Saturday, April 17, 2021

Account of Captain Edwin Eliaphron Bedee, in the Union army who was part of the historic tragedy witnessed President Lincoln get shot at Ford's Theatre.

Captain Edwin Bedee (1837-1908)
Captain Bedee was seated in the second row on the left side of the theatre in the back of the orchestra. A commanding view could be had of President Abraham Lincoln watching the play. The sound of a shot rang out above the actor's voice on stage. Captain Edwin Bedee stared as a man vaulted from the President's box onto the stage.

Little did  Edwin Bedee, 12th Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers, know when he enlisted, August 18, 1862, in Meredith, New Hampshire, that he would witness the tragic shooting of one of American's greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, on the fateful day of April 14, 1865.

When Captain Bedee saw the man drop onto the stage from the President's box, his first reaction was to pursue the fleeing assassin. Instead, Bedee, like the rest, listened as Booth boldly uttered the incredible words, "Revenge for the South!"

Sensing a catastrophe, Captain Bedee sprang from his chair, climbed over some rows, bolted past the orchestra and footlights, and across the stage in the direction Booth had disappeared.

A scream shattered the mounting noise. "They've got him!" Bedee presumed the assassin was caught. Another scream. It was Mrs. Lincoln.

"My husband is shot!" A doctor was called for. Captain Bedee reeled around and bounded across the stage towards the box. As he was scaling the box, a man appeared and stated he was a physician. Captain Bedee stepped aside, pushed the doctor up to the railing, and followed directly behind. Had the Captain not given assistance to the surgeon, he would have been the first to reach Lincoln. The only entrance to the box was believed locked by Booth when he slipped in to do his foul act, which apparently kept anyone from hastily entering from the outside passageway.

President Lincoln lay reclined in his chair, his head tilted back as though he were asleep. The doctor searched for the wound seeking some evidence of blood or torn clothing, the surgeon started to remove Lincoln's coat and unbutton his vest. Meanwhile, Captain Bedee was holding the president's head. Suddenly, he felt a warm wetness trickling into his hand. "Here is the wound, doctor," Captain Bedee said as one of his fingers slid into the hole in the back of Lincoln's head where the ball had only moments before forced an entry.

During the removal of some of the president's clothing, papers fell from his pocket. Mrs. Lincoln, apparently rational in spite of the shock of the calamity handed the packet to Captain Bedee remarking, "You are an officer, and won't you take charge of these papers?" Captain Bedee took the papers while she removed others from her husband's inner pocket and placed them in Dedee's hand.

By now others had gained entrance to the box through the door. One was a surgeon. Together the two doctors worked over the President and then Lincoln was removed to the house across the street from the theater, Bedee helped carry the dying man. He waited at the house where Secretary of War Stanton was soon to arrive. Upon the Secretary's arrival, Captain Bedee delivered the papers to him writing his own name and regiment upon the wrapper which Stanton placed around the documents. Secretary Stanton gave the Captain two assignments: first to go to the War Department with a message, and secondly, to contact the officer in command at Chain Bridge on matters dealing with the escaping assassin.

When the missions were completed Captain Bedee returned to Stanton. The Secretary thanked him for his diligence in handling the duties assigned to him and also for caring for the President's papers. He was then told to return to his post of duty.

The following day Captain Bedee was with his regiment. That evening an officer brought an order for the Captain's arrest. Apparent misunderstanding of the connections between Bedee, Lincoln's papers, and the assassination had made him a suspect within the War Department. Captain Bedee was so distraught that he telegraphed the department explaining the situation.

For two days Captain Bedee was kept under arrest. Finally, his release came, with an explanation of the confusion. Immediately the Captain wrote Secretary Stanton a personal letter stating that his honorable record during the war years would now have a very serious blemish if the details were not clarified. The Secretary wrote back explaining the error caused by the lower echelon in his department and gave proper acknowledgment to Captain Bedee for the commendable acts performed by him in the handling of Lincoln's papers. Thus the good captain was completely exonerated from any suspicious association with the murder of President Lincoln.

How did Captain Bedee happen upon this sorrowful moment of American history?
Edwin Bedee was born in Sandwich, New Hampshire, and grew up in the area. he was a printer by trade prior to the war. At 24 he enlisted and spent three months in a New York regiment but hastily returned to Meredith upon his release to join the 12th Volunteers, wanting to be with fellow New Hampshire men.

