Voices from the Grave: Mr. Blakesley and his musical mouse

By Kathi Kresol
Local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events

A story about a man having a mouse in his house may not seem very newsworthy today, but that is exactly what was in the headlines of the Rockford newspapers in December 1883. Apparently, Mr. Blakesley, who lived “at the foot of Winnebago Street” during that time, had been awakened by strange noises in the night. He described the sounds much like the singing of a canary. Mr. Blakesley told of his search that went on for several nights until he was awakened by the sounds that were now coming from his very bedroom! He stayed still, but very quietly looked around the room until he spotted a small mouse on the bureau. Blakesley was astonished to see the little creature “warbling with the greatest freedom.”

He decided to trap the little mouse, and finally, after many attempts, succeeded. Blakesley had heard of this phenomenon, when a similar story was recently reported out east. His was the first account to come from this part of the country, however.

Rockfordians were fascinated by the story of this little musical mouse. It was described as “a beautiful maltese color, with a breast of snowy white fur.” The articles claim that the head is different from an ordinary mouse because it was longer and the ears were larger. The mouse’s little hands and feet were entirely white.

Blakesley built a little house from tin for his musical guest. It had two stories, and he would set fresh bedding outside of the cage. The little mouse would pull it through the bars of the cage and carry it to the second floor to build a little nest. Every morning, the mouse would pull the bedding to the first floor, where it would spread it out to air.

Some of the habits of this extraordinary mouse varied as well. Mr. Mouse, as he is named in one article, would daintily reach into the food bowl and eat one seed at a time, much like a canary. When a basin of water would be added to the little cage, Mr. Mouse would drink his fill and then proceed to dip both of his front paws in the water and scrub his face. The sight of the little creature’s little, wet paws, stroking his fur in such a “deliberate manner,” would thoroughly entertain his audience.

What really delighted the audience, however, was the sight of the tiny creature giving a musical performance. Blakesley had successfully trained the animal to perform on command. He would tap his finger on the cage several times and the mouse would stop whatever it was doing, sit up and open its tiny mouth. The sounds that came out would startle first-time guests. The sounds were not a squeak, as one might expect from this animal. They were described as a “melody of sounds — high and low pitch, sharp and clear, low and trembling, exactly like a canary.” The mouse would also bob his head while singing, increasing the similarity.

The effect on the audience was always astonishing to observe. Most would laugh outright, and then they would question Blakesley about the “freak of nature.” He would always point out the similarities between Mr. Mouse and a canary, calling the paradox of seeing one type of creature mimicking another “astonishing and interesting.”

The similar story of the capture of another such creature took place in London, England, and that little animal was put into a museum. Blakesley had several offers for the purchase of his unique songster, including one from the Chicago Museum, but he had turned them all down, content to share his delightful performer with his neighbors here in Rockford.

Kathi Kresol is a local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events. Through Haunted Rockford, Kathi gives paranormal and haunted history tours and sponsors other paranormal events in and around Rockford throughout the year. For more of Kathi’s history articles, and for information about upcoming paranormal events, visit www.hauntedrockford.com.

From the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue

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