The Devil in the White City

Over the years here at The Witching Hour, we have shared various posts about the notorious serial killer (not America’s first) Dr H. H. Holmes who gained infamy during and after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Links to those previous posts will be at the bottom of this entry.

Hulu is currently adapting Erik Larson’s novel The Devil in the White City, for a limited series release. As yet there is no air date, but we will remain on the look out for it. For those unfamiliar with the book, it’s the story of the men who gathered to plan and then build the Exposition. If you are familiar with Holmes’ story, you know that it is against this fair that he performed his most dastardly deeds of luring young women who traveled to Chicago to find work at the fair into his “hotel” where they were subsequently murdered.

While I am looking forward to at least giving the series a try, I have low expectations for this adaptation based on previous experience. Still, we won’t know until it’s tried.

Previous Posts on Holmes

America’s First Serial Killer
H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle
H.H. Holmes’ Exhumation
Linking H.H. Holmes to Jack the Ripper
H.H. Holmes Letter Found

 

Fire at Famous Myrtles Plantation

It’s notable for being Louisiana’s most haunted house and most recently it’s become notable for one building that is no longer there.

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The Myrtles Plantation to the right and the concrete foundation of the restaurant to the left.

Easter weekend of this year, my friend and I took a weekend trip just to get away from the stress of life. Our travel timing was such that we arrived in St Francesville, Louisiana around lunch time and since she doesn’t like eating at chain restaurants when we travel I suggested that we stop at the Myrtles Plantation because I recalled they have a restaurant on the premises. When we arrived, however, the place that the restaurant was located was just a flat slab of concrete. There were other new buildings I didn’t recall seeing before so I figured that the restaurant had been moved to one of the new buildings. Not so! My friend went to the gift shop and enquired about the missing building and was told that it was the responsibility of those Damn Yankees and would take about a year and a half to return.

We chuckled at the response, but never thought anything of it. In the end, we enjoyed a filling lunch at a new restaurant and smokehouse called The Frances.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 28th, and I’m with my cousins when I mention the trip and mention the restaurant at the plantation being missing. My cousin informed me that there had been a fire in the restaurant that completely destroyed it. The Carriage House Restaurant was taken down to the foundation and will be rebuilt. Although my cousin didn’t give me a specific date for the fire, a quick search revealed that it happened at the beginning of March of this year.

Fire leaves Carriage House restaurant at Myrtles Plantation partly burned and charred

The Congress Plaza Hotel

1462288160807 I recently visited Chicago and stayed at The Congress Plaza Hotel, situated at 520 S Michigan Avenue facing Lake Michigan.

I knew from my best friend that CPH is allegedly the most haunted hotel in Chicago and admittedly was slightly apprehensive at staying there, but not enough to make me change my reservations.

Dating from 1893, the hotel has two towers and is clearly full of history.  As most buildings built around this time and in this area of the Windy City, the Congress was built to provide accommodations for those attending the World’s Columbian Exposition. At that time, however, it was called the Auditorium Annex and was meant to be a complement to Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building which was situated across the street. By 1908, the 1,000 room hotel was experiencing innovations to keep up with modern conveniences and a new name was part of that change. The new name was derived from the hotel’s location at the intersection of Congress Street and S Michigan Avenue as well as the Congress Plaza portion of Grant Park across the street.

Over the years, the hotel has hosted many famous guests, among them many of our nation’s presidents. It was even referred to as the “Home of Presidents” among Chicago hotels. Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, F. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and T. Roosevelt all stayed at the hotel. In the early 1900s, the White House presented a special chair to the hotel which was a favorite of Presidents Polk, Van Buren, Harrison and Harding. The chair can be seen in the lobby of the hotel.

Aside from mentioning further remodeling down through the years, that’s about all of the history the CPH’s official website offers. I haven’t, until now, read about any of who or what is supposed to be haunting this hotel to qualify it as “Chicago’s Most Haunted Hotel.” I saw vague references to experiences had by people who reviewed the hotel for travel sites, but nothing specific. Not until I decided to write this blog piece did I look into it, lest I be influenced by the stories.

Another blog indicates that there have been rumors of Al Capone’s ownership of the hotel, but no proof has ever been found that he even stayed at the hotel, much less owned it. The blog also sheds light on our first potential ghost, Peg Leg Johnny, a hobo who is assumed to have died in the area of the hotel, but at an undefined time.

