At Mysterious Heartland, we have noticed that a great number of ghosts happen to be female, particularly attractive blondes who met a violent or tragic end. They are condemned to wander the earth weeping, hitchhiking, or reminding passersby of their fate for all eternity. Perhaps only Sigmund Freud could understand why this image continues to capture the popular imagination. Such phantoms appear all over the Heartland, but which will prove to be most alluring of them all?
10. Gretchen of Range Line Road
Washington Island, Wisconsin
It is said that strange things happen in the northern wilderness, which might explain why this remote corner of Wisconsin holds so many unusual tales. Washington Island is located at the tip of Door Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin, near Green Bay. Its tiny neighbor to the north, Rock Island, is thought to be the most haunted island in the Badger State, but Washington Island is not without its tales. One such tale concerns the ghost of a woman named Gretchen, who allegedly haunts Range Line Road. According to legend, Gretchen was a milkmaid who delivered fresh milk to the homes on the island. She was so tall that when she died, the mortician had to saw her legs off at the knees so she would fit inside the coffin. Others say that she suffered a strange illness that crippled her legs, leaving her unable to perform her beloved job. Today, eyewitnesses report seeing her legless phantom making its rounds along Range Line Road. A gloomy fog follows her, obscuring her below the waist.
9. Margaret’s Stain
Opened in 1874, Ridges Asylum, a four story, redbrick building, was originally known as the Athens Asylum for the Insane. There were two wings, one for male patients ad one for female. The most violent patients were housed near the outer tips of the wings. By the early 1900s, Ridges Asylum was alarmingly overcrowded. Rumours of inhumane treatments at the hands of overworked staff were common. By 1981, however, the hospital had fallen out of use. It closed in 1993. Although parts of the building are in use today, much of it remains abandoned. One macabre curiosity is the outline of the body of Margaret Schilling in a room on the top floor. She became lost in an unused area of the hospital in the winter of 1978/79 and was not found for over a month. When her lifeless body was removed, it had left a stain on the floor that could not be washed away. Her ghost has also been seen wandering that room at night. Other people claim the asylum’s cemetery, which holds around 2,000 bodies, is haunted.
8. The Phantom Lady of Kennedy Hill Road
Between mid-December 1980 and early January 1981, dozens of people reported seeing a young woman in various stages of dress walking down Kennedy Hill Road outside of Byron. Despite the icy wind and cold, she was sometimes wearing attire more suitable for the beach, and was said to be very athletic and slender, at one point leaping over a nearby fence with ease. By January 20, 1981, the sightings had reached a fevered pitch. Motorists parked their cars in the frigid temperatures along the narrow rural road to catch a glimpse of what became known as “The Phantom Lady of Kennedy Hill Road.” It was said that the scantily-clad phantom was searching for her lost grave, which had been plowed over by a nearby farmer. Newspaper reports reached as far away as Chicago, and the Rockford Register Star ran five consecutive articles on the sightings. The phantom lady disappeared after the snow thawed that spring and was never seen again.
7. The “Bad Curve” Banshee
For most of the last two centuries, this remote, rural cemetery next to a schoolhouse on Henry Ruft Road was quiet and serine. That all changed one day in 1980. Marion Kuclo a local psychic who also called herself Gundella, paid a visit to the cemetery and made a grisly discovery. What she thought was a blonde wig turned out to be a woman’s scalp. As she got closer, she saw bone, pieces of a white dress, and bits of coffin lying around. The authorities thought a heavy rain must have washed the casket up, or it was dug up by animals. Kuclo suspected something more sinister. Whatever the reason, it touched off a series of unfortunate events. Shortly after discovery of the corpse, a man died in a car wreck on a curve in the road near the cemetery. People began to whisper that the ghost of a young blonde was causing accidents, and the curve began to be known as “Bad Curve.” Other visitors have heard screams coming from the cemetery at night.
6. “Rosie” the Librarian
St. Joseph, Missouri
Built in 1902 in Italian Renaissance-style, St. Joseph Public Library, with its balconies, old wooden bookshelves, and tall ceilings, already looks like could be haunted. It is the unusual activity on the second floor, however, that makes it so. This activity has been attributed to a ghost named “Rosie.” She is believed to have been a librarian at the original library. Among other incidents, the door to the director’s office mysteriously locked on its own, only to unlock later. The click of high heels has been heard on the floors and lights flicker without explanation. In another incident, when a crew came to remove the old card catalogs, they found the heavy wooden shelves would not budge. The next morning, however, the catalogs had fallen over. “You guys done it now, you’ve peeved the ghost off,” Frank Harris, the maintenance supervisor for the library, remarked. Rosie has become a beloved figure at the library, and her presence has added an extra layer of spookiness to St. Joseph’s annual haunted house.
