Spooky stories and events to ensure Halloween horror

Javier Romano, Staff Writer

As the Bloomington-Normal weather finally begins dipping below 50 degrees and the leaves dry into a mute orange and red, students of Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State University begin prepping for their spooky festivities. 

Students require only two things to get ready: one trip to Party City, and one to 707 Liquors. That’s all Halloween really is right – getting plastered and wearing a lousy $50 costume that’s still a size too small? What happened to the frightful and giddy festivities that this massive holiday entails? 

As the leaves wither into their orange and brown shade, hushed and subtle whispers of the paranormal and the dead begin to make their yearly rounds across campus. 

Just two blocks south of Illinois Wesleyan’s campus at the Phi Mu Alpha house – a music fraternity located on East Chestnut Street – the tale of a ghostly figure in a white veil roaming the halls of the brick home looms over the residents. 

Legend has it the daughter of the home’s original owners fell in love with a sailor and got pregnant. Her father, who was a doctor, attempted to abort the pregnancy but unfortunately killed his daughter in the process. He dismembered her body and hid the pieces of his daughter beneath the home’s basement. 

In 1971, a student claimed to have seen her ghost in his bedroom numerous times. Others claim to have seen her white silhouette passively sitting on their couch.

Shadowy figures and silhouettes are constantly being noticed throughout the house. 

“Items go missing and appear somewhere completely different,” Morgan Tadish said, current IWU music student. 

Just three blocks northwest of Phi Mu Alpha resides Kemp Hall – International House at 1207 N. Main Street. Kemp Hall’s dimly lit and narrow stairwells creek and croak at the smallest of steps. The warm and damp aroma of the cramped hallways is enough to make anyone worry about what may linger inside the aging building. 

Built by A.E. DeMange and his wife in 1907, the building was sold to IWU shortly after his wife’s death. Since then, students year after year claim the house is haunted by a “lady in red” who roams the hallways, and often appears before the home’s mirrors. Maybe it’s DeMange’s wife? If you’d like to find out for yourself, you’ve got to call up your buddy at Kemp in the late hours of the night. 

Stories of paranormal presence in Bloomington-Normal aren’t limited to buildings on IWU’s campus though. We’re also home to the famous Duncan Manor House, which lies 15 minutes northeast of campus. The Duncan Manor sits on the corner of Towanda Barnes Road and Country Road 1800 N. Built in 1869, the manor has been home to many families following the tragic death of the original owner William R. Duncan. 

The colossal brick structure was abandoned for decades, it was vandalized and left in ruins in the middle of vast farmland. Thankfully, the home was bought in 2008 and has been fully restored.

Dubbed the “Mystery House in Towanda,” a building of that size and age is certain to have tales and rumors of its storied past. Legend has it that dark faces peer at passersby from behind the barricaded basement windows. Given the time period and Duncan’s strong support for the Union party, it was often rumored that the Duncan Manor worked as a safe house for slaves in the Underground Railroad. 

It’s been discovered that the Duncan family had slaves of their own that were chained to iron fastenings in the east room of the basement. This is quite eerie, given the home’s abundance of secret rooms and trap doors. People have reported hearing unexplainable noises, and seeing objects fly and move around completely on their own. 

While these ghoulish stories on IWU’s campus and beyond may make you pee your pants a little, most of them are unfortunately a bit outdated. So, if you’re still seeking some Halloween thrill and fun this October, fret no further, for our lovely home of Bloomington-Normal holds heaps of Halloween events and festivities.

A quick three minute drive down E Emerson Street takes you to Bloomington’s Constitution Trail on 100 E. Phoenix Avenue where the beloved “Haunted Trail” is carried out each October. 

For those seeking a frightful experience not suitable for little kids, there will be a “Scary Trail” on the 28th and 29th from 6:30-9:00 P.M. for people ages 13+. All you have to do to partake is show up with $3 cash in hand.

If you’re looking to up the ante on the scary meter, 11 minutes West of IWU’s campus holds Mindtrap Haunted Attraction at 10424 E. 1400 North Rd. Owned and operated by combat veterans, this near five star attraction only costs you a $15 entry fee and will be available October 28, 29, 30 and 31, doors open at 6:00 p.m. It contains a variety of jump scares and escape rooms. Mindtrap is suited for an older audience given the intensity of its scare factor.

If you’re looking for something a little more laid back this Halloween season and have no interest in encountering the white silhouette at Phi Mu Alpha, the lady in red at Kemp or even Mr. Duncan at the Duncan manor, look no further than the streets of Uptown. They’ll be decorated from block to block with ghouls and witches, and children of all ages will surely be running up and down the dimly-lit sidewalks seeking treats from local businesses. Maybe if you’re lucky, or if your costumes are good enough, you’ll be able to snag a treat or two for yourself.