Red Lion Pub: A Piece of Old England in Chicago

The Red Lion Pub in Chicago

Ghost seekers in Chigaco often spend the day patiently waiting to see John Dillinger’s ghost outside the Biograph Theater. When a break is needed, a short walk across busy Lincoln Avenue lies The Red Lion Pub which is one of Chicago’s haunted hotspots and a piece of old England in the Windy City.

The Red Lion Pub, a popular bar in Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood, opened its doors in 1984. Colin Cordwell, a Lincoln Park native, desired to open a bar that was completely unlike anything found in Chicago or the surrounding area, but first he had to find the right place.

After shopping around for the perfect building, Cordwell eventually found it on Lincoln Avenue across from the legendary Biograph Theater. At the time, the bar was known as Dirty Dan’s Western Saloon. The owner, Dan Danforth, had a reputation for being a somewhat irascible character who ran the dive bar. When Cordwell came along, Danforth was not listening to the idea of selling the building. However, after realizing he was getting too old to properly run the bar, Dirty Dan gave in and sold.

Touring the aging bar was a real eye opener for the new owner. Not only did the place wreak of cigarette smoke, it was filthy and most unnerving of all, it was infested with rats. If Cordwell was going to turn this place around it was going to take a whole lot of patience and back breaking work.

After many months of hard work, the Red Lion Pub opened its doors on November 16, 1984. Mr Cordwell, spared no expense in turning Dirty Dan’s into a bar fashioned after the Red Lion Pub in London, England. Cordwell, kept the dark oak bar and the tudor beams that adorned the ceiling. He further added bookshelves along the wall to hold his extensive library of English literature and history. He hoped his patrons would have a drink and read the books he loved.

On the second floor can be found the Africa Room. The room was named in honor of his mother, an expert on African culture and Yoruban art. The front of the bar, The War Room, was dedicated to his grandfather’s exploits in World War I. Colin Cordwell, has lovingly honored his family’s memory with the Red Lion Pub. However, unknown to him at the time, his bar shared a feature with its namesake from across the pond, Chicago’s Red Lion Pub is very much haunted.

Since opening its doors to the public, both patrons and staff have claimed to come face to face with a variety of ghosts. Practically everyone who has been in the pub has had a brush with the inexplicable and unexplained. It is undeniable that something out of the ordinary is going on in this north side pub.

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The Cowboy

In the bar area, the image of a cowboy has been seen moseying up to the bar. Seeing such a thing in an English bar in Chicago would be disconcerting. After all, we don’t get too many cowboys here in Chicago. Once the cowboy steps up to the bar, he gives a nod and vanishes from view.

The Gamblers

The apparitions of two men involved in a violent altercation have been witnessed near the back of the pub. The fight comes to a tragic end when one of the combatants slays his opponent. It’s believed the fight, resulting in murder, was due to an unpaid gambling debt. No one knows who the two men were in life, but the unpleasant scene appears to be nothing more than an echo in time.


A number of female patrons have reported being trapped in the women’s bathroom by an unknown person. They desperately push and pull but to no avail. Eventually the door does pop open freeing them. The ghost that holds the door is allegedly a woman named Sharon who died in the 1920s. Sharon, is also known to unhappily clean once untidy patrons depart the bar.

The Scent Of Lavender

Many years ago a developmentally disabled woman known for wearing lavender died in the bar. The pleasant scent supposedly wafts through the establishment when her ghost is present. Patrons have remarked it hangs in the air for only a moment and then dissipates.

A Tragic Death

The apparition of a woman who suffered and died from an epileptic seizure puts in a regular appearance. She has been seen sitting at the table where she spent her final moments before succumbing to her illness. She sits quietly, staring at the wall before fading away.

The Scream

In his book, “Chicago’s Street Guide To The Supernatural,” the late great Chicago ghost hunter, Richard T. Crowe, details an eerie experience at the Red Lion Pub. According to Mr Crowe, he heard a bloodcurdling scream come from behind a locked door. Believing someone was in danger, a police officer who accompanied Crowe kicked in the door. They were both shocked to discover the room was dark and devoid of life.

Dirty Dan Himself

I’m a firm believer, that if you’re an unpleasant person in life death doesn’t do much to change that. And the unpleasant specter of Dirty Dan himself is said to haunt the bar. Dan, stands on the stairs giving patrons a disapproving scowl as they pass by. He is also believed to push people as they walk up and down the stairs. My advice to you, hold on tightly to the rail.

The Red Lion Pub in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is a little slice of the UK on Lake Michigan. Whether throwing back a pint or having a bite to eat, you may just be lucky to catch a glimpse of one of its many ghosts.

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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, and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at

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