Situated on the north side of Chicago on North Lincoln Avenue stands the Red Lion Pub. It happens to be directly across the street from the theatre where John Dillinger met his end when ambushed by federal agents in 1934. Built in 1882, it has been used over the years for many things, including a gambling hall, apartments, a laundry house and novelty shop, but has been run as a pub by John Cordwell, who acquired it in 1984. John died in February 1999 and his wife continues to run the pub currently. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it turns out that John was an architect and Chicago's city planner under the mayoralty of Martin Kennelly.
When John Cordwell acquired the pub, he proceeded with extensive renovations which resulted in some unusual goings on, one of which involved the installation of a stain glassed window. The window was installed in memory of John's father who had died in England. People started reporting feeling dizzy when passing it and sensing a presence along with the dizzy sensation. John Cordwell became convinced that the spirit of his father, who had never received a proper burial, was at fault,.
On our way home from a family visit in Chicago, we decided to drop in and have a soft drink and take a look around. The pub was virtually empty with the exception of the bartender, one patron and a woman at the back of the pub cleaning. When we entered the first thing the patron said to us was "the ghost hasn't made his appearance yet today". This was a most interesting comment since we had not even said hello to either gentleman yet.
We sat down and placed our order for a coke and club soda. The pub was obviously old and a bit worn, even shabby, but the weariness of it added to its charm. The sagging floor and the peeling paint actually spun you back in time to a 1930's English pub. I admit the feeling was unusual but comfortable. I asked if it was ok to take some shots of the pub while we waited for our drinks. The bartender was extremely friendly and said "No problem, make yourself at home". While taking photos, the woman sweeping up at the back of the pub approached me and asked me where we were from. I proceeded to tell her and decided to ask about the reputed ghosts that allegedly haunted the pub. That is when the conversation got interesting.
It turned out that the woman who was John Cordwell's widow is a celebrity in her own right. She is, in fact, Dr. Justine Cordwell, an Anthropologist who is famous in academic circles around the world. She was very friendly and open and volunteered to show us around the pub. She also told us we were free to go upstairs to explore the lounge bar, which was closed at the time.
According to Dr. Cordwell, one of the pub's employees, a server, was locked in the upstairs women's bathroom by unknown hands. Other employees realized she was locked in when they heard her screaming to get out. Another employee approached the door from the other side and the door opened when he simply turned the handle.
Dr. Cordwell also told us the story of a friend and pub regular, who went upstairs after closing one night to find the lounge upstairs looked peculiar to him. The layout was different and a scene being played out in front of him immediately attracted his attention. The end result was a young woman laying in the middle of the floor covered in blood. He screamed for help, which alerted those downstairs. Once John, the owner, came up the stairs to attend his friend, the friend claimed that everything was back to normal and the woman he saw was gone. It had left him terribly shaken.
There have also been reports of a ghost that looks somewhat like a cowboy in the main bar. He tends to call people by name then quickly disappears. The spirit of a mentally retarded girl, who died in the building in the 50's is said to push people while on the stairs and lock women in the bathroom. The scent of lavender has been noted by many throughout the pub every once in while, puzzling those who wonder where it is coming from.
Although I felt only a couple of minor things while at the pub, I could not tell you honestly whether or not it was actually haunted or just old and impressionable. I will say however, that if it is not haunted, it should be. If you happen to find yourself in Chicago, definitely visit this quaint site and enjoy the company, the food and the drink, your preference of spirit being optional. Oh and don't forget to say hi to John and his father.
The Red Lion Pub is located at 2446 North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.
Date: September 4 2002
Justine Cordwell, the owner, and Gary looking around upstairs.
Left to Right: Bartender, unknown patron, Gary
The old fireplace is situated at the front of the pub near the door.
Yup, this is a real English phone booth in the middle of the pub.