Mustered in as a sergeant major of the regiment, Bedee was soon promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. At the battle of Chancellorsville, he was wounded and yet assumed command of his regiment when those higher in command were either killed or unable to lead.

At Chancellorsville, Bedee's ability to make decisions under the pressure of battle was recognized, and he was promoted to captain. A year later, at Cold Harbor, Virginia, Captain Bedee was severely wounded. Recovering from his wounds, Bedee went back to action. This time he was captured at Bermuda Front, Virginia. He was paroled in February of 1865. Shortly thereafter, Captain Bedee was selected to serve on the staff of General Potter and went to Washinton on special duty. On Friday evening, April 14, 1865, be decided to attend Ford's Theatre.

The play was "Our American Cousin." It was being performed for the last time. Captain Bedee was fortunate to obtain a seat for the house was sold out. In fact, his seat gave him a full view of the President's box and its occupants. Because the audience was laughing at the antics on stage at the time, few heard the shot that felled the President.

A month after this tragic and involved affair, Captain Bedee was promoted to the rank of Major. Soon he was mustered out of the army along with his regiment.

When the war was over, Major Bedee caught the speculating craze and was lured to the South African diamond fields. But within a few years, he sold out, returning to Boston, and established himself as a successful diamond trader.

During his later years, Major Bedee, now a man of moderate wealth gave generously to the churches and other institutions in the town of Meredith. He purchased a statue in honor of the 12th Regimental Volunteers and had it placed on the lawn of the Meredith Public Library.

Major Bedee died at the famous Pemigewassett House in Plymouth, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1908, just five days after his 71st birthday. He never married. His body lies in the Meredith cemetery beneath a simple monument.

Little, if any, recognition has even been given Major Bedee in many accounts written on Lincoln's death because his role was that of a dutiful officer acting in a crisis. Had the circumstances surrounding Lincoln's personal and official papers not been so minor in the wake of such a tragic event, Major Bedee might have become nationally exposed as a suspect in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln. His innocence brought oblivion.
A typical style of many Civil War statues. Major Edwin E. Bedee's monument to the 12th New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment has a colorful history. The regiment participated in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor. Local soldiers reportedly sustained the highest percentage of casualties of any unit in the Union Army. Major Bedee himself was injured twice and later spent several months in a Rebel prison camp. Bedee paid for the statue because he wished "to keep alive the memory of our fallen brave."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Plaza Hotel, 1553 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Perhaps the most quintessential Warren hotel, the Plaza was built from 1891-92 at 1553 N. Clark Street, at the southeast corner of Clark and North Avenue. The Plaza was an eight-story hotel with 100-foot frontage on North Avenue and 225 feet of frontage on Clark Street. The hotel was erected in three sections separated by light wells, with oriels and bay windows providing additional light, breezes, and views.
Note the Hasty Tasty Coffee Shop. 1964

The Plaza follows closely the plan, exterior form, and general functional arrangement of the two Michigan Avenue hotel buildings, the Metropole and the Lexington. The uniformity and the regularity of the street elevations make this hotel one of Warren's best.
Like Warren’s other work, particularly the Metropole, Lexington, and Kenmore Apartments (at 47th and Lake Park), the hotel prominently featured six of Warren’s trademark rounded, cylindrical corners along Clark Street, which extended turret windows from the second floor to the flat, corniced roofline. Unlike several of Warren’s other buildings, the hotel was situated on the northwest edge of one of Chicago’s wealthiest and most desirable neighborhoods—the Gold Coast—and afforded its guest's excellent views of the lake and Lincoln Park.

The fortunate positioning of the hotel in a stable neighborhood allowed it to be more economically successful throughout its life. Ernest Hemingway courted his first wife Elizabeth Hadley Richardson at the Plaza shortly before they moved to Paris in the early 1920s. The Hemingways had their honeymoon at another Warren building, the nearby Virginia Hotel. Even as other Warren hotels suffered from age and neglect after World War II, the Plaza remained a mostly respectable hotel until its final years.

In the mid-1960s, a large urban residential redevelopment project called Sandburg Village to the south and west of the hotel changed the dynamic of the area. The land and prominent corner that the Plaza occupied became more valuable than the aging facility could sustain. In 1968, the Plaza was razed; the Latin School, an exclusive Catholic college prep school was built on the site.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Transfer Station in Decatur, Illinois.

