Founded in 1857 and originally a teacher’s college, Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost. This ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.
Angeline Vernon Milner was born on April 9, 1856 in Bloomington. By all accounts, she seemed to be destined for the work which would become her legacy. According to Charles W. Perry, who assisted the famed librarian for several years and wrote her biography, she learned how to read before she was four-years-old.
Ange began her fated job at the university library on February 1, 1890, and the Normal School Board was so impressed with her skill and dedication that they appointed her as the sole and head librarian in the fall of that same year.
“Aunt Ange,” as the students called her, died in 1928. According to legend, she collapsed while organizing a section of biology books. She was buried in Bloomington’s Evergreen Cemetery, but for whatever reason did not have a headstone until a short time ago. In April 2006, former Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, issued dual proclamations declaring April 10th “Angie Milner Day.”
Brent Bader at Illinois State University’s Daily Vidette has written an excellent article about my new book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. Thanks, Brent!
We’ve all gathered around campfires to hear friends tell ghost stories which were never fact-checked or investigated, but Michael Kleen is doing the research and compiled a list of “ghostlore” present at many Illinois colleges, including Illinois State University.
“I’ve written about other kinds of haunted places in the past, but until now, no one has devoted an entire book to Illinois college ghostlore,” Kleen said. “It’s a celebration of what makes our colleges and universities unique.”
This is a topic that Kleen is quite familiar with, having written many books about the subject, but by specifying the stories that took place on college campuses he is going back to the very location that originally inspired his hunt.
“I have been collecting and researching folklore and ghost stories for more than a decade,” Kleen said. “Although I’ve always been interested in reading ghost stories, I didn’t start writing about them until I went to college at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. I started collecting them and publishing what I found on the internet.”
Kleen said he found that Eastern was host to some of the most popular ghost stories in the state, which inspired him to look beyond the campus and see what other colleges offered in that realm. The author made sure to detail all of his findings in a way that others could prove or follow up on his work.
Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 2: Hallowed Halls: The Geography of Campus Ghostlore
Universities are centers of learning where young adults devote two to four years (or more) of their lives to academic study. In addition to attending class, students must also have places to eat, sleep, study, socialize, and find entertainment. To facilitate this activity, a university needs professors, administrators, secretaries, custodians and maintenance, security personnel, and a whole support network operating largely behind the scenes.
All this activity takes place in a physical environment that includes classroom buildings, towering residence halls, libraries, theaters, gymnasiums, open spaces, gardens, and walking paths. Off campus, fraternity and sorority houses, apartments, and other rental properties provide additional student housing. On weekends, students looking for a scare might venture into the wilderness away from the perceived safety of campus to seek out the scene of a local legend. These places are often decorated with curious messages, remnants, and monuments left behind by previous students. Together, these places set the stage for campus lore.
Because every university contains these essential features, it is their architecture and arrangement that makes each one unique. More than physical features, however, it is the invisible landscape of tradition, reputation, history, stories, and other human associations that gives each university its identity. Campus folklore and ghost stories are an important part of this invisible landscape, connecting the present generation to the past.
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.
This is it — the print edition Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. The book includes in depth 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, with 24 high-quality photos. More than just a collection of tales, this book examines the how and why behind the stories. It also includes a unique look at the phenomenon of legend tripping as it relates to campus life.
On a dark and stormy night on a college campus near you, a young coed is about to make a grisly discovery… or so the legend goes. At colleges and universities across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad specters suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theaters, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore.
Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered in Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. With a foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, Professor of English at Binghamton University and author of Haunted Halls.
From the foreword by Elizabeth Tucker:
It is a real pleasure to contribute a foreword to Michael Kleen’s excellent book about the ghostlore of colleges and universities in the prairie state of Illinois. An expert in the folklore of Illinois, Kleen not only understands the state’s ghostlore extremely well but also loves to collect it. I can see how much he enjoys his subject matter, because I also have a long-standing passion for collecting ghost stories on college and university campuses. It is exciting to hear college students tell stories about supernatural encounters and to dig up intriguing material from campus archives. I wrote my book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses at the turn of the millennium and have been teaching courses and giving talks about folklore of the supernatural ever since. Once you start collecting ghost stories, it is not easy to stop.