We’ve covered the Congress Hotel, its fascinating history, and its supposed ghosts, frequently here. But the Congress Theatre? The one that was on Ghost Hunters lately? We’ve never mentioned that.
That’s because it’s never really been thought of as a haunted location around the city before. None of the other ghost tour guides in the city had heard about it, either.
That said, though, had anyone asked me, I would have assumed the employees here had a ghost story or two to tell. As Jim, a lifelong theatre employee who works on our team, says: “If you ask a theatre person to tell you a ghost story, they WILL do it.” There’s hardly a theatre in the city that isn’t said to be haunted. However, stories to back up the hauntings at the Congress Theatre seem awfully flimsy – the old “the mob used to meet in the basement” story goes around here in Chicago even more that the ol’ “Indian Burial Ground” story. And, of course, all old theatres are full of strange noises and dark corridors and basements, and most have bars. Selzer’s First Theorem (which I suppose I can call this now, since it’s been published in a book available at most major bookstores) states that any vaguely spooky place where people get wasted will eventually show up on a book, tv show, or website about ghosts. It just took this one longer than most.
I’m not saying the place ISN’T haunted or anything – I’ve never been there, so I shouldn’t really pass judgement. But it certainly seems like one of those places that people say is haunted just because it looks like it ought to be – or, in this case, because it would look good on TV.
I’m not the business of criticizing TAPS or anything (I don’t really watch the show very often), but I certainly have gotten the impression that The SyFy channel is starting to pressure the TAPS crew to find stuff wherever they go. You have to take ANY ghost hunting tv show with a certain grain of salt – no matter how honorable the intentions of the actual investigators are, they still have to filter their shows through the suits at the network who usually have a final say in how the show is edited. I’ve always had a pretty good idea that if I were more willing to say places were really, truly haunted and risk looking like a jackass, I’d be making a lot more money in this business.