I also found an article on rent.com which states definitively that Al Capone had a suite of rooms on the 8th floor of the North tower and haunts the hotel. A third potential spirit is that of a little boy who haunts the 6th floor, but there’s no indication of which tower he haunts, though.

In the 1930s, a young, Polish mother came to Chicago with her two sons. She was supposed to wait for her husband to arrive and then they’d start their new life on the city’s northside. He never came. The depressed mother threw herself and children out of a 6th floor window to their deaths. However, the body of one of the boys never made it to the city morgue. He’s thought to play tricks on guests staying on the 6th floor.

The article also mentions Peg Leg Johnny as being a rather goofy spirit who turns appliances off and on.

Then, of course, because every haunted hotel must have a specific room that is the creepiest of them all, CPH has Room 441. Naturally you can specify if you wish to stay in this room, but be warned there seems to be a female spirit who doesn’t take kindly to sleeping guests.

…a female specter haunts Room 441. Witnesses say she manifests as a shadow at the foot of your bed. She then kicks it to wake you. We don’t know how this spirit came to haunt the room. As far as we know, no one committed suicide or killed anybody there. Anyway, this scary lady wants the room for herself.

The final bit of haunting I read about is the “hand of mystery” that often appears in photographs from events in the Gold Room – one of the ballrooms in the hotel. Allegedly one of the workers got trapped when the wall was sealed up.

1462288192040I have to say that from my perspective, the creepiest part of the hotel was the hallway because it had muted lighting and definitely and had a Shining vibe going on. I half expected to see two little girls standing at the end of the hall. Considering The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for The Shining was built in 1909 and the second tower of the Congress Plaza Hotel was built around the same time, it stands to reason they’d resemble each other. I really liked the muted lighting, especially at night, because it meant less light shining in under the door when you’re trying to sleep. I had a one night stay in the North tower, but changed rooms the next morning because there was little in way of storage space and I couldn’t plug my phone charger into any of the outlets due to their design. The only time I really thought about any potential ghosts was that one night in the North tower because I sensed it was older and my only thought was, I’m too tired to bother with any of you if you decide to pass through here. What can I say? It was an exhausting day.

Would I stay in the Congress Plaza Hotel again? Absolutely! It has lots of character and it’s conveniently located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of many many attractions. Don’t go there, though, if you’re expecting ghosts. I’m just not sure there’s anything there. Do, however, go if you like history. Beware of the leather couches in the lobby though…. I sat in one and almost didn’t move again. Lol

Sources:

Congress Plaza Hotel

The Paranormal Corner

Chicago’s Most Haunted #1: The Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Illinois

Historic Emmitt House destroyed by fire

Again with the lack of respect!!! I’m starting to hate people.

WAVERLY — A historic — and believed to be haunted — landmark in downtown Waverly was destroyed by fire Monday night.

The blaze at the Emmitt House restaurant at the corner of U.S. 23 and Market Street caught fire about 9 p.m. Monday. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the building appeared to be a total loss.

U.S. 23 through Waverly was shut down to allow firefighters from several departments in Pike and Ross counties to battle the blaze. The conditions they worked under were far from ideal, with temperatures dropping from 0 degrees when the initial calls came in about 9 p.m. to 6 below at 11 p.m., with a wind chill factor of 31 below.

“It’s been an uphill battle since we got here,” said Waverly Fire Chief Randy Armbruster, who estimated there were about 60 firefighters from various departments on the scene. “It (the cold weather) has taken a toll in trying to get a handle on it.”

Full story

Scotland’s haunted castles: would you be spooked?

This is an awesome write up of various castles in Scotland which are haunted. I know we’ve probably covered many of these individually over the years, but it’s nice to have it straight from someone living there.

The Hazel Tree

I’m not at all sure what the collective term for ghosts is:   a presence, perhaps, or a clutch?

Anyway, just in case it has escaped your attention, Hallowe’en is approaching;  if you were unaware, a walk around any supermarket will put this right.  This means that, all across the country, people will be queuing up to be scared witless – or merely entertained, depending on their constitution – by a ‘fright night’ in a haunted castle or mansion.

I’m never quite sure what to make of Hallowe’en – it is over-commercialised, but its underlying roots are as dark as night, reaching back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.   Spirits are said to be especially active around this time because the veil between their world and ours is very thin.

Fortified by this idea, I thought I’d take a look at some of Scotland’s most haunted castles and the stories…

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