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Mysterious America Photography

Graffiti Highway

Centralia, Pennsylvania was evacuated following a coal mine fire, which has been burning beneath the town since 1962. In 1992, Pennsylvania condemned the town and claimed it under eminent domain in an attempt for force the remaining residents out. Some sued, and were allowed to stay. A section of State Route 61 was abandoned after it began to buckle and crumble from the underground fire. This has become known as “Graffiti Highway.” Smoke can still be seen coming through cracks in the ground in some places.

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Photography

Stories in Stone: William C. Skinner

Monument to Florence C. Roberts Skinner (1857-1904) and William C. Skinner (1855–1922) and their family in Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. William C. Skinner was vice president and then president of Colt’s Manufacturing Company from 1909-1911 and 1916-1921.

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Historic America Photography

Thomas Farm

The Thomas Farm on Monocacy National Battlefield, 4632 Araby Church Road (Visitor Center) outside Frederick, Maryland. The farm was owned by Christian Keefer Thomas and is a treasure trove of Civil War history. Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock once used its brick farmhouse as a headquarters as his corps marched north to Gettysburg. On July 9, 1864, the farm was the scene of fierce fighting during the Battle of Monocacy. That fall, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant held a council of war at the house with his cavalry chief, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan.

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Mysterious America Photography

Coronado Theater

The Coronado is a historic, 2,400 seat theater in downtown Rockford, Illinois. It was designed by architect Frederick J. Klein, cost $1.5 million to build, and opened on October 9, 1927. Some have speculated that the theater was built on an American Indian burial ground because of its proximity to Beattie Park, which contains small Indian Mounds from the Upper Mississippian/Late Woodland period. The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

According to theater volunteers and a local psychic named Mark Dorsett, it is haunted by three ghosts: Willard Van Matre, the Coronado’s original owner (who died in 1953), Miss Kileen, the theater’s first office manager, and Louis St. Pierre, a Bridge enthusiast and the first theater manager. While Van Matre likes to greet visitors at the theater entrance, the scent of lilac perfume is associated with Miss Kileen. Other people have reported feeling “uneasy” on the catwalks, allegedly because they are occupied by the ghosts of men who died during construction of the building.

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Photography Roadside America

Paramount Theater

The Paramount Theater, 215 E Main Street in Charlottesville, Virginia, was designed by brothers Cornelius Ward Rapp and George Leslie Rapp. It operated from 1931 to 1974, when it entered a period of abandonment. In 1992, a nonprofit began a multi-million dollar restoration. Today, it serves as a performing arts venue and remains a fixture of downtown Charlottesville.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: William H. Seward

Monument to U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward (1801-1872), his wife Frances Adeline Miller (1805-1865), and their family in Fort Hill Cemetery, 19 Fort Street in Auburn, Cayuga County, New York. William H. Seward was governor of New York and a U.S. senator before rising to become among the most influential secretaries of state in American history, serving from 1861 to 1869 under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He was instrumental in preventing European powers from recognizing the Confederacy during the Civil War and was attacked in the same assassination plot that killed Lincoln (though Seward survived).

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Mysterious America

The Legend of Bethel “Ragdoll” Cemetery

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

Quaint and unassuming Bethel Cemetery sits nestled among rolling hills, picturesque farms, and new housing developments at the junction of E County Road 1020E and E County Road 600N south of the Coles County Airport. Its legend is little known even to locals, and many merely pass by on their way home or on a Sunday drive through the wooded hills unaware of the strange tale.

Even if they were aware of the legend, they might not recognize this particular cemetery as being home to such a gruesome story. At first glance, much of the cemetery has the same carefully trimmed lawn and identical rows of granite headstones as hundreds of other modern rural cemeteries. But a careful examination of the grounds reveals some interesting features.

Off to the right of the main gate, just outside the tree line, lies the old section of the cemetery. Two large oak trees stand guard over the faded or fallen headstones. Many of the remaining markers, as well as an assortment of items left there over the years, lay inside the woods among overgrown weeds. A large collection of stones, having been previously knocked down, is propped up haphazardly against one of the large oaks.