Chicago’s Most Haunted Countdown
Here are the 5 most haunted places in Chicagoland. You can also see this list at our partner site, Rent.com.
#5 Manteno State Mental Hospital in Manteno, Illinois
Manteno State Mental Hospital opened in December 1930 and it was a cutting-edge concept for the time. Doctors would treat mentally-ill patients in a beautiful setting with cottages and dedicated staff. Patients would raise crops in nearby fields as a way to help them contribute and gain valuable skills. This was very different from the overcrowded and understaffed hospitals of the day.
Everything seemed to be going well for the first 8 years or so. Then, the Manteno Madness struck in 1939. The Madness was really typhoid fever and the administrators were too slow to respond. It killed 47 patients by the time it was contained. Things got worse from there.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the patient population swelled. It was designed for 3600 patients and 760 staff. By 1953, the patients numbered 5300 and the staff was cut in half. Overcrowding and underfunding led to treatable diseases becoming lethal cases. Thousands of patients died during this period.
Manteno became a testing ground for government scientists and psychiatrists. The government used the patients to test the effects of malaria and uncontrolled STDs. The psychiatrists invented electric shock therapy and lobotomies, which they perfected on the patients. You can still find the tubs where schizophrenics were plunged into ice baths to break their psychotic fits. Manteno also became a tuberculosis treatment facility with a less-than-stellar treatment record.
In 1985, the State of Illinois closed the facility and it was converted into a veterans’ home. The state hospital cemetery, not far from the home, holds the remains of the 4,000 patients who died at the hospital.
Why is Manteno State Hospital #5 on the list?
Manteno State Hospital has many spirits still walking around the old cottages, but the location is at the outskirts of the Chicago metropolitan area. It’s located in Kankakee County and that’s about a 90-minute drive from Downtown Chicago. The locals don’t necessarily want you snooping around the old cottages.
Ghost Hunting Tips
Most of the cottages have converted to business use. Only one, Morgan Cottage, remains in its original state. You can find it at the corner of Juniper Street and West Evergreen Street. Locals will be less than pleased you want to investigate, so you may get a cold shoulder if you try to interview someone.
Morgan Cottage is in very bad shape. This is a place you want to investigate during the day and with a team. It’s very easy to fall through the ceiling, so watch yourself if you go to the second floor of the cottage. It’s also very dark in interior rooms. You want to have an infrared camera, because most digital cameras won’t work well in these rooms. EVP should be ripe! It’s very quiet out in the fields of northern Illinois. You can hear a pin drop in the cottage, so you may capture a few ghostly voices.
Don’t bother checking out the main hospital building on the veterans’ home campus. Security will throw you out and call the cops.
UPDATE (October 24, 2018): Unfortunately, the city demolished the remaining cottages in 2015. While the buildings are gone, people still report ghostly activities in their lots.
#4 Resurrection Cemetery at 7201 South Archer Avenue in Justice, Illinois
It’s not the cemetery that’s haunted, it’s the hitchhiker. Resurrection Cemetery is home to the infamous, vanishing hitchhiker spirit, Resurrection Mary.
Her story is very well documented. Most paranormal investigators believe Mary is the ghost of a young woman named Anna Marija Norkus. She died in a car accident near Resurrection Cemetery in 1927.
The ghost first appeared in the early 1930s along a lonely stretch of Archer Avenue. More than 35 witnesses have come forward to tell their encounters with Mary since then. All stories have these elements in common:
- They are driving alone between Willowbrook and Justice, Illinois;
- They see a blond, teenage girl wearing a white dress, shawl and dancing shoes, walking along the side of the road;
- She asks for a ride home and gets in the backseat;
- She says stop by the main gates of the cemetery;
- She vanishes into thin air.
In some cases, motorists have hit Mary, but she vanishes once the driver exits the car.
