Glessner House

By Caryl Clem:

Mrs. Frances Glessner started Monday Morning Reading classes on November 21, 1894 to explore great scholars and experts’ works with 25 or more Chicago ladies. The tradition to inspire and provoke thoughts is still alive and thriving.  Standing indestructible on stone blocks at 1800 Prairie Street, the Glessner House is a Chicago cornerstone.  Visibly Glessner’s outside is stern, simple architecture, an original Richardson Romanesque, inside gracious airy rooms. The Glessner home was deeded to Chicago after the couple’s deaths as a museum to provide a place for great minds to find expression and appreciate culture.

William Rainey Harper, Yale graduate became President of the University of Chicago from 1891-1906.  He wanted woman faculty newcomers to be able to meet prominent Chicago wives throughout Chicago. He approached Frances Glessner for suggestions and the Monday Morning Reading classes were born. The Who’s Who of Chicago’s aristocratic Southside met educational trailblazers from a variety of cultures.   Many of the faculty wives were living in crude conditions while homes were built.  The city seemed foreign and difficult to maneuver for these university women.  Friendships emerged during the meetings that made strangers to Chicago feel welcomed.

John Glessner’s farm machinery business finesse resulted in the formation of International Harvester. He instigated the mergerof the largest farm implement companies together to end the reaper wars. He devoted his after work hours to serving various organizations to improve life in Chicago. The following are just the tip of his social iceberg:  Citizen’s Advisory Board to Chicago, Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Chicago Orphan Asylum, Rush Medical Group, Art Institute of Chicago and trustee of Chicago Orchestra Association.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966 did not want to see the Glessner house meet the fate of other homes of the Gilded Age suffering neglect and eventual tear down.  The home was fortified for continued use. The architect Henry Hobson Richardson died before he could see his completed masterpiece. Rumors abound that a white entity is seen floating in different rooms in the house leaving a telltale trail of cold air. John Drury mention in his book, Old Chicago Houses, that rooms were a laboratory for  the Institute of Technology  designing aptitude tests for students to identify what career choice best suits their personality and strengths . Glessner house is now a museum.

https://www.glessnerhouse.org/programs

The most haunted cemetery: Bachelors Grove

Over the decades as a long-time Chicago girl, I was there; as teenager, young adult and mature woman trying to see and feel but I had no luck. My friends didn’t either but I thought it was fun just to try searching for the paranormal. Close to home, Bachelor’s Grove is one of the most haunted places in the Chicago area and mainly eerie discoveries took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s. People have seen orbs, flying vehicles as well as a disappearing farmhouse. In 1984, someone saw monks in robes and in the 1990s, a ghost dog. Bachelors Grove Cemetery is just northwest of Midlothian and Oak Forest, near the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve on the Midlothian Turnpike (near its intersection with Central Avenue), in the southwest Chicago suburbs.

An historic cemetery filled with ghosts, the area has suffered abuse and neglect from those looking for that one sound or light from beyond. The earliest burial being about 1838 and the last burial took place in 1965 and 1989. One of the most well-known graves in Bachelor’s Grove is that of a baby girl who died mysteriously in the early 1900’s. Visitors to the cemetery often leave trinkets and small toys on her headstone. Photographs of her grave often include orbs captured by Haunted Illinois. Some legends say a baby can be heard crying in the cemetery in the early morning hours, just before dawn.

According to Wikipedia, The Ghost Research Society has conducted numerous investigations into the reported phenomenon, and their results have included images which contain light resembling ectoplasm as well as orbs. One photograph, taken by Judy Huff Felz in 1991, includes a “supposed” full image of a ghostly figure.

After the film was processed, according to the Ghost Research Society, it was discovered that on one frame there was the image of a strange woman sitting on a checkerboard tombstone in an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century, full-length dress. She had long brown hair and was staring off in the distance in profile. Studying the detail, parts of her body are semi-transparent, especially her head and legs.  Everyone on the team was shocked with this revelation as it seemed to happen while a team member experienced electromagnetic deviations at the same time.  It is one of the clearest images this author has ever seen to date!  Researchers have reported electronic voice phenomena in the area.

They suggest a a documentary shot in 2009 by Cody Kats for your enjoyment. Visit his page on YouTube, Bachelor’s Grove. In 2012, the cemetery was featured on an episode of Ghost Adventures. Ursula Beilski, a Chicago legend in discovering paranormal activity, has written a book that concentrates on Bachelor’s Grove. Ursula is the founder of Chicago Hauntings and has appeared on many television shows with her spiritual discoveries.

