Kathi Kresol has worked at the Rockford Public Library for years and loves sharing her enthusiasm for reading. She started teaching history using ghost stories when she homeschooled her children. Kathi loved the research and the ghost stories so much, she wanted to share them with the Rockford Community. Murder and Mayhem in Rockford, Illinois is her first book. Kathi feels honored that she can share the stories of the men, women, and children who settled Rockford and gave so much to create such a rich history.
Please tell our readers what inspired Murder and Mayhem in Rockford, Illinois. Why this subject? What interests you about true crime?
I have offered Haunted Tours in Rockford for over ten years now and while looking for ghost stories I would stumble across these horrendous crimes. I decided I wanted to tell the victims stories to help them be remembered.
Why did you decide to divide the book into two parts: Murder and Mayhem? How did you choose stories for each section?
I submitted the manuscript to Arcadia Publishing and they decided there was enough material to actually form two books. They had the series Murder and Mayhem and thought that these particular stories would fit in that genre. Since I already had the stories completed I knew which section they would fall under.
What is your favorite chapter in the book and why?
I honestly do not have a favorite chapter. There are a few that really hit home with me. The “Inhuman Monster” story is about the murder of little Dick Tebbetts. He was a small boy that worked as a “newsie” selling newspapers in town.
Another one was the tornado story. There were so many people affected by the devastation that it really made the story very hard to write. I also felt it was easy to relate because of the recent tragedy in Fairdale. But the compassion and dedication shown by the whole community made it a good story to write, too.
Looking back on the book as a whole, what will the reader learn about Rockford, Illinois? Were you surprised by anything you discovered in your research?
I think this book will show that although Rockford has suffered some horrible crimes and devastating tragedies when the community works together we can overcome huge obstacles.
I have been looking into Rockford’s dark past for over a decade and I am surprised with almost every story I research. These stories tell how wild Rockford streets were in the early days, or how creative some of the illegal booze runners were, or the lengths some people will go take revenge on someone. The tales give us a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived through these events.
The stories depict the people on the worst day of their lives. Underneath all the stories lies a theme of courage, compassion and in some cases, forgiveness. While showing the worst of some people these stories also show the best of the people who called Rockford home. I think that is what make Rockford unique and it is what should make those of us who live here, proud.
People always talk about Rockford’s good old days when the streets were safer and business was booming. I think these stories show that Rockford has always had that underlying element of violence and crime. But if we had that in the past and still were able to be a great manufacturing and productive city, we can be that again.
Many of the events in Murder and Mayhem in Rockford, Illinois take place in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Are you planning a sequel with more recent cases? Can you give us a sneak peak of what stories you plan for the next installment?
Arcadia has signed with me to publish a book with the paranormal stories of Rockford for next year. After that, I hope to continue writing some true crime and other tales of the interesting people and places in Rockford. I live a very interesting and crazy life. I never know what path will open up next. I am just blessed that so many people seem to be just as interested in the history of Rockford as I am.
Where can our readers go to learn more information about you and your book?
I have a website that I post stories on, usually every month: www.hauntedrockford.com. These include some ghost stories as well as true crime and histories of founding families or houses. The website includes an About page that contains a biographical sketch. I also have a Twitter account and Facebook page under the Haunted Rockford name.
I have a column in the Rock River Times weekly paper titled “Voices from the Grave”. I post stories in there every two weeks that also include some crime, ghost stories and other interesting legends that I discover.
I also give presentations in many places throughout the city on subjects that include anything from Rockford’s past focusing on different topics including prohibition, murders, ghost stories, and being an author. I also can be reached through email at: email@example.com.
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