The Tonic Room – Chicago, Illinois
It’s October and all this month we’ll be exploring haunted drinking establishments - restaurants, taverns, wineries; any place that serves spirits … and has “spirits.”
Let’s hit the road and discover who or what it is that makes these places so dark and brooding…
First stop this year is considered one of the Top 10 Haunted Bars in Illinois. (It comes in at #4.) The Tonic Room in Lincoln Park, Illinois was built in 1894 and has had a long and sordid history.
The building was used as a brothel for years. Then, in the 1920s, the Lincoln Park neighborhood became rife with gangs and crime. The building became a speakeasy during Prohibition and was a favorite hang out for member of the Irish North Side Gang; the same gang that had six of its members gunned down in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Nearby, stands the Biograph Theatre where gangster John Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI in 1934. Today there remains a tunnel, now closed off, that runs under North Halsted Street that gang members used as a quick escape route through the city in the 1920s and 30s.
When the gangsters left the building in the 1930s, the Chicago chapter of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical society dedicated to spiritual, psychic and occult practices, took up residence there. The Windy City has been home to the group for almost a century and the Tonic Room may still reverberate from some of the group’s rumored events including a ritual sacrifice that was said to have taken place in the basement during that time.
In the 1969 and the early ‘70s, the building was home to the occult shop, El-Sabarum, operated by Frederic De’Arechanga who claimed he was a mystic. While he sold herbs and candles upstairs, De’ Arechanga used the basement as a pagan temple for his newly founded Sabaean religious order, Temple of the Moon. The Sabean religion he created was based on his interpretation of the practices of Egyptian Mythology, Babylonian, and Sumarian myth along with ancient African theologies. Some said the Sabaean also practiced sacrifices during their rituals. De’Arechanga changed his name to Odun and vacated the building in 1974.
Since the late 1990s, there have been reports of strange apparitions flitting through the building's basement, and ghostly fogs in the upstairs bar area. Some say this may link back to the rituals enacted there. During renovations on the building, a sacrificial dagger was discovered hidden in the basement walls along with the remains of a pentagram found painted on the floor.
Workers also uncovered Egyptian iconography painted on the basement ceiling. Whispering and chanting can still be heard at odd hours in the basement, and one former worker reported being pinned down on the basement floor by “something” he couldn’t see.
|The Tonic Room|
Today, the Tonic Room is a great venue for live music in the city, and if you’re interested in seeing if the place still gives off a mysterious vibe, check out the web page for a current listing of bands and events. Regardless of the spook factor, you’re sure to have an out-of-this-world evening listening to live music in the Windy City.
2447 N. Halsted Avenue