On the very first morning of my stay at the Congress Plaza Hotel I heard mutterings and whispers in the lift of suspected hauntings. These whispers continued right through my seven night stay. The initial reflex action was to consult Mr Google, but I put this off until later for fear of reading something that may have made me freak out without good reason.
When I did consult Google, I found out that our very own Pete Evens didn’t last an hour at the hotel. “I grabbed my bags and pretty much ran out! I bypassed checkout, jumped straight in a cab and got the %$&# outa there”.
Side effect of activated almonds maybe?
Well Pete, this girl managed to survive seven whole nights at the hotel. But I will agree with you that some of the halls are a little creepy. When I investigated I found out there are believed to be numerous ghosts gracing the rooms and hallways of the Congress Plaza.
Before you read any further I should make something quite clear. Yes I do believe in things that go bump in the night. I have encountered unexplainable happenings in the past and had the hair on the back of my neck stand to attention. Yes, I do believe in spirits.
The Congress Plaza Hotel was originally constructed in 1893 to accommodate visitors to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (now World’s Fair). An enormous hotel, which takes up an entire block on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
The hotel has a bit of a shady past. It is said that America’s first serial killer, Dr HH Holmes, meet his young female victims in the lobby of the hotel. (This isn’t proven, but makes a great story) The young ladies were seeking employment in his pharmacy. Instead he would end up killing them in his torture 'castle' a few blocks away.
It was home to Al Capone (some say he even owned it at one stage), supposedly residing in a suite on the 8th floor of the North tower. His spirit is said to haunt the halls. Though according to records Capone never stayed there, nor owned it, at least not under his own name.
These are but a couple of the stories of past patrons of South Michigan Avenue's grand dame.
Haunted level 8 - North Tower
The Congress Plaza has seen better days. In its prime it would have been a stunning and majestic hotel. These days the old girl is a little rough around the edges and is in need of a major overhaul. I think the tattiness adds to the haunted feel.
When I investigated I find there are said to be numerous ghosts that reside at the hotel. Rooms with reputations that make the movie 1804 resemble a trip to Disneyland.
So when in Rome, you leave the security of your hotel room on the 11th floor, grab the camera and go for a walk to investigate. Remember I knew nothing about the alleged ghosts until the last night of my stay.
I am lucky with the situation of our room, the corridor it is on has windows to daylight on one side. This makes it feel quite airy and comfortable. When I go exploring I find that this is a welcomed rarity in the hotel. You see only the floors from 9 to 12 have an internal open space to the heavens. And only the rooms located above and below me on these levels have corridors with windows. All other corridors have rooms either side and no natural light, which does make if feel very creepy.
Open space for levels 9 - 12 of the North tower.
Internally the hotel reminds me of the one in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. No windows and very long corridors. As I walk around the corridors I do wonder if I am going to run into the twins asking me to come play with them.
Certain areas of the hotel feel creepier than others. There is wallpaper peeling off the walls, ceilings in disrepair, dank smells in certain areas and just a general feeling of neglect.
The stairs heading up to level 12 of the North tower. These are the stairs that made me feel a little uneasy.
The 12th floor of the North Wing has been reported as the most haunted area of the hotel. I am staying one floor below on the 11th floor of the North Wing. When I find this out it gives the process of heading up there to visit the ice machine a whole new meaning. In fact I send Mac up there on our last night, of course I don’t tell him why, I just proclaim laziness.
After numerous attempts to take an in focus photo of this particular corridor on level 12 (on a couple of occasions) I gave up.
Prior to my knowledge, I did feel a little spooked heading up to the 12th floor, but I put this down to how old the hotel was. I kept feeling uneasy each time I was about to walk down the stairs back to level 11, almost like I am going to be pushed. Each time I erase the thought out of my head and regard myself as an idiot.
But maybe this is the reason. The 12th floor is meant to be the realm of Karel Langer, a six year old boy who was thrown from a window by his mother Adele in the late 1930’s. She also threw his brother Jan Tommy out the window before following them out the window to her own to death. So that then raises the question, who was I sensing about to push me down the stairs, Adele or Karel?
