An old Victorian Style home sits a few blocks east of the town square in Charleston, Illinois, along Monroe Avenue. Built in 1900, it has weathered years of neglect. From hidden rooms and hideaways in the attic, to disembodied footsteps and doors that slam on their own, to a pile of dusty bones in the basement, one former resident is convinced that its walls conceal a secret history yet to be uncovered.
Lisa (not her real name) was a young girl when her parents purchased the home in the early 1990s. It had been abandoned for nearly 20 years, until an enterprising couple fixed it up and sold it to Lisa’s parents. From the moment her family moved in, Lisa knew something was amiss. The previous owners told her mother that during the days of Prohibition, an old man who lived in the house had hideouts in the cross-shaped attic where he would sit and drink his illegal liquor. They had even found old bottles and newspapers there before safety concerns compelled them to brick up the entry to this attic hideout. There was a secondary entrance near the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom closet.
Lisa’s bedroom contained three closets, each a different size. In the distant past, someone had carved a note into the wall of one of these closets, accompanied by a girl’s name and the date. At one time, Lisa had a rubbing of the note, but has since misplaced it. That wasn’t the only thing about her bedroom that sent chills down her spine.
“My mother had a friend who was Jehovah’s Witness, and she usually brought over her kids over to play,” she said. “One night, her daughter was up in my room at the top of the stairs while our parents were downstairs. When you came up the winding stairs, you faced east. If you went down the hall to the north, my door was literally right on your left. So you could not see anyone coming up the stairs, but the way the door opened on the north of the door, you could see if someone opened it inwards.
“We were talking or playing a game or something and all of the sudden, the door flung open. We had those doors with a window at the top and it let light in from the hallway. Both hall and room were lit. The door swung into my room but nobody was there. Then it slammed shut. Now, no windows were open, so that couldn’t account for it closing or opening as it had been latched each time it closed. And then it happened again. Needless to say, we ran screaming down the stairs in tears.”
The basement was perhaps the scariest part of the old house. With bricked off windows, sealed antechambers, and a dirt floor, it resembled a catacomb. Once, while exploring a dirt mound in the floor roughly four feet high and 20-30 feet long, Lisa and a friend stumbled upon a grisly discovery. “If you climbed up on there, there was a huge assortment of bones including one that looked like a human femur,” she recalled. “My friend took that one home to ask his dad but never gave it back.” Later, as an EMT/CNA and medical lab worker, she was able to retrospectively identify the bone. She was never able to explore the sealed rooms, she explained, “because I knew breaking the brick out of those would lead to something I didn’t want to see, if my parents didn’t kill me first.”
Today, the home sits inconspicuously on a quiet street, and someday Lisa hopes to return. “I’ve always said if I won the lottery, I would buy the house up and fix it back to its original condition.” Adding, “Not because it was my childhood home. I was traumatized a little too much by all of the strange and spooky experiences I had there. I could never spend the night there again. But just to explore all of the undiscovered history of that building.”
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