Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois has had a long and colorful history. Its mascot, the Saluki, is an ancient Egyptian dog breed and a salute to the region of southern Illinois called “Little Egypt.” Nearly every campus building is said to be haunted, from the lost girl of Faner Hall to the ghost of “Henry” in Shryock Auditorium. The campus even boasts a labyrinth of underground tunnels.
Southern Illinois University was founded in 1869 as Southern Illinois Normal College, and its cornerstone was laid on May 17, 1870. Originally a small teacher’s college, the university grew to over 23,000 students by 1980. Enrollment has remained relatively consistent ever since.
While noted as a research institution, SIU has also been popularly known as a “party school.” During the late 1990s, Halloween celebrations broke out into riots, forcing the University to close its campus on Halloween weekend.
A 15-year-long city ordinance that prevented three popular bars on Carbondale’s main strip from doing business on Halloween and the following weekend was finally lifted for a one year trial period in 2013.
Wheeler Hall, Faner Hall, Anthony Hall, Shryock Auditorium, and Mae Smith Residence Hall are all home to macabre tales.
The following is not a fable — it all really happened and it has no morals.”
I first became aware of H.B. Koplowitz’s Carbondale After Dark and Other Stories while I was doing research on Southern Illinois University for a book on the legends and lore of Illinois colleges. Carbondale After Dark was first published by the author in 1982. A 25th anniversary limited edition was released in 2007. The new edition contains a foreword by actor Dennis Franz, a Backword by humorist P.S. Mueller, and of course a new acknowledgements by the author himself. At 132 pages, Carbondale After Dark can almost be read in one sitting, but you will want to pick it apart piece by piece. The book contains standalone articles (as opposed to one linear narrative) so there is no need to read it from cover to cover.
During the 1960s and ‘70s, SIU-C went from a small rural teacher’s college to a major university in just a few short years. That shift permanently altered the landscape of Carbondale, Illinois, creating what became known as “the Strip.” Since then, the Strip has been the scene of mass parties, riots, and a lot of fond memories. H.B. Koplowitz was right in the middle, writing for alternative publications and documenting these changes as they happened.
Carbondale After Dark is divided into three sections: The Strip, Pontifications, and A Koplowitz Now. The highlight of the book is the section devoted to Carbondale’s Strip, which also takes up the most amount of pages. What particularly stands out is a year-by-year history of the strip, from its inception to the early 1980s. Student parties and protests are mentioned, but the author also documents the origin of SIU’s massive annual Halloween party, which was a fixture of campus life until a particularly devastating riot in 2000.
Loreto Cruz of KFVS Channel 12 News in Carterville, Illinois focused their latest Halloween segment on the many ghost stories of Southern Illinois University. They used my top 10 list, “Top 10 Most Haunted Places in Southern Illinois” as a basis for their news story. Thanks, KFVS Channel 12!
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) – Several of SIU’s buildings have been called haunted. A number of authors have published novels and compilations of ghost lore across southern Illinois. Michael Kleen is one of those authors, and published a list of the top ten most haunted places in southern Illinois.
One story claims that a student got lost in Faner Hall, a multipurpose building on SIU’s campus, and the student’s spirit still roams the halls at night. “Faner’s really easy to get lost in,” explained Student Emily VanWardhauizzn on Friday. “You can definitely hear the footsteps. It echoes, and just amplifies because it sounds like there’s more than one person behind you.”
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.
October 30th, the night before Halloween, has been variously referred to as Mischief Night, Cabbage Night, or Hell Night. In most places, teens celebrate this unofficial holiday with pranks, mild vandalism, petty crime, parties, and fireworks. In Detroit, Michigan, it became known as “Devil’s Night.” From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, arsonists started hundreds of fires throughout the city. In Carbondale, Illinois, students from Southern Illinois University celebrated the weekend before Halloween with riotous parties along the downtown strip.
According to author H.B. Koplowitz, this tradition began in 1974, after political demonstrations on the strip gave way to fun and revelry. “Nobody realized it at the time, but Thursday, Oct. 31, 1974, the bizarre Halloween street party tradition was born,” he wrote. “At about 9:30 [pm] that night, about 1,000 young people, many of them in outrageous home-made costumes that ranged from the abstract to the obscene, took over the street between Merlin’s and P.K.’s.”
The crowd soon swelled to over 5,000, and Carbondale’s mayor ordered the bars to close. Rather than diffuse the situation, this action inflamed the crowd and led to confrontations with the police. By 1977, word of the carnival-like Halloween party had spread and attracted partygoers from elsewhere in the state. “The weekend before Halloween, about 6,000 people, many of them in costumes and from out of town, closed South Illinois Avenue from College to Walnut,” Koplowitz explained. “The city had not granted an extension of the 2a.m. drinking hour, but Saturday night the bars stayed open an hour later because of a time change from Daylight Saving Time. When the bars emptied, a bonfire was lit in the street, rocks and bottles were thrown, and a few people took off their clothes.”