“Persona Non Grata” at Sunset Haven

Photo by Bruce Cline

One of the creepiest and mysterious buildings in Carbondale is the Vivarium Annex, also known at Building 207 located at Sunset Haven. Many people have mistakenly called it an Insane Asylum. Originally, it was the Jackson County Poor Farm. It became a home for the destitute, mentally ill and severely retarded. In the 1940s, its name was changed to Sunset Haven and converted into a nursing home. In 1957, Southern Illinois University purchased the property, changed its name to Building 207, and used the building and surrounding land for agricultural programs.

Sunset Haven has long been known as one of the major haunted spots in Carbondale. It is well known for paranormal activity such as disembodied voices, doors that open and then slam on their own accord, sounds of moaning, cries, chains being dragged, animal sounds, cold spots, lights that turn on and off as well as the creepy feeling of being watched by unseen eyes.

The Little Egypt Ghost Society was intrigued by the history, mystery and hauntings of Sunset Haven. It was decided that this was one location that we needed to investigate. We contacted a reporter with the Daily Egyptian Newspaper at S.I.U. to see if she could help obtain official permission from the university for us to go there. After negotiations with authorities at S.I.U., we finally had the long sought after permission.

Just hours before our scheduled walk through, however, the Chief of the Southern Illinois University Police Department denied all access to the property. Members of the Little Egypt Ghost Society investigation team along with a reporter from the Daily Egyptian went to the S.I.U. Police Dept to speak with the chief of police. We were denied access to the chief and met with the director of the department of public safety instead. We once again asked permission to conduct the investigation stating that Sunset Haven had a reputation of being haunted and that we wanted to check it out for ourselves. At that point, the director expressed his skepticism at the reputation of the location as being haunted.

I then produced copies of books by 3 of my favorite authors, Michael Kleen, Troy Taylor, and Jim Jung, all of which contained stories about Sunset Haven and the reputed hauntings that occur there. I went on to explain that there are several websites devoted to the hauntings of Sunset Haven. The director then stated that the location was too dangerous for us to be there and my reply was, “why then, do S.I.U. Army ROTC and the Carbondale and S.I.U. Police Departments conduct tactical exercises there?” He was at a loss for words and just reiterated that it the chief’s decision not to allow us access.

The bottom line was that ghost hunters and paranormal investigators are “persona non grata” at Sunset Haven in Carbondale. The area is patrolled by police on a regular basis and all trespassers will be arrested on sight. All this secrecy makes us wonder… just what is S.I.U. trying to hide?

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Bruce Cline is the Director of the Little Egypt Ghost Society based in Carbondale, IL. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army as a Corps of Engineers Officer. He is a former municipal, county and state law enforcement officer. Bruce lives in Carbondale, IL with his wife, Lisa and several cats and dogs.

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