“Perhaps some of us have heard friends and family members describe ghostly encounters in hushed tones. Although some completely doubt their existence, others remain convinced that spirits of the past still walk among us. The believers maintain that ghosts assist us in times of need, seek vengeance when they have been wronged, and tend to unfinished issues… Along the charming towns of its historic Fox Valley are mysteries that we may never know or fully comprehend, are sights that, as Zosia Mucha says, ‘defy reality.’”
- Donna Latham, Ghosts of the Fox River Valley
Locations: Harrison Cemetery in Buckner versus Hotel Baker in St. Charles.
Histories: Harrison Cemetery is one of the oldest graveyards in Franklin County. Although not officially chartered until 1907, it has served area residents for over 120 years and is named after one of the first families to settle Browning Township. The historic Hotel Baker opened on June 2, 1928 and quickly became the toast of the town. It was called the “honeymoon hotel” for its reputation as a getaway and its beautiful riverfront view and garden.
With hundreds of customers coming in and out every day, it would not surprise the Legends and Lore of Illinois if a restaurant turned out to have a ghost or two. Some of these specters are content to simply observe the hustle and bustle, while others are much more “hands on.” Illinoisans have certainly had their share of strange encounters while dining out. Which of these restaurants will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Triple Crown Seafood
Rumors that the old apartment building at 211 W. 22nd Place in South Chinatown was built over an Indian burial ground did not stop developers from converting it into a restaurant. Neither did the story that a former resident had hung himself in the building. Perhaps they should have paid attention, because it was not long before a shadowy figure was seen lurking around the bathrooms. Whoever this ghost is, however, he is at least helpful. According to author Scott Markus, kitchen staff at the seafood restaurant report that dirty dishes will appear mysteriously washed during the evening.
9. Maple Tree Inn
Blue Island, IL
Ever since Charlie Orr changed the name of Helen’s Olde Lantern to Maple Tree Inn, the original owner has not been very happy. The trouble is, Helen Sadunas, who owned the business for nearly 50 years, is dead. Charlie claims that Helen’s ghost was stirred up when he bought the restaurant, and he has felt her presence on more than one occasion. His employees have had their own hair raising experiences. The restaurant’s chef felt someone tap him on the shoulder when he was alone in the basement. At Halloween, Charlie transforms the Maple Tree Inn into a haunted house for the enjoyment of his patrons.
8. The Friendly Café
After the Abingdon-based Unknown Paranormal Research Society (now the Prairieland Paranormal Society) conducted an investigation at the Friendly Café in 2009, its owners, Michael Case and Jane Voorhees, became convinced their restaurant was haunted. Michael had always suspected it was, but Jane was skeptical. Michael and the wait staff described nearly daily encounters with the paranormal to a local newspaper. “There was a woman standing in the kitchen, as clear as day,” Michael told John Pulliam of the Register-Mail. “I couldn’t see her face. I could see she had on a long dress, with little pink flowers on it.” At other times, he felt unseen hands pull him away from the stove. Strange encounters have also taken place in the apartments above the café. A funeral parlor was formerly located next to the restaurant, and there was a door that connected the two.
7. Al Capone’s Hideaway and Steak House
St. Charles, IL
Stories of prohibition-era gangsters are common around Chicago, but it is rare when an establishment can claim a legitimate connection. That is the case for this restaurant along the Fox River, which, during the 1920s, was known as Reitmayer’s Beer Garden and was fought over by the likes of Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Its isolated location made it the perfect place for a speakeasy, and relics from those bygone days are still uncovered during renovations. The ghostly activity at the Hideaway primarily centers on one table on the second floor. The place setting at this table frequently appears “messed with” and napkins have fallen on the floor for no apparent reason, while none of the surrounding tables were similarly disturbed. The door between the bar and the dining area also swings back and forth as though someone is walking through it. According to staff, none of this activity has felt threatening.
A restaurant known for its buxom waitresses may seem like an unusual place for a haunting, but ghosts have found a home here as well. According to Richard Crowe, it started with a string of bad luck. Every other business to occupy this particular location at the corner of Erie and North Wells had failed in a short period of time. Hooters even briefly painted a mural in homage to its predecessors. Perhaps the restaurant’s employees were a little better at tolerating its ghosts. In the storage room, waitresses would often feel like they were being watched. One even heard someone call her name. There are also electrical disturbances, and the jukebox has a tendency to turn on and off on its own.
“Most of us have skeletons in our closets. Some of us also have ghosts. I grew up in a haunted house, and I know that I’m not the only person who’s experienced fidgety spirits. In addition, I live in scenic St. Charles. In fact, I often pass the historic building where, legend has it, the grieving widow Mary Todd Lincoln visited a medium to contact the spirits of her departed husband and son. My riverfront town is proud of its rich history…”
- Donna Latham, Ghosts of the Fox River Valley