Illinois’ bloody history can be traced back to the gangs that roamed the countryside all the way back in the times of Charlie Berger and Al Capone. Organized crime may have been born on the East Coast, but it certainly cut its first baby teeth in Illinois. Of course the bloody process would often leave hundreds dead and their ghosts would haunt the countryside to this day.
Mysterious Mattoon Illinois, who received notoriety in the 1930’s and 40’s for the feared Mad Gasser, has a paranormal counterpart in the form of a dead little girl’s doll. Behind the Coles County airport there is a place called The Rag Doll Cemetery. As the legend goes, the cemetery was a place where the deceased could rest in peace until the interment of a little girl who had been murdered. A blue dressed doll with red hair would follow the little girl everywhere she went, usually by being carried although it would also appear in some places as though it had a life of its own. When she was murdered, her grief stricken family placed the doll in her coffin with her to keep her company.
Later, however, some reported that the doll had somehow escaped the coffin and was wandering the graveyard at night, often hanging by the neck from a tree around midnight staring at passersby with a grim button eyed look of menace. Those who see the doll claim it is alive. While the person responsible for the death of the little girl was never found, and the case was dropped under mysterious circumstances, some say the doll got her revenge one way or another. Still others say she haunts the graveyard with the intention of reminding those who pass through not to forget the lost soul still buried beneath the ground.
One witness, passing through the area reported that they heard the sound of screaming coming from within the cemetery in the middle of the day. Upon entering, the witness ran to a small outcropping of graves next to a large tree on the outskirts of the cemetery. It was autumn, and they ran to the tree, thinking someone had either fallen or was up in the tree scared to come down. Upon reaching the tree, he noticed a blue clad doll, its red hair waving in the wind hanging by its neck with one button eye clinging to its smiling stitched face. Looking around he found no one to be present who could have been screaming, and later wondered if it was merely the wind blowing through the trees making the unmistakable sound of the sounds of terror, or if it could have been coming somehow from that doll.
Elsewhere, in Belleville just East of the Mississippi River, the Lincoln theater is one of the town’s most historical locations with numerous historical films being presented to audiences since “The Old Nest” played there the first night in 1921 for the price of 27 cents . The St. Claire historical society presented a bronze plaque to the theater to commemorate the stay of Charles Dickens at the Mansion House Hotel which stood in the same spot. No one knows who haunts the location, but an estimated seven or eight ghosts reside here. One story has a construction worker, who was fixing the tile flooring getting up and as he returns the floor is completely finished within seconds.
Of hundreds of locations in Illinois that are haunted, these are two you’re less likely to hear about in mainstream news as they’re less famous. As with any location, be safe and don’t trespass after hours or in a way that’s disrespectful to the dead. And tread softly, for you never know who may be watching.