Spirited stories and legends combine history with mystery in ghost stories and local lore of the Midwest, and links to some further afield. On Halloween, suspend your disbelief for a few minutes while you read the stories. Then you can decide for yourself what’s fact or legendary fiction.
Telephone to the Dead and Haunted College
In 1856-57, a of group Presbyterian ministers traveled north of Chicago by train seeking to find their ideal location to form a new community and build a college. They got off the train at a stop between Evanston and Waukegan and walked to the highest point above the lake, in a forested area. This became the town and college of Lake Forest that was designed based on the ideals of Frederick Law Olmsted with curved streets and town center. In the early 1900’s, Lake Forest residents were involved in the popular American Spiritualist Movement of 1848 to 1920 that had swept the country where members conducted séances to communicate with the departed. Spiritualists believed that trained mediums could communicate with spirits of the dead that lived in a spirit world.
At this time, a rumor was going around that Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, had invented a telephone to talk to the dead. This rumor turned into a legend that Edison or one of his workmen, named Frank, had invented or been working on this technology. The story goes that Frank, who lived in Lake Forest, had been working on this device when he disappeared one night. Now Frank’s ghost haunts the college and area in the town around Sheridan Road.
In November 2011, Chris Moon, a ghost hunter, visited Lake Forest College to find Frank and other ghosts on campus.
Telephone to the Dead
Lighthouse keepers take their duties very seriously to maintain the lighthouse station and keep the light shining to protect sailors from harm. Many keepers lived at the station with their wives and children, and both husbands and wives worked to keep the light shining. Still shipwrecks occurred on the Great Lakes. The icy, frigid waters of Lake Superior are especially dangerous.
The worst shipwreck in Great Lakes maritime history was the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald that sunk with all twenty-nine men aboard on November 10 near Split Rock Lighthouse, in Two Harbors, Minn. People have reported seeing a light from the out-of-service lighthouse every year around the time of the shipwreck. It’s true.
On November 10th, the decommissioned navigational beacon light is turned on to shine out on Lake Superior in memory of the sailors of the Edmund Fitzgerald and those ships Great Lakes shipwrecks.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Visitors and residents of these Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have reported seeing lights shining and ghosts of the keepers, and in one instance a cat, that continue their duties to watch over at the lighthouse and protect:
Ghostly beacons shine on more than one coast, and Coastal Living magazine’s list of haunted lighthouses has lighthouses from Maine to California.
Diana of the Dunes
What would you do if you saw a beautiful, nude young woman in the moonlight swimming in Lake Michigan rise up and walk along the sandy Indiana Dunes? Would you be afraid or attracted to her?
Most of men that have watched Diana of the Dunes skinny dip in the lake are happy to have sighted her. They talked about her to friends and other locals only to find out that they will never be able to ask her for a date. She is believed to be Alice Mable Gray, a beautiful woman, who lived along the Chesterton, Ind., and loved to swim naked in the lake. She died after the birth of her second child, and returns as the spirit of a young woman to swim in the blue waters by the Dunes.
Jesse Woodson James was born in Kearney and died in St. Joseph, Missouri. He has been called both an outlaw and a folk hero, and has become a legend of the Wild West. He lived during hard times where people struggled to earn a living off the land. James became a member of the infamous James-Younger Gang that robbed banks and stagecoaches across the Old West. But James never robbed the poor, and that earned him a nickname as a western style Robin Hood.
James’ outlaw life ended early at 34 years old when he was shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford, a member of the gang, who killed him to cash in on a reward for James. Still the legend of James lives on, and locals say he spirit stays on at the James Farm in Kearney.
Are these stories of troubled souls that cannot rest in peace? Or does the essence of their spirits revisit places of happier times? I’ll let you decide.
Either way there are many legends and tales of colorful characters, beautiful spirits and ghostly beacons that combine history with mystery making interestingly eerie stories for Halloween night.