Haunted Stays XVII: Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago, IL

View of Grant plaza and Congress hotel in Chicago summer day

Since I began this exploration into the country’s most haunted hotels with one in my hometown of Chicago, it should only be fitting I end it here. The only possible place that I could end it is with the Windy City’s most haunted hotspot, The Congress Plaza Hotel.

When the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition came to Chicago, city planners realized they needed a well-appointed hotel to house the more affluent fair attendee. Following weeks of planning and undoubtedly greasing a few palms, the Congress Plaza Hotel was built on Michigan Avenue within walking distance of the fair. 

The Congress, as local Chicagoans call it, is the city’s most luxurious hotel. Since its earliest days, the Congress has welcomed in actors, world leaders, and Chicago’s most notorious celebrity, the crown prince of crime himself, Al Capone. 

If you speak to the management of the Congress concerning its ghosts, they will flatly deny the hotel is home to numerous lost souls. The staff, on the other hand, have a much different story to tell. Housekeepers, bartenders, and even security are well aware of the ghosts that haunt the hotel. One of those phantoms that puts in a regular appearance is the apparition with an odd name: Peg Leg Johnny.

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According to hotel staff, Peg Leg Johnny was a homeless man who met with a cruel and brutal end. Many years ago, Johnny ran afoul of some muggers who beat him to death just outside the hotel’s doors. Johnny got his curious nickname from being an amputee who wore a wooden leg so he could get around. 

The ghost of Peg Leg Johnny has been witnessed in the hotel and on the adjacent sidewalk along Michigan Avenue. According to eyewitnesses, Johnny, doesn’t say much leading researchers to believe Peg Leg Johnny is nothing more than an echo of the past captured in the physical environment of the hotel. Nevertheless, there have been a number of encounters with Johnny where the ghost looks in the witness’ general direction, sometimes with a nod of his head before fading away.

A second very active phantom is a small boy who appears in the hotel’s lounge. Patrons and staff alike, have watched as a boy in early twentieth century attire appears and runs around the bar. They then watch as he enters an elevator and takes it up. A few moments later, the young lad reappears in the lounge to continue his playing.

If you should ever stay at the Congress, do yourself a favor and strike up a conversation with the security staff. On the graveyard shift, security personnel have heard the unmistakable sounds of a party issuing from the grand ballroom. As they approach, the sounds of laughter, music, and a ghostly toast complete with clinking glasses are heard. When they open the door, they find nothing. No party, no revelers, just a dark, empty, lifeless room.

Not all ghosts of the Congress Plaza Hotel are spectral party goers or homeless disabled men. The Congress can boast one of the strangest hauntings, I do believe anyone has ever heard of: the enigmatic hand of mystery. This bizarre ghost is nothing more than a gloved hand that sticks out of the wall. The gloved hand purportedly belonged to a construction worker who inexplicably managed to get himself drywalled into the wall. There is no historical proof to back up this horrible story, leading many to believe it’s nothing more than a harmless, yet spine chilling prank.

The spirits of the Congress Plaza Hotel, appear to be nothing more than moments captured in time and forced to play when the time is right. If you should ever visit this lovely hotel, I can only hope you will be in the right place at the right time. 

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About Rick Hale 106 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.

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