The Dark History Of The Congress Plaza Hotel

The Dark History Of The Congress Plaza Hotel

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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.

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.
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Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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That One Time I May Have Shot An Ex-Police Officer

Yeah, you heard me.

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In England, we don't really have guns, maybe hunting guns but I think it's pretty rare. Anyway, point is, barely any guns. I have never seen a gun, shot a gun, I don't even know anybody that owns a gun so as an exchange student in Oklahoma it's a novelty to visit a gun range.

I was pretty nervous about shooting but the instructor was super nice and told us how to hold the gun and load it before we went into the range. He also let us ask any questions we had about guns and explained the process of getting a gun in Oklahoma and he said he had visited Europe and was talking about England, and how he used to be a cop and opened his own gun shop. Basically a really really nice guy, which honestly makes harming him ten times worse.

We went into the range and we were shooting a 22 caliber and another guy at the range, I'm assuming a regular, asked if we wanted to fire his revolver so of course, we said yes.

This gun was definitely heavier and the trigger was super hard to pull but he kept his hand on the gun whilst I struggled with the trigger and then I fired it.

I heard a bang and I heard a yell.

I turned around and he was holding his thumb and there was blood dripping onto the floor. At this point, I thought I had shot him, so you can imagine the sheer level of panic that I was feeling.

The color drained from my face and I was frozen solid and all I could say was, "are you okay?" which was answered with a "Ma'am, put the gun down."

Basically, I'm freaking out and I look over at the lads for some form of reassurance, which was met with them looking equally as freaked out as me. So I asked,

"Do we need to call someone?"

"Yep. We are definitely gonna have to call someone"

So at this point, my nerves were shattered and I had no idea what was going on or what the procedure is for this sort of thing. I mean, the guy also took it like a champ and barely even winced and kept repeating "little lady, you're fine" – safe to say I did not feel fine nor did the situation, in my eyes, look at all fine.

Luckily the regulars knew what to do and took him to the ER so we were left in the store with another regular shooter.

Everyone else went back out to shoot but I didn't feel like assaulting/ shooting/ potentially murdering anyone else so I decided to sit this round out and talk to the woman that stayed with us and he called and said it wasn't me, something came off the bullet or gun and went into his hand- so no I didn't actually shoot him and he was going to be okay.

The point of this now very funny story is that whilst guns are cool they're also pretty dangerous.

I have no idea how someone can participate in these mass shootings because I didn't even shoot someone, only thought I did, and it was probably the most terrifying moment of my life.

So, if you are around guns, have fun, be safe and try not to send your instructor to the ER.

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