Sunset Haven in Carbondale, Illinois

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Legends & Lore of Illinois CD-ROMUp until around the mid-1950s, people who could not take care of themselves; orphans, the elderly and infirm, epileptics, and alcoholics, often found themselves on a county farm known as a “poor farm.” A superintendent and his family would look after the residents while the residents earned their keep by farming the land, if they were able. Most of these institutions closed down when our modern welfare system came into maturity. The land was sold and the buildings were often turned into psychiatric hospitals or homes for the developmentally disabled.

Sometimes poorly managed, and not very profitable, those institutions frequently closed their doors and were taken over by vandals and thrill seekers. Sunset Haven, or “Building 207” as it is known today, is one such place.

The Jackson County Poor Farm (its original name) has a somewhat unique history. According to Troy Taylor’s book Haunted Illinois (2004), it became known as Sunset Haven during the 1940s before it was converted into a nursing home. It was finally closed in 1957 when Southern Illinois University purchased the property to expand its agricultural program. It then became known as the Museum Research Corporation.

During the 1970s, the research corporation made an effort to locate all the unmarked graves of the dead that had been buried during Sunset Haven’s years as a poor farm. The graves are supposedly located in a grove of trees behind the building. Sometime later the name was changed again, this time to the “Vivarium Annex,” where, according to Taylor, SIU used it for animal research. The building is currently abandoned, although the university occasionally stages emergency drills on the property to test its medical students.

The building’s final closure and decay inevitably led to stories of ghosts and other horrors. The atmosphere inside the structure lent itself to rumors of medical experiments gone awry. According to Troy Taylor, “stainless steel cages and medical equipment are scattered throughout the place, giving it the ominous feel of some mad scientist’s lair.”

Those who ventured down the long driveway at night for a look inside the notorious building got more than they bargained for. “Rumors about the place get bigger and bigger each year when some brave crowd of teenagers gather up the courage to walk the 2.5 miles all the way down the back drive in absolute darkness,” Courtney Cruse wrote in her high school newspaper, the Terrier Times (October 2005). “The ones who do stay… are almost mesmerized at how many scary artifacts are left in the eerie building.”

Visitors today will not find very much worth seeing inside those halls. Most of the aforementioned equipment has been stolen or removed by the university, and the walls are covered with graffiti. Sunset Haven is a shell of its former self. Note: Sunset Haven was torn down in late October 2013.

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Legends and Lore of Illinois Vol. 2 Digital Edition

Order all 12 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois from 2008 in a special digital edition for your favorite e-readers. Places covered in Vol. 2: Archer Cemetery, Sunset Haven, Peoria State Hospital (Bartonville Asylum), Airtight Bridge, University of Illinois, Calvary Cemetery and ‘Seaweed Charlie,’ Lakey’s Creek, Peck Cemetery, Blood’s Point Road, Old Union Cemetery, Hartford Castle, and more! Plus, read letters from our readers, book reviews, ghostly games, and put your knowledge of these locations to the test with challenging trivia questions. Don’t miss these classic issues from the archives of the Legends and Lore of Illinois.

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  1. Joan Huffman says:

    I don’t know who started the “eerie” business about Sunset Haven. It was a nursing home in the late ’40’s and ’50’s, run by nurses and aides who took good care of the elderly who lived there. The local funeral homes took care of the deceased and some people were buried there, as
    was done at Anna State Hospital on their property in Anna. Later the University did animal experiments there…still nothing eerie or ghostly . It was vacant and unused for many years before it was torn down. Filling a need and performing a service? Yes. Eerie and ghostly? No.



  1. […] Anyway, I think someone bred them on purpose. Locals call the abandoned building up ahead Sunset Haven. Southern Illinois University owns it and once used it for animal research. They closed it down […]


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