Last week was Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide‘s best week on Amazon.com, with nearly 60 sales in one week!
Last week was Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide‘s best week on Amazon.com, with nearly 60 sales in one week!
Well, I came out of “intense-writing-mode” to do an interview with Jamie Davis, author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums. Jamie enjoyed the new edition of Haunting Illinois and wanted to send me a few questions about the book. I was happy to oblige!
February 8, 2015
I used Michael Kleen’s 2nd Edition of Haunting Illinois and Paranormal Illinois back in 2012 when I was researching Ashmore Estates in connection with Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums. I was a little late in picking up the 3rd Edition, but when I realized it was on the market, I quickly ordered it! I love guidebooks for paranormal tourists, and this is a “best of the best” in my experience. For each entry listed, Kleen cites sources and gives directions to the locations. I love how the book is organized too, with “creep factor” symbol codings, and broken down by geographic sections of the state.
Kleen answers his fan mail, and was kind enough to answer my questions below:
Tell us about the process for revising this edition. I’m almost betting it is an easier process to create from scratch vs. revise!
The third edition of Haunting Illinois was three years in the making. The second edition came out in 2011 and listed 200 haunted and mysterious places in Illinois, and I always told myself that if I made another edition, it had to be worthwhile for people who owned the previous edition to buy the new one. Not only did I scour more books and articles for new places to include in the book, but I traveled all over the state getting pictures for some of the new places and some of the old. Then, of course, I had to update some of the previous listings to reflect recent events. Sunset Haven outside Carbondale, Illinois, for example, was torn down in 2013. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and I enjoyed revising everything. I’m a perfectionist. The new edition of Haunting Illinois contains a listing of 260 places and 120 photos and illustrations.
Do you consider yourself a paranormal enthusiast or a ghost hunter? (If paranormal enthusiast, have you done any ghost hunting? If so, what was your take on the experience?
I like the term “paranormal enthusiast” but I consider myself to be a folklorist or a folk historian. I take no position on the truth or falsehood of these stories. Ghost hunters or paranormal investigators are concerned with finding out the truth behind paranormal phenomenon. That just doesn’t interest me anymore. I don’t believe science has anything to say about ghost stories or the paranormal any more than it does about my subjective feelings towards a painting or a movie. I have been on plenty of paranormal investigations and consider many people who are interested in that to be my good friends. But frankly, it’s become so boring and obnoxious. Everyone tries to get their 10 seconds on TV and then they act like they are so much better than everyone else. Why can’t we just appreciate these experiences and stories on their own terms?
Earlier this month, I was asked to lend my expertise to a series of articles on legends in the Rockford, Illinois area for the Register Star, and the results were exciting, to say the least. The Register Star has not shied away from publishing articles about local legends and ghost stories in the past, but this is their first full, multi-article spread on the subject, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it! Here are some excerpts, with links back to the original articles:
You can’t discount the hundreds of strange encounters reported along Bloods Point Road, said Michael Kleen, a local folk historian. The road is one of Boone County’s most notorious midnight drives.
“Maybe there is something to the stories after all. … That’s what makes it exciting.”
With multiple books on local legends — including the ghostly go-to book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” Kleen is well-acquainted with the lore surrounding the 5-mile country thoroughfare, from phantom police cars and supernatural dogs to mystery lights and vanishing barns.
He feels the road’s sinister monicker, taken from the Blood family who settled there in the mid-1800s, has helped keep the lore alive for more than a century. Believe them or not, these spooky tales have become an integral part of the community’s social and historical fabric. Even traffic signs dare not use the road’s full name, opting instead for the abbreviated “Bl. Point Rd.” [More…]
What is known about the home is this: It was the home of Charles Guiteau’s uncle and aunt, A.B. and Emily Rehfield Guiteau. Charles was the son of Luther W. Guiteau, who served as a cashier at Second National Bank, was a merchant at the time, and served Stephenson County as recorder and clerk of the circuit court. Charles shot President Garfield in a railroad depot in July 1881. It would be weeks before Garfield would die. Charles never lived in the home of his uncle and aunt. He actually grew up in a house on Broadway Street in Freeport.
Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of several books, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourists Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” has often passed the home while visiting family in Freeport. The home fascinated him, so he began his own research.
After Charles Guiteau was hanged for killing Garfield, rumors began swirling that his bones were buried in the home.
“This rumor about Guiteau’s bones is not true,” said Kleen. “According to widespread belief, after his execution, his body was boiled and his skeleton was bleached and put on display around the country. Other reports said his head had been preserved in a jar and kept by a physician in New York. Similar rumors were repeated for nearly a century, creating a lot of confusion. Guiteau’s bones are actually kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.”
