The controversy over the decision to save the town of Cairo, IL by blowing a hole in the levee and flooding farms in Missouri has already been making headlines. But one of the elements to this story that all too often is left out is that Cairo Illinois is actually a town of some 2,000 people and more than a few ghosts – at least that’s what legends say. Between the collapsed ruins of buildings from a bygone era and the historic mansions that have survived even to this day there is much about this troubled city that does not reach headlines, but is spoken of by both locals and those in the surrounding areas. Cairo, Illinois is an often overlooked haunted town.
Unfortunately, because of the obscurity of some of these locations in paranormal circles, many of these stories have not yet entered the official history of the town – instead residing at the edge of the official story of the already historic town. These interlopers existing at the edge often must be heard first hand by either locals or by others telling tales with an air of urban legend to them, often citing sources that cannot be verified or who have long since moved away. This unverified and more fluid form of storytelling is almost a lost art in our modern world. And yet in Cairo somehow the stories have stayed alive – passing from one ear to the next like a virus and yet somehow eluding the official recognition of the great paranormal historians so well known in the area such as Troy Taylor. Perhaps they have not been recognized because they lack the official documentation necessary to make them so. And yet somehow Cairo has lived on with these stories persisting, crossing the Mississippi, and burning in the hearts of those who find themselves passing through the streets like cold fireflies burning in the phantasmagoria of the waning night.
One of these stories tells of the Gem theater, originally built in 1910 which fell into disrepair after it closed in 1978. And yet some say when passing by its front doors they have heard the sounds of laughter coming from within as if a ghostly audience were still facing the massive projection screen which has still somehow remained intact despite the fire that claimed its interior all those years ago. Of course the building itself is only the second generation as the first was torn down and replaced by a more recent structure.
And then there are those who say the southern tip of Defiance State Park where Pierre Laclede first stepped onto what would eventually become Illinois. It’s been said this location has been occasionally heard as having “strange sounds” emanating from the point just where the rivers meet – although others contend the sound of the water must be the source of the sounds.
And this isn’t even considering the beautiful Magnolia Manor – which now operates as a museum, or the Riverlore mansion. The stories of mystery from both places would be enough to fill volumes.