Excalibur Club Investigation

Date: October 8, 1999

Address: 632 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois 60654

Telephone: 312-266-1944

History: The famous architect, Henry Ives Cobb, (1859-1931), designed the second Chicago Historical Society building in 1892.  The Chicago Historical Society occupied the building from the 1890s until 1931; it was that organization’s need for a fireproof structure that accounts for the building’s granite-clad construction. The buildings later uses included the prestigious Institute of Design and recording studios for influential blues and rock n’ roll performers in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Cobb arrived in Chicago in 1881 and had received several significant commissions in the Chicago area, including the Newberry Library, the Chicago Opera House and Lake Forest College .  Born in Brookline , Massachusetts , in 1859, he had finished a preparatory course in architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1880, and then transferred to Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard where he obtained his degree.  Following in the footsteps of other noted architects, Cobb went abroad to study at the Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Paris , France .

After the Chicago Historical Society moved its headquarters to the Lincoln Park area, the building was used for various purposes including the Loyal Order of Moose, the WPA, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Gallery Magazine.  A nightclub Limelight was opened by Peter Gadien in 1985 until Fred Hoffmann purchased the building for 3.5 million dollars in January of 1989.  Hoffman spent about $1,000,000 in renovations. He opened Excalibur and Vision next door. The building was then closed in mid-2012. It was re-launched on December 31, 2012 as Castle Chicago. In May of 2014, the building was purchased by Four Corners Tavern Group, Inc.

The building is comprised of approximately 45,000 square feet, 17,000 of which were added in renovations.  The name “Excalibur” was derived from King Arthur’s magical sword while “Aura” was the Chicago Historical Society’s lecture hall/auditorium.  Within Aura, sometimes referred to as the “Dome Room” is a mural of the mythical god Zeus which was created by Paseka used to stare down upon patrons within the room.










Hauntings: Just after opening as the Limelight, it was alleged that the building was considered to be haunted.  Poltergeist activity, in particular, was encountered on the third floor landing of the Dome Room by the former Special Events Director.  Things would fall over by themselves and glasses would often fall and break without any living persons nearby.  Pool balls would move around certain pool tables as though “someone” was having at a game and employees would often hear their names being called in the empty building by someone they didn’t recognize.

The sounds of large crates or boxes were heard being dragged around the downstairs storage room but when opened, nothing was amiss.  Cold spots were reported in the past in the women’s restroom which was later plagued by crying sounds and faucets turning on by themselves. 

There are many rumors and legends associated with this location including that some of bodies from the Eastland tragedy were brought here and temporarily stored in the Dome Room.  This is absolutely untrue. Initially the bodies were brought to the Reid Murdoch Building across the river from the disaster and when it became apparent that this building was overflowed with bodies, they were then sent to the 2nd Regiment Armory, later the site of Harpo Studios where the Oprah Winfrey Show was taped.

Employees complain of candles relighting themselves in just a few seconds after having been blown out in preparation of closing the room.  An apparition of a small child has been seen on several occasions leaning over the second floor railing of the Dome Room.  When eye witnesses look back a few moments later, she is gone.  Surely what was seen was not legal age of entry to this establishment. 

Billy McFall, Excalibur’s former corporate supervisor, spoke of a number of strange and unusual events during a 1996 Chicago Sun-Times article.  Beer glasses were often found scattered about by the opening crew even though the motion detectors had not been set off by the motion.  A light blue colored figure of sorts was observed on two occasions floating up the stairs by McFall. 

One other alleged possibility is the persistent rumor that early Chicagoan John Lalime who lived very peacefully on a section of land on the banks of the Chicago River may haunt the club.  Lalime’s property was seized in 1803 by John Kinzie and Lalime was eventually killed by Kinzie and buried in Kinzie’s own backyard; the same property that he grabbed from Lalime.  Lalime’s bones were much later brought to the first Chicago Historical Society.  Could Lalime’s ghost be yet another attributed to Excalibur?  How about the reports of a lawyer allegedly committing suicide on the site?

The paranormal television show Sightings, hosted by Tim White, did a segment here in 1997 with psychic Jorianne De’Frey and, ghost hunter, Peter Moscow.  They apparently were also told that the Eastland victims were brought here in small numbers.  The psychic was quoted as hearing a child’s voice saying, “Stop and watch me.” 

Waitress, Julia Rosenwinkel at the time of the segment, heard a really small voice crying while washing her hands in an upstairs bathroom in the Dome Room.  Bartender, John Karrer, saw a white tuxedo figure reddish hair glowing behind a bar which once existed on the east end of the room.

On February 26, 1997, this building was designated a Chicago landmark.

In October of 1999, Exploring The Unknown from Fox Family TV, hosted by Mitch Pileggi from the X-Files produced a show here about Ouija Boards. The Ghost Research Society team was joined by author Stoker Hunt who wrote the book Ouija: Most Dangerous Game.






The Ghost Research Society investigated Excalibur on October 8, 1999. Team members included: Stan Suho, Lucy Solis, Howard Hight, Greg Maurer  and Dale Kaczmarek  









Equipment setup: The G.E.I.S.T. hardware was setup and the Negative Ion Detector and Tri-Field Natural EM Meter was connected to the device. Infrared and visible light cameras were employed. One filming the Ouija session table and another facing down the upstairs passage. Our Command Center was one floor above where the Ouija experiment table and participants were. Recording devices were also used to pick up any strange sounds.

Experiments performed: Howard Hight, Lucy Solis and Stoker Hunt were involved with the Ouija Board session. Hight and Solis were actual participants while Hunt took notes of any board movement towards letters or words.

Personal experiences: 

Dale Kaczmarek: There were some minor EMF spikes on the Tri-Field Natural EM meter that could have been something as this device does not pick up interior AC fields. Besides that no one in our group experienced anything out of the ordinary.

Evidence collected: No evidence was collected during this investigation. The group took a number of pictures which came out perfectly normal and videotape was also shot on which no anomalies were collected. 

Conclusions: This was a fascinating location to investigate given the past history of hauntings by numerous employees and patrons to this establishment. This entire investigation, albeit it was a television show primarily, was shot in visible light in daylight conditions and there were some sounds from other locations in the building due to the fact that employees were cleaning up in preparation for the evening's business. 

It wasn't an ideal scenario for collecting paranormal evidence and the board barely moved at all. It did spell out any words and never even moved close to a single letter. This location needs to be investigated under proper conditions for any credible evidence to be collected. 

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