Monthly Archives: February 2016

Poltergeist Activity at Chicago Congress Hotel

 

Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds share the history
and ghost activity of Chicago’s Congress Hotel

Directions The Congress Hotel is near the center of Chicago at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. The hotel is a couple blocks from the lake and overlooks Grant Park. The street address is 520 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605.

Congress Hotel Chicago1History The hotel was a grand structure built to cater to attendees of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Throughout its many years of operation, countless famous individuals have stayed at the hotel, including movie stars and several Presidents of the United States.

Some say that the Congress Hotel had become a headquarters for Al Capone during his reign as crime lord during Prohibition, although there is little evidence to support this theory.

Another rumor suggests that it is the inspiration behind Stephen King’s short story “1408.” In this story, a writer who pens ghost stories stays in a hotel that supposedly has a room so haunted, no one will stay in it. During the one night he lodges there, he experiences the most terrifying moments of his life.

Ghost Story Several rooms throughout the hotel are considered haunted. The most haunted room that is still open to the public is room 441. Many strange things happen in this room, including the sounds of voices, manifestations of apparitions, the presence of cold spots, and poltergeist activity that includes objects launching themselves across the room. There is also rumored to be a room on the hotel’s 12th floor that is so haunted, it is actually closed to the public and hidden from view. The doorway is said to have been permanently sealed and wallpaper installed over it.

The Florentine Room was once a roller-skating rink. Today, people still hear the sounds of roller skates crossing the floor, as well as those of organ music. People on the fifth floor of the building often hear moans near the elevator. Throughout the common areas of the hotel, objects are said to throw themselves across the room. Cold spots and apparitions are also felt and seen throughout the hotel, especially after dark.

Congress Hotel Chicago2Another haunted room in the hotel, the Gold Room, is frequently used for events and weddings. A strange phenomenon often appears in wedding photographs. People who are known to have been present in pictures are mysteriously absent in the final photographs. There are blank spots in the photographs where the people were standing, and no one can explain why they are not there. The mysterious photographs are most often taken near the grand piano in the Gold Room.

The most famous apparition in the building is named Peg Leg Johnny and belongs to a homeless man who was killed at the hotel. People report seeing a haggard, one-legged man in the south tower of the hotel who mysteriously vanishes into thin air upon being approached.

Visiting Due to its tony location and grand view, it is rather pricey to stay at this hotel for the night. But actually booking a room is really the only way to explore and perhaps experience its ghosts. If you do choose to stay at the hotel, you can ask to reserve room 441, if it is available. The hotel is beautiful, convenient to many attractions, and offers amazing views of Michigan Avenue and the lake. If you can afford a night here, it is well worth the money. Beyond this, the décor makes it feel as though you are entering a different time and place.

For 98 more ghostly places to visit in and around the Windy City, check out the authors’ Chicago Haunted Handbook. Ghost hunters Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds explore all the best haunted locales Chicago has to offer, including Resurrection Cemetery, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, Murder Castle, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Site, and even Wrigley Field.

 

Hotel Boulderado

Boulderado HotelWhen the hotel originally opened, Boulder was a dry county and would be until 1967, when the ban on liquor was repealed. Two years later, the hotel had remodeled its basement to open the Catacomb Bar (now called License No. 1). It was the first organization in the city to obtain a liquor license after the law was repealed.

Like many old hotels, the Boulderado is thought to be home to a number of spirits of a different kind, and many staff members have had paranormal experiences in the building. Many of the stories center around rooms 302 and 304, which are next to each other. When guests complain to the front desk about haunted activity, these rooms are the culprits most of the time.

The rooms have a connecting door that makes them a popular option for some guests, and room 302 has a porch, again making it a desirable room. Many haunted-tour guides and employees think that paranormal activity in this particular room is caused by an attempted double suicide (although I have not seen any record of this story). According to the story, a man killed himself on the bed using chloroform while his wife was taking a bath. When the woman entered the room and found her husband dead, she attempted to take the rest of the chloroform herself, but there was not enough left for a fatal dose. There are also some who say the room has hosted “multiple suicides” over the years, another one supposedly being a death by self-inflicted gunshot, but this tale is not as widely told as the one of the chloroform suicide.

Reports of activity in the adjoining suites claim that the lights and televisions will turn on by themselves. The old grandfather clock in the room has also been known to act strangely from time to time, and it will wildly spin its hands before landing on the correct time. According to the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society, a staff member was taking an American Indian guest to room 304, the only room available that night, and that visitor would not even touch the door. That person claimed to feel a spiritual presence in the room and left to stay at a different hotel, even though it was very early in the morning.

