I recently wrote this in-depth article on the Rockford sex trade for Rockford Advocate. Prostitution is one of the city’s many social problems, but one which doesn’t get a lot of press. Click here to read the entire article.
Their faces are tired, aged, and embarrassed–evidence of a hard life on the streets.
Mugshots of men and women caught in high profile prostitution stings are a common sight in the Rockford news. For most residents, these stories are as close as they will come to the illegal sex trade.
Yet at street corners and motels in south Rockford, prostitution has become a way of life for dozens of women. Men travel from around the stateline to pay for sex with women as young as 14, to as old as 54. News stories, arrest records, and anecdotal evidence shows Rockford has become a popular Midwestern destination for sex tourism.
Law enforcement has grappled with this problem for decades, but in a city with some of the highest violent crime rates in Illinois, prostitution often takes a backseat. Many believe it is a victimless crime enjoyed between consenting adults. Others believe it is a humanitarian tragedy. Sorting through the myths and assumptions about prostitution to uncover this murky underworld can be difficult. Little by little, however, a picture emerges of a multimillion-dollar sex industry, right in our own backyard.
Communities typically view the sex trade as a problem for law enforcement. Police respond to prostitution complaints by conducting stings and arresting prostitutes to take them off the streets. Recently, however, law enforcement agencies have increasingly focused on combating human trafficking and cracking down on demand for sexual services. Technology, including smartphone apps and advertisements for sexual services on websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com, is presenting new challenges for law enforcement.
Illinois defines prostitution-related offenses under 720 ILCS 5/Art. 11 Subdiv. 15. These crimes include prostitution, solicitation of a sexual act, promoting prostitution, promoting juvenile prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, and patronizing a minor engaged in prostitution. [Read More…]
An old friend from high school, Nick, writes videogame reviews. Recently, however, he wrote an unsolicited review of my latest book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. I was surprised and delighted that he chose to read my latest offering, since he (by his own admission) rarely reads nonfiction.
The review is fair and generally positive. In response to one of his criticisms, the book is not just a collection of stories–it is meant to be a combination of stories and the theory behind them. That is why I spend so much time discussing folklore and ghost stories in their relation to university culture.
Check out an excerpt of the review below or read it in its entirety.
He doesn’t want to convince me that genuine ghosts haunt the various Illinois universities. Instead, this book would rather discuss the stories that are being told and examine the history that inspired them.
It’s the combination of history and legend that makes the stories that are told interesting. This book focuses on Illinois campuses specifically, so everything begins with the location. The surface level is the story itself. The legend. What people say happened there. Beneath that is the truth, but much like the story itself the truth is fragmented. Partially documented history only tells so much.
The strongest part of the book is the history that it manages to document. It’s interesting to learn about the history of the universities themselves, unrelated to the ghost story that emerged from it. It’s even more fascinating tracking a story from its roots to the glorious legend it is today.
WTVO and WQRF-TV are slowly bringing journalism back to Rockford after the purge at the Rock River Times left local news bereft of inquisitive journalists. What about the daily newspaper? Let’s face it, the Register Star hasn’t been a real newspaper in years. After I was alerted to a series of donations made by Gorman and Company to Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey prior to their entering a deal over the city-owned Amerock /Ziock building, I leaked this information to the local press. WTVO/WQRF were the only station to pick up the story. Read the article below. Watch the video at this link.
What I find most incredible about this story, is that Alderman Tom McNamara (D-3rd Ward), basically admitted on live television that Rockford’s politicians are bought and paid for by companies that do business with the city. He says it so casually, he either did not realize or did not care what he was saying. This admission further confirms suspicions of community activists that “pay to play” is standard operating procedure in the City of Rockford.
From the housing projects at South New Towne Drive, to the future hotel in the old Amerock building downtown, Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Company is tied to both City of Rockford projects. The company is also tied to Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, having donated thousands of dollars to his campaign, much of it after his last election.
The Illinois State Board of Elections shows that Gorman donated three times to Citizens for Morrissey. On 3/11/13, Gorman donated $2,500. On 9/3/13, the company ponied up another $1,000. The last donation came on 3/27/14 to the tune of $1,000. The total rings up to $4,500. Click here to see the list of contributions made to Morrissey’s campaigns.
Former mayoral candidate Michael Kleen issued the following statement regarding the donations:
“Gorman & Co.’s donation to Citizens for Morrissey, prior to making a business deal with the City, reeks of pay to play. It gives the appearance of a conflict of interest and raises questions about how the City of Rockford does business. City contracts should be awarded through a transparent, open bidding process, not backroom deals. Awarding political donors with favored status is not how an open, transparent government operates.”
“On the surface, it appears very bad,” said Terry Siebert, Director of Together Rockford. He spent weeks collecting thousands of signatures against the public housing proposal Gorman was set to develop in his neighborhood, and he says he’s well aware of the Wisconsin company’s contributions to the mayor.
Here’s a screenshot of the donations. Note that Mayor Morrissey is the only Illinois politician Gorman has contributed to.
Loreto Cruz of KFVS Channel 12 News in Carterville, Illinois focused their latest Halloween segment on the many ghost stories of Southern Illinois University. They used my top 10 list, “Top 10 Most Haunted Places in Southern Illinois” as a basis for their news story. Thanks, KFVS Channel 12!
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) – Several of SIU’s buildings have been called haunted. A number of authors have published novels and compilations of ghost lore across southern Illinois. Michael Kleen is one of those authors, and published a list of the top ten most haunted places in southern Illinois.
One story claims that a student got lost in Faner Hall, a multipurpose building on SIU’s campus, and the student’s spirit still roams the halls at night. “Faner’s really easy to get lost in,” explained Student Emily VanWardhauizzn on Friday. “You can definitely hear the footsteps. It echoes, and just amplifies because it sounds like there’s more than one person behind you.”
Brent Bader at Illinois State University’s Daily Vidette has written an excellent article about my new book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. Thanks, Brent!
We’ve all gathered around campfires to hear friends tell ghost stories which were never fact-checked or investigated, but Michael Kleen is doing the research and compiled a list of “ghostlore” present at many Illinois colleges, including Illinois State University.
“I’ve written about other kinds of haunted places in the past, but until now, no one has devoted an entire book to Illinois college ghostlore,” Kleen said. “It’s a celebration of what makes our colleges and universities unique.”
This is a topic that Kleen is quite familiar with, having written many books about the subject, but by specifying the stories that took place on college campuses he is going back to the very location that originally inspired his hunt.
“I have been collecting and researching folklore and ghost stories for more than a decade,” Kleen said. “Although I’ve always been interested in reading ghost stories, I didn’t start writing about them until I went to college at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. I started collecting them and publishing what I found on the internet.”
Kleen said he found that Eastern was host to some of the most popular ghost stories in the state, which inspired him to look beyond the campus and see what other colleges offered in that realm. The author made sure to detail all of his findings in a way that others could prove or follow up on his work.