At some Chicago bars, there are more than beats going bump in the night.
By Joshua P. Ferguson|
Chicago is great for paranormal reality TV. We have ample tales of murder and the creepy buildings to go with them—places that haven’t let go of their dark past, even as they’ve transformed from crime scenes into clubs. When Ghost Hunters and the like frequent Chicago’s haunted locales, they often turn to respected psychic and ghost hunter Ken Melvoin-Berg. The mustachioed 43-year-old, who runs Weird Chicago Tours, has been investigating hauntings for 22 years, so we turned to him to get the gruesome details on a few of the city’s truly spook-infested haunts.
Liar’s Club(1665 W Fullerton Ave, 773-665-1110) This two-story bar has a sordid history of people meeting their end. In 1968, when it was a homeless men’s shelter, two guys got into a scuffle over a pair of pants. One wound up beaten to death with a Coca-Cola bottle in a corner on the second floor.
It turns out that particular corner is rife with negative energy. Two more murders took place in the same spot. In ’58 an abusive husband met his end, and in ’86 it happened again, just with the tables turned. “The wife was a large woman, and her tiny husband killed her after she made fun of his size all the time. He got pissed off and dismembered her,” Melvoin-Berg explains.
The killings have left their imprint. Customers claim to see Julia Hansen, the large wife, hanging around the deadly corner. A man has also been spotted wandering up and down the stairs. We were not able to confirm whether or not he was wearing pants.
Metro and Smart Bar (3730 N Clark St, 773-549-4140) “Most of the time when we have ghost activity, it’s in places where there’s water,” Melvoin-Berg notes. Apparently it helps them manifest. “There is a subterranean stream that runs through the Metro, underneath it.” That would explain why Marilyn, a cleaning lady who is said to have hanged herself in the venue’s fourth-floor theater in the ’40s, is occasionally seen, still swaying from the rafters.
A specter also frequents the Smart Bar ladies’ room. “Women have seen somebody right behind them—it’s another woman—then she disappears,” Melvoin-Berg says. “Two of the three people we know [who] have died there are women.” The second is supposedly the daughter of a couple who ran the building when it was a Swedish Men’s Club in the ’50s. “She was playing on top of the elevator. Her mother was taking the elevator up, and she was crushed when it reached the top.”
Flounder’s Bar & Grill (2201 N Clybourn Ave, 773-472-9920) This bar’s haunted history began in the late 1800s with the true Sausage King of Chicago, Adolph Luetgert, who murdered his wife. Besides tales that he ground her up in his factory, it’s also rumored that he killed three of his children in what is now Flounder’s.
His suspected murder of barfly Hugh McGowan was particularly gruesome. As Melvoin-Berg tells it, “He had a two-ounce tobacco plug shoved so far down his fucking throat it split his esophagus in half.”
Six months ago, Melvoin-Berg and his crew found kids’ mattresses in a tunnel beneath the building (complete with a stream). It is said that it was a house of child prostitution in the ’60s, during which a girl was hacked into 47 pieces. While the paranormal investigators were doing their inspection, doors opened and closed on their own and three camera flash capacitors ignited simultaneously, knocking a cameraman back three feet. “He hit the wall so hard his head left a dent,” Melvoin-Berg recalls. “We had more ghost activity there than any place we’ve been to in the world.”