6 Haunted Schools, Colleges, and Universities in Illinois
During my research for other articles about haunted places, I stumbled across a story of one of the elementary schools I attended as a child—a story of it being haunted. I was drawn to the story, and to the idea of covering the haunted schools across my home state.
1. Illinois Park School
Illinois Park School is an interesting story. I went to this school when I was in kindergarten. The stories of hauntings around this school are vague, and information about the school varies. The rumors state that the hauntings were prevalent in the kindergarten area and the basement. Strange sounds have been heard in both areas. The sounds of voices and laughter were said to have been heard in the kindergarten area, and the sounds of banging metal were reported to be heard in the basement area. Upon searching, both areas revealed no one. The original building has been down and replaced with a new facility. Unfortunately, this new facility was abandoned after “mismanagement of funds”. It has reopened as a pre-school and kindergarten. A parking lot stands where the old school once stood. I couldn't even find pictures of the old school, as it stood when I went there.
On a personal note, I was a student at that school, and I was a kindergartner at the time. I was in one of the supposedly most haunted areas of the school. Though, having been rather young, my memory is not incredibly clear on specific details or events. I do remember one strange incident. There was a mysterious fire in our classroom. We were all escorted out of the building and there was never any reason for the fire. Obviously, small children would not be permitted to play with, or use, anything that could have started a fire. Other than that, I do remember a strange feeling out on the playground in back. I always felt uneasy back there, as if someone was watching me, and I cannot for the life of me recall why. I always just felt uncomfortable out there, as if something bad was out there. Was this just my overactive imagination, or was there something there that I was sensing? I am not sure. I have had similar feelings in other locations over the years, all with no real explanation.
2. Lake Forrest College
Lake Forest College was founded in 1857, as a liberal arts school. It later became Lake Forest University in 1865, and a separate Lake Forest College was founded in 1876, as a division of the University, itself. The school has grown over the years and after 1900, several new buildings were added as the school expanded.
The hauntings seem to center around a Gothic-style building, the Reid Memorial Chapel. The stories go back many years, as far as the 1920s. Students and staff reported strange sounds and lights that had no explanation. A night watchman reported seeing a ghostly blue figure in the corner of the chapel. Others have reported the old organ playing at night on its own, and lights appearing and disappearing in the windows, even though no one is there. It is believed that the spirit is that of a church organist who died in the early 1900s, who has lingered on, still practicing and playing into the night. It is also said that the organist had an affinity for cigars, and the scent of cigar smoke is often sensed in the chapel. The night watchman even reported that his own cigar was swiped by a sneaky spirit.
3. Barat College
Barat College began as school for young women in 1858, and was named for St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, who founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800. She provided a formal education for women in an age when it was thought to be unnecessary. The school was moved from Chicago to Lake Forest in 1904.
Hauntings at the school seem to be focused on the Old Main Building, more often in the chapel. The chapel has changed little over the years and is beautifully preserved. An overwhelming scent of flowers lingers here, though no flowers can be anywhere. The cause for this smell is likely to be a tradition that ended many years ago. It was started in the 1930s as the Daisy Chain Ceremony, later to be renamed the rose and candle ceremony. A long chain of daisies would be strung together, woven with ferns, and then carried throughout the halls of the old main building, to the outside. The tradition carried on as a symbol of passing on the future to the younger class. The scents of these long since abandoned rituals are said to be smelled even to this day.
There are also reports of the ghost of a small girl. She is often seen on the fourth floor of the Old Main Building. The legend says that years ago, a little girl was playing with her ball on the fourth floor, and somehow managed to plunge to her death down the elevator shaft. There is no explanation as to why a small girl would be at the college, or why the doors to the elevator would happen to be open. Staff and students alike claim to have seen her. She is usually seen wearing a pink dress and playing with the very ball that led to her demise. Cold spots and footsteps have also been reported on the fourth floor.
Also lurking on the fourth floor is another spirit. This is said to be the spirit of a nun who met a rather tragic end. It is said that she was a young nun who tragically fell in love with a young priest. The love affair was further affected when the young woman became pregnant. Grieving over her sin, she resolved to get rid of the pregnancy herself, but overwhelmed with the further guilt of her many sins, she took her own life. The woman's ghost has been said to keep watch over the fourth floor, and has been reported to have been seen by a security guard who works there.
4. Morton College
Morton College is the second oldest 2-yr college in Illinois, having been founded in 1924 by 11 dedicated teachers. They have only been in their current location since 1975, though. The grounds of the new school were said to be haunted even before they broke ground. The land was less than desirable, being a swampy, ugly eyesore. This alone is not enough to cause it to be haunted, though.
