I often tell of how serendipitous my life is and my visit to the Irish Legend Pub is a definite example of that. A few years ago, my boyfriend, John decided to surprise me for our first Valentine’s Day with a paranormal evening. (Nothing says I love you like an evening with the DEAD!) The night turned out to be very interesting and I was fascinated by the history of the location.
The Irish Legend Pub is located at 8933 South Archer in Willow Springs, which is just west of Chicago. When we visited it, the restaurant was called The Stag’s Head Inn.
Archer Avenue is famous for the many claims of paranormal experiences. The Irish Legend Restaurant is located right across from the infamous Willow Brook Ballroom where many claim the ever-popular Resurrection Mary story originated.
The history of this road itself is fascinating. Archer Avenue was originally a portage between the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers. Prior to the 1830’s, it was a plank covered road that followed an old Native American trail. It was originally called the “Road to Willow Brown’s”. When the Illinois and Michigan canal was built the road saw an explosion of traffic. Since the road parallels the Illinois and Michigan Canal, it was named after the first commissioner of the canal, Colonel William Beatty Archer.
Construction on the canal in the 1840’s brought an influx of Irish and German immigrants. They worked on the canal and on the construction of stockyards. In the 1880’s and 1890’s more construction followed as little villages were settled along this stretch of Archer Avenue. It was during this construction that many Native American burial mounds were destroyed to make room for the new construction. Paranormal enthusiasts speculate that this was one of the reasons the area became so haunted.
Though I couldn’t find an exact date for the construction of the particular building that is now the Irish Legend, people say that it has existed in one form or another since at least the beginning of the 1900’s. It seems that when the men came to work on the canal and railroads, they needed places to drink. This and the lure of the “company of certain types of women” explain the number of pubs and taverns that sprang up all along Archer Avenue. The larger population brought bigger problems and soon gambling, alcohol, and prostitutes made their way to the once peaceful village.
Prohibition came to the United States and that brought a whole new breed of outlaw to the Willow Springs area. The village’s close proximity to Chicago made it appealing to the mobs and speakeasies popped up all over the area.
The Irish Legend claims to have been a speakeasy in its day. The basement and attic areas were used for illegal gambling and the second floor was designed with many small rooms where the ladies of the evening would entertain men. Many men breathed their last in here, easy marks for robbery and murder in their drunken state. The woman themselves led a tortured and desperate life. Many women fell victim to addiction themselves as they tried to escape their painful circumstances.
One of the many stories of the building tells of a forbidden love between one of the girls and a barkeep. The manager of the building found out about the two lovers and lured the unsuspecting bartender to the basement stairs where he crushed his skull in.
Another story, which may or may not be the same woman, tells of the horrible death of one of the girls. She was supposedly beaten and wrapped in a carpet. This carpet was put in the “dining area” for a few hours until it was dark enough to remove her body. Supposedly, her blood seeped out onto the wooden floor and the stain is still visible even today.
The kitchen area holds its own horrors. It was common practice in some houses of ill repute to perform abortions on any girl unfortunate enough to conceive, and at the Irish Legend Pub, the kitchen area is reportedly where these operations took place. There is an ominous, heavy feeling in this area and also in the small closet adjoining the kitchen. Some people who have worked in the restaurant and lived in the small apartment on the second floor tell of hearing babies crying.
There are also reports of the sounds of men fighting, especially in the back stairs area. These steps led directly from the parking lot, and made it easier for prominent men to slip in to the building unseen and so avoid any possibility of a scandal . These same stairs also made it easy for bodies to be carried right out to a waiting car. Many men and women disappeared from the building only to be found later dumped in the canal or alongside the road.
The violence, sadness, depression, and desperation all still linger at this location. It is not hard to imagine the line between the present and the past fading away, allowing us a glimpse into that time. Places like the Irish Legend Pub make it easy to remember that these ghost stories are not only entertainment. Many of the stories tell of actual people who, in many ways, were a lot like us. They had hopes and dreams and those dreams were shattered by addiction or bad choices or by simply trusting the wrong person.
This may be why so many of them still linger here, waiting for justice that will never come.
Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events