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Mysterious America Photography

Fort Fisher’s Sentinel

Fort Fisher was built by Confederate forces during the American Civil War to protect Wilmington, North Carolina. It fell on January 15, 1865 after hours of brutal fighting. Since then, visitors to the fort’s ruins have reported numerous strange encounters, including sightings of a mysterious sentinel, as well as its commander, Col. William Lamb. Others report hearing disembodied footsteps, phantom screams, and gunshots. In 1961, the site was declared a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places five years later.

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Mysterious America

The Ghost of Mary Hawkins and the Legend of Pemberton Hall

Sometimes Mary manifests herself as a prankster. Other times, she appears as a benevolent matriarch who makes sure doors are locked at night and warns “her girls” of trouble. But at all times, Mary Hawkins commands the respect and admiration of students at Eastern Illinois University, even 103 years after her death.

Jessica and Ashley sat in their dorm room, a cool autumn breeze blowing in from the window. A single lamp illuminated the room in a soft yellow glow, casting shadows of stuffed animals on the walls. Ashley sat on the floor with a tablet in her lap playing Angry Birds, her back resting against the bed. Jessica, her roommate, sat on her mattress curled in a pink Snuggie.

Without warning, a door down the hallway slammed shut, followed by the sound of something scraping across the old wooden floor. Jessica and Ashley jumped.

Ashley put down her tablet. “Oh my God, what was that?” she asked.

“Maybe it was Mary,” Jessica (or Jess for short) replied. Seeing her roommate’s puzzled expression, she continued. “You know this place is haunted, right?”

“Shut up.”

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Mysterious America Photography

Powers-Jarvis Mansion

The Powers-Jarvis Mansion, 357 W. Decatur Street in Decatur, Illinois, is among the most unique in Decatur, from its red tiled roof, to its copper trim, leaded glass windows, and blond brick. Businessman Charles Powers, owner of the Hotel Orlando, built this 9,400 square feet Greek Revival home in 1909. The Bachrach family owned it from 1988 to 2005, when they sold it at auction. It was auctioned again in 2017. According to local author Troy Taylor, rumors of it being haunted began in the 1960s when it was abandoned. Passersby witnessed lights floating around inside or translucent figures in the windows. Later, some men staying in the house reported personal items went missing or their bed shook without explanation.

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Mysterious America

Illinois’ Haunted Colleges

Every college has its traditions, and perhaps even a ghost story or two, but the following Illinois colleges rank high on the list when it comes to eerie campus legends and tales.

The first college in Illinois, McKendree University, was established in Lebanon in 1828. Since then, over 70 private and public four-year institutions dedicated to higher education have opened throughout the state. Each has its own history and traditions, traditions that often include a ghost story or two. Some colleges seem to have more than their fair share. Millikin University, Illinois College, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and of course, the University of Illinois are just a few of the many with eerie campus legends and tales.

Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University was founded in Bloomington in 1850, but no buildings were constructed until six years later. Primarily focused on the liberal arts, it is partially supported by the United Methodist Church, but its administration is independent.

Several buildings on campus are believed to be haunted. International House (I-House) was built by A.E. DeMange and his wife in 1907. A few years later, following his wife’s death, DeMange sold the classical revival building to the university. Ever since, students say the house is haunted by a “lady in red”: Mrs. DeMange herself. On certain nights, she is said to appear in a large mirror.

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Mysterious America

The Strange Life and Death of the Lindbergh Schoolhouse

Suburban sprawl may have destroyed this historic schoolhouse along Shoe Factory Road in northwestern Cook County, Illinois, but not even bulldozers can erase its strange legacy.

For many years, a unique stone building sat nestled between woods and farm fields along a quiet rural road in the far northwest corner of Cook County, Illinois. One day, the family who rented the building—an old schoolhouse that had been converted into a residence—moved out. Then the bulldozers came. Pavement, manicured lawns, McMansions, and “water retention areas” slowly replaced fields and streams a few miles down from the building along Shoe Factory Road.

Suburban families moved into this new subdivision. Traffic increased along the road, which was the only access to the outside world for its residents. Occasionally, their children passed the strange looking house—the only one of its kind they had ever seen—on their way to and from errands or on trips to explore the area around their new home.

“What was that place?” they wondered. Why was it abandoned? Had a gruesome crime occurred there? Some of the kids began to break in and explore the building, unaware that local residents had already begun a campaign to save the old schoolhouse and one of the last remaining links to a fast-vanishing rural past.

This is the story of the Charles A. Lindbergh School—a story that begins in 1929 and ends with a decade long battle for its preservation, rumors of ghosts and murders, and its ultimate demolition to make way for yet another subdivision at the height of the nation’s housing bubble. It was a classic struggle between tradition and modernity, character and sameness, all swirling around youthful transgressions and an attempt by local teens to alleviate boredom through destructive storytelling.

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Mysterious America Photography

Coronado Theater

The Coronado is a historic, 2,400 seat theater in downtown Rockford, Illinois. It was designed by architect Frederick J. Klein, cost $1.5 million to build, and opened on October 9, 1927. Some have speculated that the theater was built on an American Indian burial ground because of its proximity to Beattie Park, which contains small Indian Mounds from the Upper Mississippian/Late Woodland period. The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

According to theater volunteers and a local psychic named Mark Dorsett, it is haunted by three ghosts: Willard Van Matre, the Coronado’s original owner (who died in 1953), Miss Kileen, the theater’s first office manager, and Louis St. Pierre, a Bridge enthusiast and the first theater manager. While Van Matre likes to greet visitors at the theater entrance, the scent of lilac perfume is associated with Miss Kileen. Other people have reported feeling “uneasy” on the catwalks, allegedly because they are occupied by the ghosts of men who died during construction of the building.

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Mysterious America Photography

Valentown Hall

Levi Valentine built this hall at the junction of High Street and Valentine Road in Victor, New York in 1879 in the hopes of creating a commercial center for a new town along a railroad. However, the railroad never came and the building was never used. It would have been one of the first indoor shopping malls in the country. Since being purchased by J. Sheldon Fisher in 1940, it has operated as a museum and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Rumors abound that the old building is haunted–vehemently denied by its current owners. However, in 2006 it appeared on an episode of Ghost Hunters and in 2010 on an episode of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. One unverified story is that a jealous husband committed a murder in the fourth-floor ballroom, and that human remains were found in the basement. The ghosts are said to be either attracted to or attached to the hundreds of antiques housed at Valentown.