Mysterious America

Who Murdered Amy Warner?

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.

At approximately 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday, June 29, 1999, a friend of 23-year-old Amy Denise Warner became concerned that he hadn’t seen or heard from her since the previous day. He went to her home at 17 7th Street in Charleston, just north of Jefferson Elementary School. There he found Amy, a single mother and a manager at Elder-Beerman in the Cross County Mall in Mattoon, lying half-way on her couch in the living room, blood covering the floor.

Her two children, a 4-year-old girl and 7-month-old boy, were home but not physically harmed. Investigators said there was no sign of forced entry. Amy died from a stab-wound to her neck, and she had defensive wounds on her hands. Investigators estimated her time of death at around 12 hours before her body was discovered.

Amy, a 1993 graduate of Charleston High School, was well-liked, an avid reader, and quick to smile and laugh. She worked tirelessly to provide for her children. Who would do this to her, and why? Her friends and family, and the broader community, struggled to make sense of the senseless brutality.

Historic America Photography

De Montcalm’s Men

Reenactors dressed as French soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga, 102 Fort Ti Rd, in Ticonderoga, New York. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. It was originally called Fort Carillon.

Mysterious America Photography

Azariah Sweetin Home

Otherwise known as “the old stone house,” the remnants of this Greene County, Illinois manor were, at one time, part of a mansion built in 1848 by a stockman named Azariah Sweetin. Though nothing but a shell today, a grand ballroom once occupied the third floor, a ballroom that was the scene of murder. During a farewell gala for newly enlisted Union soldiers, two farmhands, Henson and Isham, got into an argument that ended with one thrusting a knife into the back of the other. The wounded man fell down by the fireplace and bled to death. According to legend, his blood seeped into the stone floor and formed an outline of his body. The stain could never be removed.

As the war raged, Azariah Sweetin didn’t want to take any chances, so he stuffed all his gold coins into jars and buried them around his property. Unfortunately, an equestrian accident in 1871 rendered him without any memory of where he had buried his money. After his death, his ranch was purchased by Cyrus Hartwell, who also lived there until he died. Treasure seekers soon tore the mansion apart, but no one has ever found Azariah’s gold. Storytellers say Azariah’s ghost—alongside snakes—now guards his lost loot.

Announcements Mysterious America

‘Bunnyman Cometh’ Available for Pre-Order

Pre-orders are now available on Apple iTunes! “Bunnyman Cometh”, a new folksong written by myself, performed by Dying Seed and released by Secret Virginia based on northern Virginia’s legendary Bunnyman, is finally available to preorder on Apple iTunes. The single will be released on December 6, 2021 for all other music platforms and streaming services.

Visit the iTunes store to listen to a preview and order now!

Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Daniel Butterfield

Monument to Maj. Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831-1901) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. A native New Yorker, Daniel Butterfield’s father had founded the company that became American Express. He had no military experience prior to the American Civil War, but rose from the rank of captain to major general, and even won the Medal of Honor in 1862.

Butterfield was a talented organizer. He wrote an Army field manual, introduced the use of patches to distinguish between Union Army corps, and is credited with composing the bugle call “Taps”. He later transferred to the Western Theater. After the war, he served as Assistant Treasurer of the United States, but was forced to resign for taking part in a scheme to manipulate gold prices.

Historic America

Coles County Ghost Towns: Hitesville, Farmington, and Curtisville

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.


James Hite, who immigrated from Kentucky to Coles County in 1831, created this village in Ashmore Township and named it after himself in April 1835. He was appointed postmaster on August 24, 1835. A stone marker at the location, however, says that Hitesville was founded in 1837.

Whatever the year of its establishment, at its peak it contained several shops and houses. The History of Coles County (1879) stated that the village was “swallowed up” by new villages that appeared when the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad was built. Ashmore, which was plotted in 1855, was the most likely culprit.

James Hite and some of his neighbors also built a nearby Presbyterian church. A man by the name of Reverend John Steele presided over the congregation until the building was sold when James Hite moved out of the area. The parishioners, many of whom were from the St. Omer area, then attended a different church. Hitesville lasted long enough to appear on a county map alongside St. Omer and Ashmore, but shortly after, both Hitesville and St. Omer ceased to exist.

Photography Roadside America

Jeannie’s Just Sew Shop

Unique sign for Jeannie’s Just Sew Shop, 114 W 2nd Street in Byron, Illinois.