Whether you like exploring creepy cemeteries or spooky haunted estates, if you're seeking a paranormal adventure in Illinois, you'll find plenty of places filled with ghosts. From the location of one of the world's most famous ghostly photos to the site of a chilling urban legend, the scariest places in Illinois await you.
Ashmore Estates was originally a 260-acre almshouse farm known as Coles County Poor Farm in Ashmore that operated from 1857 until 1915. Those who died while living in this charitable county housing facility were interred in a pauper cemetery on the grounds.
It isn't surprising that there are quite a few spirits that appear to have lingered inside and outside the main house. Some full-bodied apparitions include a very disturbing one of a man committing suicide by jumping from one of the windows. Another apparition of a man wanders about the hallways dressed in period clothing, including a top hat.
The ghost of Elva Skinner, a 4-year-old girl, has appeared in the house for over 100 years. Tragically, in 1880, little Elva died a horrible death in one of the rooms. It was a cold February morning, and Elva was getting dressed in front of the warm fireplace when her dress caught on fire. She died that afternoon, and her spirit was almost immediately glimpsed wandering about the house, especially in the room of her accident.
Other paranormal activities include disembodied voices, sudden mists that vanish, and tapping/banging sounds. Phantom music and disembodied singing come from the former music room. Shadow people move from room to room in a creepy fluttering that leaves guests and staff wondering what they just saw. Currently, Ashmore Estates holds Friday night public paranormal investigations, as well as private investigations.
The Egyptian Theatre
The Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb opened in 1929. Its architectural design paid homage to the Egyptian culture. Out of the 100 Egyptian themed theatres, the DeKalb Egyptian Theatre is one of five that remain.
You won't be disappointed in the paranormal activities that occur in The Egyptian Theatre. Chuck Gotski of In the Dark Investigations and The Inner Voice Healer says, "The Egyptian Theater is a highly active location with multiple entities and shadow figures." Two prominent resident ghosts are Bob and Irv. Bob wanders throughout the theatre and is credited with opening doors, moving objects, and tapping unsuspecting visitors on the shoulder. The co-founder of PET, Irv Kummerfeldt, appears in the auditorium area where sadly, he died of a heart attack.
Witnesses hear phantom footsteps walking across the stage while a shadow person likes to stand in the back of the theatre watching performances. A ball of light floats through the audience area during rehearsals. People often hear disembodied sounds and capture EVPs, including a woman's voice and a scary growling sound. Staff members frequently hear banging sounds.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery
The Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago is one of the most haunted cemeteries in the United States. The settlement was started in the 1820s and named for four bachelors of the settlement. There are hundreds of reports of ghostly sightings in the abandoned cemetery.
In the 1990s, Ghost Research Society of Illinois captured one of the best photos of an apparition. Not seeing the apparition at the time when the photo was taken, imagine how shocked and thrilled the team was when the film was processed and they saw the apparition in the photo. The detail of the image is superb. She looks very corporeal except for her legs and head that seem rather transparent. You can make out her period style long dress and her curling, flowing hair. She is sitting on a tombstone, staring rather forlornly into the distance, as though lost in thought.
One of the most freakish sightings is the apparition of a ghost with two heads! The cemetery is highly active, with other spirits that roam about. One was dubbed the White Madonna, and she often appears during a full moon. This female apparition wanders the cemetery while cradling an infant. A man dressed in a gold suit once appeared, as have other various resident ghosts dressed in their burial clothes.
Ghost orbs and strange lights float and move through the cemetery. A phantom farmhouse used to appear during the 1950s, but mysteriously stopped. The house either floated and then disappeared, or it shimmered and began to shrink until it became a pinpoint of light and then vanished. A phantom black dog stands guard at the cemetery entrance but if approached, it vanishes. The astounding apparitions of a farmer and his plow horse have appeared since both were killed in a freakish accident.
Congress Plaza Hotel
Chicago's Congress Plaza Hotel is steeped in tales of gangsters and ghosts. Travel & Leisure magazine named this luxurious hotel the most haunted place in Illinois. Of course, you may have heard that Room 441 was Stephen King's inspiration for his story 1408. If you wish to explore Room 441, you'll need specifically to ask to book it since it's only rented upon request.
The paranormal activity that takes place in Room 441 earned it the reputation of being the most haunted area in the hotel. Some of the things that guests have experienced include the bed shaking, seeing the apparition of a woman, lights turning on and off, and finding objects rearranged. It's quite common for guests in Room 441 to call the desk in the middle of the night to request a different room. Of course, there are some guests who simply flee the hotel without any explanation.
