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Chicago Hauntings: The L&L Tavern, Known As 'The Creepiest Bar In The USA' For Reputed Visits By Serial Killers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Remember old Clark and Belmont – the land of Punkin' Donuts and The Alley shops, the epicenter of punk and counterculture in Chicago?

This is how Alexis Thomas – the daughter of The Alley's founder and owner Mark Thomas – described that storied intersection in its heyday in a 2009 Newcity article:

"Kids with mohawks and leather jackets sat next to my lemonade stand with their jelly donuts and cigarettes. Skinheads, oi punks, riot grrrls, '77 punks and metalheads crowded into tight circles and broke into the kind of fights that were all fists and snot and blood."


You don't see that so much anymore. A Target store now anchors the northwest corner of the intersection where that Dunkin' Donuts we all knew as Punkin' Donuts and its parking lot once sat. But across the street, another mainstay - the L&L Tavern - remains much as it's ever been in its storefront at 3207 N. Clark St. on the ground floor of a massive brick building.

L&L Tavern
(Credit: CBS 2)

Reports say the L's in the name of the bar honor former owners Lefty Miller and Lauretta Magidson, who bought the bar in the 1980s. The name was preserved when current owner Kenn Frandsen took over, the Chicago Bar Project reports.

The bar had previously been known as Columbia Tavern & Liquors and had been owned and operated by Joan Gillon, according to the Chicago Bar Project.

Gillon died in 2004 at the age of 86. The Chicago Bar Project quoted her obituary: "Shortly after Joan Gillon got married, her husband, Paul, told her that he expected her to tend bar in his tavern. At first she balked at the idea, but she took the reins and ran the Chicago establishment for 53 years. 'In the end, she was tough and could handle all kinds of situations,' said her daughter, Susan. 'In a neighborhood bar, you run into different things and problems with the people and she handled it all and she enjoyed it.'"

The obit said Gillon and her husband, Paul – who died in 1979 – became partners in the Columbia Tavern just after they got married. It was originally located at 3113 N. Halsted St. and moved to the current L&L location in the early 1960s, the obit said. However, there is some information that points to a bar being in operation at the Clark Street location even before that.

Tony Szabelski of Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tours points out that the L&L is not necessarily known as a haunted location, but it has been voted "the Creepiest Bar in the USA." There is even a sign in the window written by hand in black magic marker that advertises the bar in just those terms.

L&L Tavern
(Credit: CBS 2)

There are some specific reasons why.

When Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in 1991, he admitted to killing 17 young men – some of whom he mutilated and cannibalized – between 1978 and the year of his arrest. He committed most of the murders in Milwaukee where he lived.

According to the book "Images of America: East Lake View" by Matthew Nickerson, owner Frandsen said he was at the L&L when Dahmer was arrested – and recalled that customers recognized him as a regular at the bar.

Multiple sources quote an L&L employee named Frankie – whom Dahmer was reportedly interested in – as saying the serial killer indeed liked to sit by the window at the bar and stare at young men across the street at the Dunkin' Donuts.

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer on Aug. 6, 1991, before his trial for killing 17 men and boys. (Credit: EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

There are two known victims whom Dahmer picked up in Chicago – though neither of those meetings happened at or near the L&L.

Dahmer picked up one victim, Matt Turner, at Chicago's Greyhound Bus Station on June 30, 1991, and offered Turner money to pose nude back at Dahmer's apartment in Milwaukee, according to an archive Chicago Tribune report. Dahmer murdered Turner at the Milwaukee apartment and put his head in a freezer, the Tribune reported.

Early in July 1991, Dahmer picked up another man, Jeremiah Weinberger, at the since-shuttered bar Carol's Speakeasy on Wells Street in Old Town. Dahmer took Weinberger – who worked next door at the Bijou adult theater – back to Milwaukee and killed him after they had spent three days together in Dahmer's apartment. He went on to stuff Weinberger's head in his freezer, and his torso in a blue drum.

Dahmer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but was convicted and sentenced to 15 life terms. He was killed by a fellow inmate in prison in 1994.

There are also reports that back in the 1970s, John Wayne Gacy also visited what would become the L&L. In "Images of America: East Lake View," Frandsen is quoted as attributing that claim to a previous owner.

John Wayne Gacy
(Credit: CBS 2)

Beginning their investigation in December 1978, police discovered 29 bodies buried in a crawl space of Gacy's house and the surrounding yard in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. Another four bodies were found in the Des Plaines River. Gacy was convicted of 33 counts of murder in 1980 and was sentenced to death. He was executed on May 10, 1994.

Gacy's background at face value did not seem to suggest he would be such a monster. He had owned his own construction company, worked as a precinct captain for the Democratic Party and even had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. But he had also been convicted and served a sentence for molestation in 1968.

Most infamously, Gacy was known for his work as a clown. Gacy was a contractor and a clown for Bresler's 33 Flavors Ice Cream – and found fit to chuckle at the irony that he also had 33 victims during a chilling exclusive interview with CBS 2's Walter Jacobson in 1992. Gacy was best known for performing as Pogo the Clown for hospital charity work.

With regard to the present-day L&L, the claim is that Gacy actually showed up there in full clown costume.

"Images of America: East Lake View" also points out that well before any stories about serial killers showing up, two past owners of the bar were victims of attacks in unrelated incidents. The book says early owner Paul Gillon was the victim of a robbery at the bar – then still called Columbia Tavern & Liquors – in 1961, in which he was bound and gagged and had lit matches held to his back.

The book also mentions that in 1950, then-owner Marshall Tallaksen was struck in the eye in a drive-by shooting. Further information about Tallaksen and the history of the bar going back that far could not be found online.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that Gacy and Dahmer's crimes should not be trivialized. Between them, 50 boys and young men were brutally murdered, and those victims' families still deal with the pain and grief to this day.

Just this week, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that another of Gacy's victims had been identified as Francis Wayne Alexander, of North Carolina. Dart said Alexander likely was killed by Gacy between early 1976 and early 1977, and would have been 21 or 22 years old at the time of his murder.

Five other victims still remain unidentified, and Dart said his office is committed to continuing its work to find out who they were.

Video produced by Blake Tyson. Written story by Adam Harrington.

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