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

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6 Haunted Hotels for Your Halloween Travels

1. Jekyll Island Club Hotel

2. Stanley Hotel

3. Brown Palace Hotel

4. Carolina Inn

5. Pfister Hotel

6. Hawthorne Hotel

 

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Stanley Hotel and Hawthorne Hotel each have special packages/events for Halloween. Perhaps there’s still time for you to book a stay in one and let us know of your experiences.

MLBers Discuss Milwaukee’s Haunted Hotel

It’s a shame the hotel isn’t embracing the haunts. But the players’ reactions made me giggle.

Miller Park in Milwaukee has never been known as a scary place to play. It’s a beautiful ballpark, true, but it doesn’t have the imposing aura as some other major league stadiums.

So why do so many players dread their visits to Wisconsin?

Because when big league clubs travel to Milwaukee, they tend to stay at one of the city’s fanciest hotels, The Pfister. And apparently, the 120-year-old Pfister is haunted.

Now it would be one thing if a lone player, or just a handful of players, had complained about ghosts in the hotel. But over the years, tons of players from different teams have mentioned that they noticed paranormal activity. Adrian Beltre famously slept with his bat to protect himself. Several members of the Marlins even bunked up during a trip because they didn’t want to battle the ghosts alone.

Full story

Haunted Objects: Robert the Doll

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I grew up with them. Probably most of you who read this blog grew up with them, or at least played with them for a brief period in your formative years. Whether you’re a girl or boy, dolls play a prominent role in anyone’s childhood. It can be a bit… unsettling… when you read a story about an innocent child’s toy which is more sinister than innocent.

This is one such story. The story of Robert the Doll

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One night in Rob Portman’s haunted hotel

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LEBANON, Ohio—The sun is setting on this small town in southwest Ohio, and when darkness reigns, strange things happen at the Golden Lamb Inn. Or so I’m told.

The Inn, owned by the family of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman for the better part of the last century, is the oldest hotel in the state. Since it opened as a simple lodge in 1803, 12 presidents have visited and scores of notable guests like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain have walked the halls.

In that time, at least three guests have died here. Some believe that the spirits of the unlucky trio never left.

A prospective vice presidential candidate owns a haunted hotel? Get me a reservation.

Full story

The Inn’s website in case you’d like to book a night: The Golden Lamb Inn

Ghost pushed us, Larnach Castle tourist claims

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Ghostly sightings may have left Cumberland College students spooked, but now a tourist has reported being bullied by a ghost at Larnach Castle.

Sightings of the ghost known as the “Grey Lady” at the college earlier this month have sparked a media frenzy, says the author of a soon-to-be-published book about Dunedin’s haunted spots.

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Larnach Castle & Gardens – New Zealand’s only castle