Because of all this, the hotel has been known to keep the rooms open to the public on occasion for ghost tours. One of the other spirits believed to cause activity in the building is a woman in a white dress who has been seen walking around the hotel’s hallways. Kitchen items have been known to move around for no reason. Sometimes windows and doors will open on their own, despite being locked. One staff member said that while staying in room 306, he woke feeling like something was holding him to the bed so that he could not get up. There are also unexplained scratching sounds on the walls.

Boulder has long attracted visitors looking for a mountain getaway in Colorado. The city lies at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, is a short drive from several skiing hot spots, and is right in the middle of a drive from Denver to Estes Park. Paranormal enthusiasts looking to hit as many haunted locations as possible (and still make it to the Stanley Hotel) can use this as an in-between location for their route.

Ghosthunting-ColoradoGhosthunting Colorado is the latest book in the popular America’s Haunted Road Trip Series. The guide covers 30 haunted locations in Colorado. Each site includes a combination of history, haunted lore and phenomena, and practical visitation information.

About the author: Kailyn Lamb holds a degree in journalism from Mississippi State University. She has always had a fascination with otherworldly things, and she devours horror movies, Stephen King novels, and ghost stories as often as she can. Kailyn lives in Denver, CO.

Photo credits
Hotel Boulderado: By Hustvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Three Haunted Hotels to visit in San Antonio

If you are looking for a haunted vacation, here
are 3 more suggestions for ghostly stays
by Michael O. Varhola

Michael O. Varhola is the author of Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, the latest addition to the America’s Haunted Roadtrip series.

St Anthony Hotel San AntonioSt. Anthony Hotel Downtown San Antonio
300 E. Travis St., San Antonio, TX 78205
Three ambitious cattlemen, A. H. Jones, B. L. Naylor, and F. M. Swearingen, opened the St. Anthony Hotel in 1909 in anticipation of San Antonio becoming a tourist destination, and it quickly became a popular place for visitors to stay. It is located near San Antonio’s River Walk and the Alamo.

“Not only was it the first luxury hotel in the city, but in the early days it was also the only inn with air-conditioning, a drive-up registration desk, and sophisticated automatic doors and lights,” the official history of the hotel states. “In fact, St. Anthony was so technologically savvy that it was considered among the world’s most modern hotels. By 1915, the hotel charged guests $1.50 per night, and booming revenues allowed the owners to double capacity to 430 guestrooms.”

Many rich and famous Americans were among the visitors to the St. Anthony, its restaurant, and its bar. They have included Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, George Clooney, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, Rock Hudson, Betty Hutton, General Douglas McArthur, Matthew McConaughey, Demi Moore, Gregory Peck, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Patrick Swayze, and Bruce Willis.

Paranormal phenomena people have experienced at the St. Anthony Hotel include seeing strange shadowy outlines, feeling unseen presences, seeing doors opening and closing for no apparent reason, and hearing disembodied footsteps following behind them.

Indigo Hotel DT San AntonioHotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown-Alamo Downtown San Antonio
105 N. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78205 (On website search for San Antonio locations and select “Hotel Indigo Downtown Alamo”; do not confuse with Hotel Indigo San Antonio–Riverwalk).

This historic hotel is located at what had once been the northwest corner of the Alamo compound, site of the bloodiest fighting when Mexican troops overran the mission and slaughtered its Texian defenders on March 6, 1836. Garrison commander William B. Travis was among those who fell here (the front desk being located at the spot where he was believed to have died), and it was so packed with mangled bodies in the aftermath of the battle that the ground was said to have been saturated with blood.

In the years after the battle, Samuel Maverick, who left the besieged Alamo four days before it fell to serve as a delegate to the convention for Texas independence, built his home at this location. Then, in 1909, Southern Pacific Railroad executive Colonel C. C. Gibbs built the first skyscraper in San Antonio on the site. The Gibbs building still stands today and houses the beautiful Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown-Alamo.

Paranormal activity that people claim to experience at the hotel includes hearing the sounds of gun and cannon fire and the agonized wailing of wounded and dying men; seeing spectral figures moving a cannon along the adjacent streets; hearing strange voices and disembodied footsteps, particularly in the basement; seeing people getting on and off the historic and now out-of-service elevators; and witnessing figures in 19th-century clothing walking down the halls, entering rooms, and then disappearing.

