Typically, I maintain a certain level of skepticism when it comes to haunted hotels or restaurants. Any establishment can create a ghost story just to jack up their prices and bring customers in who are looking for a scary time. Nevertheless, this isn’t always the case, some restaurants appear to have a true haunting to go along with the menu. Hooters on North Wells appears to be the real deal. But how did a place that offers a fun dining experience become so haunted? The answer can be found in a rather gruesome past.
By the late 1800s, medical science was progressing at a quick pace. Gone were the old superstitions of evil spirits in the blood to be leeched out and thrown back into the swamps. New discoveries and procedures were being made every day to extend the lives of the sick and the disabled, and deadly diseases were being killed off by vaccines.
With all these valuable medical advancements improving life, medical schools training new generations of doctors ran into a difficult problem. Medical schools and doctors lacked the necessary cadavers to study human anatomy which is an invaluable part of their job. So, in the interest of science, and keeping their hands clean, they turned to opportunists who were not afraid to get their hands dirty for a few dollars. These opportunists were men known as Resurrectionists.
Resurrectionists, or body snatchers as they were called, were usually kept quietly on staff by medical schools to bring in fresh cadavers for study. Body snatchers typically left average people alone and turned their attention to recently executed inmates. It wasn’t uncommon to find these businessmen in the audience of an execution. After the execution, working under the cloak of darkness, they dug up the fresh corpses of those recently executed inmates. The work may have been grim, and not so honest at times, but for these men it was a way to make a buck and it was all done in the name of science.
In 1875, the need for fresh cadavers went into decline and cadavers were either reburied or stored in cold, dark basements where they were sometimes forgotten. The basement at 660 North Wells Street, on Chicago’s Near North Side was one such holding facility. Eventually, the building became Hooters, a popular restaurant known for cold beer and hot Buffalo wings, and it’s wait staff.
When the restaurant opened, the management and staff got a little bit more than what they bargained for. Sure, the restaurant was in an ideal location, smack dab in the middle of north side neighborhoods and the downtown area. What they didn’t realize was due to its grim past, some very angry spirits called the restaurant home.
Hooters doesn’t really like talking about its ghosts as it doesn’t want to be known for that. However, if you talk to the wait staff under condition of anonymity, they have some hair-raising tales to tell of encounters with the restless souls that haunt the cheerful dining establishment.
And some of those stories are terrifying to say the least.
The basement of the Hooters appears to be a focus of the hauntings. New staff that come to work at the restaurant are made aware of what awaits them in the shadowy recesses of the building. Voices of unseen entities are often heard as staff make their way down the stairs. As they reach the bottom, the voices are replaced by an eerie silence.
Voices in the basement aren’t the only unexplained activity. Bright streaks of light and balls have been seen racing around the basement in the dark. Several of the wait staff have reported the feeling of rough hands grabbing them or caressing their legs. Many staff have gone into the basement one moment and quit their job the next. The basement of Hooters is not for the faint of heart.
The basement of the restaurant may not be for the easily frightened, but the main floor is just as haunted. Three separate apparitions, two men and one woman, have been witnessed in the dining area. They have been described as wearing drab clothing from the 19th century and having a vacant look to their eyes. Those who have witnessed the ghosts say they are there one moment and gone the next.
Apart from unwanted touching and unnerving apparitions, the ghosts of Hooters make their presence known in other ways. Staff and patrons alike have reported phantom footsteps accompanied by a bone-chilling cold that would give anyone pause. It would also appear the ghosts enjoy the juke box, as it goes on and off as employees are opening for the day or closing for the night.
Of all the stories of the Hooters on Wells is true, it could very well be one of the most haunted buildings in Chicago. If you should ever go, take the time to talk to the wait staff about the hauntings. Some of their stories are truly disturbing.
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