Reporters Notebook: My Stay in “Chicago’s Most Haunted Hotel”
I've always loved a good ghost story but have always been a skeptic on paranormal topics.
However, If there's a time that nearly changed my mind, it was my recent stay in Chicago's Congress Plaza Hotel.
I spent a weekend in the hotel with two friends to attend the local St. Patrick's Day festivities. We booked a room because it was affordable and within walking distance of everything we wanted to see in the downtown area. None of us went in with any idea it was a notoriously haunted location.
The hotel was built in 1893 and has an old fashioned (creepy?) look with classic carpets, wallpaper and dim lighting. The hallways (pictured above) made me feel like I entered "The Shining". (I half-expected to see twin girls staring at me whenever I turned a corner in this place.)
My experience with the "haunted" part of the hotel started after our first night. In the morning, my friend told me that he swore he saw a shadow like figure standing by his bed when he woke up in the middle of the night. He says he woke up and saw the figure for a second or two before "it dissolved away".
That's when we both got curious and decided to search the history of the hotel in our phones for any history of ghost stories. Sure enough: some websites and blogs dubbed the Congress Plaza Hotel "The Most Haunted Hotel in Chicago".
We found dozens of ghost stories that gave me chills.
One story was about a former Captain in the Spanish-American civil war who apparently shot himself in the hotel. His shadow now haunts the building and scares hotel staff and guests (maybe this is what my friend saw?).
There was mention of other notorious ghosts in the building. One named "Peg Leg Johnny" apparently plays pranks on guests on the 4th floor, there are even ghostly children who apparently haunt the 12th floors because their mother went crazy and threw them off the roof of the building in the early 1900's.
We even found a story about a room so horrible in the hotel, staff wouldn't go near it and had to close it away.
We decided to explore the rumors and interesting locations we found online later that night. Strangely enough, some of the stories we investigated may have some truth to them.
The first thing we checked out was the 12th floor. Apparently there was a room so haunted and awful on the 12th floor, that staff had to seal it away from being used.
I almost didn't believe it, but our trip to the 12th floor revealed a sealed off door with no handle. I knocked on the area....and it seemed hollow like there was a room on the other side.
I also started feeling a little off on the 12th floor. It's a ghost story cliche-but it felt like I was being watched. It honestly gave me the feeling of wanting to leave the area as soon as I could (I had read stories of people having to leave the Congress in the middle of the night because they felt paranoid and couldn't sleep).
I had the same feeling inside the staircases, I felt paranoid and swore I was hearing voices when I went from floor to floor. I look back and credit this to me "psyching myself up" at the time. Still, certain areas of the hotel made me more uneasy than others.
During our improv ghostbusters tour, we also saw several rooms sealed away with padlocks. One door, which appeared to lead to another section of the hotel, was locked with an intimidating chain.
We also walked past "Room 441". Blogs claimed it was the most complained about room in the hotel because a ghostly woman shakes the bed inside the room in the middle of the night.
At the end of the night, I saw no ghosts and remain a skeptic. I feel like everything I saw or heard could be credited to hotel maintenance or my own mind playing tricks on me.
However, I can't let go of the fact that certain areas in the building did made me feel really uneasy, particularly the 12th floor and staircases (I regret not taking a picture of these areas). Was it ghostly activity? Or just my mind playing tricks me? I tend to pick the latter. What do you think?