In 1969, it became the scene of a murder. A young girl, Emily Keseg, was a student of Morton College who disappeared one night in 1969. She was supposed to be out with friends, and return home after, but something went wrong. Her body was found on the swampy land that would later be the new Morton College campus. The strangest part of this story are the numerous reports of sightings of the girl in the hours following her disappearance. Many of these sightings occurring hours after her estimated time of death. Was she trying to make contact, to let others know something had happened to her? Was it just a case of mistaken identity? No one will ever know.
Following her death, the land remained vacant for several years before it was purchased for the school. When construction began, workmen started reporting unexplained events. One worker claimed to see a young girl on the work site. Thinking of the dangers of the site, he called out to her, but as he did, the young girl leaped from the roof of the unfinished building. He rushed to her aid, but there was no one there. Now, a figure can often be seen on the roof of the building, sometimes tossing down rocks and pebbles from the roof at passersby below. No one is ever found on the roof.
Elevators at the school are said to travel up and down on their own, when only the security guards are around to oversee things. Strange sounds have been heard by these guards. The sounds of slamming doors, hurried footsteps and the sounds of someone running up and down the halls, as if some phantom is eternally late for class, have all been heard.
Building E has been plagued by various strange occurrences, including faucets turning on and off by themselves, and toilets flushing under their own power. Lights in the theater and library will flick on and off at will. The name “Emily” has been thrown about in regards to these and other strange incidents. It seems that Emily has taken up residence in the school she never got to attend. She seems to watch over the place and make herself known to many of the staff and students.
5. Benedictine University
Benedictine University was founded in 1887 by the Benedictine Monks of St. Procopius Abbey in Chicago. The college moved to Lisle, IL in 1901, and buildings were added in the 1920s. Numerous tales surround the school, including that of a haunted cemetery and tales of possession.
One story involved the rumored suicide of a student along the road that leads between the Abbey and the school. His method of suicide; laying in the middle of the road until an unsuspecting motorist drove over his body. It is said his ghost frequents the roadway where he died, as well as Jaeger Hall, his residence when he committed suicide. He is seen in rear-view mirrors, or spotted roaming the hallways of Jaeger Hall.
There is also a small cemetery in a wooded area of the campus. Rumors of Satanic rituals have been handed down over the years. Whether these stories are true, no one can say for sure. What is known is that a young woman's body was found in the area several years ago. It is thought that her spirit remains.
Ouija boards are popular tools to contact the rumored spirits at the cemetery, but one incident has become a legendary story among students. In the early 1990s, several students went out to the graveyard, Ouija board in hand, hoping to make contact with the spirits. One young man is said to have become possessed. It is said that he started screaming, flailing and biting. He was taken to his room where a priest was brought in to assist him, pray for him, and watch over him. He ended up having to be taken to a local hospital where he needed to be sedated. Was this really a tale of possession? Was there some physiological explanation for what happened, or was it just a case of getting a little carried away? With most stories like this, details have been added, changed or altered over the years. It is hard to say how much of it is rooted in fact.
6. Channing Memorial Elementary School
This is truly a terrible tale. Channing Memorial was built in 1968, in Elgin, IL. The problems began when they broke ground to build the school. The land that the school was going to be built on was already occupied. The residents weren't squatters or vagrants, though. They were the long since dead. The area had once been Bluff City Cemetery, but in the 1940s, the city decided to move the graveyard to another location. It was thought that all the bodies had been moved, but some of them were very old and lacked any actual markers. Some of the graves dated back to when Elgin was just a small settlement. It is also thought that those hired to move the graves didn't do a thorough job. Since opening, the school has experienced their share of strange occurrences. Teachers, parents and students have all claimed to have had experiences in the school.
Stories of the elevator moving from floor to floor by itself, and phantom footsteps have been reported. People have reported hearing their name being called. When they stopped to look for the source of the voice, no one was around. The sounds of laughter have also been reported. Other strange noises, such as scratching within the walls have been heard by several teachers. Are the spirits of the dead that were buried there still wandering around, since their graves were disturbed?
In the 1990s, an addition was built for the school. More bones and graves were found, proving that even after a second removal of graves, some were still left behind. It is also rumored that those that removed the bodies, often treated the dead with little respect. Bones were said to have been put into the cars or lunchboxes of workmen as cruel pranks. Are these disrespected spirits destined to wander the grounds of the school due to their poor treatment? Will they ever be laid to rest? No one can say for sure.
© 2011 Anna Marie Bowman