Windy City Spooks: Sweating with Ghosts at the Edgewater Athletic Club

Hotel Sovereign in Chicago

According to the International Health Racquet and Sports club Association, nearly 1 in 5 Americans will spend hundreds of dollars a year on health club memberships and thousands of dollars on fad diets and dietary supplements in the quest to lose weight and be healthy. 

On the campus of Chicago’s Loyola University, you can find the Edgewater Athletic Club, one of Chicago’s oldest establishments for fitness. There you have your choice of any number of fitness plans to get yourself in ideal shape. However, among the loud music, workout machines and sweaty bodies, the Edgewater Athletic Club has something other fitness clubs don’t, a history of ghosts and hauntings.

Before the Edgewater Athletic Club became one of the top ten gyms in Chicago, it was the luxurious Sovereign Hotel. The hotel was built in the early 1920s and was considered to be the grandest hotel in Chicago at the time. Not only was it known for its world class hospitality, it was also known for its stunning views of both the Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

In its early days the Sovereign Hotel was world famous and attracted the crown heads of Europe to its door. The King of Denmark was a frequent guest, as well as King Edward VIII, who presented the hotel with two ornate vases. Iconic silent film actor Charlie Chaplin resided in the hotel for a short time. And Chicago’s crown prince of crime, Al Capone, was known to keep a room at the Sovereign.

Unfortunately, the heyday of being the Windy City’s most fabulous hotel came to an end in 1949 when it was sold and converted into apartments. Gone was the royalty and the Hollywood icons that once graced its halls. Although those days are long since passed, the building has retained some of that historical memory with the many ghosts said to haunt the on-premises gym and the apartments. Whoever these ghosts are, they seem to focus much of their attention on the athletic club.

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Upon entering the main entrance, visitors and members are greeted by an eerie photo of the staff of the former Sovereign Hotel. People have remarked that the picture seems to possess a life of its own and the long dead employees in the photo appear to be following people with their eyes. This may seem very creepy on its own, but even more paranormal activity has been observed in the gym.

According to the employees, the ghosts that inhabit the club seem to delight in using the gym equipment. Employees that are working alone have heard the unmistakable sound of someone working over the punching bag. When they go to investigate, all they find is a darkened room and a slightly swaying punching bag.

A commonly accepted theory by paranormal investigators is that ghosts can somehow manipulate the temperature in a room, possibly as a means to manifest. In certain areas of the club, members and employees have reported inexplicable temperature fluctuations. A room might go from icy cold to unbearably hot in just a matter of seconds. Sometimes, these radical fluctuations are accompanied by the creepy sensation of some unseen person watching from the shadows.

A stairwell that leads from the gym to the apartments has been the site of intense paranormal phenomena. A legend states, a Loyola student learned that he was failing his classes and rather than bring shame to his family, the student hung himself in the stairwell. A promising young life cut short due to the overwhelming pressure to succeed.

Whether or not there is any truth to this story of tragic suicide is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that something strange is going on in that stairwell. People using the stairs have reported the sounds of footsteps when no one else is present. Others have reported the feeling of a cold wind rushing past them. Visiting paranormal investigators have only added to the story by recording fluctuations in the electro-magnetic field, convincing them a ghost does haunt the stairwell.

Since converting the old hotel into apartments and the athletic club, not much of the old hotel remains, except for the grand ballroom in which apparitions of women in elegant gowns and men in smart tuxedos have been witnessed dancing in the ballroom. Others have reported the sound of jazz music, laughter and the sounds of champagne glasses clinking together. When someone enters the room, all the spectral noises cease and the room returns to being empty and quiet.

The ghosts of the Edgewater Athletic Club appear to be nothing more than an echo of days long since gone. If you’re lucky you may just catch a glimpse of one of their spirits while swimming or pumping iron.

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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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