Illinois’ Decade of Lost Legends

Over the past ten to fifteen years, Illinois has lost nearly a dozen historic (and allegedly haunted) places to development and disaster. Some, like Alonzi’s Villa in Brookfield, the Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates, and Sacred Heart Chapel at Barat College in Lake Forest, were destroyed to make way for real estate development. Others, like Sunset Haven outside Carbondale, were destroyed to erase the building (and its notorious reputation) from public memory.

The Lindbergh School on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates was genuinely a historic landmark known for its unique architecture and its significance to local history, regardless of its ghost stories. For years, preservationists tried desperately to save the building from the chopping block. Unfortunately, in 2007, bulldozers knocked it down to make way for yet another subdivision, just before the housing bubble burst and real estate values plummeted.

Sunset Haven, located on the periphery of Carbondale, Illinois and owned by Southern Illinois University, was a longtime destination for legend tripping in southern Illinois. It was originally the Jackson County Poor Farm almshouse became known as Sunset Haven during the 1940s when it was converted into a nursing home. The nursing home closed in 1957 and Southern Illinois University purchased the property to expand its agricultural program. Around October 26, 2013, a crew from SIU demolished Sunset Haven, leaving nothing but a cement foundation.

White Hall at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois was demolished in 2015. Chanute Air Force Base opened in July 1917. After its closure in 1993, much of the base was divided into residential and commercial properties, but most of the core buildings remain abandoned. Inevitably, local kids exploring the abandoned parts of the base began to bring home unusual stories, particularly regarding White Hall. The building was ruled an environmental hazard and too costly to renovate.

Continue reading “Illinois’ Decade of Lost Legends”
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Details Emerge in Camp Napowan Story

I rescued the following post from my old website, Mysterious Heartland, and decided to re-post it here in case I have any readers interested in Wisconsin folklore or who went to Camp Napowan as a Boy Scout. Enjoy!

After posting an edited transcription of the legend of Boot Hill from Napowan Scout Camp in central Wisconsin (read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), a reader contacted me with his own insight into the story. In addition to more information about how an audio version of the tale became available, he reveals that a tragic accident in the early 2000s may have squelched its retelling. Here are his remarks:

Hi Michael,

I came across your transcription of the Story of Boot Hill on Mysterious Heartland, and I wanted to give you my recollection. I visited Napowan as a Boy Scout from 1993 to 1999. The first year I went, one of the camp staff was invited to our site to tell the story of Boot Hill. I think he was the camp director at the time, or he became camp director several years later, and I want to say his name was Eric. There were a few additional details that were added to the story in future tellings, as well as a few omissions.

I can only remember one omission regarding the event from 1992. A special needs scout from the Little City sponsored troop (which I believe is also out of Des Planes) got lost, wandered off camp property, and recalled seeing black cats with white paws when he was found. The troop is comprised of mentally challenged adults who were still in attendance during the years I visited camp Napowan. I think the lost scout was an African American guy who went by the name Horse.

Eric took a break from staffing, but returned in the late ’90s. Since he was not there to tell the story, another staff member told the story for the entire camp in 1994 or 1995. His name was Brad Shuman, and he was the director of the Nature program area. He was a creepy guy to begin with, but he did a superb job telling the story. It genuinely scarred a lot of scouts who had to later walk back to their campsites, in the dark, through many of the locations mentioned in the story.

Continue reading “Details Emerge in Camp Napowan Story”

I talk “Witchcraft in Illinois” on the Michael Koolidge Show

Here’s another interview I forgot to post last year, but for those of you who missed it, I talk about my book Witchcraft in Illinois with Michael Koolidge, recorded October 6, 2017. The Michael Koolidge Show is the only statewide-syndicated radio show in Illinois and is one of the few independently syndicated shows of its kind in the nation.

I talk “Witchcraft in Illinois” with Bobbie Ashley on WIKK

Not sure how I neglected to post this interview last year, but for those of you who missed it, I talk about my book Witchcraft in Illinois on the Bobbie Ashley Morning Show, WIKK 103.5 The Eagle in Newton, Illinois. Recorded October 5, 2017. The audio is a little soft, so you might want to turn up your volume!

Rockford-Area Legends and Lore Part 2

Part two of my presentation on the legends and lore of Rockford, Illinois and surrounding areas at Tinker Swiss Cottage, including Blood’s Point Road, Charles Guiteau, and the phantom lady of Kennedy Hill Road. I honestly don’t remember when this was recorded but it might have been in 2011.

Rockford-Area Legends and Lore Part 1

Part one of my presentation on the legends and lore of Rockford, Illinois and surrounding areas at Tinker Swiss Cottage. The Emma Jones Home, Rockford College, the legend of Big Thunder, Nellie Dunton, and more. I honestly don’t remember when this was recorded but it might have been in 2011.

Mad Gasser of Mattoon Presentation at Eastern Illinois University

The “Mad Gasser of Mattoon” was a series of strange events in Mattoon, Illinois during World War 2 involving “gas attacks” on unassuming homeowners in this small Midwestern town. It’s generally written off as a case of mass hysteria, but physical symptoms exhibited by the victims seem to suggest otherwise. To this day, no one really knows who or what caused the attacks.

On October 24, 2013, I explored the facts and the fiction behind this tale at a presentation Coles County legends and lore at MLK Student Union. So many people showed up we actually had to move to a larger room. After many years writing about these stories, giving this presentation at my alma mater was a wonderful opportunity.