[Skip to Content]

Couch Place, the Alley of the Death

Posted  3 years ago  in  Trending

2 MIN READ – Couch Place, or the Alley of the Death, is an eerie back street in Chicago that has a tragic history. Some people passing through claim that the alley is haunted. Do you know what happened here?

Before Broadway In Chicago’s Nederlander Theatre was constructed in 1926, this spot on Randolph Street was known as the Iroquois Theatre, constructed in 1903. The Iroquois Theatre was promoted as the finest, most elegant place, costing over a million dollars. The newspapers claimed that the theater was “absolutely fireproof.” But on December 30, 1903, the Iroquois Theatre hosted its first and last show, Mr. Bluebeard. This performance sold out all 1,724 available seats, in addition to a few hundred tickets sold for standing room only. 

Halfway through the show, a stage light ignited the backdrops, and despite the efforts of the stage crew to snuff out the fire, it spread violently throughout the theater. The crowd was in turmoil. People were rushing to get out of the theater, cornered by locked doors and confused by the absence of exit signs. Some people managed to escape onto the fire escapes that were located in Couch Place Alley, but these fire escapes were frozen and couldn’t be lowered. In a panic, people began jumping into the alley from above. Several people died from the fall, although some survived when their falls were broken by the bodies of people who fell before them.

The fire lasted 30 minutes, but took the lives of over 600 people. Most of the dead were outside on Couch Place, the bodies piled 6 feet high. When emergency responders began to salvage the bodies from the fire, the burned bodies from inside the theater were stacked in the alley before they were identified. Because of the tragic deaths and stacks of corpses, the Chicago Tribune recognized it as the “Alley of the Death and Mutilation.”

Currently, this ominous alley is occupied regularly by Chicago commuters cutting through, as well as stagehands and actors for the Nederlander Theatre. Chicago Loop Alliance has hosted multiple ACTIVATE events in the alley, and now their Loop Mural Walk takes urban explorers down the storied corridor.

If you travel down this alley, pay attention: You could experience a cold breeze over your shoulder or hear whispers of your name called by those who died in the fire.

Exclusive Loop deals, recommendations, and news direct from Chicago Loop Alliance.