Chicago’s Haunted Real Estate

These are scary times in real estate, with the ghosts of our homes’ lost value spreading gloom. But a few houses around Chicago are rumored to be truly haunted. Here’s a look at four of them, only one of which is still a residence…

Mayflower Place, also known as the Schweppe mansion, in Lake Forest
Mayflower Place in Lake Forest
 

These are scary times in real estate, with the ghosts of our homes’ lost value spreading gloom. But a few houses around Chicago are rumored to be truly haunted. Here’s a look at four of them, only one of which is still a residence.

Mayflower Place, Lake Forest
This opulent North Shore mansion was built in 1915 as a wedding gift from John Shedd, the president of Marshall Field & Co., to his daughter Laura and her groom, Charles Schweppe. Laura died in 1937, and four years later, Charles shot himself to death in his bedroom. The house stood empty until 1987, and in those years stories sprang up about Charles’s ghost haunting his bedroom and keeping one window there crystal clear, even as the home’s numerous other panes were covered with grime.

Another family bought the house in 1987 and restored it lavishly. We shot video there when they had it up for sale in 2009. The house was later put in receivership.

Stickney House, Bull Valley
George and Sylvia Stickney were spiritualists whose belief in evil spirits supposedly dictated the look of their unusual home, built in McHenry County in 1836. Most of the rooms had rounded edges, in order to keep spirits from gathering in angular corners. According to various articles, the Stickneys held séances for wealthy guests from Chicago and tried to communicate with the spirit of their son, who had hanged himself in the house. Some reports said that there was just one squared-off corner in the house, a closet in an upstairs bedroom, and there George Stickney was found dead, apparently of heart failure. (Later remodeling eliminated most of the original interior.) Sylvia lived in the house for several more years, supposedly claiming that she was in contact with George’s spirit.

In recent decades, stories have circulated about weird occurrences in the house. Some were even passed along by a Bull Valley police chief, the late Norbert Sauers. (Today the village’s administrative offices are in the house.) According to a ghost hunter’s blog, Sauers said that village employees had heard footsteps in the old top-floor ballroom, now a locked storage space. He also claimed to have seen objects moving around on his desk, lights mysteriously turning off, and doorknobs turning inexplicably. He also claimed to have once heard someone shout in his ear when nobody else was around.

Luetgert Murder Site, Lake View
Adolph Luetgert had a sausage factory on Diversey Parkway. His house was around the corner on Hermitage Avenue—but because his marriage wasn’t going well, he slept at the factory and his wife, Louise, slept at the house.

As Robert Loerzel wrote in his 2003 book Alchemy of Bones, Louise disappeared in May 1897 after she was seen entering the factory late in the evening. Adolph later claimed that his wife had abandoned him and left the country, but he was arrested and charged with murder. It was believed he had dissolved her body in one of the sausage vats in his factory; some bone fragments and Louise’s wedding ring were found in the ashes of one vat.

Adolph died in jail a few years later, but Louise was said to still haunt the neighborhood. People said that they saw a woman in a white dress inside the empty house, sometimes leaning on the mantel. Some reports say tenants moved out after seeing her, and that when a later owner moved the house, he couldn’t shake the ghost—so he moved it back to its original location.

Louise’s ghost allegedly appears in the neighborhood on the anniversary of her death, May 1. The factory is still there, repurposed as condos, but the site of the house is now a parking driveway.

Givens Castle, Beverly
Built in 1886 as a residence, this replica of an Irish castle once served as a women’s college. A student is said to have died of the flu in the 1930s and haunted the place ever since. In the 1960s, a janitor reported having a conversation there with a young woman who vanished from sight, even though all the doors and windows were locked and he saw no footprints in the snow outside.

In the 1990s, the building was a Unitarian Church. The pastor reported to have seen a pair of female hands clasp her husband’s waist, though he claimed not to feel anything. There were also reports of a candle being carried upstairs past windows when nobody was in the building. Part of the building is now a preschool, where little ghosts and goblins are likely enjoying Halloween today.

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