 The station being moved to its new location.

The Transfer House is a historic structure situated in Central Park in Decatur, Illinois. It was built in 1896 and designed by William Boyington, who also designed the Chicago Water Tower. It served as one of the main electric streetcar transfer stations in the city.

Decatur was an early adopter of streetcar electrification. In 1889, the Citizens' Street Railway became the Citizens' Electric Street Railway, with a plan to electrify its horsecar lines. Electric streetcar service began on August 28, 1889. In 1891, the company was reorganized as the City Electric Railway. This became the Decatur Traction and Electric Company in 1899. It was sold to the William McKinley interests, which became the Illinois Traction System (ITS), in 1900. After December 1903, the company was known as the Decatur Railway and Light Company.

The Transfer House was erected in 1895, replacing a smaller shelter dating from 1892. The City Electric Railway paid $500 toward the $2700 building fund subscribed by local merchants and property owners and agreed to furnish and maintain the building. As its name implies, it was used as a central transfer point for all the streetcar lines (and later the bus lines) in the city.

The structure became a main focal point in the city and community events and gatherings were held at the square. Three presidents gave speeches from the open-air bandstand on the second level. The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Ridership on the streetcar and interurban lines declined in the 1950s and the Transfer House became a bus station. It was moved to Central Park in 1962 and renovated in the 1970s. It remains a landmark in the city today.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The History of the House of Sunshine, 1200 East Union Avenue, Litchfield, Illinois.

The House of Sunshine is a symbol of goodwill. It was in the early 1920s that a small publishing business was started in Litchfield (45 miles North-northeast of St. Louis, Missouri), based on the theory that goodwill is more surely the basis of success for the business and professional man today than it was two thousand years ago when the Man of Galilee went about spreading sunshine.

This idea resulted in the issuing, in January 1924, of the initial number of a publication which shortly after was named "Sunshine Magazine." At the same time an auxiliary business publication, called "Rays of Sunshine," was issued, intended for distribution by business and professional men as a means of manifesting goodwill to patrons and prospects. This was the result of a study by H.F. Henrichs, who had for a number of years been a newspaper editor and publisher, and also a newspaper business broker.
The idea clicked, and the circulation of Rays of Sunshine grew so rapidly that before long four additional monthly publications were launched.

The mechanical production of these publications proved to be a problem. Various places in Litchfield helped in this capacity. While the editorial office was first located over Walter Holderread's drug store, corner of State and Ryder Streets, the forms for printing the publications were imposed in a small printing plant owned by Max Sallee, located in the rear of his father's optometry office on West Kirkham Street. The actual printing was done in the News-Herald plant.

Later, printing equipment was acquired and installed in a rear room of the old Litchfield Hotel, formerly occupied by Mrs. Ellen (Heise) Roberts as a restaurant. But after a few months the shop was moved to a small room in the Holderread Building, near Dr. Blackwelder's office.

Finding this arrangement inadequate, the shop was sold, and the printing of the Sunshine publications was let to a large publishing house in St. Louis, Missouri. The editorial office was moved to the Allen Building, opposite the Post Office, and later to the Pappmeier Building, on the south side of the Carnegie Library square.

The publications had grown to proportions of national aspect, with sponsors in various parts of the country. It became evident that new quarters were necessary to give the business more room and the needed atmosphere. This led to the construction, in 1940, of the House of Sunshine, which immediately attracted wide attention. But the business soon outgrew what at first appeared to be spacious quarters.

In 1948 the owners acquired the 10-acre park area in the eastern section of Litchfield from the Davis estate and later purchased additional acreage from Charles Sammons, for the purpose of providing larger quarters for the enterprise.

Early in its history, the publishing business was divided into two partnerships, viz., The Sunshine Press, publishing Sunshine Magazine, and The Henry F. Henrichs Publications, producing a line of goodwill business "magazets," a word coined by the owners. Members of the Henrichs family constituted the two co-partnerships.

