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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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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