10 Stories of Witches in IL

I wish I had seen this list before my trip last month, but it was only shared today on the forum where I found it.

10. St Omer Witch Grave
9. The Chesterville Witch
8. The Persecution of Toby Allen
7. Strange Case of Elizabeth Friend
6. Beulah, the Meridian Witch
5. The Hanging of Moreau
4. Eva Locker
3. “Black Annie”
2. The Williams Sisters
1. Mary Worth

A few observations about this list:

  • none of the stories come from the height of the witchcraft craze begun in Salem
  • not all are women, as is traditionally believed
  • one of our members here on the blog lives near Chesterville and is familiar with the witch grave story and believes that she was more than likely a feminist who ran afoul of the Amish people
  • the authors of this list don’t necessarily buy into the stories, but simply share them and all knowledge of the rumours surrounding each tale

List with details

The Congress Plaza Hotel

1462288160807 I recently visited Chicago and stayed at The Congress Plaza Hotel, situated at 520 S Michigan Avenue facing Lake Michigan.

I knew from my best friend that CPH is allegedly the most haunted hotel in Chicago and admittedly was slightly apprehensive at staying there, but not enough to make me change my reservations.

Dating from 1893, the hotel has two towers and is clearly full of history.  As most buildings built around this time and in this area of the Windy City, the Congress was built to provide accommodations for those attending the World’s Columbian Exposition. At that time, however, it was called the Auditorium Annex and was meant to be a complement to Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building which was situated across the street. By 1908, the 1,000 room hotel was experiencing innovations to keep up with modern conveniences and a new name was part of that change. The new name was derived from the hotel’s location at the intersection of Congress Street and S Michigan Avenue as well as the Congress Plaza portion of Grant Park across the street.

Over the years, the hotel has hosted many famous guests, among them many of our nation’s presidents. It was even referred to as the “Home of Presidents” among Chicago hotels. Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, F. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and T. Roosevelt all stayed at the hotel. In the early 1900s, the White House presented a special chair to the hotel which was a favorite of Presidents Polk, Van Buren, Harrison and Harding. The chair can be seen in the lobby of the hotel.

Aside from mentioning further remodeling down through the years, that’s about all of the history the CPH’s official website offers. I haven’t, until now, read about any of who or what is supposed to be haunting this hotel to qualify it as “Chicago’s Most Haunted Hotel.” I saw vague references to experiences had by people who reviewed the hotel for travel sites, but nothing specific. Not until I decided to write this blog piece did I look into it, lest I be influenced by the stories.

Another blog indicates that there have been rumors of Al Capone’s ownership of the hotel, but no proof has ever been found that he even stayed at the hotel, much less owned it. The blog also sheds light on our first potential ghost, Peg Leg Johnny, a hobo who is assumed to have died in the area of the hotel, but at an undefined time.

I also found an article on rent.com which states definitively that Al Capone had a suite of rooms on the 8th floor of the North tower and haunts the hotel. A third potential spirit is that of a little boy who haunts the 6th floor, but there’s no indication of which tower he haunts, though.

In the 1930s, a young, Polish mother came to Chicago with her two sons. She was supposed to wait for her husband to arrive and then they’d start their new life on the city’s northside. He never came. The depressed mother threw herself and children out of a 6th floor window to their deaths. However, the body of one of the boys never made it to the city morgue. He’s thought to play tricks on guests staying on the 6th floor.

The article also mentions Peg Leg Johnny as being a rather goofy spirit who turns appliances off and on.

Then, of course, because every haunted hotel must have a specific room that is the creepiest of them all, CPH has Room 441. Naturally you can specify if you wish to stay in this room, but be warned there seems to be a female spirit who doesn’t take kindly to sleeping guests.

…a female specter haunts Room 441. Witnesses say she manifests as a shadow at the foot of your bed. She then kicks it to wake you. We don’t know how this spirit came to haunt the room. As far as we know, no one committed suicide or killed anybody there. Anyway, this scary lady wants the room for herself.

