Illinois’ Top 10 Most Haunted Places

In 2010, Mysterious Heartland brought you our first top 10 list, the Top 10 Creepiest Places in Illinois. That was by far our most popular list, but since then, we have thought about revising it many times. The list was meant to reflect some of the more interesting and mysterious places in Illinois, not necessarily the most haunted. So we put our heads together and decided to publish a new list of places throughout the Prairie State that seem to attract ghostly activity. Which will prove to be the most haunted of them all?

10. Beverly Unitarian Church

Chicago, Illinois

Also known as “The Irish Castle,” Beverly Unitarian Church is home to a host of strange phenomena that usually manifests in the wintertime. Built in 1886, the Irish Castle changed hands several times until finally becoming a church in 1959. It was then that the ghost stories began to be told. Parishioners describe encounters with the ghost of a young girl who is believed to have died in the 1890s during an influenza outbreak while the building was being used as a school for girls. An older woman wearing a red outfit has been seen at weddings and other church receptions and events. Muffled conversation, laughter, and the clatter of glasses and tableware is also occasionally heard. Additionally, the ghost of a lady has been seen tending the garden behind the church.

9. Miles Mausoleum

Eagle Cliff, Illinois

Miles_MausoleumStephen W. Miles was a violinist with pretensions of greatness. Bit by bit, he purchased over a thousand acres of bottom land in Monroe County and made a small fortune. Eventually, he commissioned a mausoleum to be built on a bluff in Eagle Cliff Cemetery. Completed in 1858, the mausoleum cost $25,000 and was made from Italian marble. It contained 56 burial vaults. Unfortunately, Miles’ son went bankrupt and lost his father’s estate. Only eleven individuals were ever interred in the crypt. Sometime during the 1950s, vandals desecrated the tomb, stole jewelry, and damaged the bodies of the Miles family. In the 1960s, a Satanic cult burned the rest of their remains in a bizarre attempt to resurrect them from the dead. Today, the grand mausoleum sits empty, but it is marred by graffiti and widely believed to be haunted by the angry spirits of the Miles family.

8. Voorhies Castle

Piatt County, Illinois

Voorhies_Castle“Voorhies Castle” is the colloquial name for a mansion built between 1900 and 1904 by Nels Larson. The mansion was designed to resemble a Swedish chalet in Queen Anne style. The town of Voorhies, however, was named after Jack Voorhies, whose brother and he owned most of the land on which the village would be built. Larson quietly built a small empire while working for Voorhies, and eventually owned the town. A large clock tower used to sit on the property, but a tornado destroyed it in 1976. To this day, it is said, the sound of a clock chiming can be heard on March 29, at the exact hour Nels Larson died. In addition to his two children, there were rumors that Larson had a third that was developmentally disabled. People whispered that Larson locked this child in a secret room somewhere in the mansion. While one or more secret rooms have been discovered, Larson’s decedents deny any such child ever existed.

After Larson died in 1923, the mansion sat abandoned for a number of years, until it was sold in 1967 to the Illinois Pioneer Heritage Center and opened for tours. Caretakers heard strange sounds and saw shadows moving in the mansion, and a paranormal investigation was conducted there. A married couple purchased the Voorhies Castle in 1972 and publicly acknowledged it was haunted, but they were forced to abandon it six years later. After a succession of owners, Steven Seitz, a political science professor at the University of Illinois, purchased the property in 1999. While renovating the mansion, he discovered a small toy unicorn sealed in the wall—just one more mystery hidden in this unique building.

7. Greenwood Cemetery

Decatur, Illinois

Greenwood_CemeteryGreenwood Cemetery is rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in central Illinois. According to Troy Taylor, the land that would become Greenwood was originally an Amerindian burial ground, and then was later used by the first white settlers to bury their dead until the late 1830s. These graves have since disappeared. The oldest visible marker on the grounds dates back to 1840, and Greenwood Cemetery was officially established in 1857. One of the most interesting stories at Greenwood concerns the ghosts of dead and dying Confederate prisoners who were dumped at the cemetery on their way to a prison camp and buried in the hillside under what is now a memorial to Union soldiers. Years later, heavy rain collapsed part of the hill, mixing the bodies together. The hill was repaired and the bodies reburied, but many believe their spirits were permanently disturbed. Another popular legend concerns the so-called “Greenwood Bride,” who wanders the grounds in her wedding dress searching for her fiancé, who was murdered by bootleggers. Greenwood Cemetery is also haunted by phantom funerals, ghost lights that flicker in the southeastern hills, and other, more sinister apparitions.

6. Meyer-Jacobs Theatre

Peoria, Illinois

Meyer_Jacobs_TheatreIn 1908, Lydia Moss Bradley, patron of Bradley University, paid for the construction of a beautiful gymnasium on campus. In the late 1970s, the gymnasium fell out of use and was subsequently remodeled and reopened as the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts. A brand new theater was built inside and christened the Meyer-Jacobs Theatre. Something from the past remained, however. Since the theater opened, students have reported seeing a man in a brown suit who materializes in a cloud of cigar smoke. A second ghost, a woman wearing a white dress, has been spotted in the lobby. She appears more frequently than the brown-suited man. According to author Stephanie McCarthy, the ghost of a boy who drowned in the old gymnasium pool can be heard scratching at the floor boards beneath the orchestra pit. In addition to its ghosts, Meyer-Jacobs Theatre is reportedly home to an impish trickster spirit that messes with the equipment. A retired theater professor called it a “whompus.”

Check out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s
Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State!

