The Dark History Of The Congress Plaza Hotel

Columbia College students, native Chicagoans, and downtown tourists are all familiar with The Congress Plaza Hotel, an iconic building, historical landmark, and South Loop staple that dominates the view of Michigan Avenue from Buckingham Fountain. Step inside the hotel’s gilded lobby or swanky bar, and you’ll feel as though little has changed since the turn of the century (the hotel was built in 1893 during The World’s Fair, but was completely swagged out by the 1940’s). Its illustrious history and many uses over the years have laden the site with the dark reputation as Chicago’s most haunted hotel, as well as one of the most haunted hotels in the country. It even inspired Stephen King, the world’s most prolific horror writer, to pen 1408, a short story about a cursed hotel room notorious for suicides.

With a violent and tragic past and so many reports of ghostly activity, it’s time to investigate what led The Congress Plaza to become one of the most cursed places in the city. Without further ado, here are the spooky and true occurrences that inspire today’s ghost stories. You may find that history is more frightening than our urban legends.

1. Al Capone

Al Capone’s ghost has been reported in the hotel bar and lobby for decades now, and he was known to frequent the hotel in his life. Some of his earliest, er, “business meetings” took place at the Congress, and the formerly marble-lined corridors beneath the hotel were used for all kinds of “transporting” (cough smuggling cough) of goods. Several of Capone’s friends and business associates lived at the hotel during the 1920s and '30s, establishing the Congress as the home to some of the century's most violent and corrupt criminals.

2. Peg-Leg Johnny

A peg legged man has been seen in several locations all over the hotel. Given the nickname “Peg-Leg Johnny,” his real identity remains a mystery, though he is reported to be the ghost of a hobo murdered behind the hotel. While a homeless man was murdered in the alleyway behind The Congress, reports of seeing Peg-Leg Johnny predate the murder. Nonetheless, the apparition is one of the most reported and has been seen in the most locations, including the lobby, dining room, and several of the floors. He apparently likes to turn lights and appliances on and off at random.

3. Mother & Sons

The ghost of a six-year-old boy has been seen running around the 12th floor for decades, but the root of this haunting is even more troubling. During both WWI and WWII, The Congress Plaza housed immigrants and refugees from war-torn countries. A young mother from Prague (or in some reports, Poland) was staying at the hotel with her two young sons, waiting for her husband to join them. While awaiting his arrival, her fears of deportation worsened and she eventually had a nervous breakdown. She threw her two young sons from their 12th floor window, and then jumped herself. No sightings of the mother have been reported, but feelings of panic, being watched, and even being chased have been described by guests.

4. Room 441

While no one is known to have killed themselves or anyone else in Room 441, this one room is responsible for more calls to the front desk and security than any of The Congress’s 871 guest rooms. Visitors claim to be kicked awake by a “shadow woman,” with objects moving and hearing eerie noises. Though the causes behind this haunting are anyone’s guess, it is creepy enough that all the reports and complaints are so similar in nature.

If you get a chance to visit The Congress Plaza Hotel yourself, keep an eye out for any apparitions and uneasy feelings. The place has seen a lot over the years, and ghosts or no ghosts, the history of The Congress and its connection to the history of Chicago is frightening enough. Enjoy your stay.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).

Netflix

"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

Anyone who goes to Panera Bread will tell you that their mac and cheese is to die for. If you're a huge fan of their mac and cheese, you won't believe the new recipe they're coming out with!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.

NBC

From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less
Adulting

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments