The Importance of Legend Tripping in College Lore

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 1: Folklore, Legends, and Ghost Stories.

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & UniversitiesOne often-overlooked aspect of campus lore is the popularity of mysterious places outside the immediate boundaries of the college or university. These allegedly haunted locations are destinations for an activity known as legend-tripping. Author Lisa Hefner Heitz defines legend-tripping as “Visits by young people to a locally famous site that is known to be haunted or a hangout for monsters and other supernatural creatures.”

Others have described it as “a usually furtive [secret] nocturnal pilgrimage to a site which is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting.” These destinations, though not located on campus, should be included in any discussion of university folklore because students often make no meaningful distinction between these places and reportedly haunted locations on campus.

In my research on the legends and lore of Illinois colleges and universities, I discovered that in most cases, there was a remote destination (usually a cemetery, bridge, or abandoned building) that students sought out for its purported supernatural occurrences, often spurred on by articles in their college newspaper around Halloween. These locations—Vishnu Springs in McDonough County and Sunset Haven in Jackson County, for example—were occasionally owned by the university, even though they were located more than a mile away from campus. It struck me that these destinations are an important, but often overlooked addition to college and university lore. Although other authors have written plenty about them, their relationship to campus folklore has yet to be explored.

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Folklore, Legends, and Ghost Stories

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 1: Folklore, Legends, and Ghost Stories.

“A folklorist is a relief mapper, a cartographer of the invisible landscape, exploring and recording the local memory and ways of life, preserving them from erasure and decay, demonstrating how individual features on the map coalesce and form a unified whole rooted to a particular geographical location.” – Kent C. Ryden

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & UniversitiesGhost stories (or ghostlore) are a type of folklore that includes supernatural legends, local legends, and urban legends. Legends, generally, are also known as folk history or quasi-history. According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, “Rumors, anecdotes, and legends alike are concerned with remarkable, even bizarre, events that allegedly happened to ordinary people in everyday situations.” They are retold as a way of explaining strange occurrences and “are passed on in order to warn or inform others about these unprovable events.” While many legends conform to certain general themes and motifs, they acquire their credibility from localized details inserted by individual storytellers. The more details there are, the more truthful the legend appears to its audience. As a type of folklore, legends retain a fixed central core even while new variants acquire different lengths, detail, style, and techniques of performance. The process by which people in a community absorb new legends into their oral traditions and remake them through repetition and creative storytelling is called communal recreation.

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Excerpt from the Foreword to Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. Please enjoy this excerpt from the Foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses; Professor of English, Binghamton University; Editor, Children’s Folklore Review; and Past President, International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.

Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses
Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses

It is a real pleasure to contribute a foreword to Michael Kleen’s excellent book about the ghostlore of colleges and universities in the prairie state of Illinois. An expert in the folklore of Illinois, Kleen not only understands the state’s ghostlore extremely well but also loves to collect it. I can see how much he enjoys his subject matter, because I also have a long-standing passion for collecting ghost stories on college and university campuses. It is exciting to hear college students tell stories about supernatural encounters and to dig up intriguing material from campus archives. I wrote my book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses at the turn of the millennium and have been teaching courses and giving talks about folklore of the supernatural ever since…

One of the many things I like about this book is its foundation in personal experience. Michael Kleen attended Eastern Illinois University from 2000 to 2008 and then received his Master’s degree from Western Illinois University in 2011. His sister went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and many of his friends went to Rockford University, then known as Rockford College. While listening to ghost stories told by friends and relatives, he realized that although each campus has its own unique identity, campus folklore has many consistent patterns. Migratory campus legends such as “The Roommate’s Death” and “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” have been told throughout the United States, but they can seem just as frightening and believable as more localized legends. One of the main reasons for these stories’ chilling impact is the fact that members of a close-knit college community share the stories, weaving them into a very important, formative period of their lives.

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Q&A with the Author of Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities

Michael Kleen earned a M.A. in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2008 and a M.S. in Education from Western Illinois University in 2011. He is the author of several books, including Haunting Illinois, Tales of Coles County, Six Tales of Terror, and Paranormal Illinois. Michael has spoken about local history and folklore at conventions, libraries, cafes, schools, and colleges; and he has presented research papers at the 2007, 2010, and 2011 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. His latest book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, was released last month.

How did you come up with the concept for Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities? What makes this book different from other books about haunted places in Illinois?

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & UniversitiesI have always enjoyed college lore. Both of my alma maters, Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University, had their own ghostlore. WIU was remarkable for the sheer number of alleged hauntings, but EIU is the setting for one of the most well-known ghost stories in Illinois: the legend of Mary Hawkins at Pemberton Hall. I had personal experience with a number of the schools in the book, whether through friends or relatives. So last year, when I was thinking about what to write next, it occurred to me that no one had ever attempted to write a book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore. I decided to dive into my love of collegiate life and make that a reality.

There are a lot of books of ghost stories out there that simply tell the tales without going into much detail. For the main chapters in the book, I did in-depth research and really fleshed out the legends and lore, citing all of my sources in the process. In some cases, I attempted to uncover the origin of the legends. In other cases, I showed how the ghost stories were similar to stories told at other colleges and universities. In the first chapter, I discuss how and why these types of tales flourish at colleges and universities, and why students are so attracted to them. In the second chapter, I focus on types of buildings common to college campuses and give examples of ghost stories set at those locations throughout Illinois. To my knowledge, there are no other books on Illinois ghostlore organized this way.

What are some of the colleges and universities discussed in the book?

To begin with, the book includes chapters on Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Rockford University, and Southern Illinois University, and stories from nine other colleges throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, including the University of Illinois, Millikin University, Illinois College, and Loyola University Chicago. Nearly every college and university has a ghost story or two, but I tried to include substantive stories that would keep readers interested. Strangely, I’ve never been able to find any ghost stories at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, so maybe that is the exception.

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Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is Now Available

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & UniversitiesThis is it — the print edition Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. The book includes in depth chapters on Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Rockford University, and Southern Illinois University, and stories from nine other colleges throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, with 24 high-quality photos. More than just a collection of tales, this book examines the how and why behind the stories. It also includes a unique look at the phenomenon of legend tripping as it relates to campus life.

On a dark and stormy night on a college campus near you, a young coed is about to make a grisly discovery… or so the legend goes. At colleges and universities across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad specters suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theaters, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore.

Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered in Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. With a foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, Professor of English at Binghamton University and author of Haunted Halls.

From the foreword by Elizabeth Tucker:

It is a real pleasure to contribute a foreword to Michael Kleen’s excellent book about the ghostlore of colleges and universities in the prairie state of Illinois. An expert in the folklore of Illinois, Kleen not only understands the state’s ghostlore extremely well but also loves to collect it. I can see how much he enjoys his subject matter, because I also have a long-standing passion for collecting ghost stories on college and university campuses. It is exciting to hear college students tell stories about supernatural encounters and to dig up intriguing material from campus archives. I wrote my book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses at the turn of the millennium and have been teaching courses and giving talks about folklore of the supernatural ever since. Once you start collecting ghost stories, it is not easy to stop.

Buy the paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon.com!

Print Edition of Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and UniversitiesThis is it — the print edition of my new book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! It’s been nearly six months since I submitted the manuscript to Crossroad Press, and it has been well worth the wait. Now, just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Read the description below:

On a dark and stormy night on a college campus near you, a young coed is about to make a grisly discovery… or so the legend goes. At colleges and universities across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad specters suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theaters, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore.

Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered in Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. With a foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, Professor of English at Binghamton University and author of Haunted Halls.

Buy the print edition on Amazon.com here!

Mysterious Heartland Surpasses 3 Million Views

Exciting news this week as my website, Mysterious Heartland, surpassed 3 million total page views since it went online in January 2009. Of course, at that time it was home to the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Since then, we’ve greatly expanded the scope of our content, especially since I’ve had the opportunity to explore places as far away as Arizona and the Gulf Coast. Last year was our best year ever, with over 1,376,600 views. Thanks for sticking with me and exploring our wonderful American Heartland.