5. The Blue Lady of Story Inn
Brown County, Indiana
“One inconvenient location since 1851” is not only this country inn’s tagline, it is also an apt description. To get to the inn, visitors must make a 20 mile trek into the wilderness down State Road 135 from Nashville, Indiana. The Story Inn and its cottages is all that remains of a tiny mining town named Story, which went defunct in the early 1900s. The Inn was restored in the 1960s and now sits at the edge of Brown County State Park. For decades, owners of the Inn kept logs in each room so that guests could document their ghostly encounters. One of the most well-known ghosts haunting the Story Inn is known as the “Blue Lady.” She is believed to have been a wife of Dr. George Story and can be summoned by turning on a blue light in one of the rooms above the restaurant. Literally hundreds of encounters have been recorded, from simply sensing her presence to witnessing and interacting with the apparition. The owner is a skeptic, but continues the tradition of inviting guests to share their stories.
4. Mary of Elk Lake Dam
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Elk Creek Dam is located just off W. Cameron Street, north of the bridge over Elk Creek about a mile west of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In the early 1970s, this area was the scene of a crime that still haunts local residents to the present day. Mary K. Schlais, a 25-year-old former art student at University of Minnesota, disappeared on February 15, 1974 as she attempted to hitchhike to an art show in Chicago, Illinois. Police believe a motorist in Minneapolis, Minnesota picked her up and drove her southeast. Three hours later, eyewitnesses saw a man get out of a gold or orange compact car near Elk Creek Lake and dump something along the road. Mary’s lifeless body was found that afternoon with multiple stab wounds, about a half mile from the bridge south of Elk Creek Lake. The case remains unsolved. To this day, visitors report seeing a ghostly form wandering the roadside and along the creek south of the dam. According to Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, two men witnessed a glowing, white woman behind them as they sat at the dam.
3. Lucinda of Stony Hollow Road
The ghost of a heartbroken young woman is widely believed to haunt this road about eight miles north of Burlington, Iowa, near the Mississippi River. According to legend, a young woman named Lucinda was secretly engaged and planned to meet her lover on the bluffs outside of town so that they could elope. The man, however, never showed. Some say his buggy became stuck in the mud. Lucinda was so heartbroken that she threw herself off the cliff and onto the road below. In another version of the legend, she went home and heard rumours that her lover had run away with another woman, and that was why she killed herself. Either way, motorists have reported seeing her ghost on Stony Hollow Road for decades. Supposedly, if you go to the bluffs and say Lucinda’s name three times, you will die the next day.
2. Sister Sarah
Fulton County, Indiana
This two-story farmhouse off Fort Wayne Road, east of Rochester in north central Indiana, has long been believed to be haunted by the ghost of Sarah McIntire, who died in 1873 at the age of 33. She was buried in a small family plot on the property, but continues to make her presence felt in other ways. When a family of seven moved into the house in the late 1950s, they began experiencing strange sounds, like footsteps walking across the upstairs floor. One night, the husband followed the sound until he nearly ran into the misty form of a female spectre. In 1962, the family adopted a 2-year-old boy. His picture repeatedly fell from the wall without explanation. Many have speculated on Sister Sarah’s origins. Some say she became pregnant out of wedlock, and committed suicide to hide the shame. Others say she had an affair and became pregnant, with similar results. Over the years, her lonely grave itself became a destination. Visitors poured water or over her grave, left an empty glass, or called her name. Empty glasses left at her graveside allegedly filled with blood. In 1978, a journalist writing an article about Sister Sarah attempted to take photos of her grave, but each time the photos were developed, a white streak appeared. Sister Sarah remains one of the most infamous ghosts in central Indiana.
1. Resurrection Mary
Every year, thousands of motorists drive past the gates of Resurrection Cemetery, hoping to catch a glimpse of a girl named Mary and offer her a ride. Resurrection Mary, as she is known, is hands down the most famous legend in the Chicagoland area. She is the subject of a novel, several songs, two films, and is an indispensable part of any book on Chicago hauntings. Folklorists and ghost enthusiasts alike claim that Mary’s story dates back to the 1930s, when the ghost of a burgeoning Polish girl was first seen along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery. She dances with unsuspecting men at the Willow Brook Ballroom and then asks for a ride home, only to vanish before reaching her destination. Authors Michael Norman and Beth Scott describe her as a “captivating, blue-eyed, flaxen-haired girl in her late teens” who wears a “long, off-white ballgown and dancing shoes.” Rachel Brooks romantically portrays Mary as “an innocent young woman… stranded and alone.” She is “soaked to the bone… with beautiful blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes.” Always virginal, yet slightly dangerous, Resurrection Mary remains one of the most beloved specters of Chicagoland.