October 1, 2017
Cuba Road winds five miles between Northwest Highway 14 just north of Barrington and Highway 12 in Lake Zurich. The old country road is bracketed by towering trees, spacious, off-the-road homes, hobby farms, a 780-acre marsh and a 180-year-old cemetery. It looks normal in the daylight.
Oh, by the way, at night it’s also home to least 20 reputed ghosts. We are going there because it’s almost Halloween. If you wish to experience the march of transient souls on All Hallow’s Eve, there is no more spookily busy place than Cuba Road.
Folklorist author Michael Kleen, a lifelong fan of ghost stories, has accumulated dozens of stories about Cuba Road’s ghosts. Does he believe?
“I’m not interested in the truth or falsehood of ghost stories or haunted places,” he said. “Ghost stories, which are a type of folklore, are culturally significant and can teach us a lot about our history and beliefs. Belief in ghosts is somehow part of the human experience, at least in our culture. I’ve visited hundreds of supposedly haunted places and never saw anything unusual, but who am I to discount the experiences of so many other people?”
Local lore surrounds Bloods Point Road
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
You can’t discount the hundreds of strange encounters reported along Bloods Point Road, said Michael Kleen, a local folk historian. The road is one of Boone County’s most notorious midnight drives.
“Maybe there is something to the stories after all. … That’s what makes it exciting.”
With multiple books on local legends — including the ghostly go-to book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” Kleen is well-acquainted with the lore surrounding the 5-mile country thoroughfare, from phantom police cars and supernatural dogs to mystery lights and vanishing barns.
He feels the road’s sinister monicker, taken from the Blood family who settled there in the mid-1800s, has helped keep the lore alive for more than a century. Believe them or not, these spooky tales have become an integral part of the community’s social and historical fabric. Even traffic signs dare not use the road’s full name, opting instead for the abbreviated “Bl. Point Rd.” [More…]
Myths persist about Freeport home’s ties to assassinate Charles Guiteau
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
What is known about the home is this: It was the home of Charles Guiteau’s uncle and aunt, A.B. and Emily Rehfield Guiteau. Charles was the son of Luther W. Guiteau, who served as a cashier at Second National Bank, was a merchant at the time, and served Stephenson County as recorder and clerk of the circuit court. Charles shot President Garfield in a railroad depot in July 1881. It would be weeks before Garfield would die. Charles never lived in the home of his uncle and aunt. He actually grew up in a house on Broadway Street in Freeport.
Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of several books, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourists Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” has often passed the home while visiting family in Freeport. The home fascinated him, so he began his own research.
After Charles Guiteau was hanged for killing Garfield, rumors began swirling that his bones were buried in the home.
“This rumor about Guiteau’s bones is not true,” said Kleen. “According to widespread belief, after his execution, his body was boiled and his skeleton was bleached and put on display around the country. Other reports said his head had been preserved in a jar and kept by a physician in New York. Similar rumors were repeated for nearly a century, creating a lot of confusion. Guiteau’s bones are actually kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.”
Kleen said Guiteau was a tragic figure and a political gadfly. For a short time, he joined a utopian religious sect known as the Oneida Community in New York, but its founder thought him to be insane and threw him out. He constantly sought appointments to political offices and felt slighted by President Garfield when he refused to appoint him as ambassador to France. He even failed at the assassination of Garfield, said Kleen. It was really Garfield’s doctors, who infected the bullet wound during sloppy surgery, who are ultimately blamed for killing the president. But, at Guiteau’s trial, Dr. Edward Spitzka called him a moral monstrosity. [More…]
Rockford’s Greenwood Cemetery filled with spirits
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
The year was 1856 when Winnebago County Sheriff John Taylor was shot by Alfred Countryman, a suspected cattle thief who was attempting to elude capture. “Before they could get to the jail, Alfred ran and Taylor took off in pursuit,” said Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of the book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State.”
“Sometimes people still hear him speak his final words, ‘I’m shot; catch him.’” A mob of hundreds of townspeople pursued Countryman, demanding he be lynched where they captured him, across from Tinker Swiss Cottage.
“People have said they have heard crowd noises and running and screaming in that area,” said Kathi Kresol, a local librarian, researcher, and founder of the Haunted Rockford group. “Rockford was like the wild west at that time. The police couldn’t keep up with it; they were just doing the best they could.” [More…]
Home rumored to be haunted for sale in Belvidere
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
Stories vary as to why Nellie, in her late 60s, would have left her home, wandered to the river and drowned, but Michael Kleen, a folk historian and author of the book, “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” believes it had to do with heartbreak.
“According to legend, as the Civil War was raging, she fell in love with a man who promised to marry her after he returned from the war. He never returned, and she was so heartbroken that she never fell in love again. One day, in her old age, she donned her wedding gown and walked slowly into the river. Her neighbors found her body tangled in weeds and snakes.”
At the time, Dunton was said to have been suffering from dementia. Decades after her death, there have been reports of strange encounters in and around the home. [More…]
Speakers look at Lincoln, issues of the days of riot
March 30, 2014
Also speaking Saturday was author and historian Michael Kleen, who talked about the political climate of Illinois and how it contributed to the riot. There are several ideas of why there were Copperheads in this part of the state and why they were angered enough to fight with the soldiers, Kleen said.
The thought that the Copperheads were influenced by their southern heritage “sort of assumes a lot,” as Lincoln and his family were originally from Kentucky and “obviously it didn’t have any hold over him,” Kleen said.
Instead, he said, it was more likley the “political environment of Illinois.” People had strong loyalties to political parties and the Copperheads perceived “little insults” such as being forced into loyalty oaths. “All this led to kind of a tinderbox waiting to erupt,” Kleen said. “They couldn’t express their views by peaceful means.” [More…]
Tacos and Tales
Lake Land College Navigator News
Vol. 13 Issue 5 – February 2014
The wonder of things we do not understand, the things that none of our senses can comprehend or decode: all of this is connected to the idea of what could be; the things we do not know, but that we still believe to be possible. All this and more is what Michael Kleen dedicates his life work to. Kleen will be presenting at the Lake Land College’s event, Tacos and Tales. He will be telling stories about the most obscure and interesting things that have happened in the Coles County area.
Michael Kleen is an author, publisher, local historian and freelance columnist. Some of the many books he has written include “Tales of Coles County, Illinois”, “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State” and “Paranormal Illinois.” On top of all this, he owns a publishing company called Black Oak Media, Inc. that, according to him was incorporated in 2011 and has “published about 25 titles [from various authors] since then.” He is also the editor of the website MysteriousHeartland.com.
In an interview with Kleen, he stated that he has been writing since he was in elementary school, and has been interested in history and folklore for “at least that long.” He “actually started out writing fiction, and the first couple of books I wrote were all novellas.” Kleen started publishing because of his intense enjoyment of writing and he decided he wanted to make a living doing just that. In 2008, he received a M.A. in history from Eastern Illinois University. The research skill that was learned there has helped him approach the folklore subject from different perspectives. [Print only…]
“Secret Rockford” book released
February 3, 2014
ROCKFORD (WREX) – People of Rockford share their stories and reveal the hidden side of life in the Forest City. A new book called, “Secret Rockford” explores the facts, people, places and events that make the city unique. Teachers, writers, journalists and even average citizens from the Rockford community came together to bring a collection of 18 short stories.
“Some are fiction, some are nonfiction. The nonfiction articles range from a history of Mattison Machine Works to a couple of unsolved murders in Rockford,” said Michael Kleen, “Secret Rockford” Editor & Publisher. The book is now available to buy either online or at local retailers.
New Book Highlights City’s Untold Tales, Oddities
Winnebago County News Bulletin
January 31, 2014
A few of Rockford’s secrets are about to be revealed. “Secret Rockford,” an anthology of 18 articles and short stories written by and for Rockfordians, will hit stores and online retailers on Feb. 1.
The idea of the book came from Michael Kleen, a publisher at Black Oak Media. After unsuccessfully running for mayor of Rockford in the spring and becoming more invested in local media, he felt mainstream news outlets were neglecting investigative reporting. He wanted to come up with a way to tell local stories that are often overlooked or forgotten.
“I hadn’t been in politics for very long around here, and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Kleen said. “I wanted to bring issues to light that weren’t being discussed.”
