The Legend of Pemberton Hall is among one of the most well-known ghost stories in Illinois. Set at Eastern Illinois University, generations of young women who reside in this residence hall have been telling tales of Mary Hawkins and the ghost of an (allegedly) murdered coed. On October 24, 2013, I explored the facts and the fiction behind the tale at a presentation at MLK Student Union. So many people showed up we actually had to move to a larger room. After many years writing about this EIU legend, giving this presentation on campus was a wonderful opportunity.
The Prince George Hotel, a downtown Kingston, Ontario landmark, began its life as an elegant residence. Since then, it has anchored Kingston’s historic Market Square and been part of the city’s rich history and folklore. It was originally a family home owned by Lawrence Herchmer, built between 1817 and 1820 adjacent to Kingston’s City Hall on Ontario Street.
Lawrence’s widow, Elizabeth, moved into the home upon its completion in 1820. In 1840, their son, Charles Herchmer, took over as owner and rented it to his son-in-law, John Macpherson. In 1846, merchant William Henry Alexander leased the building and converted it into commercial shops and warehouses. Two saloons, one owned by James Elder and the other by William Alexander, opened on the ground floor.
A fire damaged the businesses in 1848. Shortly after, William Alexander began constructing a new building on the property, designed by William Coverdale. According to the Ontario Heritage Foundation, in 1892 the two buildings were unified with the addition of a full width verandah and balcony and a Second Empire style mansard roof, creating the distinct facade we see today. The Prince George Hotel opened in 1918.
Ghostly activity in the hotel centered on the third floor, particularly Room 304. According to Glen Shackleton, proprietor of Canada’s original haunted tours, staff reported electrical disturbances and doors opening or closing on their own. Guests spotted the shadowy specter of a woman and an adolescent girl. In Room 304, one elderly couple complained that the second bed in the room was floating three feet in the air!
Elmwood Cemetery is located in the Southern Illinois’ town of Centralia off Gragg and Sycamore Streets directly west of the Raccoon Creek Reservoir. Originally called Centralia Cemetery (and sometimes referred to as such today), the graveyard was in use in the 1860s but not officially established until 1877. Its name was changed to Elmwood Cemetery in 1921. According to Centralia’s own website, the cemetery is a resting place for around 17,000 former residents.
Deep inside Elmwood sits a large monument shaped like a tabernacle or an ancient Greek temple with only four columns. At the top of the monument stands a nearly life sized statue of a young girl with flowing locks of hair. In her hands she holds a violin. The statue depicts Harriet Annie, the daughter of Dr. Winfield and Eoline Marshall. Annie died in 1890, a few weeks after her eleventh birthday.
A popular local legend maintains that the sweet strains of a violin can be heard emanating from the cemetery at night. The origin of the ethereal notes is said to be none other than the statue of H. Annie Winfield, or “Violin Annie,” as she has come to be known.
According to a testimonial on the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places for Illinois, Annie died of diphtheria, an upper respiratory tract illness that mainly affects children. The most gruesome version of the story claims that her own father (or mother) killed her with her violin.
Click to enlarge photos
We filmed my 60-minute documentary on Tinker’s Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Illinois, Tinker’s Shadow: The Hidden History of Tinker Swiss Cottage, over about a period of a week last December. Tinker Cottage is a wonderful Victorian house museum with a long history of unusual occurrences many attribute to the ghosts of Robert H. Tinker and his family.
The former director, Steve Litteral, is a good friend of mine, as are many of the cast and crew. I was so lucky to know and work with such a talented and knowledgeable group of people, including Chicago-based photographer Greg Inda, who served a dual role as cameraman and directory of photography. Amelia Cotter of the R.I.P. Files agreed to host.
I released the documentary on Amazon Video Direct in March 2018 and we had a public showing at the museum in July. It’s now available on DVD, but the digital version is the highest quality. Please check it out if you haven’t already; it’s perfect for the Halloween season.
Unexplained events at a Midwestern museum shed light on its city’s past in Tinker’s Shadow: The Hidden History of Tinker Swiss Cottage! Perfect for the Halloween season, check it out on DVD or Video Direct on Amazon.com. We filmed this 60-minute documentary last Christmas and released it in April. I think it turned out very well and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens in Rockford, Illinois has long been rumored to be haunted, but what do its ghosts teach us about the past? Join host Amelia Cotter as she takes you inside and reveals the hidden history of this beautiful museum. Featuring interviews with museum staff, visitors, volunteers, and researchers.
The DVD is $15.00 plus shipping, or you can watch the digital version in HD for $2.99. Check it out on Amazon.com
The headless horseman of Lakey’s Creek is quite possibly one of the oldest ghost stories in Illinois. Passed down as an oral tradition until John W. Allen put the story on paper in 1963, the mysterious man named Lakey, as well as his untimely end, has been immortalized in the folklore of Southern Illinois. Like Lake Michigan’s “Seaweed Charlie,” this ghost story may be preserving the memory of an unsettling event in local history.
Long before a concrete bridge spanned the shallow creek 1.5 miles east of McLeansboro, a frontiersman named Lakey attempted to erect his log cabin near a ford along the wagon trail to Mt. Vernon. One morning, a lone traveler stumbled upon Lakey’s body. Lakey’s head had been severed by his own ax, which was left at the scene. According to legend, his murderer was never found.
For decades after the murder, travelers reported being chased by a headless horseman who rode out of the woods along Lakey’s Creek. “Always the rider, on a large black horse, joined travelers approaching the stream from the east, and always on the downstream side,” John Allen wrote. “Each time and just before reaching the center of the creek, the mistlike figure would turn downstream and disappear.”
In the October 1973 issue of Goshen Trails, Ralph S. Harrelson published research in which he claimed to have learned the historical personage behind the Lakey legend. In a history of Hamilton County, he discovered a single sentence revealing that a man named Lakey―the same man who gave his name to the creek―had indeed lived near the ford, but more tellingly, that he had been murdered by his son-in-law.
The majestic Tippecanoe Place Restaurant sits on a small bluff at the southwest corner of West Washington and South Taylor streets in South Bend, Indiana, but it was not always a destination for high class dining. Architect Henry Ives Cobb originally designed this Richardson Romanesque mansion for wagon manufacturer Clement Studebaker for use as a family home.
Cobb also designed the former Historical Society Building in Chicago, which later became the Excalibur Night Club (another famously haunted building).
Shortly after the mansion was completed in February 1889, a fire gutted the interior and it had to be rebuilt. The Studebaker family finally moved in nearly a year later. The 26,000 square-foot mansion had forty rooms and twenty fireplaces. It cost $450,000, including furnishings and the cost to rebuild after the fire. It had no rival in Indiana at the time.
Clement Studebaker named his new home in honor of William Henry Harrison, who won the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. William Henry was grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison, a close friend of Clem’s.