Chicago’s Most Haunted Historic Buildings

It’s the spookiest time of the year, so we’re checking out Chicago’s most haunted historic buildings. Located in and around downtown, these venues have a history of things going bump in the night. They’re also grand and glamorous examples of our city’s rich architectural and social history. Who cares about that on Halloween? We wanna hear the creepy stories! Worth noting, I’m a healthy skeptic when it comes to ghouls, ghosts, monsters, etc. I’ll buy someone a Coke if they can definitely prove a haunting. I also know that this topic is tons of fun when the stories are well-told.

Congress Plaza Hotel Chicago's most haunted historic buildings Florentine Room Chicago's most haunted
The Florentine Room is supposedly the most haunted spot in Chicag’s most haunted historic building. Image via Wikimedia.

#1. The Congress Plaza Hotel

The Congress Plaza, where we begin our 1893 World’s Fair Tour, is reputedly Chicago’s most haunted historic building. Originally built in 1893 as an annex to the Auditorium Hotel across the street, it has hosted countless visitors ever since. According to the legends some guests never left. <insert spooky noises here>

The Congress Plaza is the location for a bevy of sightings and stories according to Adam Selzer, who is the de facto encyclopedia on Chicago hauntings. Among the most common spooky encounters are sightings of a young boy’s ghost on the 12th floor of the north tower, often connected to a horrible incident where a distraught mother threw her boys from a hotel window. Selzer reports that some employees avoid that floor if they can help it. Personally, I am taken with the supposed haunting of the gorgeous Florentine Room. Guests and employees report strange noises, pianos playing themselves, etc. Plus, the room just looks haunted, right?

#2. Marshall Field’s 8th Floor

Chicago's most haunted historic buildings MArshall Field's 8th floor window well
The upper floors of Marshall Field’s sure look haunted. Photo by Alex Bean.

The old Marshall Field’s building is famous for its ties to retail and social history, but it may also be Chicago’s most haunted department store. The 8th floor is a focus of much of the alleged paranormal activity. The Iroquois Theater, located a block away, burned down during a matinee in 1906, killing 602 people. According to the stories, many of the victims were taken to Field’s, where a makeshift hospital ward was set up on the 8th floor.

According to the research we found for our Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys, burns were treated with dishtowels and the dead were wrapped with linens from the bedding department. Much like the Congress, workers report feeling a heavy depression if they work on that floor for too long.

#3. The Hull House

Jane Addam’s Hull House organization helped immigrants and the indigent make their way in Chicago society. They were the very definition of saintly. Yet demonic stories have haunted their famed building on Halsted Street for over a century. Addams herself even vouched for one ghost. So, hey, if Jane Addams says so, then onto the list of Chicago’s most haunted historic buildings it goes.

Chicago neighborhoods private tour Hull House
The Hull House mansion is supposedly haunted by the wife of its builder. Photo via Wikimedia.

The first Hull House haunting is the ghostly presence of Mrs. Hull herself. Charles J. Hull built the stately mansion in 1856, decades before Addams took it over. His wife passed away in a second floor bedroom. Every person who lived in the room thereafter, including Jane Addams, reported sensing her ghostly presence. Addams wrote that she was awakened by the dead woman’s footsteps stomping around the room.

The second, and more infamous, story is the “Devil Baby of Hull House.” This legend is deeply implausible, but we’ll roll with it. An expectant atheist father said he’d rather have his child be the devil than Catholic. Sure enough, the baby was born with horns, cloven feet, the general Satanic works. So the distraught parents took the monster to Hull House, whereupon it laughed at the priest who tried to baptize it and danced away. Which, uh, no. Never happened. Fake news. Yet visitors have claimed to see it through the attic windows for a century now. <rolls eyes>

#4. The Monadnock Building

Monadnock building lobby
Long dark corridors in old buildings = creeptastic. Photo by Marie Rowley.

Chicago Detours moved into the beautiful, historic Monadnock Building in 2016. Its lovingly restored interior makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the 1890s when the building first opened. The period-appropriate lighting makes it seem like 19th-century specters might be lurking in every shadow.

Curious about the building’s potential for haunting, our own Marie Rowley recently asked a security guard if he felt the presence of spirits during his overnight shifts at the Monadnock. “Sure,” he replied with a shrug. “Any building over 100 years old has some kind of ghost hanging around.”

For our part, we have certainly experienced unexplained cold drafts and the elevator mysteriously opening when no one had pressed the button to call it. You might chalk that up to the quirks of a turn-of-the-century skyscraper being adapted for modern use, but we choose to believe it has a spookier explanation.

If you want to check out the Monadnock’s historic charm for yourself, we’re offering free half-hour tours of the building in partnership with Preservation Chicago. Only a few spots left!

#5. The Drake Hotel

Chicago's most haunted historic buildings Drake Hotel The Lady in Red
Chicago’s most wonderful new hotel in the 1920’s is now one of Chicago’s most haunted historic buildings. Image via Wikimedia.

Hotels seem to be hot spots for ghost stories. The Drake Hotel rounds out our list of Chicago’s most haunted historic buildings. The earliest ghost story at the Drake, the Lady in Red, goes back to the grand opening of the hotel in 1920. Said Lady supposedly saw her beau dancing with another woman in the Palm Court and threw herself from the new building in despair. Guests have seen her trademark bright-red specter in the hotel’s ballrooms and 10th floor.

The other creepy Drake story is an unsolved murder, rather than a ghost story. The “Woman in Black” killed noted socialite Adele Born Williams in her 8th floor suite. The shooter, described as a “a middle-aged gray-haired woman wearing a black Persian lamb coat,” was never identified and the crime was never solved. Tantalizing clues point to some kind of inside job. Police found the murder weapon  in a stairwell they had previously searched, and Williams’ spare room key was anonymously returned to the front desk. Weird!

More of Chicago’s Most Haunted Historic Buildings

Chicago's most haunted historic buildings Inez Clarke grace Graceland cemetery
Graceland Cemetery is supposedly home to numerous ghosts, including poor little Inez Clarke here. Photo by leyla.a on Flickr.

Our list hardly scratches the surface of reputedly haunted spots in Chicago. Galavanting ghost hunters should definitely check out Lincoln Park’s Red Lion Pub, Lakeview’s Graceland Cemetery, and Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in suburban Midlothian. The latter is regularly listed among the most-haunted places in America.

Beyond those spots, my favorite local ghost story is probably Resurrection Mary. Beginning in the 1930’s a ghostly young woman in white would be seen walking down Archer Ave, asking for rides, or dancing with patrons at the nearby O Henry Ballroom. She would always vanish into thin air near the gates of Resurrection Cemetery. The story goes that she was a hitch-hiker struck and killed on Archer. Her body is buried in the cemetery, but her spirit wanders back to the ballroom where she danced before her death. Ugh! Love it!

Hope you have a spooky good time if you check out some of these spots this Halloween!

– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
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Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
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Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
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Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
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Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
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