Self guided tours are available on the Path to Bachelors Grove site since many struggle to find it. If you are planning visits, please take a look at the site and directions which is updated all the time. The Path website offers a great quote “You cannot reach a destination if you don’t know it exists,”. Maybe I need to be more confidant about meeting spirits and go back to the cemetery soon.

Haunting of Joliet Prison

Built in 1858 and in operation until 2002, the Joliet Prison is still open for haunted tours. The architect that designed Chicago’s Water Tower also designed the gothic prison built with the same limestone. The prison in Joliet replaced the first state penitentiary in Alton which was horrendous as far as inmate conditions and though Joliet Prison was supposed to improve, by 1878, over 1,200 people were housed there. The Prison still offered terrible accommodations. Statesville was opened in 1926 in Cresthill, but many gruesome disasters happened at the Joilet Prison.

According to Chicago Magazine, Joliet is among the oldest prison complexes in Illinois. Most famous for its appearance in The Blues Brothers movie, the penitentiary has hosted such notorious criminals as John Wayne Gacy, Richard Speck, and Adolf Luetgert, the original “sausage king” of 19th-century Chicago, who famously dissolved his slain wife in lye at his meatpacking warehouse.

In 1924, Leopold and Loeb were given a life sentence known for kidnaping and murdering Robert Franks. Baby Face Nelson was held there and in 1975, the Almighty Black Stone Nation and other Chicago street gangs took over a cell block and held officers hostage. Other horrible events happened at the Prison that included the warden’s wife being set on fire as well as other violent crimes throughout its history.

Joliet Hauntings offers video’s displaying contact with spirits that include voices as well as being touched. They were the first to investigate in 2018. Award winning author and ghost hunter, Ursula Bielski and the Joliet Paranormal Crew offer an amazing book that details the authorized investigations of hauntings at the Prison just launched this summer. Ursula is founder of Chicago Hauntings and has been writing and researching the spirit world for decades here in Chicago. She is a renowned expert on Chicago’s supernatural folklore. She has written thirteen books as well as a guest on many television shows describing her experience with the paranormal world.

Tours are available at Joliet Prison but because of the state mandates due to Covid, tours are mainly outdoors. All tickets must be pre-purchased at jolietmuseum.org. You can also get involved at the historic site as a volunteer, donate or share artifacts from the Prison.

Ten of the most haunted Chicago/ Illinois bars

Excalibur /Chicago Castle,the nightclub dates back to the late 1800s and was the original location of the Chicago History Museum. With its three levels and 60,000 square feet of adult entertainment, it is a Gothic graystone located at the corner of Dearborn and Ontario. It is a designated landmark building and used to be the Chicago Historical Society. It closed as the Excalibur in 2012. Most recently the Tao Group opened its signature Hybrid Asian Cuisine/ Nightclub in the location in September of 2018.Tao operates on the 2nd floor. Many employees felt the place was haunted and it has been filmed on a variety of paranormal shows.

Websters Wine Bar located at a 2601 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago is said to be haunted by a lumberjack from the early 1900’s and has been seen in the party room on the second floor. Websters has a comprehensive global wine list and a great menu of small dishes, salads and cheeses.

Red Lion Pub is on the north side of Chicago at 2446 North Lincoln Avenue. Now a more upscale neighborhood, according to Haunted Houses people have died in the building including a woman who died from an epileptic seizure, a mentally challenged woman, a young cowboy, and another male entity according to ghost experts. These spirits walk the floors of the restaurant to name just a few.

Bucktown Pub was established in 1933 and a very typical, cozy tavern with creamy, draught beer. According to TrueIllinoisHaunts.com, the pub is believed to be haunted by the site’s former owner who committed suicide in 1986 and whose spirit apparently thinks he still runs the place. Napkins are re-arranged and sometimes the jukebox goes on and off.

Liars Club located at 1665 West Fullerton is supposedly haunted by a women who was killed by her husband. They lived in the apartment above the bar. One employee actually saw an illusion leaning against the bar and some have been tugged on their arm but no one is there. This unique club was formerly known as the River East. The club is located between Clybourn and the Metra tracks on Fullerton.

Country House in Clarendon Hills is a two story building erected in 1922 as a place for locals to congregate for drinks, food, and good conversation. In 1974 during a meeting with a contractor to renovate the restaurant the men were sitting in the bar and shutters on the windows opened without human contact displaying shafts of light. Other workers have seen dishes move and have heard moaning in the walls. Others have actually seen a woman who they call the lady in blue.

Chets Melody Lounge  The bar got its name from Chet Prusinski in 1963 and is located at 7400 Archer Avenue in Justice. Of course, it is the famous Resurrection Mary that many wait to show up at the bar since those that have seen the ghost in the past run for a drink at the bar, also across the street from Mary’s home, Resurrection Cemetery. The Ghost Research Society has investigated the bar last year.

