Michael Kleen gets a kick out of ghost stories and he’s willing to travel to see if there’s any truth to these legends. Kleen, of Rockford, has visited spots across Illinois, including some nearby like Cumberland Cemetery near Wenona and Moon Point Cemetery in Livingston County, where stories persist of the “Hatchet Lady.” He posts his discoveries online through a serial newsletter at http://www.trueillinoishaunts.com. Now he’s taking some of those stories and putting them in print.
Kleen recently released “Paranormal Illinois,” which joins his first book “Haunting the Prairie.” He talked to The Times via e-mail about his books, ghost hunting and why people love their local haunts.
Q. You operate an online newsletter sharing tales of the paranormal. What made you decide to publish your books as well?
A. Books have always been my first love. I started out writing fiction, and the digital newsletter (Legends and Lore of Illinois) was a way to explore my other interests by examining the history and folklore of haunted places in Illinois…
Check out the new issue of KILTER – I have a pretty decent short story published in it called “Sonic Fear” about a guy who loses his mind because he lives too close to the railroad tracks…
From their website: “Number 8 is busting at the seams with great content. Art coverage, movie reviews, An Interview with Voltaire by the Reverend Chicagodom, a review of the Chemlab/16 Volt show, a piece about Latebar, the fashion of Dollface, art by Sinee Misgari, Zmiya, Judgehydrogen, an expanded comics section, Poetry, fiction by Michael Kleen, Cleo LaVamp on the Continuum (including a pictorial tour) SS-Triple-X, and our regular features, Ask Happy, the Horriblescopes and another vegan recipe by Scary Lady Sarah. :gasp: (and so much more)”
People are excited about this one, I can feel it. Gillian Gabriel was kindly enough to interview me for the Champaign-Urbana art & culture blog Smile Politely. I hope this will draw a larger crowd on Saturday, but we will have a great time no matter what. I can’t wait to meet all my past and future friends in Champaign. I’ve missed the place ever since I left EIU…
Michael Kleen has a great fondness for the Midwest, a Master’s degree in History, and an insatiable thirst for ghost stories. Lucky for us, he has been able to skillfully combine all of his passions in his new book, Paranormal Illinois.
Painstakingly and lovingly compiled, Kleen’s books will be sure to become indispensable primers for both Midwestern ghost hunters and local folklore buffs alike. Michael will be appearing at Barnes and Noble this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. to discuss and sign copies of Paranormal Illinois. He was kind enough to answer some of our questions:
Smile Politely: Your book, Paranormal Illinois, came out recently, but it looks like you have written several others on the topic. Where does your interest in the paranormal come from? Did you have an experience that motivated you to learn more?
Michael Kleen: You know, people ask me this question all the time, and I’m never quite sure of the answer. I’ve often thought about why I’m interested in this subject, but the fact is, I always have been. When I learned to read, some of the first books I sought out on my own were about ghosts. I must have read every single collection of ghost stories that was at the library when I was in elementary school. World’s Most Spine-Tingling “True” Ghost Stories, World’s Weirdest “True” Ghost Stories, and of course, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, were all favorites. What I like most about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is that the author took common folktales and rewrote them in a way that kids of my generation would love. That’s what I try to do with my books: I want to tell the stories, but I also want to show that they are tied to history and culture. They are windows into a side of history that is usually ignored or covered-up. Ghosts are, after all, remnants of past generations that linger long after they are physically gone. Perhaps they have something to tell us.
Join me on the Channel 13 News at Noon in Rockford on Tuesday May 18! That’s right, if you happen to be home at that time, aka retired or unemployed, you can hear me talk about my latest book – live! And I promise to mention my presentation at the Rockford Public Library on July 17 at 4pm. …That’s the Rockford Public Library on July 17 at 4pm. Also, I was told they will rebroadcast this segment during the early show on the weekend!
Beth Heldebrandt from the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier has written a fine feature on my new book Paranormal Illinois, which includes three chapters on places in Coles County: Pemberton Hall, Airtight Bridge, and Ashmore Estates. I have a long history in Coles County. I lived in Charleston for nearly eight years, and it was where I first began writing about local ghost stories and legends. It was where I published Tales of Coles County, Illinois, my first work of historical fiction, in 2004. Copies of that book, in its various incarnations, are probably still floating around out there.
Nowhere else have any of the legends and lore of Coles County been documented so thoroughly. Nowhere else has the history of Airtight Bridge or Ashmore Estates been so completely written or well-researched. As a whole, Paranormal Illinois is the culmination of years of research, and it is accessible both to casual fans of the paranormal and anyone interested in Illinois history and folklore (or, what I like to call “folk history”). It’s fun, informative, and greatly entertaining.
I promise you, you have never seen most of this information before! If you think you’ve read everything there is to know about Airtight Bridge from my previous writing, you are mistaken. Paranormal Illinois is the first and only book to contain the complete story, featuring interviews and first hand accounts by people who were involved with the case.
Paranormal Illinois is available at several fine retailers, as well as a local bookstore near you. If you don’t find it there, ask them to order it! The book is also available online at the following websites:
This summer will be an exciting time. I plan on doing a mini “tour” of a presentation I like to call “Haunting the Prairie: Legends and Lore of Frontier Illinois.” So far, I have the Rockford Public Library and the Ella Johnson Memorial Library lined up, with more on the way. Monday night I am going to be sharing some of my favorite Illinois ghost stories for Carl Jones’ Ghosts, Hauntings, and the Unexplained class at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield. I will also appear on the WREX Channel 13 news in Rockford at 12pm on Tuesday May 18.
Here are a few of the dates and times for upcoming appearances:
Rockford Public Library in Rockford, Illinois
July 17, 2010 – 4:00-5:30pm
Ella Johnson Memorial Library in Hampshire, Illinois
June 14, 2010 – 6:00-7:30pm
Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois
April 12, 2010