#4 Most Haunted Bar in Illinois
Ever since the Roaring ‘20s, the building now home to the Tonic Room has had a colorful history that lends itself to tales of the paranormal. A brothel was once located in the upstairs apartments, and the tavern was a popular hangout for a North Side Irish gang. When they first opened their establishment, the owners of the Tonic Room discovered Egyptian iconography painted on the basement ceiling and a pentagram painted on the basement floor, leading to speculation that it had been a meeting place for an American chapter of the Golden Dawn. One elderly woman claimed to have witnessed a ritual murder there in the 1930s when she accompanied her father to a secret meeting. According to author Ursula Bielski, patrons and staff have reported seeing apparitions in both the basement and the main bar.
HISTORY of The Tonic Room…
Starting in January of 1969 what is now The Tonic Room was known as “El-Sabarum”. Frederic De’Arechaga was the owner of the shop which catered to those interested in various facets of the occult. De’Arechaga considered himself to be a “Pontifus Maximus” in the Sabaean Religious Order and within the confines of the store which sold amulets, herbs, incense, goat hooves, voodoo beads, togas, jet stones to absorb bad spells and ceremonial daggers was his temple of Saba. In the book, “Popular Witchcraft – Straight from the Witch’s Mouth”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004, author Jack Fritscher interviewed De’Arechaga at “El-Sabarum on September 20, 1969. According to the interview, De’Arechaga considered himself to be a “hereditary witch” receiving his gift from his mother who oversaw the Sabaean Order from a location at 3221 Sheffield. He also told Fritscher that he was bisexual and said, “When modern witch hunters go out looking for witches or warlocks or whatever you want to call them, ask them a couple of questions. Most witches are full of crap. Make them put it on the line. Ask them if they’re bisexual. If they’re not, it’s a giveaway.” He told a Chicago Tribune reporter that he had opened the shop in an effort to continue his mother’s work after her death. A 1970 Chicago Tribune article written by Mary Daniels described De’Arechaga’s temple as being in the back of the store and containing Grecian pillars, red gauzy veils, cushions and cooing pigeons.
He chose the name “El-Sabarum” because he said that it meant “of many gods”. He considered himself to be of the “Old Religion” and that Christians, Jews, and Muslims merely practiced degenerated versions of the “Old Religion” He even viewed Satanists as merely degenerates of the Catholic faith. De’Arechaga did not see a reason to delineate between “black” or “white” witches and the idea that there was good or bad in magic was something dreamed up mainly by the monotheistic religions. However, he did make somewhat of an ominous comment during Fritscher’s interview when he stated, “In my store I cease to sell certain things when another shop begins to handle the item. I do this out of respect to the other person. I thank the gods that other people have done this in turn for me. Some, however, purposely imitate what I do because they’ve got to get in on the bandwagon. They have no respect. They usually don’t know what they’re doing and they usually close up quite suddenly and quite mysteriously –ha!– if you know what I mean.”
After the release of the movie, “The Exorcist” on December 26, 1973, De’Arechaga told a Tribune reporter that he was being “plagued by an adverse public image” He reported that Christians have tried to exorcise the store out of the neighborhood, people will cross themselves passing by the store or will even cross the street to avoid passing too close. He told the reporter that dogs would actually stop and walk carefully around the blue pentacles that he had painted on the sidewalk outside the store and that dead cats have been thrown through his front windows.
Sometime after that article was published in 1974, De’Arechaga left the Sabaean Order, changed his name to Orun after he converted to Santeria and started worshiping the god Obatala. Strangely enough this seems quite fitting for an establishment named “The Tonic Room” since according to Yoruban mythical lore, Obatala was the actual creator of human beings and human beings were created with flaws because Obatala was drunk on palm wine when he created us! Well at least I have someone to blame for any typos in this article.
source: Ray Johnson of Chicago Now
Tickets are available here on our site. Just click on the TICKETS button next to the show you wish to attend and follow the prompts. We accept Visa & Mastercard for online ticket sales.
There is no Box Office at Tonic Room. All tickets need to be purchased online or at the door the night of a show (if available).
Due to the complicated nature of hosting all ages events, and the liability to our liquor license, all shows are 21 and over unless otherwise noted. State issued ID is required of all guests, regardless of your age.
Sold Out Shows
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