Cigars and Stripes is a bar in Berwyn Illinois featuring some of the best barbeque and a cigar store. But paranormal experts say that something haunted is going on according to Legends of America. There are many accounts of glass falling off shelves and the phone receiver being picked up and put down. People are actually watching it happen and hearing things as well.

Irish Legend is located in Willow Springs on Archer and has an exceptional menu of Irish classics. According to Only in Your State, It was originally built in the 1920s as O’Henry’s Roadhouse which was a speakeasy with ties to vintage mobsters like Al Capone, who was known for having people killed and then hiding the bodies. According to employees and the owner, things get re-arranged at the pub and restaurant.

The Great Escape restaurant at 9540 Irving Park Road in Schiller Park began in 1889. The bar and banquet room are still part of the original structure and on the website, there is a whole section dedicated to the haunting s that have occurred. Old fashioned music is heard from the 1920’s, there are cold spots and sometimes you feel someone standing right next to you. The Chicago Paranormal Detectives was invited to have the full 10 person paranormal team come in and spend the night investigating. Visit to find out what they discovered.

Prairie Avenue ghosts

I love to walk up and down the historic avenue. I have read many historical novels such as Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker.  Its always a new field trip to walk with the ghosts on Millionaires Row and to read about them. Residents of the street have influenced the evolution of the city and have played prominent national and international roles moving there after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. By 1886, the finest mansions in the city, each equipped with its own carriage house, stood on Prairie Avenue. In the 1880s, mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner, Philip Armour and Kimball. Mansions were located between 16th and 22nd streets.

A few of the mansions do remain such as the Glessner House which is a active museum and the Henry B. Clarke house, also a museum. The Marshall Field, Jr. Mansion at 1919 South Prairie Avenue, now condos, is marvel of preservation and sensitive reuse. And many say that Prairie Avenue is haunted.

Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. So different from the Victorian houses that were being built at the time and eventually those, for the most part, were torn down. The House is a National Historic Landmark and offers wonderful tours with many of the rooms accurately restored to their original appearance and decorative objects and furnishings have been added by the Glessner family. John Glessner lived there until 1936 and thousands tour the house every year.

Henry Hobson Richardson never got to see his creation built since he died after he completed the blue prints. Many have seen him walk the halls. Even during the time the Glessner family lived there, Haunted houses.com  claim that many family member felt a cold presence moving through the mansion,even today.

The Glessner House Museum offers haunted tours of historic Prairie Avenue. Director of the Glessner House has admitted that there is a strange feeling that has been experienced on the street. The Keith House, privately owned by Marcy Baim, is another on the street. It has been restored, at 1900 Prairie and offers special events such as weddings.

The Kimball House: The house was built in 1890–92 for William Wallace Kimball, a piano manufacturer. I still have a Kimball upright that was built in 1949.  Kimball reportedly spent $1,000,000 on the home. The house is located at 1801 Prairies and though some feel that the outside design is cold, the inside is beautiful with maple floors and 29 rooms which have been sub- divided though many have stayed the same such as the library, huge drawing room, and dining room that housed Mrs. Kimballs massive silver collection. She also collected many paintings by such artists as Rembrandt, Millet, and Monet including many others. But when Mrs Kimball died in 1921, the house was converted to a boarding house which eventually failed and was bought by Daisy Hull for 8,000 in backward children. But finally, the house, along with the Coleman house at 1811 were acquired by R. R. Donnelley in 1973 who donated them to the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1991.  They leased and then sold the properties to the U. S. Soccer Federation for use as their national headquarters, which is how the building is used today. Mrs Kimball still walks the halls. Noises have been heard along with apparitions seen as well as the feeling of being watched.

The Marshall Field Jr House: According to Curbed Chicago, Designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman, the home sold to the son of one of Chicago’s most famous 19th century entrepreneurs for $65,000 in 1890. After a stint as a psychiatric hospital, the structure was sold to the Chicago Architectural Foundation in the 1970s before being partitioned into condominiums in 2007. There are six million dollar condos with a private courtyard in the back. In the past, there have been claims to hear footsteps and strange cries.

Find out more about the Shadows on the Street: Haunted Tours of Historic Prairie Avenue Glessner House 1800 South Prairie Avenue Chicago, IL, 60616 United States.  During this 60 minute walking tour through the Prairie Avenue Historic District, learn about the mystery surrounding the death of Marshall Field Jr., the tragic events that plagued the Philander Hanford house, the lingering ghost of Edson Keith, and more.

