Haunted Hotels in Chicago


Shaffer Franklin



For the month of October I am going to be writing a ghost story a week. For the first one I thought I’d talk about a couple haunted hotels in Chicago – the Drake Hotel and The Congress Plaza Hotel.

Before I get into the ghosts, here is some background on the Drake Hotel. According to Historic Hotels Worldwide, the hotel was built in 1919 by Benjamin Howard Marshall and was financed by John B. Drake and Tracy Corey Drake. The doors were first opened on New Year’s Eve of 1920. The hotel, in the ‘20s was high society’s first choice of gatherings. The Palm Court, once known as the Fountain Court, hosted the social elite of Chicago daily for Afternoon Tea. The hotel became a local hangout for reporters and politicians in the 1940s, but it never lost the Chicago crowd.

Now onto the good stuff… There is really only one ghost seen at the Drake Hotel, the Lady in Red. Haunted Rooms, along with other sources, state that the Lady in Red is seen wondering the 10th floor and the roof. It is said that this woman was attending the New Year’s Eve party in 1920, the grand opening of the hotel, when she caught her fiance dancing with another woman. She became so distraught by this scene that she ran to the 10th floor and jumped to her death.

There is one more disturbing story from the Drake Hotel, a murder that never got solved. On January 20, 1944, a Chicago Tribune headline read, “Woman Shot at the Drake.” Adele Born Williams, to whom the headline refers, Chicago Politics & City Life states that she was returning to her suite in the hotel with her daughter when a woman stepped out of her bathroom and began shooting. Williams was shot in the head and later passed away at the hospital. Hotel guests claim to have seen a woman fleeing the hotel. When police searched the hotel looking for evidence, nothing was found. Shortly after, however, the gun that was used was found in a stairwell and the missing key card was returned to the front desk. Mysterious Chicago Tours states that nothing was stolen or taken from Williams. Some theories believe that her daughter was the real shooter and did not call for help until at least 15 minutes later. Some people also believe that her ex husband was in on the plan with her daughter. Williams was able to talk before her passing and stated that she did not know her shooter. The gun belonged to a man in jail who had a sister who was working the front desk at the time. She was questioned but never charged for anything. The case of Adele Born Williams stays unsolved.

The second hotel is The Congress Plaza Hotel. The Congress Plaza Hotel and Convention Center website states that it opened in 1893 as the Auditorium Annex. It was built by R.H. Southgate. It originally housed visitors to the World Columbian Exchange. The hotel has many different wings with different stories of their own.

Mysterious Chicago Tours states that there are around five different ghost stories that accompany the Congress Hotel. Guests of the hotel claim to see a little boy running around the hotel and some even get the feeling of being chased down the hall on the 12th floor of the North Wing. This is caused by Karel Langer, who was a six year old boy. According to the story, Karel Langer, along with his brother Jan Tommy, were thrown out a window on the 12th floor in the late 1930s. Legend says that it was because their mother, Adele, was in fear of her life.

There is also a spooky print in the wall of a hand that looks like it’s pushing out from the inside. Although this is debunked and is believed to have been a builder who pulled a prank while the construction was ongoing.

Some people believe to see a man named Pegleg Johnny roaming around the South Tower of the hotel. Pegleg Johnny was a homeless man who was killed right outside the hotel. He was once seen by a guard near the Gold Room.

The scariest ghost of the Congress Hotel, according to guests, is “The Shadow Guy,” believed to be Captain Lou Ostheim, who was a Spanish American war veteran. According to Mysterious Chicago Tours, in 1900 he shot himself in the hotel after a nightmare. A guard once chased the figure up to the roof. Some hear women whispering and men humming in the Florentine Room along with the sound of gunshots and even the piano playing by itself.

Next time you book a stay at a hotel, make sure there are no spooky guests staying with you…

Come back next week to hear about some ghost stories from Lake Forest!