Earlier this month, I was asked to lend my expertise to a series of articles on legends in the Rockford, Illinois area for the Register Star, and the results were exciting, to say the least. The Register Star has not shied away from publishing articles about local legends and ghost stories in the past, but this is their first full, multi-article spread on the subject, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it! Here are some excerpts, with links back to the original articles:
You can’t discount the hundreds of strange encounters reported along Bloods Point Road, said Michael Kleen, a local folk historian. The road is one of Boone County’s most notorious midnight drives.
“Maybe there is something to the stories after all. … That’s what makes it exciting.”
With multiple books on local legends — including the ghostly go-to book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” Kleen is well-acquainted with the lore surrounding the 5-mile country thoroughfare, from phantom police cars and supernatural dogs to mystery lights and vanishing barns.
He feels the road’s sinister monicker, taken from the Blood family who settled there in the mid-1800s, has helped keep the lore alive for more than a century. Believe them or not, these spooky tales have become an integral part of the community’s social and historical fabric. Even traffic signs dare not use the road’s full name, opting instead for the abbreviated “Bl. Point Rd.” [More…]
What is known about the home is this: It was the home of Charles Guiteau’s uncle and aunt, A.B. and Emily Rehfield Guiteau. Charles was the son of Luther W. Guiteau, who served as a cashier at Second National Bank, was a merchant at the time, and served Stephenson County as recorder and clerk of the circuit court. Charles shot President Garfield in a railroad depot in July 1881. It would be weeks before Garfield would die. Charles never lived in the home of his uncle and aunt. He actually grew up in a house on Broadway Street in Freeport.
Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of several books, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourists Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” has often passed the home while visiting family in Freeport. The home fascinated him, so he began his own research.
After Charles Guiteau was hanged for killing Garfield, rumors began swirling that his bones were buried in the home.
“This rumor about Guiteau’s bones is not true,” said Kleen. “According to widespread belief, after his execution, his body was boiled and his skeleton was bleached and put on display around the country. Other reports said his head had been preserved in a jar and kept by a physician in New York. Similar rumors were repeated for nearly a century, creating a lot of confusion. Guiteau’s bones are actually kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.”
Kleen said Guiteau was a tragic figure and a political gadfly. For a short time, he joined a utopian religious sect known as the Oneida Community in New York, but its founder thought him to be insane and threw him out. He constantly sought appointments to political offices and felt slighted by President Garfield when he refused to appoint him as ambassador to France. He even failed at the assassination of Garfield, said Kleen. It was really Garfield’s doctors, who infected the bullet wound during sloppy surgery, who are ultimately blamed for killing the president. But, at Guiteau’s trial, Dr. Edward Spitzka called him a moral monstrosity. [More…]
The year was 1856 when Winnebago County Sheriff John Taylor was shot by Alfred Countryman, a suspected cattle thief who was attempting to elude capture. “Before they could get to the jail, Alfred ran and Taylor took off in pursuit,” said Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of the book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State.”
“Sometimes people still hear him speak his final words, ‘I’m shot; catch him.’” A mob of hundreds of townspeople pursued Countryman, demanding he be lynched where they captured him, across from Tinker Swiss Cottage.
“People have said they have heard crowd noises and running and screaming in that area,” said Kathi Kresol, a local librarian, researcher, and founder of the Haunted Rockford group. “Rockford was like the wild west at that time. The police couldn’t keep up with it; they were just doing the best they could.” [More…]
Stories vary as to why Nellie, in her late 60s, would have left her home, wandered to the river and drowned, but Michael Kleen, a folk historian and author of the book, “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” believes it had to do with heartbreak.
“According to legend, as the Civil War was raging, she fell in love with a man who promised to marry her after he returned from the war. He never returned, and she was so heartbroken that she never fell in love again. One day, in her old age, she donned her wedding gown and walked slowly into the river. Her neighbors found her body tangled in weeds and snakes.”
At the time, Dunton was said to have been suffering from dementia. Decades after her death, there have been reports of strange encounters in and around the home. [More…]