Peg Leg Johnny
The South Tower is home to Peg Leg Johnny, supposedly a hobo who was murdered at the Congress Plaza. I didn’t see any peg legged ghosts while I was there, but there are reports up to 2006 of seeing him.
Yes, of course I had to go find the notorious room 666. It is meant to be so haunted, that it has to be sealed shut to protect us all.
There is no room 666…………
Standing outside of room 668 looking at room 664, where is room 666?
I have read that it is actually an office, but alas I found no office either. Numbering goes straight form room 664 to 668.
In another area of the hotel I did find this non marked room. It seems to be securely shut compared to all of the other rooms in the vicinity. May be this is the room? I took the photo and split. Still had thoughts of the twins showing up wanting to play.
Is this the locked from the outside room? The one that is too haunted to even go in?
Another extremely haunted room is room 441, but this one you can actually stay in. If you do, expect to encounter a shadowy presence at the end of your bed. Objects may move and you may hear strange sounds. It is reported that security is called to this room more than any other room in the hotel.
I did go searching for this room, but found myself walking the halls of level four of the North tower with out any luck. The room numbers didn't make much sense. Then I decided to walk across (on the same level) to the South tower. Again I walked and couldn't find the room in the rabbit warren of corridors. It was then a very uncomfortable feeling came over me and I decided that a photo of room 441 wasn't as important as heading back to the lift and getting out of there.
Peeling wallpaper of level 11
The Florentine Room
This room is actually a ballroom, but many unexplained and spine tingling occurrences have happened here. Reports of humming, of a ghostly women who will whisper in your ear and then there are phantom gunshots. To add to this, keys on the piano have been known to tinkle without assistance. I didn’t visit the Florentine Room.
For more ghostly stories head over to Adam Selzer’s Mysterious Chicago blog. He also quashes one of the most famous ghost stories of the hotel, the mystery hand. The mystery hand is meant to be the hand of a worker who was sealed up in a wall of the hotel. Seems it is pure fiction, a story started by a clever photo and Adam.
Some visitors have reported the curtains in their room moving without any reason. I wonder if it ever happened in our room?
'Please chain your door before retiring'. Is that to keep you in or the spirits out?
The only other strange compulsion I had while I was staying at The Congress Plaza was to ensure the door to our bathroom was shut. Not just at night when heading to bed, but I felt the need to make sure it was shut at all times. It was only after I was back in Sydney that I discovered a few people have reported seeing a shadow from the corner of their eye in the mirror of their room. A glimpse of a shadow staring at them from the bathroom. The bathroom didn't make me feel comfortable at all.
The bar, where you are certain to find a spirit or two.
The Congress Plaza Hotel isn’t a bad place to stay. I can’t say it is somewhere I would want to stay again. Our room was comfortable enough with a view of the rooms opposite us. There was free Wi-Fi. Staff were hit and miss. Some were really lovely like the porter who went out into the rain at 5.30am one morning to hail a cab for me. Then there was the miss, like the Irish girl in the bar, who seriously was in need of a shot of happiness and most of the wait staff were in need of a jab of happiness too.
If you jump on to Trip Advisor or just reach out to Mr Google you will find numerous articles, photos and videos about the haunted Congress Plaza Hotel.
If you have stayed anywhere haunted please share your story below. Who doesn’t like a good spooky ghost story? Pete, we’ll let you begin.
You can read more about Pete Evan’s experience here.
The Congress Plaza Hotel
520 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, USA
Tel: +1 312 427 3800
Other Things to do in Chicago
Visit Macy's and see the historic Tiffany Glass Dome Ceiling
Head to a jazz session at Andy's Jazz Chicago
Try a Smoked Pork and Toffee Crunch Shake at the Little Goat Diner
PIN ME TO YOUR TRAVEL BOARD
I plan to stay in November for three day's. So the first thing to do of course is to find REAL HISTORY, and events that can be proven. Reason's to be haunted "200%", history for the hotel "WAY OFF". NO proof of Al Capone, NO proof of Holmes (his space was close so maybe). I am a co-founder of a paranormal group, but I don't chase down stories. This hotel is another haunted location where fake stories are made to make the place haunted, when the truth will do the job.
