Diane Ladley is the founder and president of Historic Ghost Tours of Naperville, Historic Ghost Tours of Aurora, Historic Roundhouse Ghost Tours, Historic Ghost Tours of Elgin, and their parent company, Haunted Hometowns Corporation. She is the author of Haunted Naperville (2009) and Haunted Aurora (2010). Ladley is a popular public speaker and nationally award-winning storyteller. She was a State of Illinois ArtsTour Artist for 2001-3 and again in 2003-5.
What is the most compelling haunted or unusual place in Naperville?
Ohhhhh boy, this isn’t an easy question. We have some doozies here. I’m going to have to cheat and break it down by topic… The Most Bizarre Naperville Story – that’s the house where the man dug up his wife’s grave, brought her corpse home, and fed it smashed bananas in hopes of bringing her back to life. While the story has evolved into local legend it most definitely is based on true events – which were even more macabre than the legend!
For the Ghost Hunter interested in exploring a public, haunted site in Naperville, I’d suggest walking along Fourth Avenue near the downtown Naperville train station. It was the site of one of the worst two-train disasters in American history, with 47 dead. Lots of unexplained EMF activity, and several women have claimed to have felt a man’s hand caressing their hair. Recently a black shadow of possibly a woman was spotted several times and even photographed near the Columbia St. bridge.
The Most Haunting Naperville Story – But the story that seems to haunt the most people on our ghost tours is that of the Red Geranium on Benton Ave. A former Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD and other tragedies had committed suicide in the house in 1984. His ghost was reported to me by former homeowners who had turned the former Sears Home into a gift shop called the Red Geranium. His suffering ghost appeared often as an ominous black shadow or free-moving ball of light, and transmitted impressions of profound depression and occasionally dark fits of anger that frightened and alarmed the homeowners. However, it’s important to note he never did any harm, ever. According to his daughter whom I interviewed for the book, he was a gentle, compassionate man trapped in his own private hell. Though the house is currently empty and in foreclosure, the daughter requests that ghost hunters respect his pain and leave him be.
What distinguishes Historic Ghost Tours of Naperville from the other haunted tours in the area?
Three things: 1) Our EMF Meters. We were among the first ghost tours in the nation (if not THE first) to offer our guests the use of EMF meters throughout the tour, and for free. The interactive ghost hunting is hugely popular with guests, and while we never promise that anything paranormal will take place, some of our guests have recorded some highly unusual readings during the tours. And no, we DO NOT in any way artificially generate activity!! Any paranormal activity that might occur is absolutely genuine.
2) Our Stories and Storytelling. I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, and my stories have all been edited and approved for historical accuracy by Naper Settlement and The Naperville Heritage Society. Our guides are trained to masterfully tell the ghost stories – the Naperville Sun declared our storytelling was the best!
3) Our Ghostly Opportunities. We offer all kinds of opportunities for ghostly fun year-round, from lantern-lit walking tours and Trolley of Terror tours, to pub crawls, progressive dinners of haunted restaurants, Friday the 13th psychic events and seances, monthly lectures on the paranormal, the Ghost Tails Dog Walk & Ghost Tour to benefit the Naperville Area Humane Society, and the Supernatural Caribbean Cruises (which will hopefully be starting up again for 2012).
Is being an author something you always wanted to do, or did you find yourself drawn to it after you began your ghost tour?
I’ve always – ALWAYS – wanted to be an author, ever since I wrote my first novel on spiral binders in grade school (it was total crap, and will never see the light of day). But I was intimidated by the near-impossibility of making a career as an author, so I compromised by becoming an advertising copywriter. Not satisfied with that, I also did professional part-time storytelling, specializing in ghost stories and traveling around the Midwest and beyond as “America’s Ghost Storyteller.” It was only after I became disabled with fibromyalgia and could no longer work a normal job or travel far, did I zero in on writing and opening local ghost tours. Fibro turned out to be a gift – albeit a painfully crippling one that I’d gladly do without – that made me pursue my true calling.
Other than your own, what is your all-time favorite book about the paranormal?
Jeez, and here I thought the first question was hard! OK, I’ve got to cheat again and break it down by topic…
- Favorite True Ghost Book: Anything by Troy Taylor and Mike Kleen I LOVE paranormal history!
- Favorite Spine-Chillers: Those super-cheap mini paperbacks that used to be sold at the counters of the old five-and-dime stores, i.e. Truly Spooky Tales, Great American Ghost Stories, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, etc. They scared the bejeezus outta me!
- Favorite Ghost Stories for Kids: Tales for the Midnight Hour (J.B. Stamper), The Thing at the Foot of the Bed (Maria Leach). Nope, not Alvin Schwartz. His stories just aren’t written in that storytelling style or eerie zing that gives me the creeps.
- Favorite Book for Ghost Science: The Case for Ghosts; An Objective Look at the Paranormal (J. Allan Danelek).
- Favorite Paranormal TV shows: “Haunted History” and “Supernatural” (Great scriptwriting! I love how they spin urban legends and classic spooky folklore into modern ghost-busting. And the two gorgeous guys ain’t bad either!).
You published Haunted Naperville in 2009 and Haunted Aurora in 2010, do you have another book in the works?
I’m currently marketing a fantasy fiction manuscript to publishers, The God in the Web, and writing a second novel, an urban ghost fantasy entitled Athena’s Demons. And I’m collecting more stories of Naperville and Aurora on bizarre events, mysteries, and more UFOs and ghosts to compile into subsequent books.
How can our readers contact you if they would like more information about your tours?
Visit my tour websites where you can also buy tickets online: Historic-Ghost-Tours-Naperville.com, Historic-Ghost-Tours-Aurora.com, Historic-Ghost-Tours-Elgin.com, my storyteller website: www.GhostStories.biz, or email me at DLadley@Historic-Ghost-Tours-Naperville.com. Currently, I’m expanding my tours, looking for independent managers to operate ghost tours in their hometowns under the Haunted Hometowns umbrella. I invite readers to please contact me if you’d like to be considered.
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