Marriott Plaza San Antonio Downtown San Antonio
555 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78205

San Antonio LOThis downtown hotel is in close proximity to the Alamo, has a number of historic buildings on its grounds, and—like many old sites with storied pasts—has many ghosts and inexplicable phenomena associated with it. Reported activity ranges from things like lights turning on and off on their own to drawers at the front desk being opened as if by an unseen hand, to a specter who has haunted the hotel for many years and come to be known as the Lady. She is believed to be a widow who lived in one of the historic buildings now incorporated into the hotel and to have hanged herself and her cat in what is now the exercise facility, formerly her parlor. People have reported seeing her throughout the site, especially on the upper levels of the main building, in the employee-only areas in the basement, or standing among the trees in the garden, usually in a long white dress or gown, holding her cat and stroking its head.

For more ghostly tales, check out Michael O. Varhola’s latest book  Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill.

 

Haunted Whitney Restaurant

Is the Whitney in Detroit Haunted?
Helen Pattskyn, author of Ghosthunting Michigan seems to think so.  Here is her tale.

Whitney1Located on Woodward Avenue, just a few blocks from the campus of Wayne State University and Detroit’s cultural center, the Whitney was once one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful private residences. Now it is one of the city’s finest and most beautiful restaurants.

I’ve only been there to eat on a couple of very special occasions, but I fell immediately in love with the grand old house. Of course, prior to my visit on a bright sunny afternoon in April, I had only gone in looking for after-theater drinks and dessert with friends, not hoping for a glimpse of the ghost of former owner David Whitney Jr.

There are 20 fireplaces throughout the house, a secret vault hidden in the original dining room, and an elevator. A haunted elevator, according to stories. In addition to the beautiful dining rooms on the main floor, there are outdoor gardens that host parties all summer long and the Ghost Bar up on the third floor.

When I spoke to David, one of the many wonderful staff members, I asked him if he had ever had any unusual experiences while working there—or if maybe any of his coworkers had seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.

“We have a lot of the usual stuff, I guess,” he told me. “Doors sometimes shut as if by themselves. And one woman who used to work here told me that she was walking through the Great Hall when one of the crystals, from one of the chandeliers, fell right at her feet and shattered. It kind of freaked her out a bit. Of course, that might not have had anything to do with anything supernatural,” he cautioned. “And if you knew her . . . she’s a bit of a spirit herself,” he added with a chuckle.

The elevator and the bar among the most haunted places in the restaurant

Whitney3One of the most haunted places in the building is said to be the elevator, especially where it opens up onto the second floor. Not only did David Whitney Jr. pass away in the house, but his wife, Sara, also died there. Numerous employees have reported that the elevator will start moving on its own and that the doors open and close without anyone pushing the button.

I meandered up the stairs to the third floor to visit the aptly named Ghost Bar. The bar wasn’t open yet, but the bartender was setting up. He gave me a friendly “hello” and asked how I was doing.

“I’m doing great, thanks,” I answered. Then I told him that I was writing a book about haunted places and that, naturally, the Whitney had come up.

The bartender smiled. “As long as you remember that everything I tell you is hearsay—that nothing’s official—I’ve got a couple of stories for you, if you have a second and are interested.”

He told me that the first incident had occurred during a wedding in which the entire mansion had been rented out. “The way they run it is pre-dinner drinks are up here, then they serve dinner downstairs, and then we reopen the bar for post-dinner drinks,” he told me. “There weren’t very many children at this wedding, but there was this one little girl. She was maybe five or six and she kept running around and she didn’t want to sit still. Her mom asked me if I’d mind keeping an eye on her for a few minutes, so she could go down and get something to eat. Everyone else had gone downstairs by then, and I really didn’t mind, so I said ‘sure’ and let the mom go downstairs. I left the little girl alone in this room, and I went into that room over there,” he pointed to one of the sitting rooms adjacent to the bar.

Whitney2“I was in there cleaning up, and, all of the sudden, I heard this shriek, so I came running out to see what had happened. The little girl had this look on her face, like she was totally terrified. I didn’t see anyone—or anything—so I asked her what was wrong. She told me that a big ball of light had flown out of one corner of the room and came right at her. And she was really frightened,” he emphasized.

The bartender went on to tell me about another incident that happened about a month after that wedding reception, this time with a little boy who came upstairs with his mother. “He was right about the same age, too, I think. I didn’t pay too much attention to them; they were just looking around. Then all of the sudden, I see this little boy dart out of that room and into the other room. I probably still wouldn’t have thought too much of it, except I overheard him telling his mother, ‘Mommy, Mommy, there it goes!’ A few seconds later, the mother came over to me and said that she was so sorry, but her son kept insisting he was being chased around by a ball of light.”

