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Mysterious America

The Lafayette Avenue Ghost

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

In the winter of 1907-1908, a black-shrouded ghost startled residents of Mattoon’s west side. It began in December 1907 (formerly a time of year when ghost stories were popular) when residents noticed a diminutive figure dressed head-to-toe in a woman’s dress or gown, face covered with a hood, appear on the south side of Lafayette Avenue near 23rd Street around 7:00 p.m.

At least three times a week for several weeks, the figure walked west to 24th Street and back before vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared. Then, as now, this was a sparsely-populated neighborhood north of the Peoria, Decatur, & Evansville Railroad.

In the Journal Gazette, one man described being followed by the ghost, which emerged from the shadows behind a tree late at night. “I walked about fifty feet past Twenty-third street on the south of side of Lafayette avenue, when the ghost, or whatever it is, stepped out from the shadow of a tree and followed close after me as far as Twenty-fourth street, where it turned around and went back again,” he said. Others who were followed claimed the ghost never came within 20 feet.

Categories
Commentary

What is Totalitarianism? Part I

If the United States devolved into a totalitarian state, would we recognize it? Maintaining a free society requires knowing these warning signs.

“Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

Benito Mussolini

Public anxiety over loss of civil rights and civil liberties in the United States has become increasingly common. According to Pew Research, 85 percent of Americans say it is very important that the rights and freedoms of all people are respected, but only 41 percent believe that describes the country very well or somewhat well. Concerns about “authoritarianism” and lack of respect for democracy are openly expressed.

But if the United States devolved into a totalitarian state, would we recognize it? The trouble with diagnosing our condition is that most people are unaware of what totalitarianism actually is. Even among the most politically astute, there is little consideration for the possibility that a state in the process of becoming totalitarian might lack the most brutal and outward signs of oppressive regimes portrayed in popular culture.

Because of our rather simplistic frame of reference (picture black and white images of National Socialist Germany or the Soviet Union) we recognize a country as either being in the advanced stages of totalitarianism or not at all. But just because a state maintains the trappings of democracy, for instance, that does not preclude it from being totalitarian.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Convenience Lost

The old Market Basket convenience store, 7005 Blue Mountain Road outside Thurmont, Maryland. Now abandoned.

Categories
Commentary

0-3 for Predictions

2021 is not off to a good start, not just for the country as a whole but for my predictive abilities as well. Last week, I posted my predictions for the new year. Among them was that Republicans would win both senate races in Georgia, and that the political temperature in the country would cool down now that the election is over. I was very, very wrong on all accounts.

First, I predicted incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, would win their races on January 5th. Instead, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock squeaked over the finish line by narrow margins.

On November 3, 2020, Republican candidates in the Georgia special general election (including Loeffler) received a combined total of 2,426,120 votes. If all those same people showed up to vote for Kelly Loeffler on January 5th, she would have won.

However, as the sole Republican on the ballot, she ended up receiving 233,344 less votes. In the Perdue – Ossoff race, David Perdue received 258,043 less votes on January 5th than he received on November 3rd.

Either those people decided to vote for the Democratic candidates (unlikely), or they stayed home, which is why questioning the legitimacy of the previous election was a stupid strategy.

As for my prediction that the temperature in the country would cool down, we all know how that bit of wishful thinking went up in smoke last week. With the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building and the crackdown on social media by Big Tech, I fear things are only going to get worse.

Categories
Historic America

Yellow Tavern Battlefield in Henrico County, Virginia

Development has nearly erased this key Civil War battle, in which the South’s most famous cavalry commander was mortally wounded.

The Battle of Yellow Tavern was fought on May 11, 1864 between Union cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and Confederate cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in Henrico County, Virginia during the American Civil War. This nominal Union victory, part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, was notable mainly for the mortal wounding and death of J.E.B. Stuart, which deprived Robert E. Lee of his finest cavalry commander.

On May 9, 1864, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan rode south with 10,000 Union cavalry and 30 horse artillery to confront his Confederate counterpart, who had a reputation for invincibility. Stuart and his Confederates, however, could only muster around 4,500 troopers to confront him. Sheridan raided a supply depot at Beaver Dam Station on May 10 and continued south toward the Confederate capital of Richmond. On the morning of May 11, Stuart’s exhausted troopers arrived at the intersection of Telegraph and Mountain roads near an abandoned inn called Yellow Tavern.

Categories
Mysterious America

America’s Haunted Houses

These storied homes are valued for their architecture or their role in historical events, but many visitors and residents report that something otherworldly lingers…

Lizzie Borden House

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts was the scene of a gruesome unsolved double murder, perhaps among the most infamous in the U.S. Thirty-two-year-old Lizzy Borden became the chief suspect, but she was acquitted at trial. Today it’s open for tours and overnight stays.

The Franklin Castle

Built between 1881-1883, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true? Only a few people have been allowed inside its wrought iron gates to know for sure.

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Announcements

Follow me on Instagram

For the most part, social media is a toxic mess. I don’t have Twitter and I only use Facebook for friends, family, and promoting Tales of Coles County. Instagram and Flickr are my go-to sites. It’s a good way to share my photography and my life with you. I love seeing other people’s photos as well. All in all, it’s a positive exchange. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s be Insta friends: www.instagram.com/ma_kleen/. I’m looking forward to exploring the world with you!