The final bit of haunting I read about is the “hand of mystery” that often appears in photographs from events in the Gold Room – one of the ballrooms in the hotel. Allegedly one of the workers got trapped when the wall was sealed up.

1462288192040I have to say that from my perspective, the creepiest part of the hotel was the hallway because it had muted lighting and definitely and had a Shining vibe going on. I half expected to see two little girls standing at the end of the hall. Considering The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for The Shining was built in 1909 and the second tower of the Congress Plaza Hotel was built around the same time, it stands to reason they’d resemble each other. I really liked the muted lighting, especially at night, because it meant less light shining in under the door when you’re trying to sleep. I had a one night stay in the North tower, but changed rooms the next morning because there was little in way of storage space and I couldn’t plug my phone charger into any of the outlets due to their design. The only time I really thought about any potential ghosts was that one night in the North tower because I sensed it was older and my only thought was, I’m too tired to bother with any of you if you decide to pass through here. What can I say? It was an exhausting day.

Would I stay in the Congress Plaza Hotel again? Absolutely! It has lots of character and it’s conveniently located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of many many attractions. Don’t go there, though, if you’re expecting ghosts. I’m just not sure there’s anything there. Do, however, go if you like history. Beware of the leather couches in the lobby though…. I sat in one and almost didn’t move again. Lol

Sources:

Congress Plaza Hotel

The Paranormal Corner

Chicago’s Most Haunted #1: The Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Illinois

Haunted Libraries: Peoria Public Library

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Peoria Public Library

Peoria Public Library

My apologies for falling behind with this series.

6. Peoria Public Library, Peoria, IL

Unlike the libraries so far in our list, the Peoria Public Library’s fate was doomed from the start. The land on which the library is built was cursed by a previous tenant.

It all started in 1830 with Mrs Andrew Gray and the death of her brother, after which she gained custody of her nephew. The nephew refused to get a job and generally trod on the wrong side of the law too often and Mrs Gray was forced to hire a lawyer to smoothe things over. David Davis was a newly made lawyer come to town and was hired by the Grays. He deftly got Mrs Gray’s nephew out of any jam, but at an increasing debt to the Grays. Concerned over payment, Davis forced the Grays to use their home as collateral for his services and when the bill came due, Davis sued to collect the mortgage as his fees and the nephew was given the boot. Soon after, the nephew’s lifeless body was discovered floating in the Illinois River. Mrs Gray then cursed the property and all future occupants. The curse seemed to work, for after Davis assumed the property, nothing would grow on the very land where Mrs Gray had cultivated beautiful gardens. It was then that the first ghostly appearances were reported: that of Mrs Gray’s nephew banging on the door, begging to be let in.

In 1894, the city of Peoria purchased the property on Monroe Street where Mrs Andrew Gray once lived. A library was built on the property – though there is some debate over whether it was built exactly where Mrs Gray’s house once stood or on another part of the property. Considering that at the time of the land purchase there were three different lots which made up the purchase, it’s entirely feasible to believe the library is not built directly on the same footprint as the house. At any rate, the first three directors of the new library died under unusual circumstances, a sure sign that the curse was working even beyond the existence of the house. The first director, E. S. Willcox, was killed in a streetcar accident in 1915; the second, Samuel Patterson Prowse, died from a heart attack suffered at a library board meeting in 1921; and the third, Dr. Edwin Wiley, committed suicide by swallowing arsenic in 1924. One might surely think that these were all coincidences and that Dr Wiley had previously established depressive episodes, but at the time of the events, Mrs Gray’s curse was foremost in everyone’s minds.

Though the directors are long gone, Mr Willcox seems to have a fondness for the library even after his tenure and life came to an end. Patrons have reported seeing a man wandering the halls dressed in early 20th Century attire. Employees have seen his face in a basement doorway, among other things such as hearing their names called when no one else is around and feeling cold drafts where there ought not to be any.

Hauntings are not the only strange things about the library…

In 1907, school superintendent Newton Dougherty blew up a safe inside the library to hide evidence of embezzlement of school funds.