So Kleen created a Facebook page and asked members of the community to submit stories about Rockford — fiction and nonfiction, recent or stretching back into the city’s history. Contributors come from all walks of life; from teachers to journalists to ordinary people being published for the first time, a wide variety of perspectives are represented in “Secret Rockford.”
One of the contributors, Ernie Fuhr, is a social studies teacher at Roosevelt Alternative High School. Fuhr has two stories appearing in “Secret Rockford.”
One attempts to unravel the mystery behind a 1930s mural that may or may not have had Communist undertones. The other is a creative retelling of a Santa skydiving incident that happened at North Towne Mall in 1965. More…
Ghostly Roberta Hall lands Northwest campus in Top 10
Maryville Daily Forum
January 24, 2014
The spooky story of Roberta Hall has been told many times by students and faculty at Northwest Missouri State University. In fact, the ghostly tale has been featured both in books and on television and incorporated into the school’s official history.
And now the legend of the haunted sorority residence has landed Northwest on a “10 most haunted” list featured by Mysterious Heartland, a website maintained by Illinois folklorist Michael Kleen that focuses on hauntings and other paranormal doings across the Midwest.
The university is included in Kleen’s “Top 10 Most Haunted Colleges.”
“Top 10 lists have always been a popular feature on my website,” Kleen said. “But after writing more than two dozen lists about the strange and unusual in Illinois, I decided it was time to branch out and include other Midwestern states. I’m particularly interested in the folklore and ghost stories of colleges and universities. I chose the rankings by the number and notoriety of the stories.”
The tragic story of Roberta Steele is recounted in Northwest journalism instructor Jason Offutt’s book “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots.” More…
Coles County Full of Hauntings
Daily Eastern News
October 25, 2013
The legend of the ghost of Pemberton Hall is the most well known in the area, but Michael Kleen, author of “The Tales of Coles County,” has many more to share. And he did, to an audience of about 50 students and community members at an event hosted by the Eastern’s Creative Writing Club Thursday.
Most people in the audience raised their hands when asked if they believe in ghosts, and Kleen said he was surprised that the few who did not would come to such an event. “Maybe we’ll make believers out of you,” he said.
He grew up reading ghost stories, went to Eastern, and realized not much had been written about the legends percolating around the area. So he did it himself. “I wanted to know a lot more about these places,” Kleen said.
He said a legend is a non-historical story passed down through generations. And that is what most of these stories are: each has numerous versions, and none are really nailed down as truth. [More…]
Haunted Charleston to be Examined
Daily Eastern News
October 24, 2013
The legend of the Pemberton Hall ghost, as well as hauntings across Coles County, will be explored at a presentation Thursday. Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will examine the historical and cultural contexts of haunting folklore in the Charleston area through his presentation, called “The Legend of Pemberton Hall.”
Kleen said the original talk of the Pemberton Hall ghost has multiple origins, including that a student was murdered in the residence hall during the 1920s and that the spirit of the hall’s first dorm mother still looks after the girls in-house.
He said there have been many reports over the years of odd or paranormal occurrences, including rearranged furniture and doors strangely opening and closing. Kleen said while there are no records of murder in the hall, he nonetheless feels compelled to examine the history of such urban folklore, regardless of its truth.
“I like to look at folklore and history and try to find anything there that might have led to the stories,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there, and whether I think the stories are valid themselves doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not—people find them entertaining.” [More…]
‘The Legend of Pemberton Hall’ Event Set at Eastern
October 21, 2013
CHARLESTON — Michael Kleen, author of Tales of Coles County, Illinois, will tell “The Legend of Pemberton Hall” and other local ghost stories at a special presentation on Thursday. The multimedia presentation will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Paris Room of the MLK, Jr. Student Union at Eastern Illinois University. This event is sponsored by the EIU Creative Writing Club.
The event is designed to provide haunting stories and strange tales. Participants can speak with the author as well. In addition to telling tales, Kleen will show pictures and video from some of the most interesting places in Coles County. Some of these places will include EIU’s Pemberton Hall, Airtight Bridge, Ashmore Estates, “Ragdoll” Cemetery, and haunted houses. [More…]
3rd Annual Paracon and Psychic Fair in Mattoon
WICD Channel 15 News
September 7, 2013
MATTOON– Psychics, tarot card, crystal, and aura readers, and even ghost hunters. All were on hand in Mattoon Saturday to speak with the public about paranormal activity. Organizers say it’s all part of an effort to better educate a thrill-seeking community.
Dozens of exhibitors and guest speakers were in Mattoon Saturday for the Central Illinois Paracon and Psychic Fair. Paranormal investigation teams from across the area were on hand to demonstrate ghost hunting equipment and techniques…
Several guest speakers have been featured on ghost hunting TV shows, but one speaker says the local interest is often traced to local history. Michael Kleen says, “People like to see something interesting about their hometown, they want to know there’s something going on that’s a little bit out of the ordinary that sort of makes living in the town that they live an exciting experience.”
That popularity has not been lost on the Illinois Metaphysical and Paranormal Society, which hosts the convention. Co-founder Becky Guymon says, “The community’s been great, we’ve had a lot of community support. A lot of people come out, I think everyone’s really interested in it. This is our third year doing this and it gets bigger every year.”
And though not every hunt turns up a ghost, sometimes the learning process is just as important. Kleen says, “The legend is important, you know? I don’t think just because a legend is untrue doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful. So I think it does detract a little bit in a sense. But the ghost stories are always going to be there no matter what.” [More…]
Author to Sign Book on Local Folklore
Daily Eastern News
August 23, 2013
Ghosts in a residence hall, hauntings in a house and torsos on a bridge are all focuses of a former Eastern student’s book he will be signing Friday and Saturday. Michael Kleen, an alumnus of Eastern, first published “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” in 2004.
He will be jump starting excitement for his 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” by signing his book at Bidwell’s Chocolate Café at 1610 Broadway Ave in Mattoon and Jackson Avenue Coffee at 708 Jackson Ave in Charleston.
Kleen will be at Bidwell’s Chocolate Café from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Friday, and he will then be at Jackson Avenue Coffee from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Tales of Coles County, Illinois” details different supernatural occurrences throughout the county – all of which Kleen has researched, and what he calls the “unusual history” of Coles County. [More…]
Author Sets Book Signing
August 21, 2013
Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will sell and sign copies of his book from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bidwell’s Cafe in Mattoon and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Ave. Coffee in Charleston.
The events will include a reading, as well as a question-and-answer session. The 10th anniversary edition of the book was released earlier this month.
Part 1 of “Tales of Coles County” features four historical fiction tales, among them stories about a battle between Kickapoo Indians and Illinois Rangers, and the Charleston Riot of 1864. [More…]
‘Tales of Coles County’ Book Signings Scheduled
August 19, 2013
CHARLESTON — Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will be selling and signing copies of his book from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bidwell’s Café in Mattoon and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Avenue Coffee in Charleston.
Friday’s and Saturday’s book signings will include a reading from “Tales of Coles County,” as well as a question-and-answer session.
The 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” was released earlier this August. Long before TV stations like SyFy and the Travel Channel took an interest in the area, Kleen was researching and writing about unusual episodes from the county’s past. With a blend of fact and fiction, “Tales of Coles County” is a unique look at the history and places that make Coles County such an interesting place to visit. [More…]
10th Anniversary Edition of ‘Tales of Coles County’ is Out
August 12, 2013
CHARLESTON — The 10th anniversary edition of Tales of Coles County, Illinois has been released. Long before TV stations like SyFy and the Travel Channel took an interest in the area, Michael Kleen was researching and writing about remarkable episodes from the county’s past.
With a blend of fact and fiction, Tales of Coles County is a unique look at the history and places that make Coles County such an interesting place to visit…
With everything from haunted houses, to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, ghost towns, and buried treasure, this book will leave no stone unturned. The new edition will include four new places not appearing in any previous edition, as well as nearly a dozen photos. [More…]
Former Republican Mayoral Candidate to Propose Changes
to Panhandling Ordinance at Council Meeting
Rock River Times
July 8, 2013
Michael Kleen, former Republican candidate for mayor of Rockford, will speak at the Rockford City Council meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, July 8, to argue in favor of new amendments to Rockford’s aggressive panhandling ordinance. Kleen developed the ordnance changes to encourage a more safe and welcoming environment downtown and in business districts.
“Our current ordinance is not adequate to deal with the panhandling problem,” Kleen said. “Under our current ordinance, a person could walk around in front of a business and ask passersby for money all day long. When a business district develops a negative reputation for activities like this, it makes attracting customers more difficult.”
