A Look at Folklore from the Past in Adams County
With a new year on the horizon, this is often the time when we take a look back at events and memories from past years. In the 1930s, renowned folklorist and Quincy native Harry Hyatt returned home from New York City to visit his sister, Minnie Hyatt Small. He convinced her to start talking with people in the area about local folklore for a book he wanted to have published. Minnie collected many thousands of entries for the book published in 1935 by Western Printing and Lithographing Co. of Hannibal called “Folk-lore from Adams County, Illinois.”
The lengthy volume contains fascinating anecdotes about every subject imaginable including animals, illness, weather, food, childbirth, nightmares, love, sports and even furniture. There are also tales of fortune telling, hoodoo, witchcraft, second sight, death, spirits and ghosts. Of course, as a researcher and writer of the paranormal, these are the ones that interest me the most. I thought you might enjoy learning about some of the mysterious stories from Adams County.
Seven miles outside of Kinderhook was an old haunted house. No one would stay for long although the rent was cheap. Strange sounds could be heard like chairs moving up to the table, and a dripping noise in the corner. The story is that a young lady’s folks would not let her marry her young man. He was most upset, came to the house one night and slaughtered the entire household. The sound of dripping comes from the corner where he tossed their dead bodies.
A big two-story house by an ice house “on the bottom road going north” outside of Quincy was haunted. A large blood spot on the floor of one of the bedrooms could not be removed. The doors and windows would not stay closed. No one in the household would sleep in the room; and, no one would stay in the house for longer than a month.
There is an odd story about a brother and sister living on Eighth Street right across from each other. When their father passed away he included in his will a request that they switch houses. They didn’t honor his request, and his spirit was seen nightly by the entire neighborhood “with his big straw hat on and his cane” walking up and down the road. After they abided by his request and changed houses, his spirit wasn’t seen again.
A house near Liberty was haunted by the ghost of an old man. He appeared to the lady of the house telling her that he and his wife had been murdered and buried in an old cave. After their bones were properly buried, the spirit no longer appeared in the house.
There was “an old covered bridge near Kinderhook” that was said to be haunted by the ghost of a man murdered by gunshot. Some accounts indicate that there were two men...and, therefore, two ghosts as well.
“Five miles below Quincy on an island” was a house haunted by a woman who was slain there. Her spirit would “stand in the barn door with her hands up just like she is going to fly.” She would then disappear, and all the horses and cows in the barn would be turned out.
The spirit of a woman killed by her lover haunted a house on South 24th Street. She liked to moan and pull bedcovers off the bed while people were sleeping. The house was eventually torn down.
Near Eleventh and Broadway, a house had to be exorcised because of the rapping and pounding noises heard in the walls day and night.
A beautiful girl’s ghost would appear and disappear in front of witnesses’ eyes in a house on Seventh Street.
A house “on the south side of Vermont Street between Eighth and Ninth” was haunted by the spirit of a school teacher who had been shot by a jilted lover. Her ghost was often seen “sitting at the window in the morning, combing her hair.”
“A saloon on South Fifth Street just opposite the old Franklin School” was haunted by a woman. Eventually, the building burned down. The woman was seen standing in the upper window looking down on the crowd while a roof fell down on top of her.
Burton Cave was believed to have been haunted by a man killed in front of the cave. At night, it was said, something would grab people and pull them inside the cave.
A powerful witch allegedly living at Thirteenth and Ohio Streets was angry with her daughter for not coming home one night. Feeling the need to put a spell on someone to vent her anger, she cast it on the neighbor girl. The victim’s mother found her daughter standing at the witch’s sink “just like dead.” When she threatened to call the authorities, the spell was removed.