In 1976, a witness had an unusual encounter with Mary. He had just stopped by the cemetery gates and Mary got out of his car. She walked up to the closed gates and tried to open them. Her hands left burn marks on the iron. Then, she disappeared. The maintenance staff replaced the gates within a few days.
Why is Resurrection Cemetery #4 on the list?
Mary hasn’t been seen since 1989. Until then, her appearances seemed to be 2-to-3-years apart, so you have to be lucky to see her. She may have moved on because there’s such a large gap between her last appearance and today. Resurrection Cemetery doesn’t have any other known ghosts haunting it. If you get evidence of Mary, you’d be a paranormal rock star.
Ghost Hunting Tips
Audio data is difficult to collect during the day. The cemetery is on a busy street, a flight path to Midway airport, and by an active rail line. The background noise from cars, trains and planes will smother any ghostly voice evidence. It’s better to focus on visual evidence. In this case, you don’t need an infrared camera. Mary can be strong enough to generate a life-like apparition. A digital camera should work. You also want to go ghost hunting at night because witnesses have only seen her then. The cemetery doesn’t allow anyone inside after dark, but you can investigate along Archer Avenue’s shoulder. It’s fairly wide, so you should have room to set up your equipment. If possible, I also recommend using an electromagnetic field (EMF) generator to help Mary manifest. She may be dormant and needs the energy to appear.
#3 Jane Addams’ Hull House Museum at 800 South Halsted Street
Hull House began with the best intentions. It was a poor house and a place for sick people to get better. Later, it became a transition center to help new immigrants get settled in Chicago.
Charles Hull and his wife opened Hull House in 1856 and it remained a poor house until the 1870s. Mrs. Hull passed away on the campus in 1860 and she’s thought to haunt the kitchen. During the 1870s, Hull House became a home for the aged and hundreds of people died of natural causes, adding to the ghostly mix. By 1885, the property had transferred to Jane Addams. She later transitioned it to be a temporary home for new immigrants around 1910. That’s when things really got interesting.
In 1913, Hull House got one of its most unexpected residents, a devil baby. A young Italian couple allegedly abandoned their deformed son on the steps of Hull House. It became a media sensation and hundreds of spectators came to see the newborn. Jane tried to protect the boy from the onslaught. No one really knows what happened to him: He just vanished one day. Now, witnesses reportedly see him staring out the attic window. He’s active during the day and night.
The second floor also has its own ghost, a woman in white. She haunts the main bedroom in the northeast corner. Jane Addams knew about this spirit and joked about her quite often. The “Woman in White” has never harmed anyone, but she has startled more than a few people who have stayed the night in the bedroom.
You can also experience the Fountain Girls. There’s a small park with a fountain just outside the house where the spirits of 3 girls play. You can hear their laughter and feel a cool breeze when they run by you. Apparently, they played chase around the fountain and they continue playing it to this very day.
The other most famous ghost is a male apparition on the stairs. Witnesses have seen him slowly moving up the main stairs from the foyer to the second floor. You can tell he’s present when the chandelier moves for no apparent reason.
Why is Hull House #3 on the list?
Hull House, the museum, has very strict rules for visitors and it has very limited hours. You can only visit between 10 AM – 4 PM during weekdays and the management has frowned on obvious ghost hunting. That makes Hull House a less desirable location for an investigation.
Ghost Hunting Tips
You need to run your investigations in stealth mode. You can sneak a digital recorder into your pocket to conduct audio collection. Take a small digital camera as well. Remember, the ghosts are strong enough to manifest as clear apparitions. Luckily, the museum now allows self-guided tours, but they may limit it to 1 hour. You can also access the second floor, where the “Woman in White” appears. The attic is off-limits. If you get a chance, ask to see the archives from the 1910s when the devil baby stories ran rampant. That’s always a fun read. Actually, the staff has fun with the haunted stories. You may get a few eye rolls, but they’re happy to answer your questions.
