Michael Kleen earned a M.A. in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2008 and a M.S. in Education from Western Illinois University in 2011. He is the author of several books, including Haunting Illinois, Tales of Coles County, Six Tales of Terror, and Paranormal Illinois. Michael has spoken about local history and folklore at conventions, libraries, cafes, schools, and colleges; and he has presented research papers at the 2007, 2010, and 2011 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. His latest book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, was released last month.
How did you come up with the concept for Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities? What makes this book different from other books about haunted places in Illinois?
I have always enjoyed college lore. Both of my alma maters, Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University, had their own ghostlore. WIU was remarkable for the sheer number of alleged hauntings, but EIU is the setting for one of the most well-known ghost stories in Illinois: the legend of Mary Hawkins at Pemberton Hall. I had personal experience with a number of the schools in the book, whether through friends or relatives. So last year, when I was thinking about what to write next, it occurred to me that no one had ever attempted to write a book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore. I decided to dive into my love of collegiate life and make that a reality.
There are a lot of books of ghost stories out there that simply tell the tales without going into much detail. For the main chapters in the book, I did in-depth research and really fleshed out the legends and lore, citing all of my sources in the process. In some cases, I attempted to uncover the origin of the legends. In other cases, I showed how the ghost stories were similar to stories told at other colleges and universities. In the first chapter, I discuss how and why these types of tales flourish at colleges and universities, and why students are so attracted to them. In the second chapter, I focus on types of buildings common to college campuses and give examples of ghost stories set at those locations throughout Illinois. To my knowledge, there are no other books on Illinois ghostlore organized this way.
What are some of the colleges and universities discussed in the book?
To begin with, the book includes chapters on Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Rockford University, and Southern Illinois University, and stories from nine other colleges throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, including the University of Illinois, Millikin University, Illinois College, and Loyola University Chicago. Nearly every college and university has a ghost story or two, but I tried to include substantive stories that would keep readers interested. Strangely, I’ve never been able to find any ghost stories at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, so maybe that is the exception.