Built to accommodate the 1893 World's Fair visitors, the Congress Plaza Hotel became a favorite hangout for gangster Al Capone and his crew. There were rumors that he ran his mob activities out of the hotel and even tortured hostages in some of the rooms. Capone's ghost appears about the hotel, as does a man, nicknamed Peg Leg Johnny, who was murdered in the back alley.
If you stay at the hotel, you may see the apparition of two giggling young boys running up and down the hall of the North Tower 12th floor. The young children were killed when their distraught mother jumped with them from a window on the 12 floor.
Rialto Square Theatre
Located in Joliet, Rialto Square Theatre opened in 1926 as a vaudeville movie palace. The theatre was the scene of a double suicide when two lovers jumped from the theatre balcony. They haunted the theater. Another ghost is a young 4-year-old boy named Colin. He was hit by a car and ran into the theatre where he quickly died of his injuries. He loves to tug on people's hair and clothing.
Eyewitnesses report seeing the apparitions of the lovers and the little boy in various places of the theatre. There are other apparitions that wander the theater as well. One of those is The Bride. She wears white and often appears during wedding receptions. Another hotspot for paranormal activity is the star dressing room. The spirit of a former Vaudeville performer, Vivian, appears in this area. Investigators have captured EVPs of a woman's voice...possibly Vivian.
Justice's Resurrection Cemetery is best known for the vanishing hitchhiker, Resurrection Mary. This famous spirit hitchhikes a ride, mostly choosing to appear to male drivers. Drivers are shocked to see a beautiful young woman walking along the side of the road, wearing a formal style dress as though she's on her way from a party. She has long, pale blonde hair and blue eyes. Some eyewitnesses describe the young woman as wearing a shawl and carrying a small purse. She is a quiet passenger until the driver gets near the cemetery and she asks to be let out. As soon as she exits the car, she vanishes, leaving the driver terrified that he was in the presence of a ghost.
Reports of Resurrection Mary date back to the 1930s. The legend claims the young woman was dancing at the Willowbrook Ballroom on the night she died. She was killed when a vehicle hit her as she walked along the side of the road. However, no one knows for sure what her story is. If you wish to chance a sighting, she appears between Willowbrook Ballroom and Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue.
Historic Water Tower
The Historic Water Tower was built for the Chicago water system. It was also designed to provide water for the fire department in the event of a fire. Tragically, the 1817 Great Chicago Fire proved too powerful for the tower and its pumping station against the raging inferno that engulfed the city. The tower was one of the few Chicago buildings that survived.
According to legend, a brave city worker stayed in the tower and oversaw the pumps to support the firefighters. Eventually, the encroaching fires convinced him that he, too, was doomed, so he climbed to the top of the tower and hanged himself. Over the years, witnesses have seen his shadowy figure moving about the top floor of the tower. Some people also see the silhouette of a man hanging from the tower.
The hanged worker isn't the only ghost that haunts the tower. Four years later, a man climbed to the top of the tower and jumped to his death followed by another man a few years later. It's possible that the spirits of these men are responsible for some of the ghost sightings inside and outside the building.
The Gothic style building looks like a modest-sized castle. Today, the tower serves as the Chicago Office of Tourism that also features an art gallery. Visitors report feeling cold spots and experiencing a heaviness or foreboding when they enter the tower. Some people are touched by invisible hands and when they snap photos, orbs often show up in the images.
The DeSoto House opened in 1855 in the booming city of Galena. The river port city was soon going to be connected to the Illinois Central Railroad. It was the perfect time for this grand luxury hotel. In fact, the hotel hosted President Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas during their political campaigns. As Ulysses S. Grant's hometown, his presidential campaign was headquartered in rooms 209 and 211. Today, there are fewer rooms, thanks to renovations.
However, the renovations have revealed some residual hauntings. Apparitions dressed in old period style clothing appear in the hallways and move through walls. These movements through the walls are where doors once were prior to the renovations. Other paranormal activities include cold spots and phantom footsteps. Disembodied voices and sudden aromas, especially cigar smoke, are common experiences of guests and staff.
Explore the Scariest Places in Illinois
As you explore haunted hotspots in Illinois, be sure you're equipped with ghost hunting devices. After all, you want to capture evidence of your paranormal encounters with these famous ghosts.