Schedule an Appearance

Michael has spoken on local history, folklore, ghost stories, political philosophy, and writing to a wide variety of audiences, both academic and casual. The following is a list of talks and presentations Michael has developed over the past several years. You may request any of these as they are, or they can be modified to fit your needs.

Michael’s straightforward, informative speaking style has been valued in such venues as the Rockford Public Library, the Ella Johnson Memorial Library, Eastern Illinois University, Lakeland College, Rockford College, Charleston Middle School, the 2007 Conference on Illinois History, Teapot’s Cafe in Beecher, the House Cafe in DeKalb, and many more. Click on the “Appearances” tab for a listing of past and future events.

  • To schedule one of the following presentations, or to request Michael speak on an alternative or local topic, please e-mail
  • Mike says, “educating students and families about local history and folklore is important to me, so I am happy to offer discounts on speaking fees to schools and libraries.”

Legends and Lore of Pioneer Illinois

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (15 minutes for questions)
Fee: Negotiable

What can the folk stories and ghost stories of the early 1800s tell us about the history and life of pioneer Illinois? In this presentation, Michael Kleen explains how rough and tumble men and women from the South shaped the early history of Illinois as they settled along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and came into competition with American Indians and French traders. Topics include Illinois ghost stories, tales of witchcraft and highway robbery, and folk wisdom from 1790-1850, and readings from Charles Neely’s classic Tales and Songs of Southern Illinois.

Totalitarianism: its Present and its Future

Time: 1 hour (15 minutes for questions)
Fee: Negotiable

The threat of totalitarianism has not vanished in the 21st Century. In this presentation, Michael Kleen reads from his popular essay “What is Totalitarianism?” as a jumping off point for a discussion of what totalitarianism is, where totalitarianism is, and how we can prevent it from reaching our shores. Critical observations about the nature of totalitarianism, such as the distinction between the ideology as a way of organizing society as opposed to a form of government, are made.

The Copperhead Threat in Illinois: Peace Democrats, Loyalty Leagues, and the Charleston Riot of 1864

Time: 1 hour (10-15 minutes for questions)
Fee: Negotiable
Related Article: “Mural depicts Civil War riot

In this presentation, first given at the 2007 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield, Michael describes the heated climate of Illinois during the Civil War and argues that, contrary to popular belief, the strongest copperhead opposition materialized in central, not southern, Illinois. Michael supports his argument with both incidents of unrest and electoral statistics from the era.

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