Locations: Pemberton Hall in Charleston versus Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville.
Histories: Pemberton Hall is the oldest all-female dormitory in the state of Illinois and was the brainchild of Livingston C. Lord, president of Eastern Illinois University from 1899 to 1933. The old-English look and feel of the dormitory was well suited for its first full time matron, Mary Hawkins, who emigrated from Great Britain in 1901 and assumed the position of dorm director in August 1910, when she was 33 years old. Mary died in 1918.
Peoria State Hospital began in 1885 as Bartonville State Hospital. No patients were ever housed or treated in that building, however, and it was torn down in 1897. The institution was rebuilt and reopened in 1902 with a new name and a new superintendent. Now called Peoria State Hospital, a progressive physician named Dr. George A. Zeller took over the facility and instituted new, more humane treatments for mental illness. During his tenure there, he recorded many stories of daily life at the hospital.
Hauntings: Sometime after Mary Hawkins’ death, the girls of Pemberton began to believe her ghost returned to haunt the hall. The Roommate’s Death, a common folklore motif in which a student is murdered by a crazed janitor, has merged with the story of Mary Hawkins to create a unique tale. Sometimes Mary manifests herself as a prankster; a young woman who scratches at doors, leaves bloody footprints, or wanders up to the fourth floor dressed in nothing but a white gown. Other times, Mary appears as a benevolent matriarch who makes sure doors are locked at night and warns “her girls” of trouble.
The main story associated with Peoria State Hospital concerns the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of one of the patients, A. Bookbinder. Dr. Zeller assigned Bookbinder to the hospital’s burial corps, and he performed his job admirably. Old Book, as he was sometimes called, mourned the passing of each and every person he helped inter in the cemetery. When Bookbinder died, Dr. Zeller wrote that four hundred staff and patients observed his ghost mourning at his own funeral just as he had for countless others while he was alive. They even opened the coffin to confirm that Old Book was really dead. His corpse was securely inside. There have been other reports of paranormal experiences at Peoria State Hospital, but none of them are very specific.
Which of these two locations do you think is the scariest? Leave your comments below!
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