Beetcafe.com
rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 10/25/2005
The Rockford Area - Still Haunted After All These Years
by Gary Hill
gary@beetcafe.com
www.musicstreetjournal.com

Greetings fellow ghost hunters and ghost busters, it is that time of year again - the haunting time of Halloween. That means it's time once again to turn our attention to stories of the otherworldly focused in the greater Rockford area. This time we will stay completely close to home ground, with the only stories not taking place actually in the forest city itself occurring in Machesney Park and Cherry Valley. You might recall from the previous installment of haunted Rockford that the theater arts area of Rockford College is a haunting hot spot - or perhaps "cold spot" would be more appropriate. It seems that the undead might have a special place in their heart for the theater, as this is not the only performance arts center in Rockford to be reported as "haunted." Our story for this year will begin with other haunted theaters.

 

First let's have a look at a couple of High School theaters in the area. East High school is said to be occupied by a former employee of the school who was a theater lover. One man who used to work there saw a figure of a woman walking on the balcony in the auditorium. Fortunately the man had recognized the woman and reported her to be his former co-worker "Addy" - the theater folks at the school call her "Haddy." According to numerous reports Addy makes her presence known on a regular basis. Her footsteps are frequently heard in the empty auditorium. The exit lights flash, but when the wiring is checked (and rechecked) there is no problem. Doors slam shut seemingly on their own and thing are moved around when no one is in the auditorium. There have even been those who reported hearing faint singing when there is no one (at least not of the living variety) anywhere to be found.

 

The spirit reported to haunt Jefferson High School's auditorium doesn't seem to be nearly as comfortable as the one at East High. The rumored method of her death goes far to explain this lack of happiness. According to the story a girl fell from the ladder on stage by the props balcony and to her death. There are many reports of hearing cries and moans, but these seem only audible during shows. Sometimes theater students have actually seen a shadow attempting to get up off of the ground.

 

That brings us to perhaps the granddaddy of all Rockford theater hauntings - The Coronado Theater. I have it on good advice from former employees of the theater that this place has reports of ghostly happenings that date all the way back to the era right after it opened. I was told that several workmen died by falling from the catwalks during the construction of the theater. Mind you, these were men who were quite used to walking on girders above the ground - not the kind of people likely to fall and be killed. The rumor that was said to have been circulated at the time was that some unseen force had pushed them. I have also been told that even in recent years people have had a very uneasy feeling up on those catwalks - and we are again talking about theater people who are accustomed to such structures in other theaters.  One theory is that the haunting of the theater began at the time the ground was broken. This theory says that perhaps this ground was actually Native American burial ground. Keep in mind that the theater is built only one block from Beattie Park, which is documented and preserved as sacred internment space for the Native tribes. That makes this seem like a possibility.

 

Perhaps that explanation serves to account for another reported anomaly in the building. I hesitate to call this one a "ghost," though, as those I've spoken to that have seen it said it seemed more physical. This being is reported as being a short (3 feet or so tall) all white being with legs, but no arms or discernable facial features. Those who have seen it are under the belief that it might "live" in tunnels that are built under the theater. While those tunnels are rather cramped and uncomfortable for a human form, they would be a good size for such a creature (or creatures) to move around freely. One person reported an encounter with this thing in detail - and his story seems consistent with other reports. According to this man (a former employee of the theater) he was working late alone in the theater when he saw the curtains on the stage moving, as if someone were running their hand along the curtain as they were walking on the other side of it. Hoping that it was just a breeze flowing across the stage from somewhere he walked to the stage and parted the curtains to get to the other side. When he did he saw the creature - doing almost precisely what the movement of the curtains lead him to believe was happening. The only difference was that lacking hands, it was the creature's torso moving the curtain. He said that both he and the creature seemed shocked - both stopping fully in their tracks and staring at the other - well at least so it seemed - he did say that the "white thing" (that was the name he gave it) had no eyes or facial features that he could see. The creature regained its composure first, turning and running into the shadows and away from the stage. He was unable to find where it had run off to, but saw glimpses of it on other occasions. He also found from speaking to others working there, that they also had had run ins with this being or beings.

