Paranormal Books & Curiosities a Rare Treat

As I venture outside my home state of Illinois, I’m continually amazed by how much more interest in folklore, ghost stories, and the paranormal is accepted in other parts of the country. Even though Chicago is a major metropolis, and Illinois is home to three or four annual or semi-annual ghost conferences (in Decatur, Rockford, Mattoon, and Chicago), nothing I have encountered in Illinois compares to the enthusiasm for this subject in other states.

For instance, while famously haunted buildings like Peoria State Hospital and Ashmore Estates attract a crowd, I have never waited in bumper to bumper traffic before ultimately being turned away from a tour by police because there are just too many people lined up, as happened when I tried to visit Willard Asylum last spring.

I was equally impressed when I saw that more than a dozen local tourism bureaus in New York State had banded together to create and promote a Haunted History Trail. Now, in New Jersey, I stumbled upon Paranormal Books & Curiosities, a store catering to fans of things that go bump in the night.

Located at 627 Cookman Avenue in artsy downtown Asbury Park, New Jersey (itself worth the visit), Paranormal Books & Curiosities is owned and operated by Kathy Kelly. She first opened its doors in 2008. More than a store, it offers ghost hunting classes, seances, paranormal investigations, lectures, and a paranormal museum. Several haunted tours depart from there as well.

Continue reading “Paranormal Books & Curiosities a Rare Treat”

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Interview with Jamie Davis

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!

On My Bookshelf: Haunting Illinois, 3rd Edition, by Michael Kleen

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?

Read the entire interview here!

The Weird and Wild Side of Coles County, Part 3

SmilingMikeWelcome to the exciting conclusion of “The Weird and Wild Side of Coles County.” As MysteriousHeartland.com and MichaelKleen.com prepare for the upcoming release of the new edition of The Legend of Pemberton Hall, I thought it would be of interest to my readers to share with them the story of how I became fascinated with Coles County, Illinois. Join me for this three part article and take a journey through the recent past. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Ashmore Estates

Not long after I predicted a dismal end to Ashmore Estates in the June 2006 issue of the Legends and Lore of Coles County, a man named Scott Kelley, who owned a local computer company, contacted me and informed me that he had plans to rent or even purchase the property. Scott first became interested in Ashmore Estates around ten years earlier. Scott, a longtime operator of haunted attractions including the local haunts at Elsinore Farm and Rockome Gardens, believed the institution would make an excellent haunted house. The Kelleys purchased the property from Arthur Colclasure in early August and immediately began renovating. To finance the project, they offered flashlight tours of the interior for five dollars a person, and volunteers helped clean up the property and the interior of the old almshouse.

The EIU publication Pulse apologizing for plagiarizing my Legends and Lore of Coles County website.
The EIU publication Pulse apologizing for plagiarizing my Legends and Lore of Coles County website.

That October, for the first time in its history, the doors of Ashmore Estates were opened to the general public, and people who had swapped stories about the building for over a decade lined up to get a look inside. On June 8, 2007, the Kelleys asked me to come and speak about the history and folklore of Ashmore Estates at an overnight event. That was my first real speaking engagement. I stayed for pizza and the movie White Noise, but I left before midnight. Thanks to Ashmore Estates and the Legends and Lore of Coles County, my reputation in the county grew. On October 22, 2007, I gave a presentation on local ghost stories at the Charleston Middle School and my picture made the front page of the Times-Courier the next day. When I first began to explore Coles County, I never thought the interest would take me that far, but there was even more to come.

Continue reading “The Weird and Wild Side of Coles County, Part 3”

Look for ‘Paranormal Illinois’ in Stores

Paranormal Illinois can be found at Borders and Barnes & Noble all over the state – at special “Halloween” displays or in the local interest section.

Or order the book at Amazon.com!

“Why did hundreds of people line up bumper to bumper in rural Illinois to catch a glimpse of a scantily clad phantom along Kennedy Hill Road? What is the real history behind Independence Grove and Devil’s Gate? This painstakingly researched book leaves no ghost unturned.”

A Great Review of Paranormal Illinois

Penny Bright writes on Amazon.com:

“I was so pleasantly surprised by this book! Finally, FINALLY someone has made the effort to truly dig in to the actual documented history of some of the “known haunted” places in Illinois. Micheal Kleen has proven that the ghost stories, legend tripping, and haunted-tours-by-armchair can still be fascinating and creepy when told with the facts instead of only the melodramatic folktales. While other books by some other authors are definitely as entertaining, they are truly fiction and serve only to propagate incorrect information.”

Click here to read the entire review!

New Interview in the Streator Times

Local Haunts — Author explores ghostly tales across Illinois
By Melissa Garzanelli

Michael Kleen, author of "Paranormal Illinois" and "Haunting the Prairie," speaks to guests during a book signing Friday night at Finnegan's Bookstore in Utica.

Michael Kleen gets a kick out of ghost stories and he’s willing to travel to see if there’s any truth to these legends. Kleen, of Rockford, has visited spots across Illinois, including some nearby like Cumberland Cemetery near Wenona and Moon Point Cemetery in Livingston County, where stories persist of the “Hatchet Lady.” He posts his discoveries online through a serial newsletter at http://www.trueillinoishaunts.com. Now he’s taking some of those stories and putting them in print.

Kleen recently released “Paranormal Illinois,” which joins his first book “Haunting the Prairie.” He talked to The Times via e-mail about his books, ghost hunting and why people love their local haunts.

Q. You operate an online newsletter sharing tales of the paranormal. What made you decide to publish your books as well?

A. Books have always been my first love. I started out writing fiction, and the digital newsletter (Legends and Lore of Illinois) was a way to explore my other interests by examining the history and folklore of haunted places in Illinois…

Read the entire interview!

1-Day Left Before Champaign Booksigning

People are excited about this one, I can feel it. Gillian Gabriel was kindly enough to interview me for the Champaign-Urbana art & culture blog Smile Politely. I hope this will draw a larger crowd on Saturday, but we will have a great time no matter what. I can’t wait to meet all my past and future friends in Champaign. I’ve missed the place ever since I left EIU…

A Paranormal Saturday awaits

Gillian Gabriel

Michael Kleen has a great fondness for the Midwest, a Master’s degree in History, and an insatiable thirst for ghost stories. Lucky for us, he has been able to skillfully combine all of his passions in his new book, Paranormal Illinois.

Painstakingly and lovingly compiled, Kleen’s books will be sure to become indispensable primers for both Midwestern ghost hunters and local folklore buffs alike. Michael will be appearing at Barnes and Noble this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. to discuss and sign copies of Paranormal Illinois. He was kind enough to answer some of our questions:

Smile Politely: Your book, Paranormal Illinois, came out recently, but it looks like you have written several others on the topic. Where does your interest in the paranormal come from? Did you have an experience that motivated you to learn more?

Michael Kleen: You know, people ask me this question all the time, and I’m never quite sure of the answer. I’ve often thought about why I’m interested in this subject, but the fact is, I always have been. When I learned to read, some of the first books I sought out on my own were about ghosts. I must have read every single collection of ghost stories that was at the library when I was in elementary school. World’s Most Spine-Tingling “True” Ghost Stories, World’s Weirdest “True” Ghost Stories, and of course, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, were all favorites. What I like most about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is that the author took common folktales and rewrote them in a way that kids of my generation would love. That’s what I try to do with my books: I want to tell the stories, but I also want to show that they are tied to history and culture. They are windows into a side of history that is usually ignored or covered-up. Ghosts are, after all, remnants of past generations that linger long after they are physically gone. Perhaps they have something to tell us.

Check out the entire interview!