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  • Erin Egnatz

Iroquois Theatre and Death Alley: Chicago

The Iroquois Theatre was located on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. It opened in November of 1903 and had a capacity of just over 1600 people. About a month after opening, on December 30, the theatre had a sell-out crowd for its popular matinee performance. It was actually over capacity by roughly 600, bringing the audience to around 2200. As the play went on, the audience settled in, filling seats and aisles with spectators.


Around 3 PM a light on stage malfunctioned setting the very flammable curtain on fire. Within minutes the fire had become large and impossible to contain, leaving the spectators, cast and crew frantic and in search for a way out. Sadly, another obstacle was in their way. Many of the doors could not or would not open leaving just a few exits for the large crowd. Those who were seated in the upstairs were trapped with no way out but to jump from the frozen fire escapes outside in the alley. Many perished attempting to do so.


When the fire was put out, the sad revelation was made that over 600 people had lost their lives. More than double the number of people who were lost to the Great Chicago Fire. Fast forward to the 1920's when the Oriental Theatre was built on the spot of the Iriquois Theatre.


Today the Oriental Theatre is still in operation, seeing many visitors each year. Many of the stage crew and performers who have worked at the Oriental have had ghostly encounters during their stay in town. The most active of spots is the back alley way where many died on that fateful December day. Anything from large floating orbs to mysterious shadows have been witnessed at this location. I have actually been here quite a few times and it really does have a certain paranormal feel to it. A lot of times it is hard to get a read on paranormal spots in such a highly populated area but, as soon as you enter the alley, you get the feeling you aren't alone even if you don't see anyone around.


Picture by Reinaroundtheglobe


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