5. Elgin State Hospital

Elgin, Illinois

Hospital1Now called the Elgin Mental Health Center, the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane (as it was originally known) received its first patient on April 3, 1872. A contributing factor to the hospital’s notoriety is the fact that it has long housed patients considered criminally insane. The hospital received its first criminal patient who was “not guilty by reason of insanity” in 1873. It became known as Elgin State Hospital on January 1, 1910. In 1929, the Illinois State Psychopathic Institute relocated to the grounds of Elgin State. According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, the hospital is primarily used to care for patients who have been found “not guilty by reason of insanity,” and those persons found “unfit to stand trial,” but who are required by Illinois law to remain confined in a mental hospital for a period of time. Despite the danger of arrest, urban explorers used to trespass in the older, unused buildings (most of which have been torn down) and came back with stories of strange sounds, moving shadows, screams, flashing lights, and blood stained walls. Former patients and staff report feelings of being watched and claim that the hospital is a terrifying place to be at night.

4. Western Illinois University

Macomb, Ilinois

Western_Illinois_UniversityWestern Illinois University began as a teacher’s college. Originally called Western Illinois State Normal School, its classes were confined to one building, now known as Sherman Hall. Sherman Hall was then known by the unimaginative title of “Main Building.” In 1902 the university added a training school to Main Building in order to allow its students to obtain teaching experience in the classroom. As the student body expanded, they constructed a new building to house the training school. In the 1960s, as Western Illinois State Normal School became Western Illinois University, the Training School building was converted to house the Department of English and Journalism and renamed Simpkins Hall.

For years, students and faculty in Simpkins Hall have told stories about the ghost of an adolescent girl, but she is only one of the apparitions rumored to haunt the 71-year-old building. Many other odd occurrences at the hall are attributed to “Harold,” a former janitor or graduate assistant who lurks among the classrooms on the third floor. After classes finish for the day, the disembodied sound of keys jingling, doors opening and closing, or a typewriter clicking, rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned educator. Another story circulating the hall is that of a woman who can be heard crying in the first floor restroom.

3. Excalibur Club

Chicago, Illinois

Bars_n_Pubs2Constructed from rough granite blocks that give it a castle-like appearance, this Romanesque Revival building has had a long and colorful history. Built in 1892 by the Chicago Historical Society, since 1931 it has been home to the Loyal Order of the Moose, the WPA, a technology institute, a magazine company, and finally, a nightclub called the Limelight. When the Limelight opened, its staff almost immediately noticed unusual activity, especially on the third floor. On the pool table, balls rolled around on their own. The sound of heavy boxes moving in the storage room was often heard, even though the room was locked and empty. Hauntings continued when the club became the Excalibur in 1990. One bartender was reportedly trapped in a bathroom stall for several minutes, as though someone was holding the door closed. On one visit, author Scott Markus claimed to hear keys rattling and witnessed a figure that seemed to vanish behind a support column. Thanks to these and many similar incidents, the Excalibur is a favorite subject around Halloween for local radio and news stations.

2. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

Midlothian, Illinois

Bachelors_GroveBachelor’s Grove has been a south side enigma for over three decades and is one of the most famous haunted cemeteries in America. Some say it was named after a group of single men who settled in the area around the 1830s, but a family named Batchelder owned the land. One of the most controversial sightings around Bachelor’s Grove involves a phantom house. In the 1970s, Richard T. Crowe collected stories from dozens of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen a white farmhouse at various places in the woods alongside the trail, complete with a glowing light in the window. There are several foundations and old brick wells tucked away in the woods—evidence that there were homes nearby sometime in the past.

Another popular ghost is the White Lady, or Madonna, of Bachelor’s Grove, who is said to be searching for her lost infant. This ghost, or one very much like it, was supposedly captured on a now famous photograph taken using infrared film. The pond adjacent to the cemetery has its own share of legends. Stories say it was one of the hundreds of places scattered around Illinois where mobsters dumped their victims during the roaring ‘20s. A policeman reportedly saw the apparition of a horse, followed by a man and a plow, walk out of the pond and cross 143rd Street. The ghost is said to belong to a farmer who drowned in the pond when his horse decided to take a swim one day, pulling him under the murky water in the process.

1. Congress Plaza Hotel

Chicago, Illinois

Congress_HotelThe Congress Plaza Hotel has the nefarious distinction of being one of Chicago’s largest and most haunted hotels. According to Ursula Bielski, some even believe one of its rooms inspired Stephen King’s short story “1408.” Since 1893, the Congress has played host to gangsters, celebrities, millionaires, and presidents. In recent years, it has suffered from the longest hotel employee strike in history. Its ghosts are numerous. Security guards have heard organ music and the sound of skate wheels sliding across the floor in the Florentine Room, a former roller skating rink, after the guests have gone to bed. Wedding attendees have gone missing from photographs taken around the grand piano in the Gold Room, and a one-legged man has been seen in the south tower. In the north tower, moans have been heard coming from the elevator on the fifth floor. Finally, the twelfth floor is believed to be home to a room so frightening that its door has been permanently sealed and hidden behind wall paper.

Haunting Illinois by Michael KleenCheck out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Three years in the making, the 3rd edition of Hunting Illinois is your ticket to adventure in your own backyard. This edition contains 60 new listings and 35 new pictures, for a total of 260 haunted or mysterious locations and more than 120 photos and illustrations. Divided into eight distinct regions and listed by county and town or neighborhood, each location features a description, directions, and sources from a wide variety of books, articles, and websites. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!

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