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  • Erin Egnatz

Widow McCleary's: Illinois

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

In Thorton, Illinois, which is not far outside of the city of Chicago and just over the Indiana boarder, sits a building once known as Widow McCleary’s. The building was originally built in 1857 as a brewery. As the years went by, business grew as did the distillery. By the 1910’s legend states that a man with the last name of McCleary and his wife were running the place. In the early 1920’s, the alcohol business was nonexistent (legally anyway) because this was the time of prohibition in the United States. According to legend, around 1922, Mr. McCleary was approached by a man offering to partner with him in a bootlegging business. Mr. McCleary wanted nothing to do with the illegal business and said as much. He turned the offer and the man away not realizing the colossal mistake he had just made. You see, the bootleg “business” man was none other than Alphonse Gabriel Capone. Refusing business with Al Capone was not an option, not a safe one anyway. Shortly after the meeting with Capone, Mr. McCleary disappeared forever. Possibly due to a fire at the location. The next owner was quick to join forces with Capone and from there the pub flourished. While the pub was a fun scene upstairs, down in the basement, it is said that rival gang members were interrogated and disposed of. There is no official record of Al Capone running the place, but the consensus around town is that he did. Over the years the owners changed, as did the name, but the history and the spirits of some of the dead still remained.


I visited this location about 15 years ago when it was called Widow McCleary’s. Interesting name, no? I was on a ghost tour with some friends and it was our turn to go down in the basement. Let me tell you, this place seems like a terrible place to die. It is dark, creepy and cramped. There was a group of four of us, all 17 or 18, so young and nervous. The man in charge of the ghost hunt, handed us a recorder, a flashlight, and then closed the door behind us as we went inside. So here we were, 4 teenage girls about to talk to some spirits in the dark, cramped mobster basement. It was immediately clear that we all felt like something was there with us, but it didn’t seem angry or mean, just simply there. I was holding the flashlight while my friend held the evp and did the talking. This was my first ghost tour and so I had no idea what I was doing, my friend on the other hand seemed like she could star in her own reality ghost investigation show. She asked all of the right questions and waited the appropriate amount of time before continuing. We took a few pictures and then gave way to the next group.


Later that day, we listened to the evp and didn’t hear anything after the first few questions. We were disgruntled but kept listening. We were all absolutely shocked when on the recording you can hear my friend ask, “Were you a part of the mob?” “Yes.” Then it was like nothing else was there. The tape, because that was how voice recorders were back in the old days, just went blank. We knew there were more questions, but nothing was picked up. We played the yes over and over again, it was right there clear as day. Besides the evp we picked up a few orbs and nothing else, but in all it was absolutely worth it.


One theory into the hauntings in the location is that they are magnified by the limestone rock quarry that sits next to the property. Limestone has long been suspected as somehow channeling paranormal activity or replaying residuals of times gone past.


A few years after we visited on the ghost tour, Widow McCleary’s shut her doors. It sat for many years before new owners came in and redid the whole place. It looks amazing now. It is definitely a place to visit if you are into distilleries and pubs. I’m not sure if the new owners embrace the whole paranormal aspect of the property, so I won’t say its name just incase they do not.

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