The year is 2016. A seemingly normal reader comes across a local museum’s blog. Intrigued, they start to read, unaware they are entering….The Twilight Zone. (Dum dum dum)
Okay, so no one is really going to enter this fifth dimension. The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite tv series, and my sister’s favorite is Supernatural, so when I came across ghost stories and supernatural happenings in Kankakee County, I felt compelled to address it. I don’t believe in ghost stories, but they are still entertaining to hear.
Blue House Specter
This story takes place on a farmhouse in ruins on Old Limestone Road. James Robinson lived in a blue house on a farm, but left to fight during the Civil War. Rumor has it that he was killed in battle, but there are records saying he drowned in Tennessee. His wife, before she knew he died, went to draw water on the farm, and a ghost in a soldier’s uniform was waiting for her back at the house. She did not recognize it to be her husband, but grabbed her daughter, and ran. Mrs. Robinson ran to her neighbor, Major Williams, and told him what she saw. A few days later, she learned that her husband had died. She ended up leaving Illinois and moving back to her parents in Pennsylvania. Since then, the house is said to be haunted by James Robinson, waiting for his wife to come back to him.
Kankakee’s Haunted Railroad Tracks
This legend says a bus full of kids were crossing the railroad tracks in Kankakee a number of years ago, and it was hit by a train. If you pass over them at night, you can hear the kids laughing. According to a website detailing the haunted places in Illinois, if you stop on the railroad tracks, you can hear the sounds of a train coming and your car will start to roll off the tracks, like it was being pushed. Apparently, small hand prints are sometimes found on the cars as well. However, it did not cite an exact location where these things happened.
This legend may be confused with another one, because there are many similar versions of this story in other locations.
In the old theater center, there are said to be two ghosts haunting the place: an unknown child and Julie Remmington, the woman who first built the Majestic Theater.
Manteno State Hospital
Manteno State Hospital closed in 1985, but most of the buildings are still standing. There are also underground tunnels, mostly still intact, that connect all of the buildings. This has been featured on television shows and rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Illinois. Legends say that the spirits of the patients are still around because of the inhumane treatments performed and the typhoid outbreak that killed 60 people.
Papoose’s Cradle, or the Cradle Elm
This legend says that you can hear a papoose crying out in October, especially if there is a south wind. If you go east on Court Street, out of town heading towards Momence, past the Kankakee River bridge and pull over to the left, you will see elm trees along the water. This is where you can hear the papoose crying out. The Potawatomi would entomb infants in a hollowed log and place them in the branches of elm trees. According to the legend, the infant you hear is the son of a chief.
The famed Paramount theater is said to have been haunted by a previous janitor named George. Employees say that his presence can be felt, and sometimes you can hear doors opening, especially to the refreshment stands. If you listen carefully, you can sometimes hear the clanging of his keys.
Although not technically in Kankakee County, this may be the most famous paranormal story this region has to offer. It has become the subject of “The Possessed”, a documentary from 2009, and two books. The story starts in 1847, when a 6-month old baby named Mary Roff started having fits. Now she was believed to be epileptic, but she was put into a Peoria asylum. Mary Roff died in 1865 at the age of 18. 13 years later, a neighbor and 13-year old girl named Mary Lurancy Vennum (called Lurancy) was found in a trance. When questioned, she said she was an old lady, a young man, and then finally named Mary Roff. She also had the same ‘fits’ as Mary Roff. Mary’s mother, Asa Roff, believed in spirits and thought this truly was her daughter coming back to see her family. She convinced the Vennum family not to have Lurancy committed. She continued having this possession for 10 months. When Roff’s spirit finally departed, Lurancy was able to return to a normal life. She ended up moving to Kansas, marrying a farmer, and having 11 children. This is believed to be the first documented possession in America. Tours were available of the Roff home, but closed in 2015.
According to the Daily Journal in 2013 (which also depicted some of these stories), City Tavern on West Ave. in Kankakee brought in a team from the Illinois Paranormal Society to investigate a spirit that would push visitors up the stairs after being in the basement. There were no specific results, just that the team was still investigating some leads.
There is likely no truth to most of these stories. However, they are fun to hear and ask “what if?” There are probably a lot more stories and legends that are told that I did not come across. I looked through my research materials here at the museum, the Daily Journal online, and a short Google search. Feel free to leave comments if you know of any fun paranormal stories to share!
You Learn Something Every Day:
The first automobile theft in Kankakee happened in 1914.
Feel free to leave comments and/or questions! I’d love to know what you think of the posts, the blog, or anything you would like to see in future posts!