Voices From the Grave: The Courthouse Lawn Ghost
Rockford has reported ghost stories for many years now including a news article that was featured in the Rockford Morning Star June 30, 1935 edition. This particular report originated from rumors of a “ghost” on the courthouse lawn.
A little background must be given to understand these rumors fully. It seems that in February 1935 the Rockford Better Housing Program came up with a wonderful idea to motivate Rockford homeowners to remodel and “modernize” their homes, no matter the condition or age of the dwelling. The idea called for the house to be displayed where all could see the progress of the work. It was decided to move a 64 year old house that was in very sad condition to the courthouse lawn. All of the materials needed would be donated by local supply dealers and the work would be completed by Rockford workers.
The house was moved, scaffolding was created and the work began. The roof was the first part of the project and everyone was impressed when the roof was partially completed within a short time. Then, as sometimes happens with remodeling projects, the work hit a snag. The work dwindled and then completely stopped.
Finally, in June, the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors deemed the house an “eyesore” and ordered the project removed from the courthouse lawn. This motivated the project team again and for a week work continued at a steady pace. Then everything halted yet again.
It was then the rumors began. An enterprising reporter from the Morning Star was on the trail of the story and attempted to find someone working on the house to interview. This is when he heard of the midnight visitor to the construction site. The reporter heard tales of a misty white figure carrying a saw in one hand and a hammer in another. Sounds of work drifted across the courthouse lawn until the early morning hours.
The fearless news reporter decided to see this spirit for himself. He invited a photographer on the rare chance that something might appear during their stakeout. Now, remember this was long before the television shows of today where we have grown accustomed to the thought of “ghost hunting”.
The young reporter found a saw horse as a seat and positioned himself on the inside of the window leading to the porch of the home. The photographer hid behind a tree that allowed him a clear line of sight. They waited. And they waited. And they waited some more until the reporter was sure that he had been the object of someone’s idea of a joke. He was just about ready to head back to the office when suddenly he saw something moving beside the house. He caught his breath and leaned forward toward the window to get a better view. He was startled to see a white figure floating through the air and heading directly toward the window where he sat. The figure continued to head toward the reporter’s location until the photographer stepped out from his hiding place and snapped a picture. This blinded the reporter for a minute and by the time he could see again, the ghost had disappeared.
The reporter and the photographer were very excited about the possibility that they had actually verified the story and captured a spirit on film. They raced back to the newspaper’s offices to develop the film. When they finally held the print in their hands they realized they had evidence to support their claim of a ghostly worker.
The reporter returned several more times during the hours when ghosts are said to walk but every trip was in vain. The ghost must have known of the reporter’s stakeout for it is said that nightly construction ceased and no further work was completed on the house.
The house was eventually ordered moved to Calvin Park Boulevard where the reports on the progress of repairs along with the sightings of the ghostly construction worker faded into obscurity.
Kathi Kresol is a local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events.