The proposed changes include increasing the number of feet around certain areas where panhandling is prohibited (from 20 to 40 feet) and prohibiting panhandling in a public park, fairground or sporting facility, on private property without the owner’s permission, and within 50 feet of a place of business. [More…]
LETTER: Writer has touch to hold interest
July 07, 2013
Thankfully roughly eight or so years ago I stumbled across this amazing set of stories and articles related to our own history here in Coles County. The author amazed me something fierce, his stories were very well written and kept my interest even after many years of shoving my face into numerous books.
One of my favorites, Tales of Coles County, is coming out as a tenth anniversary edition this upcoming August. Michael Kleen is an amazing writer of sorts, he studied at our own E.I.U. and became something of a local historian for our good county.
He also ran a small magazine that published a number of writers, photographers and other entertainment based in Illinois, including myself. Normally, I don’t go out of my way to give such wonderful praises but for those who are as proud of their area as I am something like this shouldn’t just be unnoticed. [More…]
Rockford’s Own: Michael Kleen (Author & Political Activist)
The Rockford Blog
July 2, 2013
What prompted your desire to be a writer?
“I’ve always loved writing and the idea of being a writer. When I was younger, I had a very romantic idea of what it would be like to have a published book. I thought that was an end in itself. Now that I’m older and I’ve published several books, I have to ask “what’s next?” A lot of authors are shocked when they see their first royalty check, and they are forced to redefine their notion of success. Around 200,000 new books are published each year in the U.S., and less than 1 percent achieve best seller status. Selling over 10,000 copies (nationally) can land you on The New York Times Best Seller list. In two years, my most successful book, Haunting Illinois, has sold around 1,300 copies. Of course, the subject matter has a very limited audience, but that is still a decent sales figure in the grand scheme of things. No one becomes a writer to get rich.” [More…]
Coles County ‘Tales’ getting new edition
June 18, 2013
CHARLESTON — Since announcing the upcoming release of a new edition on Friday, the Facebook page for the book “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” has gone viral, garnering more than 900 new likes in five days. That is an average of 180 new likes per day. The first in a series of antique postcards promoting the book, uploaded on Monday, has been shared 175 times and viewed by nearly 9,000 people.
First released in 2004, “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” by Michael Kleen follows the journey of four students from Eastern Illinois University who are stranded in an old cabin during a storm. The elderly couple who live there tell the students four stories, each related to Coles County history: a battle with Indians near Blakeman’s Mill; the Charleston Riot; the Coles County Poor Farm; and the body found at Airtight Bridge. After one night, these students will never look at Coles County the same way.
The 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County” will also feature a section on the legends and lore of Coles County. With everything from haunted houses, to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, ghost towns, and buried treasure, this book will leave no stone unturned. The new edition will include four new places not appearing in any previous edition, as well as nearly a dozen photos. [More…]
Michael Kleen right choice for Rockford mayor
April 8, 2013
Kleen has been running a campaign on a shoestring–about $3,000. At 31, he’s never held a political office and isn’t vested in the “Who’s Who” in Rockford money.
As a public speaker and presenter, Kleen more than passes muster. During Q&A forums, Kleen challenged Morrissey for answers about the Midtown TIF money, prompting a release from the city. That left Hughes to fumble with push-pull arguments about hiring more police and how to allocate gambling revenue.
Keep in mind, Morrissey was 35 when Rockford elected him. It was his second bid for mayor and he, too, had never held public office. After his first term, it was clear he could use another four years to get the ball rolling. Sadly, he failed…
Rockford needs a mayor who is not entrenched in political power plays. Vote for Michael Kleen. It’s the right thing to do. [More…]
Mayoral Candidate Calls for Report on TIF Appropriations
April 8, 2013
A Rockford mayoral candidate is calling for a review declaring whether tax increment financing revenues have been managed appropriately.
According to a press release, Michael Kleen, the Republican candidate in the race, says an audit is necessary after a recent controversy concerning the failed Midtown Lofts project. The Midtown Lofts used funds from the 7th Street TIF to create another TIF for that project. Over $1 million in tax money was taken in but the project was never finished.
“It seems clear, from what the local media has uncovered in regards to the Midtown Lofts, that there is little to no transparency or accountability when it comes to TIF projects,” said Kleen in a press release. “The public deserves to know whether Rockford’s TIF districts are delivering their promised results.” [More…]
The Very Different Views of the Candidates for Rockford Mayor When It Comes to Economic Development
April 5, 2013
Republican Michael Kleen feels both of his opponents support using tax dollars improperly and ineffectively when it comes to economic development. “I mean what has the result been of this top down approach to economics?” Kleen asks. “It’s been a worsening economic situation in Rockford. So I feel like maybe we should take a different track that the city shouldn’t try to micro-manage the economy but maybe it should try to focus on what it does best and fix the streets, get public safety under control, and leave the rest up to the private market.”
Kleen points to special tax increment financing districts he says are costing taxpayers millions. “I saw a report from 2010 that basically showed that the TIF districts are bleeding out about 1.9 million dollars a year, which is slated to increase to about 4 million dollars by I believe about 2020 before they even start to recoup the investment. So this has not been a successful way to redevelop Rockford.” [More…]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Talk About Declining Property Values and School District 205
April 4, 2013
A recent Eyewitness News investigation ‘Road to Riches’ found Rockford’s property values falling substantially and tax revenue dropping with them. More than $500,000,000 in lost property values over the past five years. The result has been a sky-high property tax rate to fund city services.
Republican Michael Kleen is critical of the city’s current approach to construction and redevelopment. “So I feel like maybe we sould take a different track that the city shouldn’t try to micro-manage the economy but maybe it should try to focus on what it does best and fix the streets, get public safety under control, and leave the rest up to the private market.”
…The mayor’s opponents believe his involvement in education has been counterproductive. “I think there are things that we can do,” Kleen believes, “but you if you’re going to work with the school district, you can’t go in and say well these are my ideas, you implement them. You konw, it’s a two way discussion, and i see the mayor as being more of an ambassador to the school district.” [More…]
Rockford Mayor’s Race — Different Ideas When It Comes to Relationship with Police
April 3, 2013
Morrissey says there’s a difference in the relationship with his office when police are wearing their police hats and enforcing the law and when they’re wearing their union hats and conducting negotiations.
The mayor’s opponents believe otherwise. They are especially critical of Mayor Morrissey’s support for Chief Chet Epperson, who failed a ‘no confidence’ vote from officers in 2007. “The relationship right now between the rank and file and the administration is very poor and strained, and I think it stems from the leadership,” Republican candidate Michael Kleen says. “Chief Epperson as you know failed a vote of confidence, and at that point, if I had been the mayor, I would have asked for his resignation.”
Democratic candidate Jim Hughes agrees. “I’ve never seen a vote of 276-6 I think of no confidence. That says a lot. I also know politically that a house divided will fall. We got to fix it and fix it now.”
Kleen adds that “Rockford has struggled for the past 8 to 10 years with crime, and when somebody in upper management, when we see they’re not successful at their job, we need to get somebody in there who is more able to take on those challenges.” [More…]
Kleen the clear choice for change
Rock River Times
April 3, 2013
Although relations between campaign contributors and elected officials is commonplace in today’s political landscape, taxpayers and voters would be better served never having to wonder whether their elected officials work for them, their campaign contributors, their family members or themselves. This is one very large reason to vote for Michael Kleen in this election.
While one could view Kleen’s lack of campaign contributions as a sign he may be a weak candidate, one could also view it as an attempt by the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” to keep the newcomer with new ideas and no associations from wrecking their precious club. Kleen could not even get the support of many in his own party in this election because they would rather back “Good Ol’ Boys” Morrissey and Hughes. Morrissey and Hughes, meantime, have far too many associations with campaign contributors to be completely trusted.
Kleen, 31, seems to be the people’s candidate. He cares about people, not politics, and is educated, smart, humble and capable… Kleen is mindful and respectful of others, and seems to have the makings of a responsible leader. His idea of government putting needs before wants is truly refreshing after eight years of beautification projects that, although possibly well-intentioned, have failed to revitalize this community. [More…]
Candidates Discuss Crime at Mayoral Forum
April 3, 2013
There’s been talk of switching the city of Rockford over to geo-policing for more than a year. It’s been a hot topic that has now spilled over to the mayor’s race…
Mayor Morrissey introduced the idea, which would add three police stations throughout the city, but Republican Michael Kleen says it’s a waste of money.
