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Rockford may be noted for many things, some worth celebrating (like Jane, the dinosaur) and some less desirable. But how about spooky? While just-for-fun haunted houses spring up like spiders every October, there are some not-so-obvious places that can give you a genuine haunted feeling, and some of them may be almost in your own back yard.
Local author William Gorman has researched and written about these places in his first book, Ghost Whispers: Tales From Haunted Midway. Referring to Rockfords original name when some of the first immigrant families were becoming established, Gorman gives us a fascinating glimpse into a time that seems not that far back in decades, but really is another era.
In describing the settings for these eerie tales, Gorman sheds light on the historical surroundings in which people livedand died. One thing that shines through all the stories is the range of human emotionfear, anger, sorrow, jealousy, humor and love. Was the cistern ghost actually a heartbroken mother grieving for her child? Does the spirit of Indian princess Hononegah still abide in the vicinity of Macktown Forest Preserve? What did weird Uncle Jolo do with all the stuffed animals he mounted as a taxidermist, and what was his mysterious addiction to an old wooden coffin? Read the story of an incredible rescue at a favorite swimming hole. Was the Meridian Witch really a practicer of the occult, or was she simply an old woman who wanted to live in peace? What happened when three young boys were walking home across town one midnight? Who was chasing them, and what did the magician know?
All these and more are presented as stories such as Gorman liked to listen to on his front porch on a summer evening when the family got together. As Helm Publishing says, At times unsettling, at other times lyrical and life affirming, and at times just plain frightening, theres something here for everyone in this macabre collection of spooky tales. The book includes photographs of some of the spooky places, and directions on how to get to themjust in case any adventurous readers might like to visit!
The book is available from Helm Publishing, Inc., 3923 Seward Ave., Rockford, IL 61108; or www.publishersdrive.com. ISBN: 0-9769193-2-X. Retail price is $12.95.
From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue