With hundreds of customers coming in and out every day, it would not surprise Mysterious Heartland if a restaurant turned out to have a ghost or two. Some of these specters are content to simply observe the hustle and bustle, while others are much more “hands on.” Illinoisans have certainly had their share of strange encounters while dining out. Which of these restaurants will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Triple Crown Seafood
Rumors that the old apartment building at 211 W. 22nd Place in South Chinatown was built over an Indian burial ground did not stop developers from converting it into a restaurant. Neither did the story that a former resident had hung himself in the building. Perhaps they should have paid attention, because it was not long before a shadowy figure was seen lurking around the bathrooms. Whoever this ghost is, however, he is at least helpful. According to author Scott Markus, kitchen staff at the seafood restaurant report that dirty dishes will appear mysteriously washed during the evening.
9. Maple Tree Inn
Blue Island, IL
Ever since Charlie Orr changed the name of Helen’s Olde Lantern to Maple Tree Inn, the original owner has not been very happy. The trouble is, Helen Sadunas, who owned the business for nearly 50 years, is dead. Charlie claims that Helen’s ghost was stirred up when he bought the restaurant, and he has felt her presence on more than one occasion. His employees have had their own hair raising experiences. The restaurant’s chef felt someone tap him on the shoulder when he was alone in the basement. At Halloween, Charlie transforms the Maple Tree Inn into a haunted house for the enjoyment of his patrons.
8. The Friendly Café
After the Abingdon-based Unknown Paranormal Research Society (now the Prairieland Paranormal Society) conducted an investigation at the Friendly Café in 2009, its owners, Michael Case and Jane Voorhees, became convinced their restaurant was haunted. Michael had always suspected it was, but Jane was skeptical. Michael and the wait staff described nearly daily encounters with the paranormal to a local newspaper. “There was a woman standing in the kitchen, as clear as day,” Michael told John Pulliam of the Register-Mail. “I couldn’t see her face. I could see she had on a long dress, with little pink flowers on it.” At other times, he felt unseen hands pull him away from the stove. Strange encounters have also taken place in the apartments above the café. A funeral parlor was formerly located next to the restaurant, and there was a door that connected the two.
7. Al Capone’s Hideaway and Steak House
St. Charles, IL
Stories of prohibition-era gangsters are common around Chicago, but it is rare when an establishment can claim a legitimate connection. That is the case for this restaurant along the Fox River, which, during the 1920s, was known as Reitmayer’s Beer Garden and was fought over by the likes of Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Its isolated location made it the perfect place for a speakeasy, and relics from those bygone days are still uncovered during renovations. The ghostly activity at the Hideaway primarily centers on one table on the second floor. The place setting at this table frequently appears “messed with” and napkins have fallen on the floor for no apparent reason, while none of the surrounding tables were similarly disturbed. The door between the bar and the dining area also swings back and forth as though someone is walking through it. According to staff, none of this activity has felt threatening.
A restaurant known for its buxom waitresses may seem like an unusual place for a haunting, but ghosts have found a home here as well. According to Richard Crowe, it started with a string of bad luck. Every other business to occupy this particular location at the corner of Erie and North Wells had failed in a short period of time. Hooters even briefly painted a mural in homage to its predecessors. Perhaps the restaurant’s employees were a little better at tolerating its ghosts. In the storage room, waitresses would often feel like they were being watched. One even heard someone call her name. There are also electrical disturbances, and the jukebox has a tendency to turn on and off on its own.
5. Tapestry Room
The building currently occupied by the Tapestry Room Restaurant was built around 1850, and some locals believe it may have served as a stop on the Underground Railroad because of a tunnel that leads to its basement and connects several local businesses. Shortly before Gwen and Bob Barcum opened their restaurant for business, an electrician working in the far corner of the basement was frightened by the appearance of a pair of spectral legs ascending the staircase. During a paranormal investigation in 2003, Len Adams and his team claimed to have heard a thunderous bang or knock on the wall in response to one of their questions. A former cook, who lived in an apartment at the rear of the building, frequently heard the sound of furniture being tossed around the restaurant at night. The next morning, everything would be in its proper place.
4. Country House Restaurant
Clarendon Hills, IL
It is not often that a ghost story can be tied to a real event, but the ghost who haunts the Country House in Clarendon Hills has been identified by both psychics and a former owner of the restaurant, who was there the day she died. The year was 1958. A young mother approached the restaurant’s bartender and asked if he could watch her child while she ran an errand. Sensing something unusual about the request, he declined. The young woman left, never to return—at least not in life. Moments later, she committed suicide by driving into a tree. Fortunately, her child was unharmed. Years after the incident, two brothers bought the restaurant and began to experience strange phenomenon. Guests heard their names being called, the jukebox played on its own, and employees frequently heard a woman sobbing. The new owners called in a psychic, who related the story of the woman’s suicide (although she said it happened in 1957), which the original owner later confirmed.
3. Alonzi’s Villa
Phantom voices and footsteps plague this former bowling alley turned Italian restaurant, but it is the mysterious sound of rolling bowling balls that make it stand out. Alonzi’s Villa occupies a building that was built in 1936. It has a large stone fireplace and dining room. When the Alonzi family purchased it in 1989, they immediately suspected it was haunted. The Alonzis’ son heard a dog growling upstairs, and the family would often see their German shepherd playing with something unseen. Employees have heard a woman calling their names. Customers, Chicago ghost expert Richard Crowe included, have also heard the sound of bowling balls thundering across the floor. The Alonzis believe all these ghosts are friendly.
2. Spirits Lounge
In 2006, Greg Graham and Tim Brueggeman purchased this old Masonic temple and planned to open it as a bar, restaurant, and banquet center. The two made extensive renovations, knowing the building already had a reputation for being haunted. Unusual occurrences happened almost immediately upon its grand opening in 2007. Built around 1900, the Piasa Lodge of the Freemasons occupied the building for nearly a century. According to Gary Hawkins, who placed the former lodge on his ghost tour, it is occupied by dozens of ghosts, including two master Masons named James Brown and Frank Harris, a woman named Mrs. Smalley who haunts the lady’s lounge, and two children. Four Confederate soldiers who died of smallpox are also believed to haunt one of the former temple’s two basements, which were all that remained of an older building over which the Piasa Lodge was built.
1. Adobo Grill (formerly That Steak Joynt)
Currently a Mexican restaurant, this location was formerly the home of That Steak Joynt, one of Chicago’s most famous haunted restaurants. According to Dale Kaczmarek, a Chicago medium held séances in an upstairs dining room in the 1980s. During one séance, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times became violently ill. Waiters claimed to see shadows moving through the restaurant and felt touched by unseen hands. One waitress was violently dragged toward the staircase. Whatever had grabbed her left a burning red mark on her wrist. Kaczmarek added flickering lights, chills, phantom footsteps, floral scents, and strange howling noises to the list of strange occurrences. So far, the hauntings seem to have subsided, or at least the new owners are not talking about them.
Check out these stories and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Haunting Illinois contains 200 mystery sites and 85 individual illustrations. In this book, Michael not only examines the sites, but also the hobbyists and professionals who have devoted their lives to exploring the strange and unusual in our great state. Divided among eight distinct regions and listed by county, each location features a description, directions, and sources drawn from a diverse variety of books and articles. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!
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