Q&A with the Author of Haunting Illinois

Michael Kleen earned a M.A. in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2008 and a M.S. in Education from Western Illinois University in 2011. He is the author of several books, including Tales of Coles County, Six Tales of Terror, and Paranormal Illinois. Michael has spoken about local history and folklore at conventions, libraries, cafes, schools, and colleges; and he has presented research papers at the 2007, 2010, and 2011 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. His latest book, the 3rd edition of Haunting Illinois, was released earlier this month.

How did you come up with the concept for Haunting Illinois? What makes this book different from other books about haunted places in Illinois?

Haunting Illinois by Michael KleenHaunting Illinois came about around 2009/2010 after I had been traveling to (allegedly) haunted places around Illinois for the better part of a decade. An avid reader of books about Illinois ghostlore, I was always frustrated by a lack of directions to the places discussed in these books. It was great to read the stories, but I wanted to actually visit them. Also, let’s say I was visiting a friend in southern Illinois, I wanted to know what haunted locations were in that area so I could go exploring.

There weren’t really any books that offered what I was looking for, so I wanted to create a guide that would list virtually every haunted place in Illinois, where each was located, where I could read more information, and how I could get there. So now let’s say you are going to Bloomington and you want to know what haunted places are located around Bloomington, you can simply open up Haunting Illinois to the index and bam, it’s right there, page 143.

Another problem with books about Illinois ghostlore is that a lot of them are out of date. You read about a haunted location in a book that was published in 2001, for example, and it has been torn down, renamed, or re-purposed. I’ve tried to keep everything up to date and note any changes.

When it comes to finding places in this book, it’s super easy. There are two indexes. One is by location – and each location is arranged by type. So if you are looking for a haunted restaurant, you can find all of them at once. If you want to see places related to witchcraft, there they are: pages 48, 99, 126, 133, 164, 169, and 208. The second index is by town and city.

Let me quickly tell you what Haunting Illinois is not. If you are looking for a book with a lot of information about each haunted place, you won’t find it here. This is only a guide–with a paragraph or two about the history and hauntings. For each entry, I have included a list of sources where you can go and read more. Also, there is a comprehensive list of every book I could find related to Illinois folklore and ghostlore in the “Further Reading” section.

The 2nd edition of Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State came out in May 2011, a little more than three years ago. Why did you wait so long for a 3rd edition?

I like to take my time and make sure I get things right. I always thought that if I ever came out with a new edition, I would have to make it worthwhile for my readers. I know some authors who have cranked out several editions of their books without adding very much. I really wanted to take my time to research new places and take a lot of new pictures. Also, once I got the go ahead from my publisher, it took about six months to go to press.

What can readers expect from the new edition of Haunting Illinois? What have you added?

This edition of Haunting Illinois is a big improvement over the previous edition. In addition to updating several of the listings, I’ve added 60 new places and 30 new pictures from every region of the state, especially southern Illinois. So my downstate fans won’t feel left out. I scoured literally every book and article I could find for new locations–I even added a few that haven’t been written about before after interviewing the owners. I added places from a few books that have come out in the past three years as well. So what you have here is a very comprehensive guide to haunted places in Illinois. I’m not bragging about that–I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end of my search.

The new edition also has beautiful cover photography by the very talented Cari Ann Wayman, from Rockford, Illinois.

In terms of other changes to the book, I added about a dozen new entries to the “Further Reading” section, edited the introduction, and removed a couple appendixes. The appendixes I removed were a list of paranormal investigation teams in Illinois and a list articles featuring myself. The list of paranormal teams was just too hard to maintain. I got tired of people contacting me and complaining that I left their team off the list, but it’s difficult to find them all on the Internet. New teams are popping up or disbanding all the time. I removed the list of articles because it seemed too self indulgent.

What are some of the new places in the book?

There are too many to list here, but two of the (brand) new locations that have never been included in any book about haunted places in Illinois are Camp Grant Museum and Command Post Restaurant and the Hope & Anchor English Pub. Other listings new to this edition include Winston Tunnel, Bloody Gulch Road, Fencil Fuze Factory, Dominican University, Naperville Cemetery, Springdale Cemetery, Loomis House, Voorhies Castle, and a whole lot more! You’ll just have to read the book and find out.

How can people purchase the new edition of Haunting Illinois? Where is it available?

Haunting Illinois is available at, of course, and will be in Barnes and Noble bookstores soon. Like the Facebook page, and as always, keep checking back at Mysterious Heartland for more news and updates!



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