As we at the Legends and Lore of Illinois know, the Prairie State is a very creepy place! Haunted cemeteries, colleges, abandoned hospitals, roads, forests, and schools abound. But what are the creepiest homes and mansions in Illinois? After much debate, we are happy to bring you the Top 10 Most Haunted Houses in Illinois. Note: Most of the homes in this list are privately owned and so we will not post their addresses out of common courtesy. Never visit any of these homes uninvited.
10. Frank Shaver Allen Home
Frank Shaver Allen (1860–1934) was a talented architect from Joliet who achieved national recognition for his work. While he did design a few residences, he is most known for designing public school buildings in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. He designed three of Joliet’s schools: Joliet Central High, Sheridan Elementary, and Broadway. During the 1970s, Frank S. Allen’s former home at the corner of Morgan Street and Dewey Avenue became the center of a local media frenzy over poltergeist activity that allegedly took place there. Several ghosts, including an elderly woman, a nanny, and a child, manifested themselves. The family living in the house also heard disembodied voices and saw fires that vanished without leaving behind any damage. The ghost of Frank Shaver Allen himself is also supposed to haunt the house. The activity seems to have died down in recent decades.
9. The Sweetin Home
Walkerville Township, Greene County
Otherwise known as “the old stone house,” the remnants of this manor were, at one time, part of a mansion built in 1848 by a stockman named Azariah Sweetin. Though nothing but a shell today, a grand ballroom once occupied the third floor, a ballroom that was the scene of murder. During a farewell gala for newly enlisted Union soldiers, two farmhands, Henson and Isham, got into an argument that ended with one thrusting a knife into the back of the other. The wounded man fell down by the fireplace and bled to death. According to legend, his blood seeped into the stone floor and formed an outline of his body. The stain could never be removed.
As the war raged, Azariah Sweetin didn’t want to take any chances, so he stuffed all his gold coins into jars and buried them around his property. Unfortunately, an equestrian accident in 1871 rendered him without any memory of where he had buried his money. After his death, his ranch was purchased by Cyrus Hartwell, who also lived there until he died. Treasure seekers soon tore the mansion apart, but no one has ever found Azariah’s gold. Storytellers say Azariah’s ghost—alongside snakes—now guards his lost loot.
8. Emma Jones Home
Emma Pauline Jones was a Norwegian immigrant who lived at this home (built in 1856) from the 1920s into the 1950s. Her husband Frank was often away on business, and she spent much of her time with her two beloved Dalmatians. After her husband died in 1941, Emma—who was 66 years old—continued to live with her faithful dogs, but after they passed on, she began to descend into loneliness and dementia. She spent her twilight years sitting in a rocking chair, waiting for loved ones who would never return.
Emma finally sold her home and moved in with a relative, where she died in 1964. According to local legend, she returned to her house on North First Street in her afterlife. Owners of the home have reported strange noises, moving furniture, and even seeing the ghost of an elderly woman in the attic windows. One newlywed couple reported that an old woman appeared in their living room and asked what they were doing in her home, then vanished.
7. Tycer Home
Dennis F. Hanks, a cousin of Abraham Lincoln, once owned this 157 year old home and during the 1960s and ‘70s, it was widely reputed to be haunted by his ghost. In 1965, Marie and Forster [Forrester] Tycer purchased the house, renovated it, and turned it into a museum. Mr. Tycer told the Eastern News that he was doing some electrical work in the basement when he lost his balance and almost fell into the wiring. He claimed that unseen hands pushed him away and saved his life.
Mrs. Tycer saw the reflection of the ghost in a mirror or window as she was painting the porch. She turned around, but found that she was alone. She also heard footsteps and claimed the ghost unlocked doors. In 1970, Mrs. Tycer committed suicide with a gunshot to the head in an upstairs bedroom. According to legend, the bloodstains continued to reappear no matter how many times they were scrubbed away. The next family to live in the home occupied it for quite some time and never experienced anything out of the ordinary.
6. J. Eldred Home
The James J. Eldred home is a grand, Greek-Revival ranch house that has stood abandoned since the 1930s. During the 1860s and ‘70s, James and his wife Emeline had a reputation for hosting grand parties at their “Bluff Dale Farm.” But life was harsh living along the Illinois River. The three Eldred daughters, Alma, Alice, and Eva, all died of illness at home in their beds. Both Alice and Eva were 17. Alma was only four years old. In 1999, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in recent years the Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association has made great strides in restoring it to its former glory. While there are no specific ghost stories about the property, its current owners list “phantom footsteps,” “phantom knocking at the front door,” “giggles of a young lady,” and “small shadows moving in the nursery” as phenomenon experienced there.
