The legend behind Room 1252 in Congress Plaza Hotel lies the tragic story of Adele Langer, a Czech-Jewish refugee who entered America with her two sons, Jan Misha and Karel Tommy, on a six-month visa. Adele had previously planned to reunite with her husband Karel Langer at Congress Plaza Hotel. The Langer family were owners of the $1.5 million (equivalent of $29.8 million in 2021) Hynek Marprles textile mills in Prague but had to escape the country during World War II to escape the persecution of Jews by the Nazi.
In August 1939, Adele and her two children checked in to Congress Plaza Hotel and stayed in a room on the 12th floor (Chicago Tribune reports it as the 13th floor). However, her husband, who was supposed to arrive in America a couple days later, had failed to turn up. As days stretched into weeks, desperation turns into despair. Distraught by the disappearance of her husband and her inability to find work, the mother is said to have thrown Jan and Karel out of a window before leaping out of the room. However, for unknown reasons, 6-year-old Karel did not make it to the city morgue. It is not known where the body of the Karel went, though psychics and ghost hunters believe that he still remains in the hotel.Booking.com
On many occasions, staffs and guests of the hotel have reported seeing a little boy running around on the 12th floor. In an incident reported by John, one of the security guard in Congress Plaza Hotel, a young boy was spotted in worn-out clothes and standing at the far end of the hotel’s corridor. When John questioned the young boy, he simply grinned and faded away right before John’s eyes. Apart from the manifestation of a young boy, guests staying on the 12th floor would report their TVs turning on and off at random, and their personal belongings being moved when they were away.
Today, Room 1252 (found between Room 1254 and Room 1520 located around the corner) can be found sealed off from the public. In fact, the room is said to be so haunted that the doorknob was removed and the door gaps were glued shut, effectively ‘trapping’ anything that may linger inside. Throughout the 12th floor of the hotel, many rooms were unmarked and bolted shut. Damage on several of the door frames is also evident of vandalism, possibly by thrill-seekers looking for paranormal activity. Throughout the hotel, several other rooms can also be found locked up with padlocks.
History of Congress Plaza Hotel
Opened in 1893 at Chicago, Illinois, Congress Plaza Hotel was built in preparation for the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair which ultimately saw over 27.3 million visiting the city over the span of six months. Designed by architect Clinton J. Warren, the hotel was originally called Auditorium Annex as it was an extension to the renown Auditorium Building located right across the street; the two are linked by a marble-lined tunnel (that went under Congress Street) named Peacock Alley
Two expansion projects in 1902 and 1907 led to the development of the south tower. Designed by architectural firm Holabird and Roche, the tower featured a majestic banquet hall known as the Gold Room. The gold room is known to be the first ballroom in America to use air-conditioning. Together with north tower’s Florentine Room, Elizabethan Room, and Pompeian Room, the four event halls were then popular venues for the hosting of some of Chicago’s finest social events.
In 1911, the hotel underwent a name change to differentiate itself from Auditorium Building. Its current name, Congress Plaza Hotel, was derived from Congress Street located right outside the building.
However, the outbreak of World War II proved to be detrimental to the luxurious Congress Plaza Hotel. The hotel was purchased by the government in 1940 to serve as a headquarters for U.S. Army officers. Five years later in 1945, an acquisition was made by a group of Chicago business magnates who saw the potential of the hotel. Barely five years later, the hotel changed hands once again, this time to Pick Hotel Corporation.
Over the second half of the 20th century, Congress Plaza Hotel underwent a series of modernization projects to revamp the hotel. Some of the modernizations included the addition of escalators, a new ballroom, and a new supper club called the Glass Hat. A new mural-encircled lobby was also constructed together with new front desks and corridors. Today, the hotel offers 871 luxurious rooms and suites as well as an array of world-class amenities such as a 24-hour fitness center and a barbershop.
Congress Plaza Hotel is nicknamed “Home of Presidents” as numerous U.S. presidents have all stayed and campaigned in the hotel. President William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt have all rallied for their cause or held interviews in the luxurious hotel at some point in time. In 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt announced the formation of the Progressive Party (also known as the “Bull Moose Party”) in the Florentine Ballroom. Separately in 1932, the hotel became the command post for President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party; he was elected a year later as the 32nd President of the United States.
However, the hotel has earned also earned a reputation over the years, albeit a notorious one. The numerous haunted sightings at Congress Plaza Hotel have give rise to its notoriety as the most haunted place in Illinois.Booking.com
Deaths at Congress Plaza Hotel
Over the course of the hotel’s 128 year history, numerous deaths have occurred.
In 1900, Spanish American war veteran Captain Lou Ostheim took his own life with a pistol in the hotel after waking up from a horrible nightmare. His wedding day was supposed to be held the following day. Authorities have concluded that it was the case of a suicide caused by illusion (better known today as post traumatic stress disorder), though families and friends of Captain Lou have rejected the claim as he was a ‘war veteran who had went through numerous battles’.