The House of Sunshine was designed in the motif of the Norman Early American classics. Its architecture is authentic, and unusual in American building construction. Many of its appointments and decorations, both exterior and interior, are of the original design. The second-floor studio includes an amplifying sound system, electric organ, piano, antique music boxes, and tape recording equipment. The public entertainment features are offered solely for civic and patriotic reasons, intended to contribute to the welfare and goodwill of the community."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Monarch Pipe and Welding Company, 730 West Harrison Street, Chicago, December 1946.

Note the Chicago Street Paver Bricks and Street Car Tracks.

The Monarch Pipe and Welding Company stood at 730 West Harrison Street, a predominately Greek neighborhood. This building would not last much past 1955 when the demolition of the neighborhood began to build the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway, 29.84 miles completed in 1972, and in 1978, signed as Interstate 290. 

"The geography of Greektown has changed dramatically over the years, as it once was sprawling and much larger than the few city blocks it encompasses today. 

In the 1960s the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway and the University of Illinois at Chicago displaced the ethnic neighborhood and forced it to move a few blocks north and much of the neighborhood disbursed to other existing Greek settlements such as Ravenswood, Woodlawn, and South Shore. Today, the small strip on Halsted is typically hailed as the heart of Greektown as the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) looks over the town in the distance." 
Today: City of Chicago Cermak Pumping Station, 730 West Harrison Street, Chicago.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Unbelievable Story of the Chicago Congress Plaza Hotel, and its Haunted History.

Originally constructed in 1893, the "Auditorium Annexopened in 1893 featuring public areas using Chicago Street Paver Bricks, gaslights, and horse-drawn carriages. The hotel was built to accommodate the throngs of visitors expected from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition
The first section, the north tower, of the Auditorium Annex.

The original conception was an annex with a façade designed to complement Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building across the street, which at that time housed a remarkable hotel, theater, and office complex.

The Auditorium Annex was built by famous hotel developer R.H. Southgate. The first section, or north tower, was designed by Clinton Warren, with Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler serving as consultants.
Peacock Alley, Circa 1908.

“Peacock Alley,” a celebrated feature of the new hotel, was an underground marble passageway that connected the new hotel annex with the Auditorium Theatre.

The south tower, constructed between 1902 and 1907, was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Holabird and Roche. It included a magnificent banquet hall, now known as the Gold [Ball] Room, which would become the first hotel ballroom in America to use air-conditioning. 

Another ballroom, called the Florentine [Ball] Room, was added to the North Tower in 1909. These two famous public rooms combined with the Elizabethan Room and the Pompeian Room hosted Chicago’s most elite social events.

Over the years, various owners have updated the hotel in continuous efforts to keep pace with the conveniences offered by modern accommodations properties. Even the name has been changed. By 1908, the hotel had created its own identity and boasted about its 1,000+ guest rooms.

To differentiate the Auditorium Annex Hotel from the "Auditorium Theatre" on the north side of Congress Street, it was renamed "The Congress Hotel." The new name was derived from its location on the southwest corner of Congress Street and Michigan Avenue and across Michigan Avenue from the Congress Plaza in Grant Park. 

The next fifty years brought a succession of owners and improvement programs to the Congress Hotel. A 1916-17 guestroom enhancement project altered the lighting scheme by substituting electrical outlets and desk lamps for hanging chandeliers

The original bathroom plumbing fixtures were replaced in a 1923-24 renovation. In the early 1930s, the former Elizabethan Room on the ground floor was transformed into a stylish nightclub featuring a revolving bandstand. Renamed the Joseph Urban Room, it would become the 1935-36 headquarters for an NBC Radio show featuring the legendary Benny Goodman.
Benny Goodman And His Orchestra, live from the Urban Room at the Congress Hotel In Chicago. Originally Aired January 6, 1936, 30 minute program.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the Government purchased the Congress Hotel and used it as a headquarters for U.S. Army officers. In 1945, a group of Chicagoans banded together to purchase the hotel and reopened it to the public. Five years later, Pick Hotel Corporation purchased the property and embarked on a multi-million dollar remodeling and modernization program. The 1950-52 renovation involved the creation of a mural-encircled lobby, new front desk, new corridors, new third-floor public rooms, new Congressional and Presidential Suites, and a new supper club called the "Glass Hat."
The New Glass Hat — Congress Hotel, Chicago
Chicago's smartest Supper Club! A completely new room, located at the south end of the world-famous Peacock Alley, offering the finest in luxurious dining, dancing, and entertainment. Michigan Avenue at Congress Street.