#2 Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Midlothian (143rd St and Rubio Woods)
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has been a hotbed of paranormal activity since the 1950s. There are no less than 7 documented spirits active in the graveyard and its surrounding area. However, the cemetery wasn’t always this active. In fact, it didn’t have a haunted reputation until one of the most disastrous things happened to it – suburban teenagers.
As the Chicago suburbs expanded, the farm area around the cemetery converted to housing. In the 1950s, the local teenagers found the quiet, little cemetery in the backwoods and they turned it into a party spot. They vandalized the tombstones and we believe that angered the spirits, making it one of the most active paranormal locations in the country.
Today, seven spirits haunt the area. The most documented paranormal activity is the blue light phenomena. The orbs roam the entire graveyard area. You can find them in the cemetery, over a nearby pond and along the pathway from 143rd Street. They seem to be intelligent because they respond to your movements.
Next, we have the ladies of the cemetery. The Madonna, as she’s known to locals, can be found by the Fulton family headstone. She appears as a semi-transparent apparition and openly sobs. Some witnesses said she asked them if they had seen her infant daughter. The other female ghost is called, “The White Lady.” She was photographed sitting on a tombstone in 1991. The two ghosts are not related and they seem to be unaware of each other.
The creepiest spirit has to be the Farmer. In 1870, a man was plowing a field next to the cemetery. His horse got spooked and it dragged him into a nearby pond. Both drowned. You would think that would be the end of it, but, no, that pond is a ghost machine. In the 1920s and 1930s, the mob dumped the bodies of their hits in it. You take the tragic drowning event, plus dozens of dead gangsters, and you get a twisted, hunchback specter that crawls out of the pond at night. Police first reported seeing it cross 143rd Street in 1973. The farmer’s ghost has been a routine sighting since then.
The caretaker and his friend haunt the pathway between the cemetery’s entrance and Rubio Woods. If you see a man in his 70s, with a shotgun, lantern and ornery disposition, you just met the caretaker. Usually, he tells you to leave. Occasionally, he chases you out. His friend is a phantom dog and he’s a big, scary, growling Doberman Pinscher. This spectral pooch follows you from a distance until you reach 143rd Street. Then, he fades away into the background.
The last spirit is also the newest one discovered. In 2009, a local ghost hunter wanted to capture the Madonna by the Fulton tombstone. She found something else, the Yellow Man. While she was setting up her equipment, she heard someone by the Shields family plot. When she turned around, she saw the yellow apparition of a man dressed in 1930s clothing. Since then, a yellow light has manifested with the blue lights mentioned earlier.
Why is Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery #2 on the list?
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has very consistent and active spirits, however, there’s a catch. You can only visit the cemetery during the day. Most ghostly activity happens at night. If the police find you there at night, they will arrest you for trespassing.
The cemetery is also very popular. Ghost Adventures, a paranormal reality TV show, had the last authorized night investigation in 2010. Since then, many ghost hunters visit the cemetery and it can get crowded.
Ghost Hunting Tips
Bachelor’s Grove is next to a very busy roadway, so the traffic will interfere with your audio data collection. On the bright side, the cemetery isn’t known for its EVP. It’s known for apparitions. I recommend using an infrared camera to take pictures. A standard camera may not capture apparitions during the day, but the infrared one can do it. The famous picture of the White Lady was taken in daylight with an infrared camera.
I also recommend investigating during weekdays and in the winter. You can avoid the ghost hunting crowds. After all, no one wants to run an investigation on a Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of January, out in these woods.
#1 Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago
“The Congress,” as the hotel is known in town, has seen its fair share of negative events. It was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (now World’s Fair) to show how Chicago had bounced back from The Great Fire of 1871. Unfortunately, Dr. H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, used it to find young women looking to work in his pharmacy. He’d meet young ladies in the lobby, then, kill them in his torture castle a few blocks away. The Congress also served as home to Al Capone, who had a suite on the 8th floor of the north tower. Capone’s spirit is thought to haunt it to this very today.
