Twin Sister’s Woods’ Unlikely Phantoms

Photo by Michael Kleen

A plethora of strange tales are told about this small park on Rockford, Illinois’ east side.

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Twin Sister’s Woods is located in Rockford, Illinois and is part of Twin Sister Hills Park—22.44 acres of recreational land complete with two baseball fields and three sled hills. It is a popular winter destination, when the snow is thick and area youths come out to careen down the hill slopes, but some locals claim this park is home to more sinister guests.

The woods, they say, has been the scene of several murders, hangings, and even a drowning. Add feelings of dread, disembodied voices, and mysterious figures and you have one of Rockford’s closely guarded secrets.

Twin Sister Hills Park is wedged between Keith Creek, 27th Street, and a shopping center called Rockford Plaza. To the south runs Charles Street. East High School—with its own resident phantoms—stands on the opposite side of that street.

Many of its students grew up sledding on Twin Sister Hills, and as they grew older, appropriated the nearby woods for less than family friendly activities. Twin Sister Woods is 8-acres enclosed on three sides by a fence on the west side of the park. An imposing willow tree, which is the focal point of several legends, sits at the entrance.

The legends of Twin Sisters are varied and quite imaginative. First told among local high school students, they eventually found their way into the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places for Illinois. “If you walk by the willow tree it is said that you have a strange desire to go into the woods,” the index reads.

“There is an old hanging tree with some odd carvings on it. A little girl is said to be seen walking around.” The little girl is the ghost of a child who allegedly drowned in nearby Keith Creek.

While the entry in the Shadowlands Index is not specific about which tree is the “hanging tree,” a now defunct website pointed to the old willow. “Some believe that a satanic cult used this tree for sacrificial purposes and would carve ritualistic symbols into the trunk of the tree,” it claimed. “Others believe that a young girl was hung from the tree.” But with its high, vertical branches, a willow makes a poor hanging tree, and oaks are the traditional tree for ritual sacrifice.

Another legend involves the ghosts of three rape victims who haunt the woods. Their ethereal shadows duck in and out of the trees. While nothing substantiates these stories, it is easy to imagine that Twin Sister’s Woods has been a crime scene.

It is a claustrophobic area surrounded by urban blight, and if murders have not taken place within its boundaries, there have certainly been some nearby. Rockford has one of the highest crime rates in Illinois, and has been ranked fifth in the country for violent crime by the FBI.

The legends of Twin Sister’s Woods reflect the reality of life in metropolitan Illinois. As one of the only wooded areas in the City of Rockford, Twin Sisters has developed an undeserved reputation as a place of mystery and danger, and ghost stories naturally accentuate this titillating atmosphere for its visitors.

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Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

2 thoughts on “Twin Sister’s Woods’ Unlikely Phantoms”

  1. There are a few other wooded areas in Rockford city limits but not that many. Rockford got its nickname before Dutch elm disease killed over 40,000 elm trees in the city. Also, these stories are legends and I clearly explained there is no evidence for them

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  2. I was born in 1967 and grew up on 29th street (two block from twin sisters). I still spend a lot of time at the twin sisters park. The park is not haunted! These myths originated during my lifetime even though there has never been a hanging, a drowning, or murders in the park. Check the public records. The park is located in Rockford Illinois, which is known as the forest city, to say it is one of the only wooded areas in the city of Rockford is misleading.

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