Originally published in Great Britain in 2012, Ghosts: A Natural History (2015) by Roger Clarke is an exploration of the subject framed by a taxonomy of eight varieties of ghosts. Each chapter is a micro history of one or two prominent ghosts and trends in ghost hunting, from the seventeenth century Tedworth House and eighteenth century Hinton House, to the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall and the Borley Rectory in the twentieth.
Through these locations and events, Clarke traces a history of not just ghosts but the people fascinated by them. With the exception of the haunted German U-boat, U65, all of the discussed locations are in Great Britain. Clarke describes the British Isles as being particularly overrun with spooks and specters.
Ghosts: A Natural History is a wonderful book, rich with fascinating places and characters. Clarke brings to life the people involved in these events, some of whom may surprise you. For instance, I knew Royal Society member Joseph Glanville was convinced of the reality of witchcraft, but I didn’t know he felt the same about ghosts. Likewise, I was amused to read that his contemporary, Robert Boyle, father of modern experimental science, joined Glanville in investigating poltergeist activity at the Tedworth House and what became known as the “Devil of Mâcon.”
Religion is another interesting aspect of this book. According to Clarke, much of England’s ghost belief springs from latent Catholicism or former Catholic sites. When Catholicism was suppressed in England and the Church’s property confiscated, many rectories, graveyards, and monasteries were left to decay–attracting a reputation for being haunted. With one notable exception, Protestant ministers tried to stamp out ghost belief, since ghosts were supposedly souls trapped in purgatory–a thoroughly Catholic notion. However, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, not only believed in ghosts, but poltergeist activity plagued his family home at Epworth as a child.
“If you are reading this, you are part of a small but dedicated group of people who relish in the exploration of the unknown… I honestly hope that you visit the places listed in this book, and always remember, the point is to have fun, get scared, and learn something along the way…” – From the Introduction.
For over a decade, Michael Kleen, author of the Legends and Lore of Illinois and the forthcoming book Paranormal Illinois, has been researching and traveling to mystery spots all over the Prairie State. Now, he has created the most organized and comprehensive guide to haunted and legendary places ever written about Illinois. Haunting the Prairie is that guide.
Haunting the Prairie contains 130 mystery sites and 60 individual illustrations, plus the only bibliographic time line of paranormal and folklore research in Illinois over the past century. In Haunting the Prairie, Michael Kleen not only examines the sites, but also the hobbyists and professionals who have devoted their lives to exploring the strange and unusual in our great state. But that’s not all, this book also contains an extended and exclusive interview with paranormal investigator Larry Wilson about his documentary Strange Williamsburg Hill.
Divided among eight distinct regions and listed by county, each location features a description, directions, and sources drawn from a diverse variety of books and articles where the reader can find out more information.
Haunting the Prairie challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. You might be surprised at what you discover!
Title: Haunting the Prairie: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of Illinois
Author: Michael Kleen
Format: 9 x 6 x 0.5
Publisher: Black Oak Press, Illinois
Number of Pages: 154
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
I’m featured in a couple of new newspaper articles this month, and will also appear on Rockford’s WTVO Channel 17 (digital channel 16) tonight at 10pm central time. Click the links below to read the newspaper articles, or simply go to the “press” tab to read those and past articles. Hopefully a video clip of the Channel 17 piece will be available on their website soon.
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.
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.”