Chicago’s most haunted places and the spine-tingling true stories connected to them

By Chicago 7 Min Read

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A Barrington mansion with a dark past. A Loop theater that is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the world. Cemetery spirits, an East Pilsen house where spirits co-mingle with the living, the lobby of the beloved Music Box Theatre — all are sites of otherworldly tales with a foothold in history.

With Halloween just around the corner, we dug through WBEZ’s archives to curate this spooky collection of area hauntings that reporters, historians and locals have attempted to connect to actual events.


Curious City

In East Pilsen, a ghost boy plays hide-and-seek with the living

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A haunted house in East Pilsen where spirits co-mingle with the living Chicago medium Cristina Puzio shows the pendulum she uses to try and connect with spiritual elements in the East Pilsen home. Chicago medium Cristina Puzio shows the pendulum she uses to try and connect with spiritual elements in the East Pilsen home. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

This Canalport home has fostered cherished memories and rooted its owners in an ever-changing neighborhood. But tucked among those fond recollections are unexplainable things — footsteps up the stairs at night, dogs barking into an empty hallway and shadows lingering behind closed doors — things the family that owns it has never openly talked about until now.

A ghostly tale about an Illinois road A black-and-white photo of Munger Road Munger Road runs north-south through the villages of Wayne and Bartlett, Illinois. Maggie Sivit / WBEZ

There aren’t a lot of street lights in this area around Munger Road. And the story Jolene Hocker heard as a teen had a few different versions but goes something like this: A school bus full of kids was crossing over the train tracks when it stalled. Before the driver could get the bus off the tracks, a train came along and hit the bus. No one survived the crash.

The legend says the ghosts of the children are still there and claims that if you drive your car onto the tracks, put it in neutral and sprinkle some baby powder on your car bumper, “allegedly, the children are going to push your car off the tracks so that you don’t get hit. And then if you go and investigate the bumper, you’ll see fingerprints from the baby powder,” Hocker said.

The haunting of 92 Rainbow Road An illustration of a house A decaying house in the woods in Barrington had been glorious in its heyday. Then it lured teens with its legends and lore. Illustration by Andjela Padejski / WBEZ

Out on Barrington’s Rainbow Road, tucked deep in the woods behind a foreboding iron gate and down a tantalizingly long driveway, there was a house. The house is long gone — no more than a ghost lost to the forest and the inevitable bulldozers of suburban developers — but its stories live on, passed around like a joint by teenagers jonesing for something, anything, to break the infinite boredom of suburban adolescence.

And the house still haunts people who once lived there: the sister who witnessed her brother’s accidental death; a little girl who lay awake hearing noises in the attic; a caretaker’s son who believes he grew up in the most exciting and terrifying place on earth.

Chicago’s haunted architectural gems include the Congress Theater, the Music Box and a Lake Forest Mansion

There are dozens of buildings, cemeteries and bridges in Chicago with ghost stories attached to them. WBEZ’s regular architecture feature “What’s That Building” visits five.


A downtown Chicago theater named one of the most haunted places in the world

The marquee of the Nederlander Theatre A fire that raged through the Iroquois Theatre in 1903, where the Nederlander Theatre now stands, killed 602 people, according to Sun-Times archives. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-TimesFive weeks after the Iroquois Theatre opened in 1903, a fire broke out during a performance of the musical Mr. Bluebeard. It killed 602 people, mostly women and children, and hundreds more were burned. The Iroquois Theatre fire was “a disaster unmatched even by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed 250,” according to the Chicago Daily News.

In 1926, the theater was renamed the Oriental Theatre. After years of decay and a decade as a shuttered venue, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced in 1996 the venue would be restored to its original grandeur. It was later renamed the James M. Nederlander Theatre.

“Even though the theater was completely rebuilt and rebranded, spirits of the dead remained: Apparitions have been seen in ‘Death Alley,’ the street behind the theater where bodies were stacked after the disaster,” Condé Nast Traveler said.

Resurrection Mary is one of Chicago’s most famous ghosts

Resurrection Mary sightings usually go like this. First, someone will be driving near Resurrection Cemetery — the ghost’s namesake. Then, they’ll see a girl. “Now and then you’ll hear a story of somebody dancing with her, but mostly it’s just they see her by the side of the road crying,” Adam Selzer, the author of The Ghosts of Chicago and a local ghost tour guide, told WBEZ in 2014. “They offer her a ride home, and then she disappears outside of Resurrection Cemetery.”

The strange stories surrounding Chicago’s Hull House Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at night Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, located at 800 S. Halsted St. in the University Village neighborhood, has a ghostly history. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times

Perhaps the most famous spirit that is said to haunt Hull House is that of the “Devil Baby.” The tales of the creature’s origins are varied. One of the most well known says the creature was conjured when a father of six daughters, before the birth of his seventh child, said that he would rather have a devil in the house than another girl. This story dives into the building’s history of unexplainable happenings.

Cassie Walker Burke is WBEZ’s external editor. Follow her @cassiechicago.

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