If I had planned on staying due to its haunted history I would have researched before my stay. I was there for a conference and there for a week. Therefore I really didn't want to know before that last night.
The place is really quite creepy in general. I agree with you, lots of great stories associated with the hauntings, but they are just that, stories. The substantiated history/truth behind what goes bump in the night would be just as interesting.
Have an amazing stay when you go.
In November (2022) we will be at The Congress Hotel for 3 day's. Which mean I got to know details of event's, and people who may be a reason for paranormal activity. Murder and suicide found, but not mentioned in stories. A woman who have problems with men, or mad about where she ended up. With the woman a husband who may blame women for his painful death. A man who may have felt his family betrayed him. Of course the suicides NO ONE saw coming. But I just started my search, making thing's hard is the room numbers have changed after a reopening.
stay at the haunted mansion in new orleans
Hey Amanda, thanks for the heads up!
I stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago for a work function about 10 years ago. I slept for about 45 minutes all night! Footsteps pacing in front of my bed, hangers moving in the closet... as soon as I’d start to doze off it would feel like someone was hovering over me. When they sent the, “How was your stay?” Email, I let them know just how crazy of a night I had! The reply I got was basically if you’d like to stay again, we’ll give you a discount. Needless to say I will not be returning to the Knickerbocker hotel. Ever. Again.
OMG Gia, I would have been beside myself! I wouldn't have taken them up on the return visit discount either!
I have stayed at the Congress Plaza every time I have been to Chicago! Obviously for one reason, even stayed in room 441, I left my camera running all night and am still to scared to watch the video! Also, if u look at the picture posted of the rooms 664&668 u can see where there used to be a door right next to the door shown, u can tell at the top and bottom where the crown molding is, it’s crazy, and it’s really closed off.
Side note: if you talk real sweet to the security guard named Johnny (if he still works there) he will give u a special tour of all the haunted areas that are not open to the public including Al Capone’s “poker room” hope this was helpful!
Apologies for not acknowledging your comment earlier. For some reason the site didn't alert me to it.
Have you watched the footage yet? I would have had to! Did have anthing out of the ordinary happen when you stayed in room 441?
Good spotting on the picture relating to room 664 and 668.
Thanks for the tip on Johnny, that is great to know.
Yes this is helpful! I'm staying there this weekend and hoping to explore a little. Thanks again
I just stayed there a couple nights ago! Found room 441 but someone was clearly in it, as we could hear them from the hallway. Our bathtub faucet turned on at some point in the night because the tub was wet when we woke up, and it wasn't when we arrived or went to bed. Other than that, we were exhausted so even if there was a ghost trying to mess with us, we would have never known ???? oh well. It's a beautiful place though, quite fun to explore. We did noticed floor 12 in the North tower had a super off smell, I cant even pin point what the smell was. Wish I could insert a picture of 441 for you! But cant figure out how, if at all.
Apologies for not acknowledging your comment earlier. For some reason the site didn't alert me to it. I just noticed it how when responding to somebody else.
It was probably a good thing you were exhausted. But the tub would have been enough for me. Especially as our bathroom gave me the creeps.
If you would like to send me the photo you have of 441, please simply respond to my email. I would love to add it to this post with credit to you and share your bathtub experience with readers.
Actually since I wrote my last comment, I found that no one took time to look up true history. For instance the open space you mentioned 9-12 floor, may be due to a fire that took out many rooms.
The stairs you felt creepy on, doing the biggest fire many said there was severe panic on the stairs. Some said they could not get to the fire escape, because of how the rooms were set up. I found direct deaths for the 4th, 5th, and two on the 12th. So many tragedies, normal deaths, murder, and of course suicide. I have pictures to match up with what they call haunted rooms on my visit. I have not found half of the information I found any where, just the stories made up with no proof. The weird numbering, could be due to when the FBI owned it. At one point the FBI took the north side, and the hotel operatorated on the south. They totally remodeled just the north side for offices. The Hotel had 3 names, and I believe it confuses people looking up history. I don't care if I see one spirit, or have any paranormal activity, just staying at the old hotel is plenty enough.
Waaah ! I also stayed in a haunted hotel once..... but only for a night! I really cannot.