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.

Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet, Illinois

The Jacob Henry Mansion’s striking red exterior, ornate white trim, and slate roof is a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture, the finest in Illinois by some estimations.

Built in 1873 by Jacob A. Henry, the mansion interior is 16,800 square feet, with over 40 rooms constructed of black walnut and oak. The foyer features a hand-carved, walnut staircase.

In 1976, the mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia.

Jacob A. Henry was born in New Jersey in 1825 and became employed with the Hartford & New Haven Railroad at the age of 17. Just four years later, he moved to the Midwest to secure railroad construction contracts there.

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Mysterious Munger Road

Like Barrington’s Cuba Road, Munger Road in Wayne, Illinois sits at the periphery of the Chicago suburbs and has attracted many strange legends. The road itself penetrates deep into Pratts Wayne Woods and until recently was remote and not very well traveled. Rumors of abandoned houses and occult practices abound. Motorists have also reported being chased by a wolf with glowing red eyes as well as a vanishing Oldsmobile.

Perhaps the most famous legend centers on the now-defunct railroad tracks that intersect with Munger. The legend is a familiar one: three children pushed a baby carriage across the tracks just in time to save it from a passing train. Unfortunately, the children were killed. Today, if your car happens to stall on the tracks, phantom hands will push it to safety. While that is a common rural legend, a train did in fact derail nearby.

According to a former forest preserve employee interviewed by author Ursula Bielski for her book Chicago Haunts 3, an old abandoned house also sat north of the railroad tracks. Its owners left after a fire, and vandals and curious teens moved in. Naturally, they claimed the house was inhabited by Satan worshippers. The house was demolished in 2000.

“There was a hole in the floor where a fire had ruined the house for its inhabitants…” the forest preserve employee said. “There were numerous signs of vandalism and the discarded packages of masks and things which someone had used in a lame attempt to scare someone else.” He described the house as being two stories, white, and surrounded by large oak trees.

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Luna at Conesus Lake

In this series, I met Luna at Vitale Park on Conesus Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in central New York, on the first beautiful day of the year. She wore a lovely red floral ruffle wrap cami dress and striped cut-out midi dress from Express. It was a challenge to get the lighting right in the afternoon, but I think we got some great shots.

Follow her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/luna_model_account/
Follow me at www.instagram.com/ma_kleen/

Cold Harbor Battlefield

The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought in Hanover County near Mechanicsville, Virginia from May 31 to June 12, 1864 between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory and resulted in approximately 18,000 total casualties. It was the last engagement of Grant’s Overland Campaign.

The Cold Harbor Battlefield is part of Richmond National Battlefield Park. Only about 300 acres of the approximately 7,500-acre battlefield are currently preserved. The Civil War Trust has managed to save 69 acres, but preservation efforts are ongoing.

The earthworks pictured above were dug and manned by troops of Confederate Lt. General Richard Anderson’s First Corps. On June 1, men of Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke and Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s divisions fell back to this final position. On June 3, the left flank of the Union XVIII Corps and the right flank of the VI Corps attacked this site. Union and Confederate soldiers found themselves 200 yards apart in some places. Confederate soldiers built sheltered tunnels leading from the rear to their entrenchments, so they could move supplies back and forth without being exposed to fire.

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The Many Mysteries of Bachelor’s Grove

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has been an enigma of southwestern suburban Chicago for over four decades. Like most such locations, it started out with a mundane existence. Over a century ago, picnickers dressed in their Sunday best lounged under oak trees in the park-like atmosphere of the cemetery. Two of the grove’s neighbors heated their small homes with coal burning stoves and drew water out of their brick wells, while horse drawn buggies trotted down the dirt road. It was a much different scene from today.

Much of the origins of Bachelor’s Grove have been obscured by the passage of time. Even its name is a mystery. Some say it was named after a group of single men who settled in the area around the 1830s, but a family named Batchelder already owned the land. According to Ursula Bielski, author of Chicago Haunts, the cemetery itself was originally named Everdon’s. Its first burial was in 1844, and the cemetery eventually contained 82 plots.

In the early half of the 20th Century, the Midlothian Turnpike ran past the cemetery, over the stream, and beyond. Today, the broken road appears to end at the cemetery gates, but closer inspection of a long ridge across from the stream reveals a roadbed that has been nearly reclaimed by the forest. The road was closed in the 1960s. Locals say that was when the trouble began.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Jason George, the body of a teenage girl was found in the woods in 1966, and in 1988 a man, who had been murdered by a former girlfriend, was found in the cemetery. Aside from those gruesome incidents, grave desecration regularly occurred. Bodies were dug up, animals were sacrificed, and headstones were moved or stolen.

Then the ghosts came.

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