In the early 1960s, another modernization program included the construction of a new ballroom and the addition of escalators, a novelty for hotels during that era. Even though the hotel building boom during those years, the Congress Hotel retained its unique character by blending the old with the new. In contrast to many of the formulaic hotel chains and their standardized property layouts, the Congress Hotel guest rooms and suites remain larger, with high ceilings, large bathrooms, and wider window expanses.

The abundant public spaces, large lobby, and long corridors providing freedom of movement rarely seen in the tighter confines of space-saving properties built as a place to sleep rather than a family destination, a business meeting, or getaway spot.

Many famous people stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel, including several U.S. Presidents. In fact, the hotel was once known as the “Home of Presidents” among Chicago hotels. Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt all rallied their partisans to discuss campaign strategies in the heart of Chicago.
"The White House presented this chair to the owners of the Congress Hotel. It was a favorite of Presidents Polk, VanBuren, Harrison, and Harding... and it's a favorite of ours too!"

The Congress Plaza Hotel has played a prominent role in some of Chicago’s most important and famous political conventions. Many memorable interviews, caucuses, and deliberations were staged here. In 1912, former President Teddy Roosevelt’s comment to the local media coined the famous “Bull Moose” nickname for his newly created Progressive Party. In 1932, the hotel was back in the limelight serving as the command post for President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.

During the summer of 1952, a national television audience was given a front-row seat with the Republican Credentials Committee as they gathered in the Gold [Ball] Room. In 1971, nearly 3,000 people packed the Great Hall when President Richard Nixon addressed the Midwest Chapters of the AARP and National Retired Teachers Association.

NOTE: There are a lot of versions of these stories all over the Internet. I did quite a bit of research on each one of the following folklore, myth, half-true, fictional stories, and present the truth or the most plausible versions. This section is for entertainment purposes only.

The Myth: One of the most notable and notorious residents of the Congress Hotel was said to be Al Capone supposedly residing in a suite on the 8th floor of the North Tower. Rumor has it that Capone and his cohorts ran their headquarters from the hotel and at one time owned the hotel for a while. There have been whispers about Capone's Chicago Outfit committing gruesome crimes at the hotel. His spirit is said to haunt the halls. These claims have come under scrutiny.

The Truth: Al Capone never actually stayed at the Congress Hotel, at least not under his own name, but guests and employees claim to see Capone's ghost from time to time, walking the halls and hearing the clickety-clack of his two-tone wingtip shoes. Why would Capone haunt the Congress Hotel anyway?

Other less notorious but just as notable names haunting the hotel halls. Hotel staff and guests have reported, and named, a ghostly figure of "Peg-Leg Johnny," who appears to be a hobo. Little is known about this vagrant. Sightings of him have been reported lurking around the South Tower, in guest rooms on different floors, the hotel lobby, and dining areas. The incorrigible spirit turns lights and electronics on and off, and generally scares and causes havoc for guests. It's thought that Johnny had been murdered in the hotel sometime in the early half of the 19th century. 
Illustration for entertainment purposes only.

Then there's the workman who supposedly got buried behind the balcony of the Gold [Ball] Room in the plaster wall when the hotel was being built. The hand is called the "Hand of Mystery," referring to his gloved hand. It’s deteriorated enough that it’s clearly not just a work glove that was plastered over. For the record, the wall it’s coming out of isn’t nearly thick enough for anyone to be buried in it.
The "Hand of Mystery" appears to have fingers and a thumb.

Staff at the Congress Hotel report electrical appliances turning on and off on their own, whispering women, humming men, phantom gunshots, and Teddy Roosevelt's ghost has been seen in the Florentine [Ball] Room in the wee hours of the morning. Several security guards have sold stories about hearing music coming from the Ballroom. The piano plays itself (it's not a player piano either). Not a whole sonata or anything, just a few random notes, but a note or two is enough to give anybody the willies. It's also rumored that some of the bridesmaids at wedding parties who gather around the piano for photographs do not show up in the pictures. This is another place at the Congress Hotel where some employees don’t like to go near.
The Original Florentine Room.

Spookier-looking than the Florentine [Ball] Room, there’s really not as much ghost activity here. One guard reported that he’d seen Peg Leg Johnny here once. There are stories about the adjacent kitchen area, though. Disconnected equipment is said to start by itself—while unplugged.
The Gold [Ball] Room.

