2447 North Halsted Street
Formerly known as the Tonic Room, the Golden Dagger is a great place to grab a drink and enjoy some live music in North Chicago. Though most often frequented by students of the nearby DePaul University, it’s a favorite of many across Lincoln Park.
This little joint has quite a dark and seedy past, however, which makes it one of the top haunting hotspots in all of Illinois. Tales of human sacrifice and murder continue to swirl with the sight of spirits at the bar and in the basement.
No doubt. In addition to the specters seen sitting at the bar and gliding about in the basement, many people have felt an eerie, creepy sensation just walking through the door.
Photos have been taken with both older and newer cameras, and many turn out bizarrely, with mist or ghostly figures appearing in the background where they definitely weren’t at the time they were taken. Sometimes the subjects of the pictures will turn out blurry or distorted for no technically discernible reason.
The North Side Gang was North Chicago’s dominant mostly-Irish mob from 1919 to 1935. The tavern on North Halsted was a main hangout of theirs, especially during the height of Prohibition. They’d sit at the bar planning their schemes or just chatting over freshly bootlegged beer and whiskey.
The North Siders were archrivals of the mostly-Italian South Side Gang, led by famous gangster Al Capone. Their rivalry was often bloody, but few incidents more so than the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.
At 10:30 AM on February 14th, four South Siders captured five North Siders and two associates of theirs, lined them up against the wall of a garage on North Clark Street, and strafed them all with bullets.
After their deaths, it seems these mobsters managed to find their way back to home base. Now they sit around once more, sipping their booze and discussing the order of the day. Many employees have double-taked, glimpsing various men in Jazz Age suits belly-up to the bar at odd hours.
The nature of these men and the lives they lived probably accounts for a lot of the off-putting energy felt here. That and their likely desire for revenge, just one more link in a chain of violence between the North and South mobs.
Originally founded in 1887 by three London Freemasons, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a secret society that practiced occult magic using ancient Egyptian iconography, among others. When a local chapter chose the basement of the tavern on North Halsted as a regular location for meetings and ceremonies in the 1930s, they plastered these symbols all over the ceiling.
An older Chicagoan woman once said that when she was a child, she went to one of those meetings with her father. There, she said that she witnessed the Order kill a woman in a human sacrifice ritual.
That would explain the ghost of the young lady in the basement, seen most often by staff since customers are rarely allowed down there. She mostly goes wandering about her business with a thousand yard stare.
One night in the early 2010s, a bouncer went down into the basement during one of the renovation projects. Suddenly, he felt paralyzed and fell to the floor, unable to move or speak. He was rushed to the hospital, but all the doctors said there was nothing wrong with him.
Naturally, he recovered. But he later found out that the spot where he’d seized up had previously been marked with a pentagram. Was his incident a result of the cult’s power or an act of their victim? No one was quite sure.
Built in 1894, the place began life as a tavern with a brothel upstairs. It kept on running as a speakeasy when Prohibition hit in 1920. The North Side Gang began hanging out there as well, bootlegging top-tier beer and whiskey and running their gambling rackets.
A decade or so later, the basement became the meeting place for the local chapter of the Golden Dawn.
In 1969, the main level of the building became a shop known as El-Sabarum, owned by self-proclaimed ‘Pontifus Maximus’ of the Sabean Religious Order, Frederic De’Arechaga. He sold all kinds of ceremonial items, from herbs and candles to talismans and goat hooves.
He also made use of the basement as his personal Temple of the Moon. Conveniently enough, his interpretation of the Sabean Religion also incorporated elements of Egyptian Mythology.
El-Sabarum’s reputation began to tank after the release of the 1973 film The Exorcist, mainly due to the pushback from local Christians. A year later, De’Arechaga converted to the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria, changed his name to Odun, and left the building.
It changed hands a few more times over the next couple decades. Brothers Chris and Mike Schuba bought it and turned it back into a tavern, calling it the Everleigh Club as a nod to its origins and one of Chicago’s most famous brothels.
It became the Jub Jub Club in 1989, and the Tonic Room in 2003. Five years later, Guitarist Donnie Biggins and his newly formed Shams Band began booking gigs at the place. Biggins loved it so much that he finally bought it for himself in 2016.
Four years later, he was forced to close the doors due to the pandemic. However, he decided to use the time to remodel and rebrand the place. In April of 2021, the Golden Dagger as it stands today was open for business.
The newest name comes from the era of the Golden Dawn as well as a literal ceremonial dagger that was found in a basement window well.
The skull-handled knife now sits in a glass box above the counter, punctuating the giant capital letters of the establishment’s name behind a small hanging lamp. Both standing out and blending into its surroundings in a way, it’s a perfect metaphor for the Golden Dagger’s occult past.
The shop is open at 8 AM everyday, though closes at 3 PM Sunday and Monday, 12 AM Tuesday and Wednesday, and 2AM Thursday through Saturday. You can get a cocktail starting at 11 AM but you can get a coffee at any time.
Grab a cup or a glass and keep your eyes peeled for a ghost. Or try snapping a photo and see how it turns out.