For this especially spooky Halloween blog post, I’ll be recounting my experience with the Chicago Hauntings Bus Tour on October 13, 2018. This article is a retelling of things shared on this tour. I’ll let you decided if you think it’s fact or fiction.
I have a unique relationship with how I handle scary. I’m royally terrified of scary movies or anything involving fantastic horrors like zombies, vampires, or demon clowns (so, no, I did not see the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It). But, when it comes to the paranormal– the real-life ghost stories– I’m fascinated. I think it’s the folklore and storytelling that weaves throughout ever scenario. I can’t say that I truly believe in ghosts or demons, but I do believe in the people trying to find explanations for the unexplainable mysteries of life.
The Chicago Hauntings Bus Tour was the best way to get the creep factor I craved with a unique version of a Chicago history lesson. Our tour guide was a native-born Chicagoan and a co-owner of the Chicago Hauntings tour company. His grandmother was the housekeeping manager of the Congress Hotel for an extremely long time, so it seemed fitting that the Congress Hotel was our starting point. For those that don’t know, the Congress Hotel is thought to be one of the most haunted hotels in the United States.
Our tour guide said that he has stayed in many haunted places throughout his life, so he’s not one to over exaggerate when it comes to the paranormal. With that said, he believes wholeheartedly that the Congress Hotel is haunted. Theatrics or truth, I’ll let you decided. However, it is fact that there are actual rooms in the Congress Hotel no longer rented out to the public.
Our next stop was an alleyway next to the iconic Oriental Theater that’s known as Death Alley. Death Alley was thusly named because of a fire that struck the Oriental Theater very early on in its existence (fires seem to be a reoccurring theme in Chicago history). Over 700 people were inside the building while it burned.
The men in the theater tried to save people by building a makeshift-ladder from the Oriental to a neighboring building with scraps of wood and old ladder pieces. Unfortunately their efforts resulted in over 100 people falling to their deaths in this particular alleyway.
Our tour guide said the best time to come to this spot was around dusk, before the floodlights placed in the alleyway come on. It is said that visitors can hear people moaning and see orbs in this area. Many people also report seeing a woman dressed in historically accurate clothing standing near the stage door.
We moved on from the Oriental to the Hull House on Halsted St. As we worked our way towards the house, our tour guide taught us a little bit more about Chicago’s immigration history. Halsted has always been known as Immigration Street. Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Greek immigrants are just a handful of groups that have lived on Halsted before discovering their own personal havens in the city of Chicago.
The Hull House was opened by Jane Adams, a woman who dedicated her life to social work and assisting the poor. It seems fitting that she opened her headquarters on a street that was often home to people who were just starting out in America.
On a not-so-sentimental note, it is assumed that the Hull House was placed on top of a Native American burial ground. According to our tour guide, a lot of Chicago’s issues with bad mojo stem from the desecration of Native American lands.
This house in particular was also home to the little girl who inspired the book, Rosemary’s Baby. Now that I know what the building’s original purpose was and Jane Adams’ original mission for the place, I find it sad that the Hull House is often only seen as the birthplace of a horror story.
Now, let’s talk about Lincoln Park. It’s a beautiful place with an adorable zoo and magnificent views of the city skyline. It’s also apparently chalk-full of paranormal activity. Lincoln Park was turned into a public grave after the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871. Since then, it has become the quaint park we know and love today. Couch Tomb (which is pictured above) was built as a reminder to the park’s graveyard past.
Legend has it that if a person’s gravesite isn’t marked, their spirit stays connected to the ground they are buried in. The spirit haunts their burial-place as a way of remembrance. According to our tour guide, who is close friends with quite a few Chicago PD, the police have some unexplainable stories in Lincoln Park that include seeing shadowed figures and hearing chanting when no one is around. If the rumors are true, it’s probably due to all of the people with unmarked graves in the park.
As the tour continued, it seemed that our tour guide was able to point out paranormal connections on every street corner. Lake Michigan and the Willis Tower are even supposed to be haunted. Again, I’m not one to believe everything I hear, but I always appreciate the nostolgia that comes with a spooky story in October.
As a transplant to Chicago, I felt like the tour helped me feel more a part of Chicago history. I guess that’s the power of a good story, whether it’s true or not. Hearing about the tragedies and struggles of people passed made me feel akin to the city. Thanks to this tour, I’m inspired by the Chicago that once was and look forward to contributing to the Chicago that currently is.
…I also know that I’m never going inside of the Congress Hotel ever again. That place gives me the creeps. Happy Halloween!