The Shadow Guy gets reported by guests a lot—a shadowy figure who shows up and scares the bejeebers out of people. One security guard said he chased the shadow up to the roof one time, but then the apparition vanished. After searching the Chicago Tribune archives, I believe, with a high degree of surety, that I found out who the Shadow Guy was.

Chicago Tribune, April 1900
Captain Louis Ostheim, First United States Artillery, was found dead in his room at the Auditorium Annex at 9 o'clock last night, Sunday, April 8, 1900. There was a bullet wound in his right temple. Under his body was a new revolver. The body lay on the side. Life apparently had been extinct since Saturday night. 

According to announcements in the Chicago papers Captain Louis Ostheim and Mrs. Eva Bruce Wood were to be married today at the residence of the bride's uncle, Walter B. Phister, 479 Kenwood Avenue. Only members of family were to be present. After the ceremony, Captain Ostheim and his bride were to leave immediately for the East, visiting Philiadelphia, the Captain's former home, and other cities. After May 1 they were to be at home at Fort Screven, Savanah, Georgia, where the Captain's battery is stationed.

Among the articles found in the Captain's room were two wedding rings. One was of heavy gold and inscribed as follows: "EVA TO LOUIS - April 9, 1900".  The other, was smaller and more delicately made. Inside was engraved: "LOUIS TO EVA - April 9, 1900."

The Captain was last seen alive on Saturday night at 9 o'clock, when he asked Clerk Arthur O'Connell for the key to his room. The cause of the suicide was a mystery. Nothing was left in the room to throw any light on the matter. This is the first case of self-destruction reported at the Auditorium Annex since it began business six years ago.

The Myth: Guests that stayed in room number 666 in the North Tower (the room number kept changing until they, hotel staff and tour guides, finally settled on room 441 as the one being haunted) made more calls to security and the front desk than those staying in any other room in the hotel. People reported seeing the dark figure of a woman who kicks or shakes them awake while in bed. Reports of seeing objects moving and hearing terrifying noises have also been reported. The room inspired Stephen King to write his famous 1999 short story "1408," about a hotel room that is notorious for causing suicides (1408 was released as a full-length film in 2007). The room is so frightening that the door was sealed shut.
Room 666 Removed Door and Sealed Shut at the Congress Hotel, Chicago.

The Facts: The stories that one room is so haunted they had to lock it shut probably grew from old stories about room 666 being sealed off; a storage closet occupies the space where room 666 would be, as told to me on the phone April 15, 2021 by the hotel office. The stories about room 441 being the most haunted are fairly recent. For a long time, tour guides would just come up with a random room number when they talked about which room was the most haunted. It seems like they've settled on room 441 after it was written about a few times and ghost tour companies started repeating it on their tours. 

The story about Congress Hotel's most haunted guest room being the basis of Stephen King’s book and movie titled "1408" is outright fiction that author and parapsychology enthusiast Ursula Bielski [1] made up [2] for one of her books. Bielski claims in her book that “some researchers have come to the conclusion” that King used the Congress Hotel story as the basis for writing "1408," but didn’t say who the researchers were or how they arrived at that conclusion. Stephen King himself never mentions the Congress Hotel in his intro to “1408.” King says that it’s his attempt at the old “haunted room at the inn” story that every horror writer should eventually try writing.

Not to be outdone, the spirit of a young boy has been reported running around the 13th floor of the north tower of the Congress Hotel. He and his brother were thrown out the window by their mother, followed immediately by the mother jumping to her death. 

Like Peg-Leg Johnny, the boy has spent decades being mischievous, but his shenanigans are largely limited to chasing guests, moving furniture, and the like. No sightings of his mother have ever been reported.

Chicago Tribune, August 1939
Mrs. Adele Langer
An appeal to President Roosevelt to permit persecuted European refugees to remain in America beyond the time fixed in their temporary immigration permits, was dispatched yesterday by the Czech National Alliance of America.

