Mysterious America

What Lurks on Shoe Factory Road?

Until 2008, the most distinctive feature on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates was an old, derelict Spanish Colonial revival style building. Just down the street, in the direction of the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve, sat an abandoned farm. Both were rumored to be haunted. Unfortunately, both have been torn down and encroaching subdivisions threaten to erase all traces of these unusual places.

The unique stone house was at one time the Charles A. Lindbergh School, named after the famed aviator and American patriot. According to John Russell Ghrist, who has written on and researched the school extensively, the current structure was built in 1929 to replace the Helberg School, named after a neighboring farmer, after it burnt down.

The Lindbergh School’s first enrollment consisted of 29 students from the surrounding community. Their teacher was named Anne W. Fox, who would be employed there for most of the school’s existence.

The institution was closed in 1948 when rural schools began to be consolidated into the modern Illinois public school system. The stone structure spent the next 30 years as a residence, until it became abandoned sometime during the 1970s.

According to the Daily Herald, an archeological survey of the property in July 1998 yielded pottery shards that could have been used by Amerindians over one thousand years ago. The archeological firm that conducted the survey for Terrestris Development Company described the shards as “weathered and hard to classify.”

In 2001, the development company offered to donate the former school to the village of Hoffman Estates, but the village board was unable to find anyone who would shoulder the cost of bringing the building up to code.

By 2007, the effort to save the building had gained momentum and a small sum of money had been raised. In May, the village board debated a plan to turn the former school and residence into a museum. According to the Daily Herald, a final vote on the structure was put off until July, and then extended to August. As of today, the fate of the old Lindbergh School is undecided.

One source of information on the alleged hauntings of Shoe Factory Road come from the Shadowlands Haunted Places Index. One entry claims that the stone house became abandoned after a child killed his parents. The ghost of the child, who plays with a knife, can be seen sitting on the steps.

The haunted farm, and its nefarious barn, are associated with several stories. One story has the farmer going insane and murdering his family, burying them at the middle of a circle of trees. The other has the family being murdered and hung in the barn by a mental patient.

In Chicago Ghosts, Rachel Brooks shared her own personal encounter with the silo on the derelict farm. The story behind it, according to her, was that a man had been hanged inside. “As a curious teen,” she wrote, “friends and I often drove to the silo with the intention of looking inside to get a glimpse of the macabre blood-stained interior… We were always too chicken, though, and rarely ventured far from the car.”

None of these stories, to my knowledge, can be substantiated.

Further Reading

  • Rachel Brooks, Chicago Ghosts (Atglen: Schiffer Books, 2008).
  • Susan S. Benjamin, Historic and Architectural Assessment: Charles A. Lindbergh School (Chicago: Historic Certification Consultants, 1998).
  • Courier-News (Elgin) 6 January 1997.
  • Daily Herald (Arlington Heights) 9 July 1998.
  • Courier-News (Elgin) 9 August 1998.
  • Chicago Tribune (Chicago) 10 November 2002.
  • Chicago Tribune (Chicago) 18 November 2002.
  • Daily Herald (Arlington Heights) 20 November 2002.

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