Illinois

The Legend of Pemberton Hall Presentation at Eastern Illinois University

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.

Elmwood Cemetery and Violin Annie

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.

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Tinker’s Shadow Available on DVD

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 Legend of Lakey’s Creek

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.

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Moon Point Cemetery’s Hatchet Lady

Moon Point Cemetery is an old graveyard located just south of Streator in Livingston County. Like other rural graveyards, Moon Point became an object of folklore in the late 1960s and ‘70s when local teens, looking for a place to ‘hang out’ after dark, picked this isolated location to drink, spin yarns, and play pranks on one another.

According to the History of Livingston County, Illinois (1878), “Moon’s Point” got its name from Jacob Moon who, along with his daughter and three sons, was the first to settle that particular area. Moon had fought in the War of 1812, and like other veterans of that war, moved west in search of cheap and abundant land.

In 1830, the family settled along a winding creek near a wooded area in Illinois country that became known as Moon Point.

Moon Point Cemetery is located adjacent to Moon Creek, leading many to refer to the graveyard as “Moon Creek Cemetery.” It is listed as such in the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places for Illinois. According to the Index, Moon Point is haunted by the ghost of a “hatchet lady.” This lady went insane, the story goes, after either her son or daughter died, and “each night of a full moon a spirit is seen running around the cemetery, tossing hatchets.”

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Mystery and Tragedy at Airtight Bridge

Airtight Bridge spans the narrow Embarras River in rural Coles County. It was designed by Claude L. James and built in 1914. In 1981, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historical places on account of “event, Architecture/Engineering.”

Before this “event,” the bridge was known as a drinking spot for local teens as well as students from Eastern Illinois University. Otherwise, the bridge, which even 26 years ago was described as “old” and “creaky,” had a pretty mundane existence.

That all changed on the pleasant Sunday morning of October 19, 1980. According to newspaper reports, two men from rural Urbana spotted what looked like the body of a nude woman about 50 feet from the bridge as they drove past. A local man soon joined them at the scene and the three quickly discovered that the head, hands, and feet were missing from the cadaver. They called the sheriff’s office, and 20 minutes later a full investigation was underway.

Police used scuba divers and dredged the river to find clues, but the body parts, which had been severed “fairly cleanly,” were never found. There were several false leads in the case, including missing person reports, as well as a sack of clothes that was discovered north of Charleston. The cause of death, which probably lay in the head, was never determined.

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Maria on the Lake

Author, model, and actress Maria Libri-Sigle poses at the Island Bay Yacht Club on Lake Springfield in Springfield, Illinois. Even though it was a hot afternoon, she was very patient and made the whole process seem effortless from beginning to end. I think this was one of my most “professional” looking photo shoots to date. The hardest part was choosing just a few photos to represent the series. Check out her books on Amazon.