Kleen said Guiteau was a tragic figure and a political gadfly. For a short time, he joined a utopian religious sect known as the Oneida Community in New York, but its founder thought him to be insane and threw him out. He constantly sought appointments to political offices and felt slighted by President Garfield when he refused to appoint him as ambassador to France. He even failed at the assassination of Garfield, said Kleen. It was really Garfield’s doctors, who infected the bullet wound during sloppy surgery, who are ultimately blamed for killing the president. But, at Guiteau’s trial, Dr. Edward Spitzka called him a moral monstrosity. [More…]
Twice in one week, July 30th and 31st, the 3rd edition of my book Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State rocketed up to #2 in Midwestern Tour Guides on Amazon.com and earned a spot in the “Hot New Releases” section! Released earlier this month by Thunder Bay Press, the new edition retails for $12.95 and is 254 pages. It features beautiful cover photography by the very talented Cari Ann Wayman, from Rockford, Illinois.
I’m very happy that my book made such a strong showing right out of the gate, but it was helped by some strong endorsements. Jeff Belanger, author of The World’s Most Haunted Places, founder of Ghostvillage.com, and host of 30 Odd Minutes, has said, “Ghostly legends dot the Prairie State from its big cities to its small towns. These stories make each community unique in a way that no other landmark ever could… But Michael Kleen understands that these ghosts are more than just stories. As a folklorist and historian, Kleen shows readers the connection between our past and our present. Haunting Illinois is more than just a ghostly travel guide, it’s an adventure offering new insight on the haunts you know, but also takes you on a trip to the spirits in your own backyard.”
Amelia Cotter, author of This House & Maryland Ghosts, has said, “Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois is a must-have guidebook for any history, folklore, and ghost enthusiast living in or planning to visit the Prairie State. Haunting Illinois is thoroughly researched and written, providing detailed information, photos, and maps of hundreds of haunted sites, broken down by county. Kleen’s passion for and dedication to the state’s most haunted and historic places will inspire readers to create their own adventures. This book is a fun, informative, and very creepy read!”
Thanks to the strange forces that make posts go viral, Mysterious Heartland has set a new record for site visits in one day – 33,383 on December 29th, and has received more than 70,000 visits in the past three days. That made December 2013 our best month for visits since the website launched in 2009. Thanks to a related sales boost, my book Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State reached #1 in Midwestern travel guides and #4,535 in Books overall on Amazon.com today. That’s the highest ranking any of my books has ever achieved. That, coupled with the unexpected surge in website traffic, made for a great end to 2013. surprise
I am finally back home from the “Heartland is Haunted” book tour, and what a success it was! On the final day of the tour, I stopped over at the Book Warehouse in Tuscola before heading over to the main event, a retelling of folklore and ghost stories of central Illinois at Peck Cemetery outside of Oakley, just northeast of Decatur. Peck has long attracted negative attention in the area and this event was held to raise money to help restore the cemetery and prevent further vandalism and desecration. About 70 people attended and showed their support. Moreover, I sold out of every single copy of my book Haunting Illinois that I brought on the tour!
I would like to thank everyone who made my first book tour such a success, including Carl Jones of Lincolnland College, Becky Guymon for putting together the Coles County events last weekend, Sharilyn Kibler-Russell, Gretchen & Lisa from Barnes and Noble in Champaign, Jim Heater of CHIPS, the staff at the Camargo Township Library, Catherine Novak of Beads N Botanicals, Cameron Crosby for his photography, and especially Angie Johnson for putting together the headline event! I could not have done this without any of you, and I am eternally grateful – but I also cannot forget to thank everyone who attended the events as well. I met a lot of great people along the way and I hope I made a few more fans!
It was a packed day yesterday with two back-to-back appearances in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, one at the Beads N Botanicals on Broadway in Urbana and the other at the Barnes and Noble at the Marketview Shopping Center in Champaign. There were a lot of new faces at both these events, but some familiar ones as well. I spoke about some local legends at both of these appearances, and even shared a story from pioneer Illinois at Beads N Botanicals when one lady asked me to retell a story I had related on WILL Public Radio the previous day. After the events, some friends and I went to Old Chicago and enjoyed some calzones while talking about how well the book tour was going so far, as well as catching up, of course. If you wanted to attend but missed both book signings, you can pick up a signed copy of my book at both Barnes and Noble and Beads N Botanicals, but hurry because they are selling out fast!
Today I will be at the Book Warehouse at the Tanger outlet mall in Tuscola from 1 to 3, and then at my final event of the tour – “Legends and Lore of Central Illinois” at the notoriously haunted Peck Cemetery outside of Oakley (near Decatur) from 5 to 8pm. Money from the event will go to help restore the cemetery and preserve its history. I hope I see you there!