Some time last week a student came in to ask about the haunted hallways of Western’s campus. After talking with other staff members in the archives, I learned that this time of year always comes with its fair share of interest in Western’s ghosts and the legends and lore of Macomb. As a fan of classic horror films like Zombie and Halloween, weird fiction, and graphic novels like 30 Days of Night and the Walking Dead, this topic intrigued me greatly. What better way to celebrate the season than to dive into some of our local spooky stories?
In the archives we have a range of material that explores the haunted history of Macomb, the Western campus, and nearby places in Illinois. Our vertical file, writings by Dr. John Hallwas, and multiple other books contain some interesting pieces to satisfy one’s curiosity for ghosts, legends, and lore.
Two interesting categories in our vertical file, “McDonough County – Legends and Lore” and “McDonough County – Residents (Willey Family),” contain newspaper clippings of local lore. The legends and lore folder has multiple clippings about the Gooseneck Ghost, an apparition that supposedly haunted a rural area just outside of Macomb in the early 1900s. This collection also has some stories about the Lady in Black, the haunting of Simpkins Hall, and stories of a Madstone, which some believed could cleanse the bite of those bitten by a rabid dog. The Willey Family clippings follow the development of what was initially thought to be a poltergeist encounter. In early August of 1948 hundreds of little fires broke out in a farmhouse just south of Macomb in the area known as Gin Ridge. After some two hundred fires broke out, the house eventually burned down on August 13, 1948. While some initially attributed the fires to mysterious causes or a poltergeist, it was later determined that the thirteen year old daughter of Charles Willey, Wonet, had actually set the blazes.
In addition to our vertical file holdings, the archives also owns some interesting books that highlight local mysteries, hauntings, and scary stories. Some popular titles include McDonough County Heritage by John Hallwas which has a few short chapters on local lore, Haunted Macomb by Garret Moffett, Haunted Peoria by Stephanie E. McCarthy, Ghosts of the Mississippi River and Ghosts of Rock Island by Bruce Carlson, and Haunting the Prairie by Michael Kleen. Although these books are not available to check out, we would be happy to pull them from the stacks for you to peruse in our reading room. It’s the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book and scare yourself senseless! Happy Halloween!
(By Lindsay Hiltunen)