghost of former owner “Dirty Dan Danforth” once pushed him down the stairs, sending him to the hospital.

632 N. Dearborn St.

The haunting Romanesque Revival mansion that looms in River North was built in 1892 and has served as home to the Chicago historical Society. Since 1990, however, it’s been a nightclub, first as Excalibur and now simply as Castle. But whatever the name, the site is said to have unique after-hours visitors.

In 1915, when the S.S. Eastland capsized in the nearby Chicago river drowning more than 800 people and the building was used as a makeshift morgue for victims. Some say they’ve never left. Others, meanwhile, claim that ghosts from the Great Chicago Fire – including a notorious “Lady in Red” – haunt the building, with staff and visitors saying they’ve heard boxes being moved in a locked, empty room or seen billiards balls move on tables with no one near them.

Congress Plaza Hotel
520 S. Michigan Ave.

Located along a stretch of South Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park, the Congress Plaza Hotel has decades worth of ghost stories.

Built in 1893 to accommodate guests visiting the Columbian Exposition, the hotel today is home to restaurants, Rafael Steak House and The Gazebo, and allegedly a wide array of spirits. Guests have reported flickering electricity and “phantom” noises inside rooms.

Hotel employees claim that the specter of a young boy haunts the north tower, while a female ghost has been known to whisper in the ear of anyone who enters the banquet room alone.

There’s also a rumor that Al Capone’s ghost can be found inside the Congress, but then again, where in Chicago hasn’t that guy stayed?

Riccardo Enoteca
2116 N. Clark St.

This cozy Italian wine bar stands near the site of the famed St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and paranormal enthusiasts claim that animals react strangely while passing by the area.

But maybe it’s just the cooking.

Gold Star Bar
1755 W. Division St.

It’s said that Gold Star is haunted by a man who was fatally shot by the former owner during an attempted robbery. The bar also was once known as a stronghold for Green Bay Packers fans and employees today report still seeing the spirit of a woman wearing green – a truly scary thought for Bears fans.

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone.