Clarendon Hills' Country House restaurant serves haunted history with its hamburgers
Unrequited love, it's said, has spurred a ghost to haunt the Country House restaurant.
Or she might just be there for the burgers.
Whatever the case, the Clarendon Hills establishment has become a hot spot for apparitional experiences large and small. From an unexplainable orb appearing in pictures to the vision of a ghostly figure playing the same jukebox song over and over, the staff at the Country House has no shortage of ghost stories to tell patrons as they munch on burgers and other favorites.
A somewhat reluctant expert on the situation, Lynn Banks has worked her way up from being a hostess to general manager in her 38 years with the restaurant. She's not trying to convince anyone of anything, but she knows what she's seen and heard.
"I'm a big chicken, but a lot of it has been really cool," Banks said. "It doesn't happen all the time, but I guess compared to other places it seems like a lot."
Like it or not, the Country House is a go-to location for paranormal investigators with various gadgets designed to diagnose what makes the experiences occur so often.
What they say is that there's a young woman haunting the house: She randomly appears in upstairs windows, blocks bathroom doors, wanders through the dining room or floats in front of the jukebox to play her favorite songs.
Banks says the ghostly woman's appearances date back to the 1950s when a bartender working at the restaurant did not return the love she felt for him. One day, she sped away from the restaurant in her car and died in a nearby crash.
The rest is haunted history.
Some paranormal experts believe the ghosting extends to a 1961 plane crash that killed 78 passengers in a corn and soybean field about six blocks south of the restaurant. They say their claims are backed by mysterious voices on recordings from the restaurant exclaiming "Help me get out."
"We've had one group say there are six or seven spirits in here," Banks said. "I don't know about that, but I have heard different voices on different recordings."
When on-site paranormal experts once asked the spirits if they knew Banks, a male voice supposedly said "We know Banks" and a female voice said "Lynney," a nickname only her son and his friends use.
Banks admits she's a little skittish about ghosts, but she can't turn away from the Country House and the history it represents. There are additional Country House locations in Lisle and Geneva, but the spot in Clarendon Hills is the original in more ways than one.
Built in 1922 on 55th Street to be a combination restaurant and home for the owners, the Country House changed hands a few times before the ghost sightings became more common in the 1970s while the building was being renovated.
The owner at the time was meeting with a contractor when the shutters opened simultaneously and bright shafts of light shot through the room, Banks said. Mediums and a ghost hunter investigated, and that's when the legend of the woman killed in the car crash emerged.
Through the years people have asked if they could stay overnight in the upstairs rooms to experience a haunting for themselves, but Country House management has declined. And even though it's tempting given the interest, they also don't host Ghost Dinners or other events like that.
"We have some people who come here afraid to see a ghost and others who come here wanting to see a ghost," she said. "It just depends on when you're here."
Believers or not, people stop by to see for themselves.
"I've gotten braver over the years," Banks said. "If I'm not in the mood I just ask the spirits to leave me alone."