Exciting things are happening at Mysterious Heartland

I didn’t think I would be able to surpass the traffic I received at Mysterious Heartland in December, but my latest top 10 list (and the first to feature locations from all over the Midwest) “Top 10 Most Haunted Colleges in the Midwest” has exploded in popularity over the past several days, getting over 69,000 views since Monday. I also broke my record for most site views in one day – 44,109 on Tuesday, and today it looks like it might surpass even that. Needless to say, this is very exciting! My top 10 list is getting coverage from some local media, and a WordPress editor has picked it to be featured on their “fresh pressed” page in a few days!

Maureen Hoff from the Kenyon College blog The Thrill posted this funny article today: Kenyon is #1 At Being Haunted!

An article was recently released on the top ten most haunted colleges in the Midwest, and Kenyon crushed all competition, sliding smoothly into first. And if you didn’t read that article, or weren’t already told the moment you stepped onto campus, then you are getting this info here first. I’m the first person to tell you. It’s as if I knew that Kenyon was haunted before anyone else. And are we really that surprised that I was the Nancy Drew of this situation, and you’re the dance teacher who lost her music tapes? Too obscure of a reference? I drop it after the jump!

Read the entire post here, and stay tuned for more great news about MysteriousHeartland.com!

 

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A Pleasant Surprise at the End of 2013

Thanks to the strange forces that make posts go viral, Mysterious Heartland has set a new record for site visits in one day – 33,383 on December 29th, and has received more than 70,000 visits in the past three days. That made December 2013 our best month for visits since the website launched in 2009. Thanks to a related sales boost, my book Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State reached #1 in Midwestern travel guides and #4,535 in Books overall on Amazon.com today. That’s the highest ranking any of my books has ever achieved. That, coupled with the unexpected surge in website traffic, made for a great end to 2013. surprise

1st in Midwest Travel December 30 2013

Pictures from Roads Less Traveled

Last weekend’s presentation at White Trash Gallery in LaSalle went very well. I have to give a big thanks to White Trash Peg for helping put together another successful event! We had 15 people attend and I presented for a little over an hour and a half. It was great to finally meet Travis and Chad, who came all the way from Rockford. Everyone had a good time and hopefully learned something as well. Here are a couple of pictures from the event – I might have some video to post as well in a few days.

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Announcing Roads Less Traveled: Haunted Highways of Illinois, Dec. 7th

Roads Less Traveled

A solitary figure wanders the dark road. A ghostly hand writes “help me” over and over on the blood stained pavement, desperate to reach out to the living. The wind whispers of unspeakable crimes through the rusted trestles of a rural bridge. These are the roads less traveled.

Join author Michael Kleen as he takes you on a visual tour of some of the most mysterious roads in Illinois and tells their tales. This special multimedia presentation will feature stories, pictures, and video from haunted roads all over the state: from Cuba Road in Barrington, to southwest suburban Archer Avenue, to Lebanon Road’s “Gates to Hell” and the phantom lady of Kennedy Hill Road and beyond.

Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive CollectionThis presentation will be held on Saturday, December 7th from 7-9:00 pm at White Trash Gallery (139 Gooding St.) in LaSalle, Illinois. LaSalle is conveniently located right off Interstate 39, just south of I-80, near Starved Rock State Park.

Entrance to this event is $10 and you can pay at the door. Paying attendees will receive a 16% discount (-$3.00) off signed copies of Michael Kleen’s new book Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection (retails for $18.95). There will also be a free reception and book signing after the presentation.

RSVP on Facebook, and don’t forget to invite your friends!

Council Appointment Shows Democracy Inaction

By Michael Kleen ~ Published November 13, 2013 at the Rock River Times

CityofRockfordLogoIn April 2013, Vernon Hilton (D) won a narrow victory over Pamela Connell (R) to become alderman of Rockford’s 6th Ward. Less than six months later, Mr. Hilton resigned and moved to Texas for a job opportunity. Before leaving, he recommended that his friend Marcus Hill be appointed to fill the vacancy. After interviewing five applicants and reviewing their résumés, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) chose to appoint Marcus Hill.

The appointment made the front page of the Rockford Register Star. Their sub headline read, “Mayor says Safer Foundation rep Marcus Hill is best of 5 candidates for 6th Ward.” Given the information presented in the article, we are led to believe that yes, this was a wonderful decision. The Register Star, however, did not report the full story. A more complete view of the facts about the candidates will show that this was far from the best decision the mayor could have made.

Let me make one thing clear; my purpose is not to denigrate or disparage the appointee. I’m sure Mr. Hill is an upstanding man and might make a perfectly fine alderman. My purpose is 1) to point out that Mayor Morrissey’s argument in favor of his decision is either questionable, disingenuous, or both, and 2) to point out the Register Star’s omission of certain important facts from their coverage of that decision.

Continue reading “Council Appointment Shows Democracy Inaction”

Head Start a Red Herring in Stimulus Scandal

By Michael Kleen ~ Published October 30, 2013 at the Rock River Times

redherringEver since Rockford’s stimulus funds scandal erupted over the summer, media coverage has focused on a peripheral issue: the fate of Rockford’s Head Start program. This has effectively distracted the public from the costly and embarrassing mistakes made by senior Human Services Department officials that led to the scandal. Rather than focusing on the lack of oversight and accountability, the public’s outrage has been misdirected toward a phony issue involving Head Start. Here is how it happened.

In July of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General released the results of a partial audit of Federal stimulus funds given by the State of Illinois to Rockford in 2009. The Inspector General found $205,296 was used for “unallowable” reasons under the terms of the Recovery Act award. A further $141,796 was deemed “potentially unallowable.”

After conducting a review of the audit, the City of Rockford released a memo outlining its findings. City Administrator James (Jim) Ryan recommended that Rockford “return” $298,671.84, establish a Grant Program Compliance section within the Rockford Finance Department, and restructure the Rockford Human Services (HS) Department. The $298,671.84 would come from “recaptured loan funds” and Rockford’s Redevelopment Fund.

Continue reading “Head Start a Red Herring in Stimulus Scandal”

Great Turnout for EIU Presentation

Thank you everyone who came out to my “legends and lore of Coles County” presentation at Eastern Illinois University last night! The event was a huge success – we actually had to move to another room to accommodate the crowd. Thanks to Becky and Lesley for helping out, and again to Morgan and Diane and the rest of the EIU Creative Writing Club exec board, As a bonus, my presentation made the front page of the Daily Eastern News today. Here’s a snippet:

Coles County Full of Hauntings
By Ashley Holstrom/Staff Reporter

The legend of the ghost of Pemberton Hall is the most well known in the area, but Michael Kleen, author of “The Tales of Coles County,” has many more to share. And he did, to an audience of about 50 students and community members at an event hosted by the Eastern’s Creative Writing Club Thursday.

Most people in the audience raised their hands when asked if they believe in ghosts, and Kleen said he was surprised that the few who did not would come to such an event. “Maybe we’ll make believers out of you,” he said.

He grew up reading ghost stories, went to Eastern, and realized not much had been written about the legends percolating around the area. So he did it himself.

This is the best quote:

The story of the ghost of Pemberton Hall hits closest to home — literally, for a few members of the audience. “Have a good night tonight,” he said, laughing, to the few women who said they live there.

My next presentation in Coles County will be at Lakeland Community College in February.