Excerpt from the Foreword to Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. Please enjoy this excerpt from the Foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses; Professor of English, Binghamton University; Editor, Children’s Folklore Review; and Past President, International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.

Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses

Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses

It is a real pleasure to contribute a foreword to Michael Kleen’s excellent book about the ghostlore of colleges and universities in the prairie state of Illinois. An expert in the folklore of Illinois, Kleen not only understands the state’s ghostlore extremely well but also loves to collect it. I can see how much he enjoys his subject matter, because I also have a long-standing passion for collecting ghost stories on college and university campuses. It is exciting to hear college students tell stories about supernatural encounters and to dig up intriguing material from campus archives. I wrote my book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses at the turn of the millennium and have been teaching courses and giving talks about folklore of the supernatural ever since…

One of the many things I like about this book is its foundation in personal experience. Michael Kleen attended Eastern Illinois University from 2000 to 2008 and then received his Master’s degree from Western Illinois University in 2011. His sister went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and many of his friends went to Rockford University, then known as Rockford College. While listening to ghost stories told by friends and relatives, he realized that although each campus has its own unique identity, campus folklore has many consistent patterns. Migratory campus legends such as “The Roommate’s Death” and “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” have been told throughout the United States, but they can seem just as frightening and believable as more localized legends. One of the main reasons for these stories’ chilling impact is the fact that members of a close-knit college community share the stories, weaving them into a very important, formative period of their lives.

Haunted HallsAnother aspect of this book that I like very much is its focus on local, state, and national history. Campus ghostlore does not just characterize the college or university where it is told; it also represents a broader geographical area and various historical periods. Among the five colleges and universities that Kleen describes in depth here, four—Illinois State University, founded in 1856; Southern Illinois University, founded in 1869; Eastern Illinois University, founded in 1895, and Western Illinois University, founded in 1899—were once “normal schools” for teacher education, and the fifth, Rockford College/University, began its existence as a female seminary in 1847. The history of these five venerable institutions, all of which got their start in the second half of the nineteenth century, covers many significant changes that took place in Illinois and in the nation as a whole…

Other ghost stories from Illinois college and university campuses portray the stress that most of us who attended college experienced at one time or another. Particularly horrifying are the legends of students who hanged themselves because the pressure to excel at their studies or to succeed in romantic relationships became too acute. One chilling legend from Western Illinois University explains that a young woman hanged herself over a railing in Simpkins Hall after being jilted by a professor. There are many other campus legends of students and others who suddenly couldn’t bear their troubles any longer and hanged themselves. Their ghosts offer a warning to current students: think carefully. Don’t do what I did…

Whether or not you went to college in Illinois, you will enjoy this book, which brings students’ supernatural education to life with startling immediacy. After you have read Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, you may not be able to take a book from the shelf of a university library without looking over your shoulder, wondering whether a devoted, hard-working ghost waits to approve the book you have chosen with a mysterious smile.

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