Do you believe in ghosts, or are you more of a skeptic? One USA Today poll suggests that about 45 percent of Americans believe in spirits and phantoms.
The good news? Most people aren’t actually afraid of these specters; in fact, 43 percent say that they believe that ghosts are totally harmless. Maybe this is why, in a 2017 survey, 33 percent of prospective homebuyers said that they would be completely fine with living in a haunted house, and 25 percent said they would at least be “open to it” — especially if it came with perks like a price reduction, extra bedrooms, or access to a good neighborhood.
Whether you’re gaga for ghouls, or the fear of running into an apparition sends shivers down your spine, it’s hard not to think about ghosts when it’s the Halloween season in Chicagoland. After all, our area has a long, rich history — complete with plenty of fascinating tall tales and eerie ghost stories, all passed down from generation to generation. During the fall and all year long, people flock to ghost tours and head for haunted houses, looking for thrills, chills, and the chance to connect with our region’s legendary past.
Looking to write a ghost story of your own this Halloween? Here are five of Illinois’ most famously haunted destinations to explore:
Congress Plaza Hotel
Travel & Leisure once listed this Chicago icon as the most haunted place in the state of Illinois, while The Daily Meal has named it one of the most haunted hotels in America — and for good reason! The legendary Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone famously operated out of the Congress, and guests today still report seeing his spirit wandering through the corridors. Elsewhere around the hotel, visitors have reportedly seen the spirits of former employees and past guests. Particularly infamous is Room 441, in which a ghostly woman has been known to appear and wake up unsuspecting guests. In addition to hosting visitors from all around the world, the historic Congress Plaza is a well-known haunt on many Chicago ghost tours, and plays host to an enormous Halloween Ball every fall.
Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River in southern Illinois, the picturesque community of Alton has been called “the most haunted town in America.” Alton is home to some haunted attractions that must be seen to be believed, including the McPike Mansion. Originally built in the 1860s, the McPike Mansion has been the site of countless paranormal experiences, and visitors have reported seeing unexplained balls of light and mysterious figures appearing in photographs. This historic destination hosts tours throughout the year, and is home to an overnight Halloween campout every October. Elsewhere around Alton, people have reported seeing strange apparitions at the Mineral Springs Mall, and in cemeteries throughout the community. There are a few different tour companies that offer guests the chance to explore this historically haunted community; there is even a “Haunted Alton” app to help visitors get to know the town’s many legends.
Like the Congress Plaza Hotel, the Drake Hotel is a Chicago institution, known all over the world for its stately facade, impeccable service, and prime Gold Coast location — as well as its collection of haunting stories. Built in the 1920s, the Drake has hosted its fair share of incredible guests over the decades, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Queen Elizabeth II. Along the way, this downtown hotel has also earned a reputation as a site for supernatural activity — including the appearance of several ghostly women wandering the halls, according to Chicago Magazine. Around Halloween, the Drake plays host to a lavish Masquerade Ball, perfect for helping visitors get into the spirit of the season.
Located in suburban Illinois, just a bit south of Aurora and Naperville, Joliet is a city with a story around every corner. In recent years, Joliet has become a go-to destination for ghost hunters and fans of the supernatural. The Rialto Square Theater, a former vaudeville house, is a popular site for paranormal investigations. Around Joliet, you’ll also hear rumors of hauntings at several iconic homes, including the Hiram B. Scutt Mansion and the Frank Shaver Allen House. And then there’s the Old Joliet Prison. This historic site is open for regular tours, including a haunted history tour exploring some of the myths and legends that go hand-in-hand with this Joliet institution, which dates all the way back to 1858.
A resort community in western Illinois, Galena is home to rolling hills and plenty of buildings steeped in history. In fact, Galena is noted throughout the Midwest for its preserved 19th century architecture. Many of its most iconic sites are known for being active paranormal hotspots, with reports of ghost sightings and supernatural experiences dating back more than a hundred years. Among Galena’s most ghostly destinations are Embe Eatery, where spirits have been known to move plates and silverware, as well as the DeSoto House Hotel, a lavish Victorian-era lodging that is reportedly home to plenty of apparitions, including the elusive “Lady In Black.” Ghost tours are a popular attraction in Galena, and the town is home to an enormous Halloween parade and festival every October. The DeSoto House also hosts a “Haunted Dinner” in honor of Halloween.
Ready to Keep Exploring?
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s never a bad time to get to know all that Illinois has to offer! At Baird & Warner, we’re all about connecting people with the best things to see, do, and experience around Chicagoland. After all, we’ve been a part of this community since 1855. That’s a lot of Halloween parties under our belt!
Whether you’re looking for a new home, or just a recommendation on a hidden gem to try out, let us help! At Baird & Warner, our hyperlocal agents know this area better than anyone. When you want to buy, sell, or learn more about the local market, we’ll be here to help you find exactly what you’re looking for — while making the experience easier, at every step of the way.