“The money that we would spend brining these three buildings up to the standards of the police headquarters would be better spent on hiring more police officers and getting those officers in high crime areas,” said Kleen.
“We can operate geopolicing in Rockford at our current staffing level,” said incumbent mayoral candidate Larry Morrissey. [More…]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Share Their Views on Violent Crime
April 2, 2013
Geo-policing includes a new command structure, and 12-hour shifts for officers, but the plan is opposed by the police union. The union and the mayor have a contentious relationship Republican candidate Michael Kleen believes needs to be repaired. “The police force is demoralized,” Kleen believes. “You know the administration has been fighting with the police union now for the greater part of four or five years and that type of contentious relationship really I beleve is making us less safe because the police are not able to do their jobs as well as they should.”
And the Mayor’s opponents agree with the union, believing that geo-policing is a waste of resources. They say the city can geo-police without the cost of additional police buildings. “We’re really talking about policing,” says Hughes, “And whether you call it geo-policing, that’s fine, I’ll go with that but I think geo-policing can be run out of one building rather than three. I think it’s better for the city of Rockford and cheaper for the taxpayers to have geo-policingin one building.”
Kleen adds there hasn’t been full disclosure yet on the program’s cost. “We still don’t know what the cost of that is going to be. We don’t know what the cost of rehabilitating three buildings is going to be. Bringing them up to the standards that a police station would need to be. The cost could be astronomically high. So what I would like to see is more police officers on the street first, and then if that lowers crime, then maybe we don’t need to look at geopolicing.” [More…]
3 men, 1 mission in race for mayor of Rockford
Rockford Register Star
March 31, 2013
Fifth Avenue where the concrete has been swallowed by the earth. Corners of concrete slabs jut out about shin high where the earth has spit out the sidewalk it once devoured. On the street, a line of divots collect a pool of water and the thawing snow. At the center of the road is its largest pothole, several feet wide and a foot deep. The condition of the road is a sign of a particularly wet spring, with several cycles of freezes and thaws spawning countless potholes.
For the Republican candidate for mayor, the road is a sign of a municipal government that has lost sight of the basics. “My main focus is on really shoring up the fundamentals here in Rockford,” Kleen says, standing in Fifth Avenue. “I don’t have a vision for grand public projects or anything like that. We’ve had a lot of that over the last eight years. Now it’s time to get back to the basics.” The basics? Infrastructure and public safety.
Kleen, a 31-year-old book publisher, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and came to Rockford in 2008. He’s seen the city invest money in “big-ticket items” like the Riverwalk that would be better spent addressing problems in neighborhoods. “I have nothing against things like a riverwalk, but that’s Step D. First, we need to do Step A, which is actually get the blight under control and fix the roads. The basics need to come first. The amenities come later, when we can afford it.” [More…]
Kleen Calls Ad Dispute a Distraction
March 19, 2013
One of Rockford’s mayoral candidates is jumping in on the spat over an ad campaign put out by Rockford’s Police Union.
Today, republican candidate Michael Kleen called the dispute between incumbent independent Larry Morrissey and democrat Jim Hughes a distraction. Kleen told reporters he wants to focus on the issues facing Rockford. Mayor Morrissey is accusing Hughes of violating election laws by placing links to the Police Union’s ads on his campaign website and Facebook page. Kleen called the feud petty and says it’s time to move on.
“I think the voters need to hear the candidates talk about the issues that are important to them. Mayor Morrissey’s feud with the Rockford police union is undermining the morale of the department and its making us all less safe,” said Kleen.
Hughes and the Police Union have denied Morrissey’s accusations, The State Board of Elections will decide if any campaign laws were broken.
Rockford’s mayoral debaters mix it up at Signal Hill
Rockford Register Star
March 16, 2013
Last Thursday, I questioned the Rockford mayoral candidates at a debate sponsored by the Signal Hill neighborhood association at St. Peter parish hall. More than 100 residents of the 3rd Ward turned out to hear Democrat Jim Hughes, independent Mayor Larry Morrissey and Republican Michael Kleen.
Here are highlights: Geographic policing. The candidates are divided on this hot topic.
Kleen: “The administration still hasn’t come up with the numbers. They say it’s too expensive to remain in (the Public Safety Building) now they want to go to three buildings. If geopolicing is going to work, we need more police on the streets.” [More…]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Square Off On Taxes, Public Safety
March 14, 2013
It was a full house at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rockford for the forum between mayoral candidates republican Michael Kleen, Democrat Jim Hughes, and current Independent Mayor Larry Morrissey. The candidates spent much of the time talking about how they’d improve public safety; that was something voters appreciated…
“This city has given millions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy developers. That may be a great business model for them but it’s wrong for the people of Rockford,” says Kleen. [More…]
Mayoral Candidates Sound Off on WROK
February 26, 2013
Less than two months before Rockford’s mayoral election radio station 1440 WROK invited all three mayoral candidates into their studios to talk about how we bring more economic development to Rockford.
Small business owner and republican candidate Michael Kleen believes Rockford has been too focused on downtown development. “There’s been a lot of money that’s been spent on economic development downtown while the rest of the city areas seem to be ignored,” said Kleen during his interview…
Kleen said development hinges first on crime. “We have to get this crime problem under control and we’ve got to do something about reviving our economic prospects because what we’ve been doing has not been working,” said Kleen. [More…]
Forbes Names Rockford 3rd Most Miserable City
February 22, 2013
With the April election approaching, one mayoral candidate in the Forest City is using our new title as part of his campaign platform. Michael Kleen is the republican candidate running for mayor. He says it’s time for Rockford to get off the most ‘Miserable City’ list. Last year we were number nine. Forbes uses ten factors to determine the ranking, including violent crime, unemployment, political corruption (former governor George Ryan, an example) and high taxes, all things the forest city has seen its fair share of. Kleen says the city has been focusing on economic development projects, but he says we need to look at the basics first.
“What we need to do as a city is get back to our core mission which is to take care of crime, fix the streets and make it easier and less expensive for people to do business in Rockford,” said Kleen.
Kleen also says getting rid of unsuccessful TIF districts may help because those tax dollars could then go back to school districts, which could mean lower property taxes. We did reach out to democratic candidate Jim Hughes who did not return my calls. Incumbent mayor Larry Morrissey says he will address the issue during Monday night’s city council meeting. However, not all Rockfordians are taking our new title so seriously. [More…]
Mayoral and Aldermanic candidates discuss hot topics at forum
February 10, 2013
The format of the forum works like this: each candidate spends two minutes talking about hot topics in Rockford.
Michael Kleen will appear on the Republican ticket. “Crime is a suppressant on the economy, and in order to get the economy moving again, we must tackle the crime issue because crime is like a hidden tax that makes doing business more expensive,” says Kleen. [More…]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Speak in Forum
February 10, 2013
Rockford mayoral candidates said the key issues facing the city are crime and the economy…
Republican mayoral candidate Michael Kleen said he’s running for office because he doesn’t see his needs being met with the current administration.
“I want to get the government out of the way and have entrepreneurs do their jobs,” said Kleen. “I want to put more cops on the streets. Give the police department the resources it needs to get the job done. And that’s really where my philosophy and the philosophy of my opponents differ.” [More…]
Controversial Super Bowl Ad Hits Home
February 4, 2013
The gun control battle hit the small screen during Sunday’s big game. Now a new commercial sponsored by a national coalition called “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is creating a lot of debate today. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey is a part of that organization…
Rockford mayor Larry Morrissey and DeKalb’s city leader are both apart of ” Mayors Against Illegal Guns” which is the national organization behind the ad. The 30 second spot narrated by a child’s voice features NRA president Wayne LaPierre, asking for universal background checks at a 1999 congressional hearing. Now LaPierre says gun laws requiring those checks are ineffective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. We made several attempts to reach Morrissey today, however his opponents in the mayoral race are weighing in on the ad.
