With their rich history and romantic atmosphere, the Legends and Lore of Illinois has found that hotels can attract quite a number of ghostly tales. Illinois has several historic hotels dating back to the 1800s, but even more modern establishments are said to be the home of some tortured spirits. Which one will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
As heard on Thresholds Radio!
10. Ruebel Hotel
The Ruebel Hotel has survived the test of time and has seen the best and worst the Illinois and Mississippi rivers have to offer. It is named after its original owner, Michael Ruebel, who opened the austere, brick hotel in 1884. After one hundred years of serving the miners and river workers of Grafton, it was abandoned. Its clientele had long dried up. In 1997, new owners acquired the Ruebel Hotel and opened it for business once again. The new staff quickly discovered that one guest—a young girl named Abigail—had never left. Her ghost has been spotted roaming the hallway, but no one knows who she was or why she might haunt the building.
In the late 1800s, an entrepreneur named Darius Hicks sought to build a resort community around natural springs that had been discovered near the coal mining town of Colchester. At the center of this community, known as Vishnu Springs, he built a hotel he called the Capital Hotel. Other people soon arrived to live and work there, but the isolated nature of the resort impeded its growth. During the early 1900s, several deadly incidents and scandals tarnished the community, and when Darius Hicks committed suicide in 1908, no one remained who was willing to invest their energy in the resort. During the 1970s, a group of hippies made a short lived attempt to turn the old Capital Hotel into a commune. Today, the hotel is all that remains of Vishnu Springs.
8. DeSoto House
First opened in 1855, the DeSoto House is one of the oldest operating hotels in Illinois. Abraham Lincoln spoke from the hotel balcony on July 23, 1856, and it has had other prominent guests, such as Stephen A. Douglas, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Jennings Bryan. With such a rich history, the DeSoto House was bound to have a ghost or two. According to hotel staff, guests have witnessed apparitions in old fashioned dress passing through walls where doorways once were. Others have heard voices in the hallway and caught the scent of an old cigar.
7. Rose Hotel
The Rose Hotel is currently owned by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and operated as a bed and breakfast. Built by James McFarland c. 1830, with additions added in 1848 and 1866, it is the oldest active hotel in the state of Illinois. In 2009, the Little Egypt Ghost Society investigated the hotel and captured a photo of a strange reflection that appeared in the mirror of the McFarlan Suite. They compared it to photographs in an old hotel scrapbook and determined it was an image of the ghost of a former servant named Tote. Another anomalous photo appeared to show a woman in old-fashioned dress, which they believed to be a former hotel operator named Maimee Rose. The group also recorded several EVPs and heard a number of out-of-place voices.
6. Drake Hotel
The opening night of the Drake Hotel was both magnificent and tragic. It was magnificent because the Drake was to be one of Chicago’s most beautiful hotels; it was tragic because, according to legend, it was the night the “Woman in Red” ended her life. On New Year’s Eve in 1920, a man and his fiancé (who was clad in a brilliant silk gown) attended the gala held in the Drake’s Gold Coast Room on opening night. The man stepped away and did not return, so his fiancé went looking for him. She found him, enthralled by another woman, in the Palm Court parlor. Devastated, the Woman in Red climbed to the roof and jumped to her death. Since then, guests at the Drake have reported seeing her ghost in the Gold Coast Room, Palm Court, and on the top floor and the roof. She seems to be condemned to replay her final night.
5. Hotel Baker
St. Charles, IL
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. Tragedy was not far behind, however. According to local legend, a chambermaid employed at the hotel drowned herself in the Fox River after her fiancé abandoned her at the altar. Another version claims the maid’s lover was also a hotel employee, and he left her after a long and disappointing night of poker. The hotel chambermaids formerly lived on the sixth floor, which was converted into the penthouse suite. Guests on the sixth floor report hearing cries and having their bedding disturbed by unseen hands.
4. Kaskaskia Hotel
A popular legend maintains that the Kaskaskia Hotel is haunted by the ghost of a woman who was either murdered or committed suicide there during the 1920s. Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk uncovered a real suicide at the hotel that took place in July 1948. A woman, distraught over her marriage, jumped from the roof and was killed instantly. Employees at the hotel often heard strange footsteps and reported that the elevator would open when no one had pressed the button. The hotel closed in 2001 after changing owners several times, but was recently renovated and reopened as a luxury hotel and conference center.
3. Original Springs Hotel
During the late 1800s, Okawville was widely known for its mineral springs, which were believed to have an invigorating effect on health. After the particular quality of the springs was discovered in 1867, a local businessman and a farmer established the first bathhouse and spa at the location. That burnt down in 1891, and the current building, which became the Original Springs Hotel, opened in the spring of 1893. The hotel is still in operation today, although it has had many owners. One previous owner, Tom Rogers, died in an upstairs room in 1962. Guests at the hotel have reported seeing a mysterious woman wearing a white dress in the fashion of the early 1900s sitting on the second floor balcony. Her face is always hidden beneath her hat. One guest reported seeing her standing near his bed, and another saw her staring out the window of a locked storage room in the men’s bathhouse. Ethereal music has also been heard in the laundry room.
2. Mineral Springs Hotel
Currently an antique mall, this antique building was formerly home to the Mineral Springs Hotel, famed for its swimming pool, which was promoted as the “largest in Illinois.” The hotel was also famous for its mineral water. The springs producing the mineral water were discovered in the late 1800s when the original owners, butchers by trade, excavated ground for an ice storage facility. The hotel was opened in 1914. The building is haunted by several ghosts, including that of a jasmine-scented woman, an artist, and one frightening specter who hangs out in the former swimming pool. He is said to have died when his jealous wife struck him and he fell into the pool and drowned.
1. Congress Plaza Hotel
The Congress Plaza Hotel has the nefarious distinction of being one of Chicago’s largest and most haunted hotels. According to Ursula Bielski, some even believe one of its rooms inspired Stephen King’s short story “1408.” Since 1893, the Congress has played host to gangsters, celebrities, millionaires, and presidents. In recent years, it has suffered from the longest hotel employee strike in history. Its ghosts are numerous. Security guards have heard organ music and the sound of skate wheels sliding across the floor in the Florentine Room, a former roller skating rink, after the guests have gone to bed. Wedding attendees have gone missing from photographs taken around the grand piano in the Gold Room, and a one-legged man has been seen in the south tower. In the north tower, moans have been heard coming from the elevator on the fifth floor. Finally, the twelfth floor is believed to be home to a room so frightening that its door has been permanently sealed and hidden behind wall paper.
Check out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Haunting Illinois contains 200 mystery sites and 85 individual illustrations. In this book, Michael not only examines the sites, but also the hobbyists and professionals who have devoted their lives to exploring the strange and unusual in our great state. Divided among eight distinct regions and listed by county, each location features a description, directions, and sources drawn from a diverse variety of books and articles. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!
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