Two of Chicagoland’s haunted restaurants: Red Lion Pub and Country House

The Red Lion Pub has an excellent Shepard’s pie and its decor is one of my favorites……an English manor library with bookshelves filled with books even above the glassware and liqueur at the bar. Walls are complimented with WWI and WWI pictures especially in the Great War room dedicated to his grandfather. Current owner Colin Cordwell has paid homage to his family. The second floor balcony honors his mother who was an expert on African art.

The Red Lion used to be Dirty Dan’s Western Saloon originally built in 1882 and it was a horrible place owned by a gambling, unmanageable alcoholic. John Dillinger saw his last movie at the Biograph Theatre located across the street. But it was John Cordwell who saw the saloon as an opportunity and was remodeled/ opened in 1984.

The Red Lion Pub is on the north side of Chicago at 2446 North Lincoln Avenue. Now a more upscale neighborhood, according to Haunted Houses people have died in the building including a woman who died from an epileptic seizure, a mentally challenged woman, a young cowboy, and another male entity according to ghost experts. These spirits walk the floors of the restaurant to name just a few.

John Cordwell had built a beautiful stained glass window over a stairway and added a plaque to commemorate his dad who died in England. He was buried without a tombstone there. Guests who pass the window actually feel a presence, or are overcome by dizziness which was a condition his father had.

According to Haunted Places, regulars at the pub have heard footsteps and voices, and objects crashing, among other pranks. The phenomena are said to occur when the pub is not very crowded, such as late evenings or Sunday. Nightly spirits offers a ghost tour of the most haunted pubs, and alleys actually leaving from the Red Lion and walking the same path that Dillinger did before he died. Drinks are not included in the ticket price.

One of my favorite burgers on dark rye while enjoying a rustic atmosphere and a beautiful fireplace in the bar area is served at the Country House in Clarendon Hills; a family friendly restaurant I have frequented for over 30 years and even their website talk about the famous ghost. The Country House is a two story building erected in 1922 as a place for locals to congregate for drinks, food, and good conversation.

In 1974 during a meeting with a contractor to renovate the restaurant the men were sitting in the bar and shutters on the windows opened without human contact displaying shafts of light. Other workers have seen dishes move and have heard moaning in the walls. Others have actually seen a woman who they call the lady in blue.

The Country House has gone through a number of ownership changes over the years and is currently owned by two local residents who purchased it in 1974 according to the Clarendon Hills Historical Society.  It’s the late 1950s, and the story begins like so many others – with a bartender and a pretty blonde. On this particular evening, the woman visited her regular establishment. After a few choice words with her lover, a fight erupted that greatly upset her. The woman was so hurt by the exchange and the actions of her lover that she left in huff. Unfortunately, the roads were as uncaring she collided with a tree or a telephone poled a short distance from The Country House. While she might have perished in the accident on that fateful night, she lives on through her daughter and the legend of The Country House.” Some say she had a daughter with her And the lover went after her.

Richard Crowe, Chicago’s famous ghosthunter, was asked to come in for a consultation. He brought in two self-professed mediums who claimed to “feel” the presence of a young woman looking for something or someone she had lost. They went on to describe the woman as blonde, good looking, in her late twenties, and someone who died in the late fifties of abdominal injuries and this is discussed on the Country House Restaurant website.

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Iroquois Theatre/The Oriental

The most devastating theatre fire in history happened on December 30th 1903. Over 600 people died which were mostly woman and children during a matinee performance of Mr. Bluebird.  Many Chicagoan’s did not think a fire of such magnitude could ever happen again since many had lived through the Great Chicago fire. This building was built to be fireproof.

However, A Day in History comments  that at the same time the fire inspector and Chicago’s building commissioner claims that the Iroquois was fireproof, the editor of Fireproof magazine inspected the theater and wrote an article that there were major fire alarm issues including no alarm and sprinkler system.

The Iroquois opened just shortly before on November 23rd of that year and was located on West Randolph between State and Dearborn. The theatre had a capacity of approximately 1,600 seats with three audience levels that included a main floor with orchestra that offered about 700 seats. The second floor had about 400 seats and the gallery or balcony areas had about 500 seats. The backstage area was extensive with emergency doors that remained locked the day of the fire. The theatre had only one public exit.

The December 30th 1903 matinee performance drew a huge crowd since so many children were out of school celebrating the holidays. It was about 3:15. Strange, how that time was very close to the same time only 50 plus years later when the most historic school fire broke out at Chicago’s Our Lady of Angels School on the south side. A fire, I  was alive to see and never forget.

