Spooky sites topic of book

By Chris Coates


01/16/08 - St. Clair Journal News

It was last summer that Chad Lewis, a paranormal investigator and author from Wisconsin, traveled south to visit a little-known graveyard just off Illinois Route 3 in Granite City.

Known as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows cemetery, the site was overgrown and almost entirely hidden.

But Lewis was there because he knew its secret: The graveyard, many said, was teeming with spirits.

"Lucky they didn't come to us when we visited," he said recently.

The old graveyard is one of dozens of spooky sites, eerie establishments and haunted happenings Lewis and friend Terry Fisk visited and researched for their new book, "The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations," which hit stores last month.

The 304-page paperback, the fifth in a series about haunted Midwestern sites by the authors, highlights urban legends and purportedly paranormal activities in a wide slate of homes, bridges, theaters and roads across the state.

Among the local sites are:

*Historic Miner's Institute Theater, 204 W. Main St. in Collinsville, which has had reports of loud noises, shadowy figures and indications of possibly four spirits;

*Three Mile House, the site of a former home off Illinois Highway 159 near Edwardsville where some have reported glowing figures and floating objects;

*"Gates of Hell," a series of concrete tunnels along Lebanon Road in Collinsville from which strange noises and ghoulish screams are said to emanate;

Lewis, who has previously paired with Fisk on books about haunted Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota, said the idea for the tome was hatched last year, after the duo had finished a book on haunted sites in Iowa and began receiving tips about haunted sites in Illinois.

"It kind of went from there," said Lewis, who also hosts a Wisconsin radio show about paranormal activities and has tracked down urban legends surrounding Area 51 in southern Nevada and the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.

For the new book, the authors last summer traveled Illinois tracking down tips, digging through old files and conducting interviews.

"We starting asking questions about the case," Lewis said.

He said all of the paranormal events in the books have at least two witnesses, although in the case of "Gates of Hell," there were many more.

"Everyone seems to have seen it," he said. "There were some that have been going to for 40, 50 years."

Lewis, who lives in Eau Claire, Wis., said the creepy nature of the gates, which are actually scattered over a few miles, make it one of the best legends in the state, he said.

"It's one of my favorites," he said.

He also pointed to the 1917 Miner's Theater in downtown Collinsville, where generations have reported aberrations and noise.

Christina Mize, who serves on the theater's board and is a member of the Western Illinois Society for Paranormal Research, which investigates spooky sites, said that the theater's spooky track record is well known among many Collinsville residents.

She hopes the book will bring new attention nationwide and hopefully draw attention to efforts to preserve the old theater.

"It's something we hope to preserve," she said.

Lewis said so far response for the book, available in bookstores and online for $14.95, has been positive - and has spawned another tome, this one about haunted sites in Florida.

"We knew that people would be interested in ghost stories. But we were surprised people had such an interest in these," he said.

With so many haunted sites, Lewis hopes his book helps readers realize their neighborhood "isn't as boring as it might seem."

Haunted sites are everywhere, Lewis said, "you just have to dig a little."

E-mail: ccoates@yourjournal.com

"Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations"



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