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Interview with Stephen Osborne, Author of Ghosts of Northern Illinois and South Bend Ghosts

Stephen Osborne lives in rural northern Illinois with Christine, the diva dog. When not writing, he often can be found in Chicago seeing musicals or relaxing at home or losing at Monopoly. He loves reading mysteries, spending time with friends, and, of course, ghost stories.

Please tell our readers a little about yourself. Were you born and raised in Illinois? How did you become interested in collecting folklore and ghost stories from the Midwest?

I was born and raised in Indiana, and attended Purdue University in West Lafayette.  I lived in Indianapolis for many years, and wrote articles for the now defunct Indy Today. My love for ghost stories began in childhood, when me and my brothers would be allowed to stay up late on Friday nights to watch horror movies. Monsters didn’t scare me, but ghost stories made the hairs on the back of my neck bristle! While doing a Halloween article for the paper, I was allowed, along with a photographer, to spend a night in Indy’s most famous haunted house, the Hannah House. I loved the history of the place, and while writing the piece I thought it would be fun to do a book of true ghost stories. As there were already quite a few about Indianapolis, I thought I’d do one on South Bend and the northern Indiana towns.

You published your first book about haunted places, South Bend Ghosts, in 2009 and your second, Ghosts of Northern Illinois, in 2012. Why the geographic leap?

Actually, I moved to  Illinois in 2010 to be closer to my remaining family. My love of ghostly legends came with me, and soon I was searching for spooky places to write about  here!

What similarities or differences did you find between ghost stories of northern Indiana and Illinois? Are there any migratory legends that appeared in both places?

Ghosts of Northern Illinois by Stephen Osborne

Ghosts of Northern Illinois by Stephen Osborne

A lot of Urban Legends persist in both areas (and likely nearly everywhere!). I mentioned Cry Baby Bridge to someone, and they knew the story, but their bridge was out in western Illinois, while the one I had written about was outside of Mishawauka, Indiana.

What is your favorite story from Ghosts of Northern Illinois, and why? How did you research the tales?

My personal favorite is Willow Creek Farm. I’ve been there many times, and nearly every time I’ve  had an experience. Even on my first visit, while I was interviewing owner Al Kelchner, we heard a dog barking. It sounded like it was just out the back door, but on inspection the snow outside was totally undisturbed! While there I’ve seen a chair fall over backwards, shadow people, heard voices and footsteps, and had a flashlight turn on and off when no one was touching it…no one we could see, anyway.

To write Ghosts of Northern Illinois, I started off close to home at the Roadhouse in Oregon. I was also invited  to go along on a paranormal investigation at Rockford’s Coronado Theatre. There I met Kathi Kresol, who runs the Haunted Rockford events. After that, I didn’t have to search for places to write about…she knew them all!

You have also published several novels. Do you find it easier or more difficult to write fiction, and why? Does your fiction also feature a supernatural theme?

Fiction is definitely easier as, once you’ve got the story in your head, it often just writes itself. Most of my fiction contains paranormal elements, especially the Duncan Andrews series. Starting with Pale As a Ghost, the tales concern a private eye who deals with supernatural cases. He is helped along by his boyfriend, who’s a ghost, his best friend, who’s a witch, and even his zombie bulldog. It’s sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the way it mixes snarky humor, quirky characters, and spooky stuff! Even my other books, such as the comedy Rat Bastard, have ghostly connections. The Phantom Lady of Kennedy Hill Road in Byron makes an appearance in the book…sort of.

A lot has been written about the ghostlore of Illinois. What new places or stories, or unique angle, does Ghosts of Northern Illinois offer?

I believe my book was the first to take an in-depth look at Willow Creek Farm, and for the most part I tried to spend the night at each location (when possible). It was such a blast to write, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Are you currently working on a new book? How can our readers stay in touch with you if they would like to know more about your writing and upcoming releases?

Right now I’m working on the fifth Duncan Andrews book, Under a Blood Red Moon. My latest book is the first to have no paranormal elements and is called Speaking of Dreams. Okay, there may be a little supernatural something going on in there. I guess I can’t leave it alone entirely! Readers can find me on Facebook (http://facebook.com/stephen.osborne2) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/southbendghosts).

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