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History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois, the Definitive Edition

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisPublished by IllinoisHistory.com in 2014, the Second Edition of History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce L. Cline has been years in the making. This edition is a compendium of three separate books that Black Oak Media, Inc. (God rest its soul) published in 2011, 2012, and 2013, with the addition of new stories and photos. At 320 pages, the book retails for $23.95 and is organized by county. I encourage owners of the previous editions, as well as anyone interested in Illinois folklore and ghost stories generally, to purchase the Second Edition of History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois.

As the earliest part of the state to be settled by Europeans, southern Illinois is steeped in history. From the French settlements at Cahokia, Fort de Chartres, Fort Massac, and Kaskaskia, to the convulsions of the American Civil War, to the present day, the region popularly known as “Little Egypt” has been filled with legends, folklore, and ghost stories. For those interested in ghost lore, southern Illinois offers some of the oldest ghost stories in the state. And why should it not? Anywhere a majestic lodge like the Rose Hotel can stand for nearly two centuries is bound to be haunted by some specters of the past. These strange tales go all the way back to 1719 when the French brought slaves from Santo Domingo to the Mississippi River. Some of these slaves, they feared, possessed supernatural powers, and at least one paid for it with his life.

As far as the folklore of southern Illinois is concerned, two books stand out: Legends & Lore of Southern Illinois by John W. Allen and Tales and Songs of Southern Illinois by Charles Neely. One was published in the 1930s and the other in the 1960s. Not much has been written on the subject since then, so Bruce Cline’s book is a valuable contribution to preserving the tales of Little Egypt. Some of the stories in this book are old favorites, but many are brand new. Bruce has not only read about these places, in many cases he has been there partaking in the story itself. That is a rare quality. I have no doubt that readers will find many surprises within the pages of this book.

The new edition of History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois is nicely designed and organized. There are tales for nearly every county in Little Egypt, from tiny Hardin (a very mysterious place indeed) to Fayette on its northernmost boundary. An index allows the reader to find nearly anything he or she is looking for, and information about where each site is located has been included in the new edition.

One of the most compelling chapters in the book regards the Murphysboro Mud Monster, which has allegedly wandered the forests of Jackson County since the 1970s. Its existence has been widely recounted in numerous books. The only problem is, it isn’t true. After many years of silence, an acquaintance of the author decided to come forward and tell the story of how he and a few companions initiated this hoax using an elaborate costume and “Eau de Sasquatch.” It is that kind of insight that really makes History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois stand out.

History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois is an essential addition to any library dedicated to Illinois folklore and ghost stories.

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