As we transition to our new, expanded website, Mysterious Heartland, I wanted to take a moment to talk about everything we have achieved over the past five to six years.
The Legends and Lore of Illinois premiered on the website of my publishing company, Black Oak Media, on January 1, 2007. The first issue featured an appeal for letters from my readers, a factual account of the history and folklore of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, a short story set at the cemetery, and a couple of fictional “personal experiences.” From there, the publication grew to include trivia, games, book reviews, and interviews.
In 2009, I premiered trueillinoishaunts.com, a website to be exclusively devoted to the Legends and Lore of Illinois. At first, I only posted links to new issues, teasers for upcoming issues, and photos. Then I added content that first appeared in the issues themselves: interviews, book reviews, games, etc. I also posted the occasional news story, if it pertained to something particularly interesting. One of my most popular series of posts was about the scandal at Alsip’s Burr Oak Cemetery. In the summer of 2009, a cemetery manager and his crew dug up dozens of bodies to make more room and deposited their bones along the fence, where they were discovered by passersby.
My life went through a lot of transitions during those four years. I always seemed to be on the move, first from Charleston, then to Rockford, then Macomb, and back to Rockford. All the while, I only missed one issue, in November 2011. In all, I produced 47 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Month after month, my audience grew, from 71 average daily visits in January 2009 to 2,338 average daily visits in October 2012.
I posted the last issue of the Legends and Lore of Illinois in December 2010, although I brought it back for two issues in the beginning of 2012. I have no way to know how many times each issue was downloaded in the e-serial’s first two years, but between January 2008 and December 2012, various issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois were downloaded over 25,500 times. Bachelor’s Grove (our very first issue) remains in the top ten most popular.
Even though the Legends and Lore of Illinois e-serial was over, trueillinoishaunts.com grew by leaps and bounds. Most of this newfound acknowledgment was due to our top ten lists. I have been a fan of Cracked.com’s lists for years, and I decided to do a similar thing for the haunted places of Illinois. I was not disappointed. “Top 10 Most Haunted Churches in Illinois” remains one of the most popular posts on trueillinoishaunts.com, thanks to a link appearing on the front page of Fark.com in June 2012. “Top 10 Creepiest Places in Illinois” has received more visits in two years than our home page has in the past four.
In transitioning away from the e-serial, I kept up a monthly schedule of posts ranging from interviews, to top ten lists, to breaking news stories, reviews, trivia games, opinion polls, and more. I also began to include stories and personal experiences submitted by my readers. Of course, there were spotlights on previous issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois as well. All-in-all, I tried to continue to highlight and be creative with the various ways in which we encounter the paranormal in Illinois.
In 2012, trueillinoishaunts.com had visitors from 161 countries, including Canada, Great Britain, India, Germany, and Australia, demonstrating that you do not have to live in Illinois to find this is a fascinating place.
Still, after five years, new stories become fewer and fewer. There are only so many top 10 lists about haunted places in Illinois you can create (and believe me, I have stretched the limits of my imagination), and only so many people you can interview. The paranormal is a narrow field of interest. But rather than shutting down this website for good, or letting it fade away, I decided to expand its scope to include the entire Midwest. No longer confined to ghost stories, haunted places, and paranormal investigation, our new website will look at all things mysterious in the Heartland.
It has been a great five years, and I truly appreciate your readership. I hope you join me for this new adventure.