The plea, contained in a letter signed by  R.A. Ginsburg, was prompted by the death plunge from the 13th floor of North Tower of the Congress Hotel in Chicago last Thursday, August 3, 1939, of Mrs. Adele Langer, 43, a Jewish refugee from Nazi occupied of Czechoslovakia, and her two small sons, Jan Misha, 4½, and Karel Tommy, 6. The Langers were in America with their husband and father, Karel Langer, Sr., 46 years old, on a six months' visitation visa. Karel Langer, who until Hitler's march on Czechoslovakia was owner of the $1.5 million ($28,408,000 today) Hynek Marprles textile mills in Prague. He sold the firm, the largest in the counrty, voluntarily, but for a nominal sum that they might escape, and escape quickly. "I practically gave it away to my oldest employes."
A coronor's jury decided that Mrs. langer plunged to her death with her sons while temporarily insane. The insanity arose from despondency at having been forced to leave her home and relatives in Prague to escape Nazi persecution of Jews.

A triple funeral for the Langers will be held this morning at the Bohemian National Cemetery [5255 N Pulaski Road Chicago] - (Pulaski Road was known as Crawford Avenue until 1935)

NOTE: The Nazi Germany occupation of Czechoslovakia began with the German annexation of Sudetenland in 1938, continued with the March 1939 invasion of the Czech lands and creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. WWII begins on September 1, 1939. Not a good time for Jews to be sent back to Czechoslovakia because their visitation visa is about to expire.

While the Congress Hotel was clearly teeming with apparitions, the hotel’s creepiest legacy is connected to one of its real-life patrons, America’s first serial killer, Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes (H.H. Holmes). Holmes is known to have loitered around the Auditorium Annex Hotel lobby in search of new victims. He was remembered most recently in the book "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, where a retelling of Holmes’ story reveals that the psychopath would lure young women back to his "Murder Castle" at 601-603 West 63rd Street and torture them to death.
H.H. Holmes Murder Castle on the corner of Wallace and 63rd streets in Chicago. The 63rd Street View. Circa 1890s

Legend has it that a lone man roams the eighth floor, where the elevator is said to frequently stop and doors open and close, even though no one is inside or pushed the button to call the elevator from the floor foyer.

The Congress Hotel uses the stories of these hauntings as a marketing tool. No guests that I know of have ever been injured by a ghost or spirit.

NOTE:  Originally named "Auditorium Annex," then changed to the "Congress Plaza Hotel," then renamed to the "Congress Hotel," then the "Pick Congress Hotel" and today, it's called the "The Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center." You can call the hotel at (312) 427-3800 and hear how they answer their phones.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Ursula Bielski authored and co-authored these Chicago area historical FICTION books:
  • Chicago Haunts: Ghostly Lore of the Windy City - 10/1997; 10/1998
  • Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries - 11/1999; 10/2013
  • More Chicago Haunts: Scenes from Myth and Memory - 10/2000
  • Creepy Chicago: A Ghosthunter's Tales of the City's Scariest Sites - 8/2003
  • Chicago Haunts 3: Locked up Stories from an October City - 8/2009
  • Haunts of the White City: Ghost Stories from the World's Fair, the Great Fire and Victorian Chicago - 9/2019
  • The Haunting of Joliet Prison: The Brutal Past & Paranormal Present of One of the World's Most Notorious Penitentiaries - 8/2020 
[2] On good authority from Author and Historian, Adam Selzer, who worked for Ursula Bielski for a time. While he worked for her Selzer called out Ursula about the fake Stephen King story, and Bielski said, “Well, it makes a good story.” 

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Reuben Moore Home in Campbell, Illinois, within the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.

Moore Home Historical Site, Farmington, Illinois—fully restored the way it would have been in 1861.

John Adams laid out this land in Pleasant Grove Township in 1852 hoping to build a town. Lots were available to anyone who could afford them. First named Farmington after Mrs.Adams’ Tennessee birthplace, this name was not officially recognized as there was already a Farmington in Fulton County. Campbell became the official name after Zeno Campbell moved the nearby post office into town shortly after its organization. The town has since been known by both names, Farmington and Campbell.

An artist conception of Farmington Illinois from an 1869 plat map.