5. Nellie Dunton Home
A broken-hearted woman is said to haunt this home overlooking the Kishwaukee River. Nellie grew up in Belvidere prior to the Civil War and fell in love with an older man, who promised to marry her after the war. When he failed to return, Nellie refused to fall in love again. She spent the rest of her life in this house. Eventually, she wandered into the river and drowned, some say while wearing her old wedding dress. Her ghost has been seen by residents of this home, as well as by its neighbors.
4. Guiteau Home
Locally known as the “Saltbox Place,” this unassuming stone house is rumored to have been the boyhood home of President James Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau. After President Garfield denied his application for an ambassadorship to France, Guiteau decided that God had told him to assassinate the president. On July 2, 1881, he shot Garfield twice in the back. For 11 weeks, the president lay in agony, until he finally died of an infection in September. Guiteau was hanged on June 30, 1882.
Charles Guiteau’s remains were never found, and some locals believe that his bones were secreted back to Freeport, where they were buried in the basement of the “Saltbox Place.” In fact, neither Charles nor his parents ever owned this house. According to the Journal-Standard, that distinction belonged to Guiteau’s aunt and uncle. Never-the-less, tenants living in the home after Guiteau’s execution reported an oppressive, dark presence and the smell of sulfur. The house is currently being renovated after sitting abandoned for a number of years.
3. Willow Creek Farm
Willow Creek Farm dates back to 1838. William Boardman and his wife Mary came from England in 1835 and made their way to Rockford when the future city was merely a trading post. After a few years, William staked out a claim in Cherry Grove Township, Carroll County and erected a log cabin there. According to public records, the current farmhouse dates back to 1878, although there is evidence to suggest it was built more than a decade earlier.
In 2006, Albert Kelchner, the farm’s current owner, bought the property and immediately sensed that he was sharing his house with some invisible guests. He began to record his encounters and has invited mediums and paranormal investigators to his farm in the hopes of corroborating his experiences. Home to as many as seven identified ghosts and as many as a dozen others, Willow Creek Farm has been called one of the most active haunted sites in Illinois.
2. Hickory Hill Plantation
Also known as the Crenshaw House or the Old Slave House, this mansion was built in 1838 by John Crenshaw and his brother Abraham. Crenshaw owned vast salt mines in Southern Illinois and was one of the wealthiest men in the entire state. He also owned over 740 slaves. Illinois entered the Union in 1818 with strict “black codes” on the books. The Illinois constitution prohibited the slave trade, but permitted those residents already holding slaves to keep their property. Visitors to Crenshaw’s plantation included Abraham Lincoln. Slaves were kept in cramped cells in the attic of the mansion.
As early as 1851, there were reports that the mansion was haunted. The German family who operated the estate between 1850 and 1864 reported hearing strange sounds coming from the attic. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, tourists began to come and visit Illinois’ only plantation. They heard phantom footsteps, voices, and singing. A legend spread that no one could spend the night in the attic. Many tried, but every last one was scared off before dawn. In the late 1920s, one “ghost hunter” is believed to have died after spending the night there. Today, the mansion is owned by the State of Illinois and closed to visitors.
1. McPike Mansion
Built in 1869 by Henry Guest McPike and designed in the Italianate-Victorian style, this mansion has long captured the imaginations of Alton residents. Although it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it has sat abandoned for decades—attracting vandals and the curious alike. Ghost stories were told about the mansion even when it was occupied. In the 1940s, boarders often heard children running up and down the stairs, but could find no one when they investigated the noise. After the mansion became derelict, passersby reported seeing faces in the windows. There are two known entities here. The mansion’s new owners named one of them Sarah. She is thought to have been a hired hand in life, and teases visitors with a spectral touch or hug. The other ghost belongs to a former owner, Paul Laichinger. He has been spotted wandering the grounds.
Check out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Haunting Illinois contains 200 mystery sites and 85 individual illustrations. In this book, Michael not only examines the sites, but also the hobbyists and professionals who have devoted their lives to exploring the strange and unusual in our great state. Divided among eight distinct regions and listed by county, each location features a description, directions, and sources drawn from a diverse variety of books and articles. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!
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