Category Archives: Folklore

Mount St. Mary’s University and Father Brute’s Ghost

Mount St. Mary’s is a private Catholic university outside Emmitsburg, Maryland in the Catoctin Mountains. It is a small school on a 1,400 acre campus, with a little more than 1,700 undergraduates. It has a storied history, with a legendary foundation.

In 1805, a French priest named Father John DuBois saw a light in the hills as he passed between Frederick and Emmitsburg. It was growing dark, so he traveled toward the light, thinking it was a farmhouse. Exhausted, he laid down for the night beneath a large oak tree. When he woke up, he saw he was in a beautiful spot in the Catoctin Mountains. Local Catholics called it “St. Mary’s Mountain,” so it seemed an ideal place for a church.

DuBois also established a school, which grew into a seminary. Father Simon Bruté became a teacher there in 1812. The university was officially founded in 1830, and it doubled as a boarding school until the early 1900s. Bradley Hall is a remnant of those boarding school days. Not far from where Father DuBois erected his church, he also created a small shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is now known as the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, with extensive gardens and statuary.

Some visitors claim to have seen an apparition of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton wandering the grounds and gardens. She founded the Sisters of Charity and was the first native born U.S. citizen to be canonized as a saint. She also founded Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School for girls, the first free Catholic parochial school in the United States, a few miles from Mount St. Mary’s in 1809. The two schools have since merged.

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Harrison Cemetery’s Phantom Duet

Located between the town of Christopher and the village of Buckner in rural Franklin County, Illinois, Harrison Cemetery is home to two luminous phantoms, as well as haunting, ethereal tones. If you can get past the glowing ghosts of a man and a woman who are said to guard the cemetery, you will discover a small monument in the form of a piano. Although locked in stone, this unique headstone is said to be the source of the ghostly music.

Harrison Cemetery has served area residents for over 120 years and is named after one of the first families to settle Browning Township. The History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties listed A. [Andrew] U. Harrison among the township’s early settlers, most of whom arrived in the same year Illinois became a state: 1818.

Both Andrew Harrison and his wife Elizabeth are interred in the cemetery. They died in 1845 and 1846, respectively, but Harrison Cemetery was not officially chartered until 1907.

The village of Buckner grew up along the Illinois Central rail during the 1910s and flourished due to its proximity to a large United Coal Mining Company plant that churned out 4,000 tons of coal per day.43 Workers at the plant and from the nearby mines converged on Buckner after their shifts.

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Rockford University’s Whispers of the Past

Rockford, Illinois’ first college, established before the city was even chartered, was Rockford Female Seminary.  Jane Addams, who would go on to fame as a social reformer and co-founder of Chicago’s Hull House, was a graduate of the seminary in 1881. In 1892 RFS became known as Rockford College, which remained a predominately female academy until 1958.

In 1964 the campus was moved from its home along the river to its present location along State Street. It changed its name to Rockford University in 2014.

While rich in history, Rockford University is also rich in ghostlore and the origin of a wide variety of alleged haunts. No less than three buildings are said to be home to restless spirits, along with one memorial arch, which was built using materials from the original Rock River campus.

Blanche Walker Burpee Center, Adams Arch, and the Clark Arts Center run the gambit of ghostly phenomenon, from disembodied voices, to moving objects, to phantom reflections, and a whole host of other unexplained things.

Out of all of the buildings at Rockford University, the Clark Arts Center, which contains both Cheek and Maddox theaters, is thought to be the most haunted. Ancient frescos depicting figures in various stages of celebration, often playing instruments, line the hall outside Maddox Theatre. Their cherubic faces, it has been said, change expressions and even watch the audience as the guests filter in for a performance.

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Anderson Cemetery: Hoax or Legend?

“Graveyard X.” The name conjures up images of a foreboding and desolate graveyard―a secretive place known only to an elite cabal of investigators who made an arrangement with local authorities to keep its location a secret. Only a privileged few have access to “the most haunted cemetery in Illinois.” A silly but romantic story.

Located south of Taylorville, Illinois near the tiny town of Clarksdale, “Graveyard X,” or “Cemetery X” as sometimes known, is actually Thomas Anderson Cemetery. Though hyped as Central Illinois’ version of Bachelor’s Grove (a cemetery in southwest suburban Chicago internationally-known for its ghostly legends) in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Thomas Anderson Cemetery is really an unremarkable rural cemetery. It’s not even abandoned.