In May, 1910, James Kennedy checked in to a room in Congress Plaza Hotel and proceeded to cut the identification tags of his clothes and burned any documentation of himself. He then walked across the street to Grant Park and shot himself with a pistol he had bought earlier today.
Separately in 1916, local mining magnate More Davis was found dead in Room 312. An autopsy revealed that Davis was killed by cyanide poisoning. Further investigations led to the revelation that Davis and his wife have previously formed a suicide pact. His wife was later found collapsed in the family’s home. She was brought to the hospital and miraculously survived the incident. She later claimed to have mistaken epsom salt for cyanide, but was found to have attempted suicide ‘once again’ at St. Mary’s Mission house where she was nursing her health.
In the evening of July, 1926, a malfunction of the elevator caused a Galesburg woman, Harriet Harrison, to plunge six stories down the elevator shaft to the hotel basement. Harrison was spending a few nights with her husband at Congress Plaza Hotel and the couple had planned to take on a month long break at Europe in August.
The most infamous apparition is none other than renown mobster Al Capone, who was said to have ran his headquarter in the hotel. It was rumored that Capone, or ‘Scarface’ as he is often called, used the hotel’s corridors to smuggle drugs and firearms. However, this claim was refuted by the hotel management, who vehemently denied the crimes said to have been committed by Scarface in the hotel. A burly man in a suit resembling Al Capone can be spotted at night strolling along the corridors on the 8th floor of the North tower where he previously lived on.
Another spirit that haunts the hotel is Peg Leg Johnny, a one legged vagrant who was savagely murdered in the alley (520 South Michigan Avenue) behind the hotel; some say he was tricked into a room on the 7th floor and killed. Many say the forlorn ghost of Johnny now wanders around Congress Plaza Hotel. He is known to appear in rooms and turn and off lights.
At the Florentine Room, music can be heard from the locked doors by security guards patrolling the area in the wee hours. The elegant piano in the room is also known to play by itself while the lighting can be seen turning on and off by itself. The Gold Room, the most impressive room of all, is said to be haunted by ghost brides and grooms. Some have reported seeing a bride and groom standing by the second floor balcony while others have said that a couple can be seen dancing in the middle of the ballroom. Rumor also spread that some of the bridesmaids who took photos by the piano would not appear in the pictures as they were ‘blocked’ by paranormal entities.
Hands of Mystery at Gold Room
The Hand of Mystery has been a widely debated topic among local historians and skeptics. Located behind a balcony in the Gold Room lie a hand-like effigy that appeared to look like a hand reaching out of the drywall and gripping a metal bar. The legend first appeared in 2006 when Adam Selzer, a local tour guide, took a photo of the Hands of Mystery and started a rumor that a worker was walled up inside the drywall.
Other rumors soon emerged, with one stating that the person may have been a victim of Al Capone. However, there are no historical records to back such claims, and that the Hand of Mystery is probably just a glove plastered over as a joke. Selzer have also debunked the myth himself, stating that the wall where the hand is found is not thick enough to bury a person.
Haunted Room 441
The most haunted room in Congress Plaza Hotel is none other than Room 441 on the South Tower. While it is unknown who are the spirits that lingers in Room 441 or if any deaths have actually occurred, many who have spent the night in it have deemed it to be the most haunted hotel room in Illinois. In fact, room 441 is responsible for more calls to the front desk than any of the other room in the hotel. Guests have reported seeing objects moving and doors opening and closing at will.
The translucent figure of a woman was also spotted roaming the room at night and shaking guests awake. It is said that Stephen King have previously spent a few nights at Room 441, and that the horror short story 1408 was inspired by it. This claim was however, widely debated among local researchers as Stephen King have never mentioned Congress Plaza Hotel or Room 441 in his introduction about 1408. Adam Selzer have also exposed that it was Chicago historian and author Ursula Bielski who made up the conclusion as it “makes a good story”.
Like many other haunted rooms in the country, the booking of Room 441 is strictly by reservations only. That said, the reported hauntings at Room 441 have made it a hot favourite among paranormal investigators. Hence, you are advised to book months ahead to avoid disappointment. To make a booking for Room 441, contact Congress Plaza Hotel’s front desk at 312-427-3800 ext. 5017 or the reservation department at 312-427-3800 ext. 5025.
The Sealed Up Devil Room 666
Room 666 in Congress Plaza Hotel is said to have been boarded up by wallpaper. Visitors walking along the sixth floor corridor would pass by Room 664, a large blank wall, and Room 668. Several theories have surfaced over the years, with the most frightening story being that Room 666 was previously used by Satanists to hold rituals, and that a portal to the underworld was unlocked. Another story, a more believable one, suggests that room 664 is used as a management office, and the walls of room 666 was hacked off to make space for a bigger office.
Today, the inside of room 666 can only be viewed from the outside by window washers who carry out cleaning of the hotel’s window on a periodic basis.Booking.com