Entering the grand lobby of the Drake Hotel in Chicago is like stepping into another place and time. A time in the windy-city’s history when glamour and excess were the fashion, and crime, violence, and murder were the added accessories. In life, the spirits who still roam the ballrooms and suites of the Drake Hotel were known for their extreme wealth and power. In death, however, these tragic souls are most remembered for their violent and brutal ends.
The Drake Hotel was built in 1920 by brothers John and Tracy Drake. At the time of its opening, this now haunted hotel was seen as the epitome of style and status. Throughout its history, celebrities from around the world have flocked to the opulent structure, designed in the Italian Renaissance Style.
The Lady in Red
The Drake Hotel is definitely a place to “see and be seen”. But, from its very first day in business, this Chicago landmark has been plagued by scandal and death. Starting with the hotel’s most famous ghost, the “Lady in Red”.
One can only imagine her excitement as she examined the dazzling chandeliers overhead. The Gold Coast Room, one of many palatial event spaces at the Drake Hotel, was intimidating to her at first. Its massive columns and soaring ceilings made her feel small and unimportant. But, as the band began to play, and her loving fiancé swept her onto the dance floor, any fears she might have had about that night’s New Year’s Eve Gala, were lost to the music. Over 2,000 of Chicago’s most celebrated citizens were there to celebrate the opening of the Drake Hotel. The night was young and the champagne was flowing.
The clock was nearing midnight and her fiancé was nowhere to be found. She had spent so much time dancing with strangers, all wanting a turn with the young lady in the blood-red dress, that she hadn’t noticed him leave the ballroom. He probably needed a breather, and headed back to their room, she thought. So, she grabbed a champagne bottle and made her way to the 10th floor in search of her betrothed.
The door to her room was unlocked. She paused for a moment, then shook her head. He must have had too much to drink. The thought made her smile. The young lady in red opened the door quietly, hoping not to disturb her fiancé’s rest. But, what she found inside, left her breathless.
Her fiancé tried to explain that this other woman in bed was just a friend. This was all one bigmisunderstanding! But, she knew exactly what was happening, and suddenly felt very alone.
She slammed the door shut and ran down the hallway of the 10th floor until she reached theelevator. She rode all the way to the top, to the roof, and stepped into the icy Chicago night air.With one last look at her beloved city and all of its broken promises, she jumped.
Guests at the Drake Hotel still encounter the hopeless Lady in Red, roaming the halls of the10th floor. She can also be seen lingering near the Gold Coast Room, and the Palm Court.Perhaps she is looking for one last dance.
Other high-profile phantoms residing at the Drake Hotel are the grieving parents of BobbyFranks. Although fifteen-year-old Bobby did not perish at the hotel, his terrible story still hauntsthe place. Son of Chicago businessman Jacob M. Franks, and Mother Flora, Bobby was killedby a pair of young men known as “Leopold and Loeb”, two well-off University of Chicagostudents who committed the atrocity for a bit of fun. Following the trial, the parents sold theirestate and moved into the Drake Hotel. They never moved out. Jacob sustained a fatal heartattack in 1928, just four years after the death of his teenage son. Nine years later, Florafollowed.
The intense sorrow of losing a loved one to a heinous crime, especially a child, leaves a deepimprint. From their suite at the Drake Hotel, Jacob and Flora Franks continue to mourn the lossof their dear Bobby, almost one hundred years later.
The Woman in Black
The final ghost story attached to this historic hotel is one of mystery and cold-blooded murder.The unfortunate victim was fifty-eight year old Chicago socialite, Adele Born Williams. Afterreturning to her suite on the eighth floor, Adele and her daughter entered to find a womandressed in a black, fur-coat. What was she doing there? Some stories say she was hiding out,waiting to execute the wealthy matron and her daughter for reasons unknown. Others say shewas caught in the act of stealing the many jewels and riches hidden in Adele’s suitcases.Whatever the reason, the stranger pulled out a gun and fired.
Adele’s daughter was lucky. The shooter missed her completely. Adele, however, was not, and received a shot straight to the head. Having done the deed, the Woman in Black tore from the room, bolted down the hallway of the eighth floor, and disappeared down the stairwell.
Adele Williams was dead and the only suspect was a mysterious Woman in Black. Who was she? Did she work at the hotel? Was she a hitman? The police were never able to find out, and the crime remains unsolved to this day.
The Woman in Black is said to haunt the eighth floor of the Drake Hotel. The police may not have been able to identify her in life, but in death she is trapped forever, perpetually fleeing the scene of the crime.
The Drake Hotel is just one of many haunted places in downtown Chicago. Head to the Congress Plaza Hotel for a glimpse of notorious crime boss Al Capone, a frequent guest at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. Graceland Cemetery on Clark Street is another perfect location for ghost hunting. Local legend claims that if you stare into the eyes of its famous statue, the “Eternal Silence”, you may see a vision of your own death!