Half-hearted attempts to keep its identity a secret have not been successful. In Troy Taylor’s book Beyond the Grave (2001), Anderson Cemetery, buoyed by a background story lifted from the pages of a Christian County cemetery record, was featured in a section entitled “Mysteries of the Grave.” That same year, the Field Guide to Illinois Hauntings, published by Taylor’s press, Whitechapel Productions, included an entry for “Graveyard X” with the very same background story.

Additionally, passages describing Anderson Cemetery in Beyond the Grave are identical to those describing “Graveyard X” on Taylor’s website. Compare this passage from Beyond the Grave: “Anderson cemetery is not a place you are going to find on any maps. It is a typical rural cemetery that is well hidden by curving back roads…” and this passage from

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Sunset Haven’s Former Residents

Until the mid-1950s, people who could not take care of themselves; orphans, the elderly and infirm, epileptics, and alcoholics, often found themselves on a county farm known as a “poor farm.” A superintendent and his family looked after the residents while they earned their keep by farming the land or performing other useful tasks, if able.

These institutions closed when our modern welfare system came into maturity. The land was sold and the buildings were often turned into psychiatric hospitals or homes for the developmentally disabled. Sometimes poorly managed, and not very profitable, those institutions frequently closed their doors and were taken over by vandals and thrill seekers. Sunset Haven, or “Building 207” as it became known, was one such place.

The Jackson County Poor Farm (its original name) has a somewhat unique history. According to Troy Taylor’s Haunted Illinois (2004), it became known as Sunset Haven during the 1940s before it was converted into a nursing home. It was finally closed in 1957 when Southern Illinois University purchased the property to expand its agricultural program. It then became known as the Museum Research Corporation.

During the 1970s, the research corporation tried to locate all the unmarked graves of the dead that had been buried during Sunset Haven’s years as a poor farm. The graves are supposedly located in a grove of trees behind the building.

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Cumberland Cemetery’s Headless Lady

Cumberland Cemetery, located near the town of Wenona in Marshall County, is rumored to be the home of a headless lady, spook lights, and the ghost of a little girl. The cemetery itself is rich in history. It was the site of the first farm in Evans Township, and its rolling hills were once occupied by a fort built during the Black Hawk War to protect the nearby settlers from marauding Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo Indians.

Marshall County was settled comparatively late. Illinois became a state in 1818, but the first white settler in Evans Township, Benjamin Darnell, arrived there in 1828. The book Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties tells us that his nearest neighbor lived six miles away in what became Roberts Township.

Benjamin Darnell had ten children, including a 14 year old daughter named Lucy (the date of settlement given here, including Lucy’s age, is different than that given by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk in the Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations. I believe my source to be more accurate).

Lucy took ill and died in 1829. Her family buried her on their farm, and her grave formed the cornerstone of Cumberland Cemetery. It is thought that the spirit of the first person (or animal) to be interred in a cemetery becomes its guardian. Perhaps that superstition explains the origin of the young girl’s ghost reportedly encountered in Cumberland?

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Illinois State University’s Loyal Librarian

Founded in 1857 and originally a teacher’s college, Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost. This ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.

Angeline Vernon Milner was born on April 9, 1856 in Bloomington. By all accounts, she seemed to be destined for the work which would become her legacy. According to Charles W. Perry, who assisted the famed librarian for several years and wrote her biography, she learned how to read before she was four-years-old.

Ange began her fated job at the university library on February 1, 1890, and the Normal School Board was so impressed with her skill and dedication that they appointed her as the sole and head librarian in the fall of that same year.

“Aunt Ange,” as the students called her, died in 1928. According to legend, she collapsed while organizing a section of biology books. She was buried in Bloomington’s Evergreen Cemetery, but for whatever reason did not have a headstone until a short time ago. In April 2006, former Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, issued dual proclamations declaring April 10th “Angie Milner Day.”

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The Legend of Devil’s Gate

According to legend, sometime in the distant past a school stood behind the set of iron gates at a sharp bend in River Road, about a mile north of Libertyville, Illinois. One day, a maniac broke into the school and abducted several girls. He killed each one and mounted their severed heads on the spikes of the gate. Every full moon, the heads reappear on the rusted spikes.

The truth behind the mysteries of Devil’s Gate, located near the Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Lake County, Illinois, is elusive. What may or may not have happened there has been lost in the minds of the older generation, who have so far not come forward with the real story.

Like most legends, there are very few facts to back up the story. There is no doubt, however, that an institution once stood on those grounds. According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, construction on what was known as the Katherine Kreigh Budd Memorial Home for Children began in the early spring of 1926.

Britton I. Budd, the president of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, funded the project. The institution itself was to be run by the Sisters of St. Mary, an Episcopal organization, and was expected to house around 150 children in its first year.

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