Chicago is one of the windiest cities in the whole of United States and many people go there for their Chicago-style hot dogs and pizza as well as jazz music, and great architecture.
One of the reasons why other people go to Chicago, Illinois is the fact that it is where the Oriental Theatre is located. It is dubbed as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. It was built sometime after the tragic 1906 fire that killed a total of 602 people – mostly women and children – at the former Iroquois Theater.
The exterior of the Iroquois Theater. (Link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-theater-blaze-killed-hundreds-forever-changed-way-we-approach-fire-safety-180969315/)
History of The Oriental Theatre
After the Iroquois Theatre’s inside was reduced into ashes because of the fire, the Oriental Theatre was built. The exterior was still intact and it was revamped to be made into the Colonial. However, the Colonial was torn down so that the area will be used to build the Oriental Theatre.
Inside the Oriental Theatre. (Link: https://openhousechicago.org/sites/site/broadway-in-chicagos-oriental-theatre/)
The Oriental Theatre was a beauty. It remains to be so up to this day because it was designed by Rapp and Rapp, the same architectural firm that created the other theatres in Chicago. Oriental Theatre was influenced by Asian architecture and no other building was built looking like it.
Oriental Theatre from the outside. (Link: https://chicago.curbed.com/2018/11/15/18096977/oriental-theatre-rename-james-nederlander)
In the 70s, downtown Chicago was no longer considered the entertainment destination of the state. That is why the Oriental Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in an attempt to preserve it. Thee Oriental Theatre finally closed in 1981.
Fifteen years after the first closing, the Oriental Theatre was reopened. It, however, underwent a great deal of restoration. Reports say that 4,000 gallons of paint, 12, 500 feet of gold leaf, and 62, 500 square feet of aluminum leaf were used to make it look what it looks like now.
Over the years, many have managed the Oriental Theatre. Today, it is owned by Broadway.
One of the areas inside the Oriental Theatre. (Link: https://openhousechicago.org/sites/site/broadway-in-chicagos-oriental-theatre/)
The Ghosts At The Oriental Theatre
Due to the fire that killed 602 people at the Iroquois Theater, it is possible that the people who have perished are the ones haunting the Oriental Theatre to this day. The fire happened in December 30, 1903 while they were watching the performance of Mr. Bluebird.
The Iroquois Theater after the fire. (Link: https://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/the-iroquois-theater-fire.htm)
Many people were shocked regarding the fire since it was built to be fireproof. Because of this claim, the editor of Fireproof magazine inspected the theatre and wrote that it had major fire alarm issues and did not even have an alarm and sprinkler system. After the fire, an investigation took place and the theater owners, fire officials, and the mayor at that time were charged because they public officials allegedly accepted bribes so that they will overlook the theater’s code violations.
The reason for the huge number of people that died from the fire was because there was only one public exit open on the day of the fire. All the emergency doors were locked. Many were killed by being trapped in the balconies of the Iroquois Theater.
Staff members of the Oriental Theatre today say that they hear cries inside the theatre and see shadow people. They also refuse to go up the balcony because these are the places where they feel cold spots.
The balcony seats at the Iroquois Theater. (Link: http://www.iroquoistheater.com/25-inch-rise-between-seat-rows-in-iroquois-theater-balcony.php)
The Death Alley Behind The Oriental Theatre
One of the areas at the Oriental Theatre believed to have a strong presence of paranormal activity is the alley behind the theatre. Some even dubbed it as Death Alley because a lot of ghosts are seen here. This alley was where most of the dead bodies from the fire were piled up. Those who experienced ghostly encounters at the Death Alley claimed they heard a child’s cry while others felt being touched by unseen hands.
The infamous Death Alley outside the Oriental Theatre. (Link: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131230/loop/iroquois-theater-fire-almost-forgotten-but-continues-haunt/)
A Performer’s Paranormal Experience
Ana Gasteyer, who played the role of witch Elphaba for the production “Wicked,” shared her encounters with the ghosts of Oriental Theater. She played the character for the shows from 2005 to 2009.
Ana Gasteyer. (Link: https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Ana_Gasteyer)
On one of the anniversaries of the fire, Gasteyer revealed that at the end of Act I, she noticed a lot of people in the wings standing in small groups. After the show, she saw a woman and two children at the end of the hallway and they were dressed in winter clothes. She nodded to the woman and the woman nodded back. The woman and her kids took a turn at a corner and disappeared. On her way to her dressing room, she also heard children crying.
Gasteyer also shared that she does not use the Death Alley because it was dismal and gloomy.