Haunted Chicago: Remembering a ghost of the Red Lion Pub

Haunted Chicago: Remembering a ghost of the Red Lion Pub
(WT-shared) Gorilla Jones at wts wikivoyage [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For the month of October Listing Toward Forty is Listing Toward Halloween, featuring a variety of Halloween posts including many by guest authors. This post is by Sara Jean McCarthy.

She lives on the second floor. In the women’s restroom. In the last stall. Not, perhaps, my personal choice of digs, but I truly don’t know anything about how afterlife real estate works.

That’s where she LIVES, but you can feel her almost as soon as you enter the building. There’s just...something...off. The eerie sensation really picks up as you start to ascend the red carpeted stairs. It’s like walking into a different climate. A rrrreally spooky one. You may even feel a slight choking pressure on your throat as you pass through a pocket of unnaturally Cool Still Air. You are definitely never alone. And it might be (most probably will be) HER.

OR it might be one of the several others that call the Red Lion Pub home. There are many. Because this place is Full-Tilt Boogie, absolutely NO shit, FAMOUSLY haunted. As in ghost tours and published books and the like. Maybe that’s why so many ghosts have taken up residency here - they still want their 15 minutes of fame.

There’s talk of a cowboy. A Blonde man. A man in a black hat. A little girl. Sometimes various others. And then there’s the woman in 2nd floor bathroom. Having spent a summer working nearly every night at the 2nd story bar, I got up close and personal with this particular ghost and the many stories surrounding her. She was like an invisible, slightly pesky and totally creepy co-worker who just really wanted some attention.

And she had countless methods to try to get it. The hair-prickly goose-bumpy cooler-than-they-should-be spots were frighteningly frequent and sometimes accompanied by a very strong scent of lavender. Which is absolutely disconcerting in a place that usually smelled like British tap beer and deep-fried foods and, in those days, cigarette smoke. I guess she was feeling a little fancier on those particular occasions and put on a little extra perfume.

She also, famously, had a habit of dumping plates out of servers’ hands as they attempted to place them on the table in front of hungry customers. And it wasn’t simply a butterfingered waiter sort of thing. I can attest to the force of the plates being ripped from my hands and propelling fish and chips half way across the room. It happened. A lot.

She also didn’t seem to want people to leave for the night. When you closed the upstairs at the end of a shift, one of your side-work tasks was to put the bar stools up on the bar itself and the chairs up on the table so the floor could be mopped clean the next morning. Many times, as I sat downstairs having a shift drink and doing my checkout, I would hear the sound of furniture being moved. The scraping across the floor was unmistakable. The first time, I went back up, thinking maybe another server was arranging. And I discovered the chairs and stools pushed helter-skelter into the middle of the floor. But of course, it was the end of the night. I was the only one there.

And then there is her special domain - her bathroom stall. She likes to lock the door when someone is inside. I personally have never been locked in, but there were many times that a girl would be surprisingly locked in a bathroom stall for an unreasonably long time if no one could hear her calling for help. And in every case, at some point, the door just popped open...with supernatural force. When the poor trapped woman wasn’t even touching it. Maybe the ghost in the 2nd floor bathroom was just really enjoying her house-guest.

There was one time that a bartender was doing some office business out at the bar when he heard loud hysterical shrieking coming from the bathroom. Thinking that someone had gotten locked in again, he went in to see if he could help. The cries just got louder as he tried to calm the woman down and ram open the door. The door remained solidly locked and even as he tried to force it, it just wouldn’t budge. And the screaming inside was getting more hysterical. And then suddenly, on one of his full-weight pushes, the door swung open easily, crashing against the wall. The screaming silenced abruptly and, well, you guessed it - there was no one inside.

The building that was the Red Lion Pub on Lincoln is now shuttered and closed. And like I said, I don’t know much about the housing habits of ghosts. BUT the examples I gave are simply a handful of the run-ins with the woman in the 2nd floor bathroom. She is a very prolific and committed haunter. And it makes me wonder if ghosts get bored or lonely. Do they miss having living humans to interact with or are they content with keeping each other company? Or do they just, for the most part, fly solo? Are they forever trapped in a particular building for the rest of (their time?) or have any of them been able to choose a new haunt? And where do they go if the building gets torn down or burnt down or destroyed?

I worry about the woman in the 2nd floor bathroom - I spent a lot of time on her turf. And, truthfully, she cemented my belief in ghosts. We navigated a particular living and not-living communication. I feel like we had an actual relationship. And even though I was a little frightened most of the time, I actually kind of miss her.

Sara Jean McCarthy headshotOriginally from northern Minnesota, but now firmly rooted in Chicago, Sara Jean McCarthy is a theatre artist, massage therapist, chronic guest blogger, soup-magician, oenophile, and gardening traveler who makes a mean granola and will never not jump in the nearest body of water. A proud company member of The Plagiarists, snippets of her blog stylings can be found on their website as well as at www.relishladies.blogspot.com. She also really loves The Wizard of Oz and, for the record, does does believe in spooks.

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Filed under: Halloween

Tags: Chicago, Ghosts, Halloween

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