“We all know that most gun crimes are committed by gang members who don’t exactly buy their guns at gun shows so I don’t know if targeting gun owners in that matter through background checks will have an effect on the problem,” said Republican mayoral candidate Michael Kleen. [More…]
Michael Kleen makes his case for mayor
Rockford Register Star
January 23, 2013
Heads up! Rockford’s electing a mayor in April. Two-term independent conservative Mayor Larry Morrissey seeks a third term; he’s challenged by Democrat Jim Hughes and by Republican Michael Kleen, a newcomer to the political wars. Kleen asked me to meet him Wednesday at Katie’s Cup. I asked Kleen why he wants to be mayor of a city with high crime, high unemployment and growing poverty.
First, some background: Kleen, 31, has a relatively fresh view of Rockford. He came here in 2008 from Des Plaines, and is an entrepreneur who owns Black Oak Media Inc., a desktop publishing company. He’s written books and has a special interest in Illinois history, writing papers like “Copperheads in Illinois” about Democrats who opposed the Civil War and advocated a peace treaty with the rebels.
Kleen has a master’s degree in history from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in education from Western Illinois University. And while Kleen doesn’t know where all the political bones are buried in Rockford, he did compile a three volume set of 19th-century Mayor Robert Tinker’s papers. [More…]
Criticism aplenty for Larry Morrissey’s gun sign-ups
Rockford Register Star
January 14, 2013
Michael Kleen, the independent mayor’s Republican opponent, expressed opposition Monday, citing what he called the failure of a national gun registration law in Canada:
“Under the Canadian Firearms Act, only 30 percent of firearms in Canada were registered over a 15-year period, leaving 70 percent of firearms in Canada unregistered. The registry cost $2 billion to start up and around $100 million a year to operate in a country of only 35 million people.
“In 2003, former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino stated, ‘We have an ongoing gun crisis including firearms-related homicides lately in Toronto, and a law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them’.” [More…]
Mayoral Candidate Vows To Give Pay Raise To Charity
January 8, 2013
Republican candidate for Rockford mayor, Michael Kleen, says that, if elected to office in April, he’ll donate a 25% pay increase to various local nonprofits. Approved by the Rockford City Council last October, the Mayor’s pay will increase from $95,000 to $118,750 annually.
Kleen believes that a salary of $95,000 a year is sufficient. “With this pay increase, the mayor will be even further removed from the average Rockford resident,” Kleen said. “I think the money would be better spent by local charities and community organizations to help make this city a better place from the ground up.”
Rockford Register Star
December 3, 2012
ROCKFORD — Michael Kleen, the de facto Republican nominee for Rockford mayor, will hold a campaign kickoff event at 7 p.m. Thursday at Veteran’s Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St., Rockford.
Kleen will present his strategy for Republican victory in 2013. Other speakers include former Republican mayoral candidate Gloria Cardenas Cudia, former Republican candidate for state’s attorney Glen Weber, a former supporter of Mayor Larry Morrissey and Frank Dyke.
Kleen was the only candidate to file for Mayor of Rockford in the February Republican primary, making him the official candidate by default.
3 file to run for Rockford mayor, 23 for alderman
Rockford Register Star
November 27, 2012
The filing period for potential Democratic and Republican candidates in the state’s spring primary elections closed Monday, ending much speculation about who may run for mayor and alderman.
Three people have thrown their hats in the ring for mayor: Democrats James Hughes and Anthony Foreman and Republican Michael Kleen. [More…]
Candidates line up, file petitions to run in 2013 elections
Rockford Register Star
November 20, 2012
Three mayoral hopefuls and more than a dozen people who want to add or keep the title of alderman have filed petitions to officially declare their candidacy.
Monday was the first day to file the necessary paperwork to get a name on the primary ballot. The Democrats and Republicans who win Feb. 26 will advance to the April 9 consolidated election…
Republican Michael Kleen and Democrats James Hughes and Anthony Stewart Foreman aim to unseat Mayor Larry Morrissey. [More…]
Spirits linger in Coles County
October 30, 2012
Tales of the paranormal variety are common among historical buildings, said Michael Kleen, a folk historian and author of “Tales of Coles County.”
He is aware of at least 12 theaters in Illinois that are haunted. Although not familiar with the Will Rogers Theatre firsthand, he said it is common for older theaters to be haunted.
“It’s more the theaters that performed plays that are generally haunted,” he said. “Usually it’s a ghost of the original owner or someone prominent in making the theater. You’ll hear they’ll be seen in a favorite chair.” [More…]
New Candidate Could Emerge For Rockford Mayoral Race
October 1, 2012
Rockford – There could soon be a new player in the race to become the city’s next mayor. Michael Kleen (R) picked up a petition packet from the Board of Elections today. He most recently made an unsuccessful run in the March primary for the Winnebago County Board. If Kleen declares his candidacy, he’ll go up against incumbent Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and former city alderman, Jim Hughes (D).
Republican enters the race for Rockford mayor
October 1, 2012
ROCKFORD (WREX) – There are now three candidates in the race for Rockford mayor. Republican Michael Kleen kicked off his campaign as he picked up his petition packet. His platform is to restore public order and prosperity to Rockford. He is up against current mayor Larry Morrissey, who will run for reelection as an Independent, and Democrat Jim Hughes.
New Challenger for Mayor Morrissey
October 1, 2012
ROCKFORD (WIFR) — Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey will face at least two challengers this spring. Today, Republican Michael Kleen tells us that he’s throwing his hat into the race. “There’s going to be two main issues in this race, the economy and crime. Now, Rockford is the number one city in Illinois for violent crime per capita, and something needs to be done about that. And I don’t think the present administration is doing anything,” said Republican Mayoral Candidate Michael Kleen. Kleen is just 31 years old, slightly younger than Mayor Morrissey when he first ran for office. He owns Black Oak Media; a desktop publishing business based in the Forest City and ran for county board in the Republican primary this spring. Even though he is a political newcomer, he says he’s ready for the challenge and will make public safety will be a major part of his campaign.
Michael Kleen: Paranormal writer turned politician
February 24, 2012
Winnebago County Board candidate Michael Kleen will be interviewed on the Internet radio broadcast The Unexplained World tonight to talk about his transition from paranormal writer to politician.
The Libertarian-leaning Winnebago County Board candidate is the author of several books on the paranormal, most of which are self-published, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State” and “Paranormal Illinois.”
Edward Shanahan, host of The Unexplained World, bills the interview as ghost chaser author turned Tea Party politician.
“I sympathize with many of the Tea Party values, but I don’t really associate myself with that formally,” Kleen said in a phone interview today.
The Legends and Lore of Peck Cemetery
South Piatt Record-Herald
November 9, 2011
On October 22, many people from around the area came to Peck Cemetery to hear historian Michael Kleen tell the tales of haunted places in central Illinois. Michael is the author of Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State, Tales of Coles County, and Paranormal Illinois, just to name a few. He did a four day tour in our area starting with Lincolnland College… Gary Van Winkle, Oakley Cemetery Board Member, made the event even more fun by giving hay rides back and forth to the road for visitors…
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“Folk Historian” Talks About Local Haunts
Rockford Register Star – Go Section
November 5, 2011
Halloween may be over, but local author Michael Kleen spends all year looking for haunted places. Kleen, who lives in Rockford, refers to himself as a “folk historian.” He answers questions about local haunts. …What are some of the most haunted spots in Rockford and what is the story behind these locations?
Rockford has many ghost stories. Rockford College, Twin Sister’s Woods, Tinker Swiss Cottage, the Coronado Theater, and even the Cherry Vale Mall are all alleged to be haunted. At Rockford College, many of the buildings on campus are said to be haunted. The laughter of past students has been heard in the vicinity of Adams Arch, which was constructed using a doorway from the original campus. The ghost of either a student or professor reportedly haunts a former radio station in the Burpee Building. The Clark Arts Center’s two theaters are also visited by their own phantoms, one of whom is supposed to be the ghost of the building’s architect.
Tinker Swiss Cottage has received a lot of attention lately. In recent years, several paranormal teams instigated the cottage after visitors repeatedly asked the museum curators if it was haunted. During one investigation, a woman’s voice appeared on an audio recorder saying, “I don’t like trains… trains bring death” as a train passed by on the railroad tracks outside. At other times, doors closed with no apparent explanation.
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More interesting events around the area: Cemetery walks, ghost hunts!
October 16, 2011
In keeping with the ‘spirit’ of things, we attended an event Saturday (10.15.11) in Charleston that was the kick-off of a week-long series of appearances for our columnist and friend, author/publisher Michael Kleen… he was downstate and continues to be a bit south of his stomping grounds of Rockford promoting his books of the paranormal and local history and legends.