 

I know of another person who went on a ghost scouting expedition to the theater - after hours. The group was accompanied by a member of the staff who had a key to get them in. They decided to leave the lights off and make their way to the balcony and sit - waiting - for something, what they didn't know - to happen. They sat in the quiet and dark for quite sometime with no indication of anything out of the ordinary. That was when they heard the sound of the outer door being unlocked and opened - and two sets of footsteps coming through the place - one male and one female in heels. Everyone in the group recognized the sound as being very distinct and very recognizable. The thought was that someone had seen their after hours entry and called the police to investigate. It was decided that while they would be in no trouble for being there (the person who let them in had full authority to do this) an encounter with the police would be something they would care to avoid. Therefore they hurried back out to the front door and left. It was only after their hasty retreat that they had time to release there were several problems with what the sounds had seemed to indicate. First, there were no women at the time who had keys to the theater (and in fact the only other person who was reported to have keys was out of town) - and assuming a male officer (heels aren't exactly standard police issue) the other person would have had to have been the one to open the door. Secondly, other than this intrepid party it didn't seem likely that people would be wandering around the theater without lights (even police officers) yet no lights had been turned on and no indication of flashlights panning about were seen. Then they also realized that they had had to unlock the door to leave - they had locked it behind themselves. That meant that either the door had not been unlocked after them or it was relocked - they heard the sound of the lock unlocking, but never heard it being relocked after the sound of the door closing. Their overall consensus was that someone or some thing didn't want them there and had created this particular set of sounds figuring that it would get them to leave more than something more occult like. They resolved to return another time - most of their nerves were frazzled at this point, but never did.

 

While theaters seem to be popular with the spirit world in Rockford, they also have been reported to frequent two of the area's malls. Cherryvale Mall is the first of them we'll look at here. Numerous current and former employees have issued reports of unusual happenings in this mall. There have been stories of items moving on their own, hangers swinging around by themselves and clothes falling off racks by themselves. Perhaps more ominous there are those who have told tales of bathroom doors being held closed and hearing phantom voices. Some employees have reported that the store that had been left neat and tidy the night before would be trashed upon entry the next morning. Then there are the stories of mall employees feeling as though they are being followed by some unseen presence.

 

Machesney Park Mall is also not free from ghost stories. Former employees have reported a large number of phenomenon over the years. One store (no longer in the mall) was plagued with electronics issues.  The alarm system would trigger itself and their stereo would shut off on its own. That latter one was even more unusual than on might suspect.  Apparently the switch on the sound system was one that would be inset when on and flush with the face when off. It could only be triggered by a push on the surface. When the system would shut off and employee would go to the back to turn it back on, they would find that the switch was physically in the off position - and no one had been back there.

 

I have also heard reports of a poster rack in one of the stores turning on its own. It was described as turning page, by page, like someone is looking at the posters. When the employees approached there was no one there, but yet the pages of the rack would continue turning on their own for a time, then eventually stop. It wasn't a slowing process to a stop, but simply scrolling one poster at a time, and always stopped on the same poster. Numerous people who worked at this store apparently witnessed this activity on various occasions.

 

So, there we have the 2005 edition of Beet Café's look at the haunted Rockford area. Keep in mind if you choose to do your own investigations that there are definite legal restrictions on various areas, and we advise you to make sure you are breaking no laws when you check out locales. In any event, enjoy the stories, give them thought, and believe them or not - we hope they give a little chill to your Halloween season. Don't forget, if you have your own stories - or get some new encounters, please email them to gary@beetcafe.com so that we can include them in next year's story. Also, thanks to all those who submitted their chilling stories for this time around. In honor of Halloween we at Beet Café would like to take this opportunity to say in closing - BOO!

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