  1. Moore Home - Built in the 1850s by Reuben Moore, Owned by the Inyart family.
  2. W.H. Halbrook - One of the original houses dating to the 1860s.
  3. Presbyterian Church - The location of the second building, built in 1866.
  4. J.J. Adams - An original house dating to the 1850s or 1860s and owned by the town founder.
  5. Dr. G. Halbrook - Probably where this doctor lived and practiced.
  6. Store - May have been run by Halbrook and Reed.
  7. Seminary - Built in 1853, used as a school and church, then later as a store.
  8. Store - Probably owned by Leander Burlingame.
  9. Matilda Moore lived in a log house here by 1869.
  10. Dr. Melson Freeman - Original house owned by the Freemans from 1863 until they moved to Charleston in 1893.
  11. Methodist Church - Location of Church built in 1860, current church dates to 1920s.
Farmington enjoyed its heyday in the 1870s when it had grown to about 100 residents. It boasted four stores, a carriage shop, blacksmith shop, steam flour mill, school, and two churches. The boom days, however, were short-lived. When the railroad passed up Farmington in favor of Jamesville a few miles to the south, local residents moved elsewhere. Today, only a few houses and a church remind passersby of the village.

One of the houses built in the town of Farmington in the 1850s was the house belonging to Reuben Moore. Moore was a well-to-do landowner involved in farming and land speculation. He and his first wife Mary emigrated to Coles County in 1839. In 1840, he traded 80 acres of land to Thomas Lincoln, which today is Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. After his wife Mary died in 1855, Reuben married Matilda "Tildy" Anne Johnston Hall, Abraham Lincoln’s stepsister.

The Moore Home is a frame house constructed from rough-sawn 2x4 framing, lathe and plaster interior, and clapboard siding. Reuben Moore owned four city lots in Farmington. This included lot numbers 14, 15, 16, and 17, bordered on the east by Main Street, on the west by Washington, and by Jefferson on the north. Many people kept livestock in town so owning several lots was not uncommon. Space was also needed for a kitchen garden and a small orchard. Our concept of space within a town today is much different than that of the 1850s.

The Moore Home prior to 1930s restoration.

On January 31, 1861, president-elect Abraham Lincoln visited the Moore Home and Coles County for the last time before his inauguration as president of the United States. Sarah Lincoln was staying with her daughter Matilda Johnston Hall Moore in Farmington while repairs were being made to the cabin at Goosenest Prairie. Lincoln visited his father’s grave at Shiloh Cemetery while the women of the town “brought their nicest cakes and pies, baked turkeys, and chickens” to the Moore Home. He found upon his return “tables set clear from one end of the house to another,” filled with food for a grand dinner. After dinner, Lincoln bid farewell to his stepmother. She embraced him and said, “My dear boy, I always thought there was something great in you.” He returned to Charleston that night in order to catch the train to Springfield the next day.

Reuben Moore married Matilda Johnston Hall on June 19, 1856. There were six children in the family, three from Reuben’s previous marriage and two from Matilda’s. A sixth child, named Giles, was born to Reuben and Matilda in 1856. The marriage of Reuben and Matilda was not a happy one, for when he died in July of 1859, he had all but disowned her. Matilda sued Moore’s estate for her “dower rights” and won title to the house and one-third of Moore’s estate. Miles Moore, Reuben’s oldest son, inherited most of the remainder of his father’s property.

The smokehouse was used to smoke meats after at-home butchering of a hog. It was common to use hickory wood to flavor the hams, bacon, and such.
The Smokehouse behind the Moore house.

Inside views of the Moore Home show it as a very colorful and beautiful little house. It is quite a contrast to the 1845 log homes on and near Thomas Lincoln's Farm Site.

In an era when log homes with fireplaces dotted the countryside, the Moore Home represented a more urban style of home. It has plaster walls, clapboard siding, wood-burning stoves, and balloon frame construction
The hearth and mantle of the living room are very warm and inviting. Note the stencil designs, not wallpaper, on the walls.

A rope mattress bed with a quilt.

The home consists of four rooms and a loft furnished to show the living conditions of a middle-class family after the Civil War. The State of Illinois acquired the Moore Home in 1929. The Civilian Conservation Corps renovated the home in the 1930s. At that time, the original brick foundation piers were replaced with a concrete foundation and the frame was built with a sag to make the house look “old." 
The Kitchen Stove.
The dining area of the kitchen.

The carpet is made up of woven rug squares. The furniture is like what would be used in the house in 1861.

Beginning in 1996, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency restored the house to its original appearance, complete with a brick foundation, no sagging floor, correctly-sized windows, stenciled walls, and painted exterior.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.