Capone’s not the only spirit haunting the hallways of the north tower. There’s also the mischievous, boy spirit on the 6th floor. 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.
Did I mention the spirits in the Gold Room and Florentine Room? Both banquet halls have a few surprises for the unsuspecting wedding guest. The Gold Room is home to the “Hand of Mystery.” Apparently, a worker got trapped behind a wall when it was plastered shut. He suffocated to death. Now, you can see his ghostly hand reach out from behind the wall in the coat closet. In the Florentine Room, people sitting alone have heard a female ghost whisper in their ear. At night, the security team has reported the shifting of chairs, numerous knocks and someone talking, even though it’s locked and empty.
Peg Leg Johnny has to be the goofiest spirit roaming the halls. He was a hobo, who had an untimely death at the hotel. He’s been known to turn appliances and lights on-and-off. Johnny is the most active spirit and he roams both towers and the lobby. Johnny’s still looking to have a little bit of fun.
Then there’s the creepiest place in the entire hotel, Room 441. No other hotel room in the city gets more calls to security or the front desk. Located in the south tower, 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. You’ve been warned.
Why is the Congress Plaza Hotel #1 on the list?
Unlike the other locations on this list, there are no restrictions if you want to stay the night and run an investigation. You can even stay in the notorious Room 441.
Ghost Hunting Tips
The south tower is the most active location in my experience. You want to take the stairwells between floors because they have a lot of ghostly activity. Security seems to be very friendly and you can ask them to let you see the Gold Room. It’s on the mezzanine of the south tower. However, they will not let you enter the Florentine Room once it’s closes for the night. I found the 3rd and 4th floors to be the best spots for getting evidence. Other investigators claim the 12th floor of the south tower is the most active area for ghostly evidence. You can’t go wrong with the south tower.
The north tower has some additional haunted locations like the sealed Room 666. Unfortunately, the north tower has very old electrical wiring and Wi-Fi hotspots that give false readings on ghost detecting equipment. It may be better to rely on audio capture, also known as EVP, in this tower. If you can get one, use an infrared camera to take pictures. It adds an extra-something to your ghostly photos. You could get some surprising evidence.
3 thoughts on “Chicago’s Most Haunted Countdown”
It turns out Capone doesn’t haunt the Congress Plaza Hotel. It’s one of his henchman on the 8th floor of the north tower.
Hi gang. A reader, Danielle, had an experience at the Congress Plaza Hotel.
This is what she told me:
“My mom and I had just returned from Chicago two weeks ago after visiting for my college orientation. The two of us had stayed a few days at the Congress Plaza Hotel. The first two nights nothing really happened but the last night was when I felt a hand on my arm while I was in the bathroom. We had stayed in room 985 and when we first walked in the room felt airy but heavy at the same time. The floor near the windows would creak as if someone had been standing over by them. Well, the hand was so cold that it caused every muscle in my arm to tense painfully. Then, when we decided to go to bed, I moved my legs and accidentally bumped something hard that was on the edge of my bed. I moved my legs a second time and felt as if it were someone’s back that I had touched. Well after the second time, I felt them stand up from the bed. We’ve booked to stay at the Congress Plaza Hotel at the end of this month because I will be moving to Chicago for college, but this time we’re staying for an entire week.”
Danielle will give us an update after her second stay in the hotel. Thanks for sharing, Danielle!
Hi Gang. Wilma stayed at the Congress recently and had this experience:
“My friend and I recently spent the night in room 441 at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago. We locked our door and engaged the chain lock. At 1:42 am, we heard a voice (we think male) calling twice for Mary. Then a woman’s voice said ‘Come on’. The door then opened up to the distance that it could with the chain on. Light flooded the room and my friend yelled, “You have the wrong room.” She called the front desk and reported the incident. The following day we asked Security to check card access and were told that no one used card access on that door. It was very strange.”
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