Kleen will be giving cemetery tours and presentations as they pertains to local legends and reports of hauntings; later this week, October 22 ,he’ll be in Piatt County with our friend Angie Johnson, who is conducting a tour of a local cemetery, Peck, which she’s leading the way in restoration of. In order to fund restoration, Angie is also conducting a ghost hunt, and has raised quite a bit of money with this fun and successful venture, all for the good of the cemetery preservation. Angie is emerging as a state leader in the Association for Gravestone Studies,a fascinating venture.
Paranormal Investigators Swap Ghost Stories
Daily Eastern News
October 16, 2011
Attendees were given an inside view of the life of paranormal investigators at a meet and greet sponsored by the Illinois Metaphysical and Paranormal Society at the Charleston Moose Lodge Saturday. Michael Kleen, an Eastern alumnus who received his master’s degree in history in , discussed the legends behind several hauntings in Illinois.
Kleen said he has been interested in the paranormal his entire life, but it was not until he began attending Eastern that he discovered the rich and largely unknown history of many ghost legends around Coles County…
He was recently featured on an episode of the Travel Channel series “Ghost Adventures,” which examined ghost activity in Ashmore Estates, a former almshouse and care facility in Coles County. “What I do, though, is different from other people who call themselves paranormal investigators,” Kleen said. “I simply write about the history and the legends associated with places. My only equipment is a pen.”
Paranormal Society Invites Public to Meeting, Haunted Tour
October 6, 2011
The Illinois Metaphysical & Paranormal Society plans to hold a Central Illinois gathering followed by a Haunted Coles County tour featuring author Michael Kleen on Oct. 15. The Central Illinois Paranormal Meet and Greet is scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Charleston Moose Lodge, 615 Seventh St., with Kleen’s tour leaving from the lodge at 2 p.m.
Kleen has written “Tales of Coles County,” “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” and other books, as well as a monthly newsletter called “Legends and Lore of Illinois.” He was interviewed for the Sept. 23 episode of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” show about Ashmore Estates.
Ashmore Estates to be on ‘Ghost Adventures’ today
Daily Eastern News
September 23, 2011
Ashmore Estates will be featured on an episode of “Ghost Adventures” today at 8 p.m. on the Travel Channel. “Ghost Adventures” is a show where paranormal investigators Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin explore locations to search for paranormal activity.
Scott Kelley, the owner of Ashmore Estates, said the crew filmed there during the end of April 2011. Michael Kleen, an Eastern alum and folk historian, was interviewed for the episode.
Kleen said anyone looking for a comprehensive exploration of the history and folklore of Ashmore Estates will be disappointed. “Ratings are ratings, and so we’re going to get a bunch of night-vision cameras, bleeped out swearing and running around,” Kleen said.
Kelley said the crew was fairly professional and, since they are entertainment based, they exercised their “creative license.”
Coles County Poor Farm featured in ‘Historic Illinois’ magazine
September 13, 2011
SPRINGFIELD – The Coles County Poor Farm is featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois, published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The cover article features the Coles County Poor Farm, in operation from 1857 to 1959. Originally established in the small town of Loxa, the structure proved inadequate for the number of residents who needed assistance and was replaced by a much larger building in 1916 that still stands.
The Poor Farm, as the name implies, was a working farm and residents raised much of their own food. The main building, or almshouse, was sold and converted into a private psychiatric hospital in 1959, but the hospital closed in 1964.
The building sat empty until it was purchased in 2006 and operated as a haunted house. The article was written by Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois.”
Orwellian society closer than we think
March 11, 2011
Thursday, students gathered in Western Illinois University’s Morgan Hall to hear Michael Kleen’s discussion entitled, “What Is Totalitarianism?” Thoughts were challenged and several points were made to compel attendees to question the intentions of the government. The lecture suggested that while we are not a totalitarian country, we have all of the necessary components to put the ideology in place.
The purpose of the presentation was to explain the realities behind totalitarianism and look at it as a form of social control, not simply just a form of government. In addition, this presentation helped students realize that the media representation of totalitarianism doesn’t match the reality.
Paranormal Activity at Cumberland Cemetery Attracts Ghost Writer
March 5, 2011
Located several miles west of Wenona, the historic cemetery is said to be located on the first country homestead in Evans Township. It also is said to be haunted.
“The most popular legends associated with Cumberland Cemetery involves a headless woman, ghostly lights, and the specter of a little girl,” claims author Michael Kleen of Rockford who has personally researched and written on the paranormal folk stories of the obscure prairie graveyard.
Kleen, who has many of his Cumberland stories published in the digital newsletter “Legends and Lore of Illinois,” a Black Oak Media publication, said one of the prolific tales from the burial grounds started with a grisly decapitation…
Western’s Ghost Writer
Western Illinois Magazine
A trail of ghost stories has weaved its way throughout the campus of Western Illinois University. It was these hauntings rumored to have occurred at Western that inspired author Michael Kleen to dedicate a whole chapter about them in his book, Paranormal Illinois.
With a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and masters in American history from Eastern Illinois University, Kleen is now currently attending Western… Kleen is Editor in Chief of the digital magazine Black Oak Presents. He has also had several other books published, including Haunting the Prairie and Legends and Lore of Illinois: Case Files.
“Until Paranormal Illinois was published earlier this year, Western Illinois University was one of the best kept secrets in the state when it came to ghost lore. Every other university had been written about extensively, except for Western,” Kleen said.
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‘Tales of Coles County’ features spooky stories
Daily Eastern News
October 28, 2010
Michael Kleen, a  history graduate of Eastern, found these places when he was a student and began to write short stories about the places that intrigued him. Always having an interest in the paranormal and history, Kleen began to scour the county for interesting places beginning with the Airtight Bridge.
“No one I had talked to knew much about what had happened there, so it took a long time to go through the newspaper archives,” Kleen said. “It was really the first place I had to investigate with such extent.”
Kleen’s book “Tales of Coles County,” the 2010 edition, is a two-part book filled with a mixture of fact and fiction about the lesser-known areas of the county.
Sunset Haven: the Asylum That Never Was
October 7, 2010
The leaves are beginning to change, days are getting shorter, and there’s something bewitching in the air. Halloween is rapidly approaching, and many will find thrill in stories of the strange or unexplained. Many will also find thrill in traversing “haunts” around the region. One of the most talked about haunts around our region is known as “the old insane asylum” located in Carbondale…
Micheal Kleen, author and historian, specializes in Southern Illinois folklore and legends… “Southern Illinois is a fascinating place because it has such a long history compared to the rest of the state. Some of the oldest ghost stories in Illinois come from that region, and we are lucky to have had several excellent folklorists who documented them in the 1930s and 1950s,” says Kleen.
Tales of Coles County Re-Released
October 7, 2010
Coles County: the scene of the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon,” the Charleston Riot, the ghost at Pemberton Hall, and even the world’s fastest pop machine. Author Michael Kleen fell in love with Coles County ten years ago when he first arrived at Eastern Illinois University. There he found a fascinating place filled with a rich folk history. This history compelled him to write and publish the chapbook, Tales of Coles County, Illinois, in 2004, and the Legends and Lore of Coles County in 2006.
Sunset Haven: A Rich, Mysterious History
August 11, 2010
… Building 207, more commonly known as Sunset Haven, has a reputation for being haunted, said Michael Kleen, historian and author. Located south of campus, he said the building is hidden behind a veil of trees but appears on top of a hill at the end of the long driveway…
“Because of the nature of nursing homes and private care facilities, many people living there did suffer from mental illness,” Kleen said. “I’m sure there were plenty of times when Sunset Haven (the nursing home) seemed like an insane asylum for the people living there.”
Local Haunts — Author explores ghostly tales across Illinois
June 24, 2010
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.
A Paranormal Saturday awaits
June 11, 2010
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:
Three Coles County legends are detailed in book
April 27, 2010
CHARLESTON — Three Coles County legends are examined in Paranormal Illinois, a new book by Michael Kleen. The book includes three chapters devoted to the Airtight Bride, EIU’s Pemberton Hall and Ashmore Estates. Kleen said this is the first book to examine Airtight Bridge and Ashmore Estates. The chapter on Ashmore Estates is the longest in the book and contains a complete account of its history, dating back to its days as the Coles County Poor Farm.
