Who is Michael Kleen?
Michael Kleen was born in Chicago in 1981 and lived in a small apartment in the northern Chicago neighborhood of Edison Park for the first five years of his life, afterwards moving with his family to the northwestern suburb of Des Plaines where he would live until the winter of 2000/2001. During his adolescent and teenage years, his father instilled in him an appreciation for getting up at 5am and shoveling snow, even during blizzards.
It was that experience, as well as creative writing opportunities in middle school, that fed his interest in staying inside behind a keyboard and writing. He published his first novella, The River of Rain, which was closely followed by Tales of the Supernatural, in 2000 after enrolling at Eastern Illinois University. Both of these books were published on the print-on-demand label Xlibris, but Michael maintains that his haste to see the books in print led to their poor quality. He now shuns any mention of them.
In 2004, he penned and published his now famous chapbook Tales of Coles County, Illinois, which led to a monthly series of digital newsletters regarding the legends and lore of Coles County. Several more short books, including Six Tales of Terror, came out on his independent label Black Oak Press, Illinois.
Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Eastern Illinois University in the spring of 2006, and went on to found Black Oak Media, an alternative media outlet for Middle American art and culture. He now is the editor in chief of Black Oak Presents, a digital magazine, and writes a monthly electronic serial Legends and Lore of Illinois. Michael wrote a biweekly column for the Daily Eastern News between October 2006 and April 2007 and now publishes a monthly or bi-weekly column on Strike-the-Root.
In October 2007, Michael presented a paper on the Peace Democrats in Illinois during the Civil War at the 2007 Conference on Illinois History. Later that month, he spoke at Charleston Middle School and Teapot’s Cafe in Beecher, Illinois on local legends and lore. Since that time, Michael has also presented papers at the 2010 and 2011 conferences on Illinois history in Springfield, and has spoken at schools, libraries, and at the 3rd Chicago Ghost Conference.
In 2008, Michael received his master’s degree in American history from Eastern Illinois University and published One Voice, a collection of columns and essays dealing with a wide variety of social ills. Three years later, he received a master’s in education from Western Illinois University.
His research on Ashmore Estates, the old Coles County Poor Farm, led him to be interviewed for Season 5 Episode 1 of Ghost Adventures, Children of the Grave 2, and an episode of American Horrors. He has also been a guest on many different radio shows, including Thresholds into Other Realms, Darkness Radio, the Kevin Smith Show, and 30 Odd Minutes, and has several articles published in KILTER and Paranormal Underground magazine. In August 2011, his article on the Coles County Poor Farm was the cover story in Historic Illinois.