During the second act, sparks from an arc light ignited a curtain. Stagehands tried to put out the fire but it had spread mainly to the fly gallery high above the stage. The stage manager tried to lower a fire curtain on the stage to block the fire from the audience but what they thought a fireproof stage curtain snagged and was flammable. The stage doors had bascule locks which protected people from not entering from the outside but nobody knew how to open them. Many were killed by being trapped especially in the balconies.

There were no exit signs, no emergency lighting, no iron fire escape and locked exit routes that nervous ushers forgot to unlock. The burned out theatre  was completely demolished and in the 1920’s, the Ford, Oriental Theatre was built with beautiful art Deco decor design and great access to bathrooms/ emergency doors designed by the firm Rapp and Rapp. Exceptionally different from the interior before and still safely operating today.

However, as elegant as the Oriental is, many ghost experts say that there is a real presence there because it was a site of such tragedy and death including David Cowan author of To Sleep with the Angels and his wife, author and 30-year veteran and paranormal researcher Ursula Bielski who host Chicago haunting tours

Especially behind the theatre, many have called the alley… Death Alley, because it is there that the most haunting s have been sited including a child crying. Other ghost experts claim that there tour groups continually experience sounds and apparitions today. It was also here in the alley during the 1903 fire that the corpses of so many tragically burned victims were piled and arranged to be eventually removed.

Others have felt cold spots and have actually been touched by unseen hands!

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Congress Hotel / H.H. Holmes Murder Castle

What’s great about the Congress Hotel, one of the most haunted in Chicago, is you can go there, rent a room and stay the night.  Rates for rooms are not outrageous and you can spend as much time as you want to catch pictures of ghosts. They actually host a Haunted Halloween Ball at the Congress at 520 Michigan Avenue.

Originally constructed in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel featured cobbled streets, gaslights, and horse drawn carriages. The hotel was originally called the Auditorium Annex when it opened to house the throngs of visitors to the World’s Colombian Exposition.

Many famous people and presidents have stayed at the Congress which include Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. And the most visible ghosts include Peg Leg Johnny who was murdered, a workman who was buried behind the walls in the balcony of the glorious Gold Room. The Gold Room and Florentine Room are still beautiful spots for special occasion parties and weddings.

The six floor has been known to have some strange experiences as well as the 12th floor where a mother and her children committed suicide throwing themselves out a window. Staff have claimed that one room is so dangerously haunted…they had to seal the room and no one will go near it.  Supposedly, one of the most haunted rooms of all is 441 and remember, it is not locked forever….you can stay there.

Another bizarre story at the Congress is that of the ghost, Dr. Henry H. Holmes who wanders the hallways looking for woman to to enrapture in his arms and murder at his Murder Castle. His real name was Herman Mudgett, Chicago’s first serial murderer, who went to work in a drugstore owned by Dr. E.S. Holton, in Englewood, a suburb of Chicago that is now part of the city.

And it was here Holmes would draw in young woman and visitors from the Fair. Missing woman were reported and some have said that Holmes had killed 27 women and other reports include even more even though there is no conclusive evidence of how many he killed. In July 1895, Chicago police and reporters began investigating Holmes’ building in Englewood, now locally referred to as “The Castle”. Though many sensational claims were made, no evidence was found which could have convicted Holmes in Chicago.

According to Exploring Illinois, Holmes, who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, had already racked up a fairly impressive resume of fraud, forgery and petty theft by this time, including, while still a med student, taking out insurance policies on cadavers he stole from the school. Holmes, though, was a hard worker at the drugstore and eventually bought it.

Holmes purchased an empty lot across from the drugstore, where construction began in 1887 for a two story mixed-use building, with apartments on the second floor and retail spaces, including a new drugstore,on the first. When Holmes declined to pay the architects or the steel company, Aetna Iron and Steel, they sued in 1888.[5]

In October 1895, Holmes was put on trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, and was found guilty and sentenced to death. By then, it was evident that Holmes had also murdered the Pitezel children according to a Philadephia detective who found the children and had followed Holmes.

What was the murder castle like? According to Prairie Ghosts, the second floor however, proved to be a labyrinth of narrow, winding passages with doors that opened to brick walls, hidden stairways, concealed doors, blind hallways, secret panels, hidden passages and a clandestine vault that was only a big enough for a person to stand in. The room was alleged to be a homemade “gas chamber”, equipped with a chute that would carry a body directly into the basement. The basement was a chamber of death with devises and materials that indicated torture and murder.

The murder castle is no longer there and a post office remains in its original location but the story is well-documented in Erik Larsen’s, Devil in the White City and Leonardo Di Caprio plays Holmes in the movie. However, staff at the post office have seen strange sightings in the basement.