Ghosthunting Michigan

The third incident involved an adult, a guy who had been sitting at the bar having a drink. “He was about my age,” said the bartender, which would probably have made his customer somewhere in his mid-20s. “And he was talking on his cell phone, making plans to meet up with his buddies somewhere downtown. I turned away to take care of another customer. The next thing I knew this guy had jumped up out of his seat and was standing way over there, looking really freaked out. I asked him if he was okay, and he insisted that, yeah, he was fine. ‘Are you sure?’ I asked a second time. He looked pretty shaken up and I thought—I don’t know, maybe he’d seen a mouse or something. This is an old building. ‘No, I’m good, bro,’ he told me. But he didn’t sit back down. Instead, he told me he was ready to cash out.”

The bartender said that as his customer was settling up his tab, he’d finally calmed down enough to admit that he’d seen the silhouette of a man standing behind him in the mirror behind the bar—but when he turned around, nobody was there.

Enjoy Ghosthunting Michigan from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the maps, “Haunted Places” travel guide, and “Ghostly Resources.” Buckle up and get ready for the spookiest ride of your life.

Mackinac Island

In her book Ghosthunting Michigan, author Helen Pattskyn explores 30 of the scariest spots in the Wolverine State. Today, she takes us on a tour of Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island—One of the Most Haunted Places in Michigan

Mackinac IslandEarlier in the year, I visited Mackinac Island, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the state of Michigan. It seemed little wonder, given the age of the settlement. Even before Europeans arrived in 1634, the island was inhabited by members of the Ojibwa tribe, who considered the island to be the home of the “Gitche Manitou,” or “Great Spirit.” Unfortunately, while I had a great stay, during the first two days I was there, the only people I met were seasonal employees who either didn’t know anything about the island’s hauntings or didn’t want to talk about them. On my last day, I decided to get up early, walk into town, and talk to a few of the locals. They were much more helpful.

Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island—Well Known for Ghosts

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-18-38-amThe island is a popular summer destination for Michiganders, most of whom come to get away from the city for a few hours and indulge in Mackinac’s most famous commodity: fudge. I could easily have gained 10 pounds in one weekend alone if it weren’t for all the walking I did, and my family would not have let me back in the door if I hadn’t brought home a half pound each of everybody’s favorite flavors. Mackinac is accessible only by boat or small plane, and there are no motor vehicles permitted on the island. To get around, visitors walk, rent bicycles, or take a horse-drawn cab. Horses can also be rented for exploring the island’s many beaches and trails. While many people only go for a day trip, I visited in the off season and got a great deal on my hotel room, proving that it doesn’t have to be as expensive of a weekend getaway as a friend had warned me it would be. I stayed at the Mission Point Resort, which is so well known for its ghosts that the resort was visited by the crew of the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters in March 2011.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-25-01-amThere are a lot of ghost stories circulating about the Mission Point Resort, which was originally built in 1825 by Christian missionaries Amanda and William Ferry. Many guests report seeing the spirits of children who died on the property during a tuberculosis outbreak in the mission’s early days. The infected children were quarantined in a cellar to protect the rest of the population; few survived. The resort’s most famous spirit, however, is probably Harvey, a lovelorn man who jumped to his death from one of the cliffs behind the resort after his girlfriend broke off their relationship. Harvey’s room was located in what is now staff quarters, but guests have reported seeing him wandering other parts of the hotel as well. In fact, I mentioned this project to an acquaintance when I returned from my trip to Mackinac, and he said a friend of his worked a summer at Mission Point a few years ago and declared the place “totally freaky.”

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-26-09-amWhen I visited the Baldwin Theatre, administrative manager Vonnie Miller told me a story about her experiences on Mackinac Island. When Vonnie was a teenager, she visited the island and snuck out one night after curfew. She couldn’t recall exactly where in town she’d been, just that she looked up to see a man standing under a light, watching her. She was sure she was going to get caught—only a second later, the man was gone. Vonnie told me that after she saw that, she hurried back to where she was supposed to be staying.