The library was also part of a blackmail plot following the death of George P. McNear, Jr. McNear’s widow received two different letters informing her that she would be given the name of her husband’s murderer if she left $1,000 in a special drawer in the third floor education room of the Peoria Public Library. William A. Gibson and his son Billy Gibson were arrested for blackmail when they showed up to retrieve the cash.

~~~~~

Whatever happened in this library’s past, it seems to have no affect on patrons today. People still use the library on a daily basis and no one seems adverse to having to stay there a little later in the evenings.

Sources:

Top 10 Creepiest Places in Illinois
Library Ghosts: Midwestern U.S.
Haunted Peoria by Stephanie E. McCarthy (book)
Peoria Public Library Is Haunted!

Thunderbirds (Part I)

For several hundred years, people have told stories of giant birds who have wing spans of over thirty feet that are able to whisk away animals in an instant. These large birds have been called “Thunderbirds” by some Native Americans because the wings of these large birds are said to make a thunderous crack as they stir the air. In conjunction with these stories, the Native Americans also have plenty of stories of young children being carried away by these giant birds; but, they’re not the only ones who have stories of these Thunderbirds.

French explorer Pere Marquette made note of a petroglyph near Alton, Illinois depicting an indian warrior who had successfully slain one of these large beats, known as Piasa or “bird that devours man” in that area of Illinois. Marquette described this petroglyph in journal entries from 1673. These historic sightings aren’t the only known records of such large birds. Some of these Thunderbird sightings have been as recent as 2002.
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Ghost Bridge (Salt Creek Bridge), Lincoln, IL

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The advent of the 1920’s brought about many changes in post WWI America, one of which was the rapidly growing fascination with automobiles. As more people became car owners, the need for roads linking major cities became apparent, and two men conceived the idea to build a ‘super highway’ that would connect all the way from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles California. Construction on the road began in 1926, and there was some indecision at first as to what to number the route. Eventually it was decided after the initial names of Rt 60 and 62 that the highway would be termed Route 66.

The historic route has certainly had its interesting stops along the way, and much of it in Illinois can still be enjoyed along its remains. One of these places is in the small town of Lincoln and it has a history that goes back further than the inception of the “mother road” which runs through this area.
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Maze!

For those of you who are looking for the lighter side of Halloween, I can tell you from experience that corn mazes are fun. There’s one about an hour north of where I live that a friend and I went to last year. They had a quiz that guided you through the maze. If you got the answer right, your turn was correct. If it was wrong, you got lost. 🙂 There was also a lil cown train that rode around for the kidlets as well as a play area for them. Best of all was the pumpkin guns that you could pay to shoot off. They were fun too!! 😀

I decided to dig up another list of 10 corn mazes around the country for your enjoyment:

  1. Great Vermont Corn Maze
  2. Cajun Country Corn
  3. Sever’s Corn Maze (Minnesota)
  4. Richardson Adventure Farm (Illinois)
  5. The Maize at the Pumpkin Patch (Oregon)
  6. Denver Botanic Gardens (Colorado)
  7. Tolmachoff Corn Maze (Arizona)
  8. The Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch at Oakes Farm (Tennessee)
  9. Pumpkin Patch at Lakes Park (Florida)
  10. Stocker Farms (Washington)

10 Haunted Houses for Your Enjoyment

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If you’re the adventurous sort and are interested in finding a good (man-made) haunted house to visit this year, we offer the following list of haunted houses. Please note that these were randomly chosen from searching online.

1. Cutting Edge (Ft. Worth, TX) 2009 World Record Holder for being the biggest haunted house

2. The Niles Haunted House Scream Park (near Michigan/Indiana border off US 31)

3. Netherworld Haunted House (Norcross, GA)

4. Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses (Ulster Park, NY)

5. Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride (Gradyville, PA)

6. 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

7. Twisted Woods (Myakka, FL)

8. Basement of the Dead –  (Aurora, IL) Voted #1 haunted house in the Chicago area in 2008

9. Chambers of Fear (Surprise, AZ)

10. Reign of Terror Haunted House (Thousand Oaks, CA)