The book is dedicated to Mark Temples, a local broadcaster and journalist who died in 2007. Temples aided Kleen with research, especially pertaining to the Airtight Bridge case… Kleen said Paranormal Illinois is the culmination of nearly a decade of research, but much of the book was completed in the first half of 2009.
“I did not choose the title,” Kleen said. “Yes, it is a book about the ghost lore of Illinois, but it also goes in-depth into the history of the state. This is not your usual book of ghost stories. “It is fun to read, but it is also well documented and suitable for a library, a school, or a university.”
Bartonville: A Broken Home Where the Haunted Roam
Western Illinois Magazine
Everyone has a story, but at the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane, now known as the Peoria State Hospital, some stories were never heard. Patients suffered and the hospital workers tried their best to cure, or at least sustain, the incurable, but when all else failed, the gravedigger (who was a patient himself) hollowed out a new home in the ground for numerous individuals who died at the asylum…
“These buildings were built to correct problems, but they really didn’t correct a lot of the problems. It was part of this sort of progressive era of reform, trying to reform our mental institutions, but a lot of them were over-crowded.” said Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of the upcoming book, Paranormal Illinois.
… Diabetics were exposed to insulin shock/comatherapy. Electroconvulsive therapy was said to treat depression, mania, schizophrenia and even homosexuality. Lobotomies were rare at the asylum, and their intended purpose is not clarified. Occupational and industrial therapy allowed for patients to have jobs, teaching them new skills.
The treatments were mostly experimental, and the number of patients continually increased, causing overcrowded living quarters which made it easy for diseases to spread. “It’s really hard to visualize how they expected anybody to get better in that environment,” Kleen said.
Sorry, there is no version of this article online.
Things that go Bump in the Night
McDonough County Choice
March 9, 2010
A long-time researcher of the paranormal, regional historian, author and raconteur – Kleen is a man of many talents. His latest accomplishment is the publication of his newest book, Paranormal Illinois. Of particular interest for locals, one chapter in the book features Kleen’s research about ghosts and haunted buildings on the WIU campus.
The WIU chapter mostly deals with all the ghost stories associated with Simpkins Hall. Passed around and retold often through the years, spooky stories about the paranormal happenings in Simpkins seem to be a favorite for college students. Kleen provides background information, details the stories, sheds new light on the tales with interviews with faculty and students, and really tries to get to the bottom of the supposed eeriness. Kleen also writes about some other university buildings that have paranormal reputations.
Is there a “typing ghost” in the Writing Center? Kleen tells the story, but leaves the reader to ponder the WIU paranormal…
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Interview with horror blog “Day of the Woman”
March 5, 2010
…There are things that go bump in the night, unseen whispers after dark, and an entire atmosphere that has inspired many movies we know and love. We’ve told ghost stories around campfires and sleepovers for generations and I think it’s safe to say everyone gets nervous in the dark…at least a little. Today I interviewed paranormal author Michael Kleen to give us a little insight on what it’s like to play with ghosts, and get paid for it…
Grad student masters the macabre
February 15, 2010
Ever get that feeling you’re not alone? You’ve heard that there are supposed to be haunted buildings at Western Illinois University, but could you be in one of them right now?
Western Illinois graduate student Michael Kleen’s recently published the book titled “Paranormal Illinois,” which devotes an entire chapter to stories about ghosts at Western Illinois to answer your questions.
“Paranormal Illinois,” published by Schiffer Publishing is an extensively researched four-part book about 24 different locations and ghost stories in Illinois. The book doesn’t just provide information; it acts as a field guide for spook-seeking tourists and paranormal investigators alike.
“There was a lot of bad information out there and it is something I had been interested in my whole life,” Kleen said. “I wrote (“Paranormal Illinois”) to provide a well-researched book on the subject that people could use to reference.”
“Paranormal Illinois” isn’t Kleen’s first book. While earning a master’s in American history at Eastern Illinois University, Kleen self-published “Haunting the Prairie and “One Voice.” He also is the editor-in-chief of the digital magazine Black Oak Presents.
Haunted Rockford Special Report 2
WTVO Channel 17
October 30, 2009
Next to the leafless trees, it towers above the ground. But for some, it’s one woman’s haunting story that makes this house literally larger then life.
“Because she loved it so much she decided to live here in her after life” says folk lore expert Michael Kleen.
She was a Norwegian immigrant named Emma Jones who died in the 1950’s. According Kleen, ever since her death, some tenants have reported strange happenings.
14 year old Mary Cunningham has stayed overnight at the house. “I don’t believe in ghosts but it still scares me” says Cunningham.
First hand accounts can be scary, but we wanted to experience a ghost story for ourselves. Kleen found us just the place twin sister hills park.
Charleston is Haunted
Daily Eastern News
October 30, 2009
…As the legend goes, two men passing by the bridge in the morning noticed what they thought was the body of a nude woman about 50 feet from the bridge. As the men approached they realized that the woman had had her head, hands and feet severed from her body.
The men quickly called the local sheriff’s office and from there the investigation began.
Michael Kleen, an Illinois paranormal researcher and author, said that the case is shrouded in mystery.
“For years, the case has gone unsolved and still to this day authorities don’t know who committed the murder,” Kleen said. ” The victim was buried under the name of Jane Doe in one of Charleston’s cemetery’s and it wasn’t until 1992 that sheriff’s department finally figured out who the female victim was.”
The Science of Spirit-Sleuthing Part III: Local Lore
Stuart R. Wahlin
Rock River Times
October 28-Nov. 3, 2009
Twin Sisters Park is a popular wintertime destination on Rockford’s southeast side. Boasting sizeable twin hills, there’s little question where the park got its name. It is rumored, however, the park is not only popular with those who sled, but with those who are dead.
“Some people claim that this park has attracted more sinister guests,” local writer and historian Michael Kleen said of the legend during a recent talk at the Rockford Public Library. “The woods have been the scene of several murders, hangings and even a drowning. People say that they experience feelings of dread. They see things moving in the shadows. They feel like they’re being followed in the woods.”
Kleen acknowledged the stories are most likely the products of imagination from students of nearby East High School—also alleged to be haunted—and one local paranormal consulting team may have laid the Twin Sisters legend to rest.
Rotary Club of Charleston
October 27, 2009
Michael Kleen (M.A. in American History), publisher of Black Oak Media, was the featured speaker on October 27, 2009 and gave a historical presentation on Ashmore Estates.
The first buildings of the Coles County Poor Farm, established for indigent people who lived and worked on the farm, was first established in 1857 near Loxa. In 1867, construction of the first buildings of what would eventually become Ashemore Estates began and the new location opened in 1869. Additional buildings, which included a massive addition to the original building and several out buildings, were started in 1915 and completed in 1916 at a cost of $20,389 (more on this later).
Nancy Swinford grew up and lived on the farm from 1947-1954 when her father, Bill, was superintendent and her mother, Laura, was matron. She has recounted many stories of her life on the farm for folks in Coles County over the years…
Michael Kleen: The Truth is Sometimes Stranger than Fiction
Michael Kleen’s interest in the paranormal began at the age of eight when his uncle died suddenly. He then realized for the first time that he, too, would one day die and there was nothing he could do about it — and that single thought haunted him. “Everyone wonders what happens after they die, of course, and I’ve always looked for any shred of evidence that a part of me will continue on,” Michael said.
So as a child, he read everything he could get his hands on that might reassure him that his soul would endure a physical death. And now, at the age of 28, Michael continues to search for answers to the age-old question: Is there life after death?
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Eastern Illinois University in spring 2006, Michael founded Black Oak Media, an alternative media outlet for Middle American art and culture. He is now the publisher of Black Oak Presents, a digital magazine, and writes a monthly electronic serial Legends and Lore of Illinois. His research on the paranormal also led him to pen several books about ghosts and hauntings, having most recently published Legends and Lore of Illinois: Case Files. Michael’s other titles include Tales of the Supernatural and Other Mysteries of the Universe; Ashmore Estates: Myth and Legend; Tales of Coles County; and Six Tales of Terror.
“I think ghost stories are oddly comforting for people,” he said. “It makes you think that maybe there is a chance you just won’t blink into nothingness.”
Publication highlights Moon Point Cemetery
June 1, 2009
Legend has it that night-time trespassers to Moon Point Cemetery, south of Streator in Livingston County, will find themselves at the mercy of the “hatchet lady,”the ghost of a woman who lost her mind following the death of her child…
Such are the yarns spun by local residents, according to Michael Kleen, who publishes an online serial called “Legends and Lore.” And these kinds of tales are right up his alley.