I did a little nighttime investigating at Fort Mackinac when I was on the island. The British built the fort in 1780, and it was the scene of two battles during the war of 1812. Allegedly, the spirits of many long-dead soldiers still patrol the fields behind the fort at night, perhaps not realizing that they’re dead and the war is long over. I didn’t see any ghosts, just a few bats . . . but it was kind of dark, and maybe I was just a little bit nervous being up there all by myself at 11 o’clock at night. I’d just taken the walking ghost tour.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-22-39-amIn addition to the walking tour, sponsored by the bookstore in downtown Mackinac, the Mission Point Resort has started a yearly tradition of hosting a “haunted weekend” in September. Guests booked into the special package are given the opportunity to participate in a real paranormal investigation and decide for themselves if the place is actually haunted.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-27-56-amWhen I go back for another visit, I’m not only going to schedule more time to explore the rest of the island, but I’ll probably stay at the Cloghaun Inn, a little bed-and-breakfast in the heart of town. According to the owner of the coffee shop where I ate breakfast on my last day, the bed-and-breakfast is “definitely haunted.” I stopped by to talk to the owners before I left, but they were in the middle of breakfast service, and I had to catch my ferry home. Not that I’m looking for an excuse to go back or anything. . . .

Photo Credits
Mackinac Island, east shore and downtown Mackinac: By N8huckins [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Star Line ferry on Mackinac Island: Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Mission Point Resort and theater (black and white pictures): By Spcorcoran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Graceland Cemetery Chicago

The Ghosts of Graceland Cemetery
by Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds

Directions From the center of Chicago, take US-41 North for about 4 miles to the Irving Park Road exit. Turn left onto Irving Park Road and follow it for about 1 mile. Turn right onto North Clark Street. The entrance to Graceland Cemetery will be on your right, at the corner. The address of the cemetery is 4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60613.

Graceland Cemetery1History From its inception in 1860, the cemetery has always been a private one. Its creator, Thomas Bryan, wanted it to stand apart from many local cemeteries of the time in order to gain business. He wanted it to look like the most beautiful and peaceful place in the city. He hired landscape architects to design the grounds. Famous area sculptors created many of the tombstones. Bryan succeeded in making Graceland one of the most attractive spaces in the city.

Throughout the many years that the cemetery has been in operation, many of the area’s most famous people have been buried here. The first white settler of Chicago, John Kinzie, is buried here. Assassinated Chicago mayor Carter Harrison is buried here. Department store magnate Marshall Field, private eye Allan Pinkerton, and Charles Dickens’s brother are all also buried here.

One of the most famous markers at the cemetery is for a girl named Inez Clarke. Many verifiable historic documents regarding this girl have been lost to history. In fact, cemetery records state that no one named Inez Clarke is buried at the cemetery. Inez is more likely a girl named Inez Briggs, daughter of Mary Clarke from a previous marriage. According to many local legends, though, Inez Clarke (1873-1880 on her marker) was at a family picnic when she was struck by lightning and killed. Distraught, her family had a likeness of her built and placed in a glass box aboveground to mark where she was buried.

Graceland Cemetery2Ghost Story Throughout the cemetery, people sometimes detect unexplainable drops in temperature. Perhaps this is caused by one of the departed residents walking past. These temperature fluctuations would be the most widespread hauntings in the cemetery, if not for two eerie monuments.

The first is called Eternal Silence, and it is the family stone for the Graves family. The marker is an admittedly creepy statue of a robed figure with a hood. Legend says that if you look into the face of the statue, you will catch a glimpse of your own death. Further, it is said that the statue is impossible to clearly photograph and that cameras will malfunction when aimed at the statue. Plenty of photographs exist of the statue, so apparently cameras do not malfunction all the time, but people do still report malfunctioning cameras from time to time when they attempt to photograph the statue.

The second monument is the statue of Inez Clarke. Strange sounds are often heard near the marker. People hear footsteps and whispers in this vicinity. They also hear crying. However, many of the more famous stories about the marker involve the statue itself. There are several accounts of the statue completely vanishing without a trace. A girl who resembles the statue has been seen wandering through the cemetery and then vanishing. This happens most often during thunderstorms, perhaps in reference to the supposed cause of the girl’s death by lightning strike. Sometimes, people see the glass box, but it is completely empty. A particularly famous story of this phenomenon occurred in the late 1800s, when the night watchman at the cemetery experienced exactly that and fled the cemetery, never to return.

Visiting The cemetery is open daily, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. You may not enter the cemetery at any other times. Your best bets for experiencing something paranormal here would be to go to one of the two haunted monuments in the cemetery. You should try to take pictures of Eternal Silence to see if anything strange occurs and maybe approach the Inez Clarke marker during a thunderstorm.

For 99 ghostly places you can visit in and around the Windy City, check out the Chicago Haunted Handbook by Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds.