Red Lion Pub

More From Chicago More From Illinois

For a variety of reasons, this place has many
spectral characters of different personalities.



The neighborhood that is home to The Red Lion Pub is a now up and coming location that has been remodeled and fixed up to attract people with money to spend, though the area has still hung onto it’s ethnic character. Many Greeks, Assyrians, and gypsies still live there, despite the invasion of yuppies, who did bring money into an area of the city that needed the income.

The Red Lion Pub is described as an upscale, history-filled watering hole and restaurant, decorated as an English Pub. Beside investing in a beautiful new outside sign, Colin Cordwell, son of John Cordwell, has done an interior renovation, giving it a more modern look, but keeping the dark oak planked bar and Tudor beams, adding book shelves that hold Colin’s British history and literature collection.

A wall is dedicated to his late father, John Cordwell, detailing John’s service in World War II, as a forger in helping to coordinate the famed “Great Escape.” The second floor balcony is named “The Africa Room,” in honor of his mother, Justine, who was an African studies scholar, and expert in Yoruba art and culture.

The Red Lion Pub has three floors in it’s wooden and brick structure. The first floor is currently used as a bar and restaurant. On the second floor, a second bar/restaurant dining room have been renovated into an authentic looking English pub. The apartments on the third floor are used for overflow storage.

The front room, called the War Room is dedicated to his grandfather, Robert, for his service in World War 1. Robert Cordwell survived multiple gunshot wounds and an attempted bayoneting.

Colin’s Red Lion Pub has other qualities that bring in business from not only the neighborhood but the city of Chicago as well. In the summer, the dining room is open-air, and there are three warm fireplaces in the winter. There is a private event room in the balcony, for groups of ten to twenty people.

There is also a delicious array of food choices, and fourteen unique draft beers, wide selection of single malts, bourbons and ryes. Colin also promises that The Red Lion Pub will always be “a place to talk about ideas.”

Besides offering all these perks and an unique historical atmosphere, ghost stories are plentiful about this place. Apparently, the spirit people who stay or visit here, love the pub as well.




The Red Lion Pub was originally built in 1882, on the northern outskirts of Chicago, surrounded by farms and countryside. The city of Chicago grew up around the building. Traditionally, the neighborhood became a rough part of town. Uh oh!

John Dillinger saw his last movie in the Biograph Theater, located across the street from The Red Lion, before he was gunned down by the G-Men, right in the alley outside of the theater.

Al Capone and his organization of mob soldiers and crew hung out in this neighborhood during Prohibition. In the 1940s, The Red Lion Pub building was a “Wild West-type” saloon, that respectable people stayed out of and didn’t patronize. It was described as a real dump, and the second floor housed a flourishing bookie joint, actively involved in the illegal gambling industry.

The third floor was always used as apartments, until recently when they became an over flow storage area.

Throughout the years, various businesses came and went, such as a produce store, a laundry facility, and a nick-knack/novelty shop.

The building was rescued from disrepair by a well-known Chicago architect, John Cordwell, an Englishman who thought it might be fun to renovate it into an old English Pub, as a hobby. John, his wife and his two sons ran the place as a side business.

When John Cordwell died, his sons and wife continued to run the pub as a side business. His son, Colin, now is the owner and does his best to put The Red Lion Pub’s best foot forward, keeping it fresh and relevant for today’s patron, as well as keeping the best aspects of its past restored and on display.

Besides being a favorite place to have a beer or drink, with some great food for the living, it also is appreciated by the spirit people who also love this place, and let people know that they are still there.



People who die unexpectedly in a structure that they enjoyed being in while alive, like to stay there in their after-life, perhaps not quite ready to move onto the spirit world. Some may need to work out their feelings in various ways. Some are angry, and need to vent, or just enjoy what they can in this world.

A woman patron died from an epileptic seizure right in The Red Lion Pub and Restaurant.

A mentally challenged young woman died in The Red Lion Pub and Restaurant.

A young cowboy was killed by accident, illness or by foul play, but loves to be in the bar.

Another male entity, probably an owner, a bartender or involved with the business on the second floor still goes about his business.

Sometimes departed family members stay with their living relatives or the new owners to be a comfort and help.

A family member of John Cordwell also stays to be with family.

Spirits become restless when they feel that they were not respected after burial because there is no headstone, or the wishes of the deceased are not honored when it comes to the burying the remains.

This family member, mentioned above never received a headstone on his grave in England.

People who are murder victims, often don’t want to believe that they are really dead, and are still suffering the shock of their sudden demise. So they try to continue on in this world as best they can, getting chuckles and letting others know that they are there at the same time.

A man who couldn’t pay his gambling debt to the bookie, was killed by the man hired to force payment. This killer in turn was also killed, perhaps in the same fight. Both men died of their wounds its seems. Or the man who killed the other met his own death courtesy of his employers or the state of Illinois.

Jealousy in relationships plus a hot temper can result in the person with temper issues killing his or her offending partner or his or her partner’ other love interest.

A young woman was murdered, probably shot, in one of the apartment spaces above the tavern in the 1920s. Below are listed as possibly why she was killed.



At least seven spirit people call The Red Lion Pub their home.

The Scruffy-looking Cowboy

A psychic by the name of Sheila Bitely who visited the Red Lion saw an ill-groomed apparition of an unshaven, young man in his twenties, who was wearing western clothes and cowboy boots, clumping through the upstairs dining room.

Spirit of a Twenty Year Old Mentally-Challenged Woman – Sharon

In the second floor dining room, many are treated to an overwhelming smell of lavender perfume. While alive, this young lady didn’t know how much perfume to put on, so she usually put on way too much, unless someone helped her.

Two Male Apparitions — deceased as a result of a fight.

Mrs. Cordwell using her psychic abilities has seen a young male apparition that has black hair and a beard, wearing a black hat, in the company of a blond male apparition with a Slavic-looking apparition with a broad face. Using a Ouija board, she found out that the blond male apparition had temper issues, as he had killed the black-haired man in a fit of anger, over a bad gambling debt.

While John’s son was working at the downstairs bar one night, he heard a terrible crash on the second floor. He flew up the steps to investigate. He found the the cricket bat, that had been hanging on the wall as a display, had been thrown across the room. No one breathing was there at the time to have done it. It was probably either the blond male apparition or the man he killed who is still frustrated and angry.

Food Servers in the second floor restaurant have had their food trays knocked out of their hands, and the entree goes flying across the restaurant.

People who work there or come to eat in this second floor restaurant sometimes hear their names being called by disembodied male voices.

A 1920s Era Female Spirit

Perhaps involved with a volatile boyfriend who was not happy with her flirting with other men.

Mrs. Cordwell has also seen a female apparition that is wearing clothes and sporting the grooming style typical of women making a fashion statement, who lived during the 1920s.

Perhaps this is the mischievous spirit who likes to hold the ladies’ rest room door shut on the second floor, so female patrons or workers are trapped in the bathroom for at least fifteen to twenty minutes, before the door all of a sudden pops open without a problem.

When a former owner tried to renovate one of the apartments, his work would be taken apart. These apartments are used for storage now.

Unknown Male Apparition

During closing time, when only a patron and John’s son-in-law were there, the patron Steve, was left along for a few minutes, and saw a male apparition walk down the middle of the first floor bar and continue to clump up the stairs. When the son-in-law came back into the room, both men heard the clumping feet up on the second floor. When the second floor was checked, not a living soul was there.

Spirit of Female Entity

A woman died from an epileptic seizure in the restaurant area, from not being able to breathe.

Some of their patrons have felt their throats constricting so they couldn’t breathe for just a moment, and attribute to her, as she tries to share how she died.

John Cordwell’s Father, Robert Cordwell

After completely renovating the second floor, John put a beautiful stained-glass window in over the stairway to the second floor, placing a memorial plaque underneath it, as a dedication to his father who was an artist, as his father has no headstone on his grave back in England. After doing this, the following manifestations began.

John felt that the Window and plaque really pleased his father, who told John that he would come back and visit him, after he died, because “there was a spirit world.”

John Cordwell, his pianist, and other people have experienced a friendly tap on the shoulder, when no live human being was there.

John claims that his father suffered from dizziness, near the end of his life due to his physical problems, and this phenomena described below is caused by his father, letting the living know he is there.

People passing by the stained glass window, all of a sudden, have dizzy spells. At the end of the upstairs bar, right by the stairs, is the exact spot where people have had the experience of feeling dizzy all of a sudden.

John Cordwell has felt the strong presence of his father on the second floor.


Servers, guests and owners of whatever establishment was inhabiting the building where The Red Lion Pub now resides, have reported these interactive spirits, especially the older ones on the second floor, who delight in getting chuckles by holding the women’s bathroom door closed, and showing their frustration as well in the ways stated above.

Among the science-oriented paranormal investigation groups have long declared that The Red Lion Pub is the most haunted pub in Chicago, with its notorious reputation of providing investigators memorable personal experiences, as well as being a place where hard evidence was captured.

Paranormal events through various investigation groups have been held here.




Lots of personal experiences by everyone and some hard evidence captured by some investigations point strongly to the existence of a bunch of spectral Red Lion Pub fans, that always make things lively and interesting; a form of entertainment for the living people who are patrons, employees and owners.



Red Lion Pub
2446 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 348-2695

The Red Lion Pub can be found in the North side of Chicago, Illinois, at 2446 North Lincoln Avenue, near the intersection of W. Montana and North Lincoln Avenue, that runs diagonally; intersecting with North Halsted Street to the South, and W. Wightwood Street to the North. To get to the Red Lion Pub on N. Lincoln Ave., take Halsted Street North and bear left onto North Lincoln Avenue where you will see Lincoln Hall on the left, and the Red Lion Pub a few buildings up from Lincoln Hall.




  • The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
    by Rich Newman
    Llewellyn Publications, 2011
  • Haunted Places: The National Directory
    by Dennis William Hauck, Penguin Books, 2002
  • Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City
    by Ursula Bielski
    Lake Claremont Press, 1998

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Visit the memorable… Milwaukee Haunted Hotel


Chicago’s Best Haunted Restaurants: The Red Lion Pub

John Dillinger Death Alley | Red Lion Pub Chicago

Red Lion Pub Hub – Ep 1 – Reluctant Ghost Hunter

Haunts in Chicago Haunts in Illinois