At Mysterious Heartland, we know adolescence can be a particularly hard time in a person’s life, and that most of that time is spent in school. At some Illinois schools, however, homework, grades, and bullies aren’t the only thing students have to worry about. Some locker-lined hallways are stalked by the unseen. Which one will prove to be the most haunted?
10. Yorkville Middle School (Former)
Now home to the Circle Center Grade School, the old Yorkville Middle School is said to be haunted by the ghost of a janitor who died of starvation in 1978 after he was trapped in the school’s elevator over summer break. Former students reported feeling as though they were being watched in the hallways even when they were alone. A local newspaper investigated the story and found several inconsistencies, including no record of a death in the building in 1978 and the fact that there is no elevator there.
9. St. Charles East High School
St. Charles, Illinois
St. Charles High School used to be located at the corner of Main Street and Seventh Street, in a building which is now home to Thompson Middle School. During the late 1970s, the city saw fit to construct a new high school along Dunham Road. Sometime between 1978 and 2000, when the school split into East and North, a story began to circulate about the ghost of a girl who had been raped and murdered there by a janitor. Allegedly, the freshman girl was attacked while practicing her flute in the band room, and the deranged janitor chopped up her body and stuffed the pieces into various lockers. Band students sometimes claim to see body parts in their lockers, only to have them vanish before their eyes. Others have heard the faint sound of a flute playing while alone in the room. On other occasions, flutes have gone missing or appear to have been played during the night.
8. Lourdes High School (Former)
Richard T. Crowe, Chicago’s most respected authority on local ghost lore, taught English and journalism at Lourdes High School in 1972/73. During that time, he heard stories about a nun who haunted the third floor. Tales of the phantom nun had been told for decades. Heavy footsteps were sometimes heard echoing down the empty corridor, and a ghostly specter was seen on more than one occasion. Stitch Hall, an auditorium added during the 1950s, also reportedly experienced this activity. Several years ago, Lourdes closed and John Hancock High School opened in its place. It is unknown whether the ghostly activity has continued.
7. Quincy Junior High
The middle school years are generally a tough time for adolescents, and for some, the stress can be too much to bear. For students of Quincy Junior High, their angst has been personified in the ghost of a young boy who, according to legend, hung himself in one of the bathrooms after being dumped by his girlfriend. Every year on the anniversary of his death, students and teachers are said to hear footsteps, crying, and mumbling in the bathroom. Students claim that teachers have kept quiet about the boy’s death in order to prevent copycats. Quincy Junior High occupies a beautiful old building that was constructed in 1933 and served as Quincy’s high school between 1933 and 1957.
6. Fremd High School
Opened in 1961 to accommodate the Baby Boomers, William Fremd High School is reportedly haunted by three ghosts, one of which has roamed its halls since the 1970s. In Kolze Auditorium, seats spring up and spotlights have been known to light on their own. Another nameless phantom is said to sigh and moan in Room 122. The most infamous ghost at Fremd haunts the swimming pool, where a freshman girl died of a heart attack while swimming laps. Students claim the spot where she drowned is always much colder than the rest of the pool. Others have seen a colorful haze hovering over the water. Today, Fremd has the largest student body in the district and is recognized as one of the best high schools in the state of Illinois.
5. Channing Elementary School
Channing Elementary School has the unfortunate distinction of having been built over what remained of Elgin’s first cemetery. During the 1940s, most of the graves were moved to accommodate a new sports field, but in the 1960s, when construction crews broke ground on the new elementary school, their equipment began to uncover human remains. Since then, faculty and staff at Channing Elementary have reported an elevator that seems to move on its own, footsteps on the roof, dark figures, and even scratching on the walls. Today, a stone monument to the dead buried at the original cemetery sits at a nearby park.
4. Antioch Community High School
Antioch Township High School (as it was originally known) has served the community from its campus on Main Street for nearly a century, but progressive renovations and additions have rendered the school unrecognizable from its earliest days. Expansions took place in five stages between 1927 and 2002. In 1998, the original buildings were demolished to make room for an administrative office and a media center. With so much history, it is no wonder Antioch High is rumored to be home to some unusual phenomenon. During the 1990s, about a half dozen former students approached Scott Markus, author of Voices from the Chicago Grave, and informed him of an unusual string of off-campus student deaths during that decade. Additionally, a widespread rumor circulating among alumni was that a drama student had hung himself in the auditorium. In one unnerving incident, an art teacher witnessed the locker doors in a basement hallway swing open in perfect synchronicity. That particular hallway is said to bring chills and discomfort to anyone who is unlucky enough to have a locker there.
3. Urbana High School
Built in 1914 and designed in the Tudor style, Urbana High School has undergone repeated renovations in the past 96 years. One of those renovations inadvertently gave birth to a ghost story that has endured at the school for several generations. Between 1914 and 1986, a small area known as “the Tower” was home to two classrooms, one for art and one for music. The Tower is located in the central portion of the school, and was accessed by a narrow set of stairs. During the renovations of the 1980s, the tower was closed because it couldn’t be made accessible to handicapped students. Students at the high school have their own explanation for the closing, however. They believe the Tower was locked up after a love affair between a teacher and a student ended in tragedy. The teacher reportedly hung herself from the indoor fire escape. According to Troy Taylor, the door to the Tower is said to open without cause, and lights can be seen in the windows at night. Once, when staff members called police to investigate whether someone was trespassing in the Tower, they heard loud, unexplainable tapping.
2. Abingdon Middle School (Former)
The old Abingdon Middle School at Snyder and Washington streets was formerly North Abingdon High School. During the 1970s, a tornado damaged the building and knocked down its distinctive chimney. Stories of the school’s haunting go back decades. According to legend, a speech teacher at the high school brought her three-year-old child to work one day and left him outside to play on his tricycle while she ran into her classroom to get something. Unsupervised, her child accidentally fell down the cement steps and broke his neck. The teacher was so grief stricken that she hung herself in her classroom. Ever since, the ghosts of both the woman and her child have been seen in and around the school, and a former janitor even reported these sightings to the police. Some storytellers claim that blood stains appear on the steps where the child died. According to writer Michelle Williams, these stories may have their roots in an actual event, which is well-remembered in the community. Today, the school is abandoned and off limits to visitors.
1. Old Milton School
Most recently home to a decorative glass company, from 1904 to 1984 this building served as Milton Elementary School. Locals whisper that during the 1930s, a dark event left a stain on the history of the school. According to legend, a janitor raped and murdered a girl in the gym locker room. Suspicion fell on the janitor after he failed to report to work the next day. Not long after, he returned to the school and took his own life. Since that time, female visitors have experienced very negative feelings in that area of the building, even if they have never heard the story. Up until the school closed in 1984, one educator in particular reported seeing and hearing the ghost of a young girl in her office. Others encountered a more hostile spirit—that of the murderous janitor. A psychic reportedly exorcised this negative presence. Milton School appeared in an episode of SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters on October 6, 2010.
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! Three years in the making, the 3rd edition of Hunting Illinois is your ticket to adventure in your own backyard. This edition contains 60 new listings and 35 new pictures, for a total of 260 haunted or mysterious locations and more than 120 photos and illustrations. Divided into eight distinct regions and listed by county and town or neighborhood, each location features a description, directions, and sources from a wide variety of books, articles, and websites. 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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