“It is stories like this that make our small towns interesting and unique,” he said. “The legends of Moon Point have been passed down from one generation to the next, playing an important role in forging a sense of community.”
Effingham Daily News
February 21, 2009
Rumors of hauntings and paranormal encounters may forever be connected with Effingham’s Ramsey Cemetery, also known as Casbar Cemetery, yet one investigator recently published an article trying to explain some of those rumors.
Michael Kleen, author of “Legends and Lore of Illinois,” featured Ramsey Cemetery as his February case file. Kleen, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, refers to his job title as a folk historian.
“That means that I examine the history of a place from the perspective of the people living there. To me, their stories are just as important as names and dates, but you can’t have one without the other,” Kleen said.
Pemberton’s legend, Mary
Daily Eastern News
October 31, 2008
Lights flicker in the hallways. Doors mysteriously lock themselves. Disturbing sounds come from the basement. It may just be an old building, but if you ask the girls of Pemberton Hall it was probably Mary.
She seems to be a legend who is familiar to most of Eastern’s campus. As a freshman living in Pemberton, I was almost immediately acquainted with a story of Mary from a Resident Assistant fulfilling what I expect is the special duty of Pemberton RA’s to their freshmen…
I decided to take it upon myself to find out the truth and share it with my classmates on Halloween. Michael Kleen, an Eastern alum, has researched and discovered the real story behind Pemberton’s legend. His work can be found on http://newmichaelkleen.com.
“The story is about 80 percent fiction, 15 percent anecdotes about strange things that have happened in the hall and about 5 percent facts, Kleen said. “The whole story is based off of a popular urban legend known as ‘The Roommate’s Death,’ which has been told at universities all over the country, so a huge chunk of it – including the murder – is simply not true.”
So who really was Mary?
August 24, 2008 – Tune in to AM-1050 WLIP (Milwaukee/Chicago) tonight at 8pm to hear Michael Kleen, the author of the Legends and Lore of Illinois, discuss the some of Illinois’ most haunted locations, as well as the Legends and Lore of Illinois e-serial in general. You can also check out the radio show at http://slimpictures.com/mothershipradio.htm
The segment is now available to listen or download, check it out now:
Ashmore Haunted House Gets National Attention
(Apparently this is no longer available online)
WCIA 3 News
Jul 2, 2008
ASHMORE- Spooky tales from an old Coles County mental hospital are getting a special sci-fi series. Ashmore Estates has been rumored to be haunted for years Now some ghost hunters are making a documentary to see if the tales are true.
Wednesday was the first day of filming just outside of the small town of Ashmore. Paranormal professionals will stay up all night testing the old house. Ghosts, spirits, demons, whatever you want to call them, they’re getting national attention. The St. Booth brothers are known as professional “Ghost hunters” and they’ve traveled the country to central Illinois to see what or who might be lurking inside…
There’s a whole cast of characters the ghost hunters are looking for. “There’s a little boy you supposedly haunts the place and there’s a guy named Kentucky Joe with a very shallow face and a hat,” said St. Booth. The story is that people see ghosts and spirits wondering around all over Ashmore Estates but they’re gone in a flash. Alright, so some of it is a little hard to believe but in the world of the paranormal tracking whoever might be living here is a science.
Folk historians are excited the ghosts have decided to stick around in Coles County. “I think anything that doesn’t have to do with Lincoln around Coles County–cause it’s a big thing here–any kind of other history is good for people to know about,” said Coles County folk historian, Michael Kleen.
It’ll be on the Sci-Fi network in a series called “Children of the Grave 2” and should air sometime next summer.
Twisted tales: Author shares Coles County legends, folklore with Charleston Middle School students
Dave Fopay, Staff Writer
October 23, 2007
CHARLESTON — The simple toy of a murdered child could be out for vengeance, so it might be a good idea to stay away from a rural cemetery in southern Coles County.
Author Michael Kleen included the story of the Bethel “Rag Doll” Cemetery in the tales he told Monday about locations of legendary lore in the county. The cemetery just south of Coles County Memorial Airport is supposed to be haunted by the rag doll that’s looking for whoever murdered the girl who owned it. “If you go there at night and see a rag doll, you should get out of there pretty quickly,” Kleen said.
He spoke to a group of Charleston Middle School students about places reportedly haunted or just plain spooky. It tied into a group of lessons the seventh-graders had that covered different subject areas, with a common mystery theme.
Mural depicts Civil War riot
Daily Eastern News
October 10, 2007
On March 28, 1864, the Charleston Square was the site of a drunken riot. The riot is portrayed by a mural on the Charleston Square, but many Charleston citizens know nothing about the event.
Michael Kleen, a history graduate student, said this lack of knowledge may be because many people do not have the opportunity to learn much about their own state’s history while in school. “People tend not to care about local history that much,” Kleen said. “There is just a lack of interest.”
Kleen has been researching the Charleston Copperhead Riot for about three years and believes it is an important part of Charleston’s history. He said even though the riot occurred almost 140 years ago, its roots were in partisanship – an issue still prevalent today.
Ghost Club hunts for haunts
Daily Eastern News
October 8, 2007
When Elizabeth Thurmond was a young girl, she saw a person going through her closet in the middle of the night. She turned on the light and he was gone. Ever since, the sophomore pre-chemical engineering major has been interested in the paranormal. Thurmond joined the Ghost Club at Eastern this year. Ghost Club is an outlet for those interested in paranormal activity. “It seemed like fun,” Thurmond said. “I’ve been interested in paranormal activity since I’ve been really young.”
Michael Kleen, a history graduate student, formed the Ghost Club in 2004. Kleen has always been interested in the paranormal, so when he came to Eastern he looked for places around Charleston known for hauntings or ghosts. Kleen said he found there were many places like this around Coles County.
Student author gets creative with Coles history
Daily Eastern News
Friday, October 28, 2005
One Eastern student took several events from the darker side of Charleston’s history and creatively blended them into a fictional story in his book entitled, “Tales of Coles County, Illinois.”
Author Michael Kleen, senior philosophy major and founder of Eastern’s unofficial Ghost Club, has written three editions of the book, this being his newest, complete with factual footnotes at the bottom of most pages.
The story follows a group of Eastern students, Tami, Max, AJ and Nancy, as they are stranded in the rain when their car breaks down while looking for a campsite just south of Charleston. They come upon a small cabin in the woods and are invited inside by an old man and woman, who give them dry clothes, shelter and a warm dinner. During the meal, the couple shares stories with the students, stories about the history of Coles County and things they remember from their childhood that went on in the area, in chronological order.
The sequences inside the cabin when the students interact with the old couple are well written and interesting. Vivid descriptions, such as the scene where the plain clothes given to the students are described, make it easy for the reader to imagine actually being there. “Nancy pulled at the loose sleeves of the faded gray dress she wore with contempt, while Max tried not to look like he was scratching his legs, which were getting irritated from the rough, cotton pants.”
Readers can almost smell the mothballs.
Unofficial club in full swing
Daily Eastern News
October 28, 2005
Every window on the outside of Ashmore Estates is shattered. The walls look corroded. The grass surrounding the building rises to one’s knees from lack of upkeep. On the side of the building, a window is bricked up making people wonder ‘why?’ The creepy appearance of the property makes the estates an ideal study subject for the unofficial “EIU Ghost Club” in its second season of activity.
Michael Kleen, founder of the club, tried to keep it going year-round, but was disappointed in the drop-off of members after Halloween last year. He wasn’t planning on continuing the club until he received an e-mail from a former member expressing interest in the club’s seasonal activities. So the Ghost Club entered its second year, this time in a more laid-back fashion.
Daily Eastern News
October 29, 2004
Mike Kleen’s year-round interest for the paranormal inspired him to create a Ghost Club at Eastern, and he picked a good time to start it: just before Halloween…
“The purpose of the club is to expose different ways that our society explores the supernatural through fun,” said Kleen, a senior philosophy major.
After reading a book by Raymond Moody that popularized near-death experiences, Kleen concluded that no one has really learned anything from studying the paranormal, so he would rather have fun and learn through investigating and looking at other ways popular culture portrays the supernatural.
During the club’s meetings, which are open to anyone, paranormal phenomena is discussed.