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An Intimate History of Mysterious Heartland, Part 2

Join us for part two of our history of Mysterious Heartland as we take a trip down memory lane! Check out part one here.

Touring the Mysterious in Illinois, 2007-2011

Legends and Lore of Illinois

Check out all the issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois in one definitive volume!

The Legends and Lore of Illinois digital newsletter premiered on the website of my publishing company, Black Oak Media, on January 1, 2007. The first issue featured an appeal for letters from my readers, a factual account of the history and folklore of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, a short story set at the cemetery, and a couple of fictional and satirical “personal experiences.” From there, the publication grew to include trivia, games, book reviews, and interviews.

I tried to get the word out as best I could. Those were the days of Myspace, YouTube, and Blogtalkradio. One of my first interviews was on an Internet radio show called Joliet Paranormal Radio. I spoke with the hosts, John and Brian, from my cell phone in a Taco Bell parking lot in Prospect Heights. I was still in graduate school at the time and had returned home to the Chicago suburbs for the summer.

I scouted locations for the Legends and Lore of Illinois about a year in advance, so I had all the pictures ready to go in case I was too busy to visit every location as I was writing the issue. I never knew how heavy my work load was going to be at school, and new issues always threatened to be postponed. I took great care to make sure each issue came out on time around the first of every month.

Our intrepid author exploring the mysteries of Dug Hill Road, circa 2007.

Our intrepid author exploring the mysteries of Dug Hill Road, circa 2007.

For the first two years, I posted new issues on the Black Oak Media website. In 2009, I premiered trueillinoishaunts.com, a website exclusively devoted to the Legends and Lore of Illinois. At first, I only posted links to new issues, teasers for upcoming issues, and photos. Then I added content that first appeared in the issues themselves: interviews, book reviews, games, etc. I also posted the occasional news story, if it pertained to something particularly interesting. One of my most popular series of posts was about the scandal at Alsip’s Burr Oak Cemetery. In the summer of 2009, a cemetery manager and his crew dug up dozens of bodies to make more room and deposited their bones along the fence, where they were discovered by passersby. Relatives of the deceased were outraged.

My life went through a lot of transitions during those four years. I always seemed to be on the move, first from Charleston, then to Rockford, then Macomb, and back to Rockford. All the while, I only missed one issue, in November 2011. In all, I produced 47 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Month after month, my audience grew, from 71 average daily visits in January 2009 to 2,338 average daily visits in October 2012.

Hanging out at a Rockford River Hawks game with the crew from Paranormal Cops

Hanging out at a Rockford River Hawks game with the crew from Paranormal Cops

Sometimes, the most widely read issues were a surprise to me. The issue concerning Chanute Air Force Base, an abandoned air base in Rantoul, has been one of the most popular. There are over 277 comments on its webpage, mostly from former servicemen who were stationed at the base. Their friends and family have joined the discussion as well. It has become something of a message board for them, and that is wonderful. It is a great feeling to know my work has brought so many people together.

I kept a lot of bars and fast food restaurants open while writing new issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois. I find it difficult to write at home, so every month I would take my notebook, post-its, and story outlines to whatever my favorite watering hole happened to be at the time. In Charleston, I alternated between Jimmy John’s, Lincoln Garden, and Taco Bell. In Rockford, I would usually write at McDonald’s, and in Macomb, I spent a lot of time at Hangovers Bar & Grill and Buffalo Wild Wings. That is probably why places like Taco Bell are mentioned more than once in the Fallen adventures. Of course, what is a trip to your favorite haunted place without stopping to pick up a cheap meal along the way?

It is impossible to finish this section without talking about the people who helped me along the way. Sometimes I explored the locations alone, but often there was someone who went along for the ride. I will not mention any names for the sake of privacy, but these are the folks who spent hours driving across Illinois and trudging through woods with me, who play tested the Fallen board game, sent in their personal experiences and photos, and who provided the illustrations of the Fallen characters. The time we spent together made writing and doing the research for the Legends and Lore of Illinois so much more enjoyable.

New Beginnings
Hanging out with the crew of Ghost Adventures at Ashmore Estates, 2011.

Hanging out with the crew of Ghost Adventures at Ashmore Estates, 2011.

I posted the last issue of the Legends and Lore of Illinois in December 2010, although I brought it back for two issues in the beginning of 2012. I have no way to know how many times each issue was downloaded in the e-serial’s first two years, but between January 2008 and December 2012, various issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois were downloaded over 25,500 times. Bachelor’s Grove (our very first issue) remains in the top ten most popular.

Even though the Legends and Lore of Illinois was over, trueillinoishaunts.com grew by leaps and bounds. Most of this newfound acknowledgment was due to our top ten lists. I have been a fan of Cracked.com’s lists for years, and I decided to do a similar thing for the haunted places of Illinois. I was not disappointed. A link to our “Top 10 Most Haunted Churches in Illinois” even appeared on the front page of Fark.com in June 2012.

In transitioning away from the electronic publication, I kept up a monthly schedule of posts ranging from interviews, to top ten lists, to breaking news stories, reviews, trivia games, opinion polls, and more. I also began to include stories and personal experiences submitted by my readers. Of course, there were spotlights on previous issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois as well. All-in-all, I tried to continue to highlight and be creative with the various ways in which we encounter the paranormal in Illinois.

Order all 39 issues of the Legends & Lore of Illinois on CD-ROM

Order all 39 issues of the Legends & Lore of Illinois on CD-ROM

The future still looks bright. In 2012, trueillinoishaunts.com had visitors from 161 countries, including Canada, Great Britain, India, Germany, and Australia, demonstrating that you do not have to live in Illinois to find this is a fascinating place.

In 2013, trueillinoishaunts.com evolved into MysteriousHeartland.com. After more than four years, I felt it was time to expand the website’s geographic boundaries to include other Midwestern states. Once again, thank you to everyone who has stuck with us over the years, and welcome to all those who are just joining us!

Sorry guys, this page is copyright MysteriousHeartland.com, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.

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