McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Countdown to Halloween | Urban legends of McHenry County

Legends of haunted and disturbing places are way closer than one thinks. Come sit around a campfire and hear about some McHenry community ghost stories.
Leylah Moreno
The Woodstock Opera House in the center of the Woodstock Square stands surrounded by an eerie ambiance with its urban legends, among many others in McHenry County.

Halloween is the season of all things scary, specifically scary stories. There are always legends of creepy houses and ghost hauntings told around a campfire during the Halloween season, though it is possible that these legends are far closer to home than one thinks. These local urban legends are sure to keep your doors locked, deep into the night.


“Opera House Apparition: Woodstock”

The Woodstock Opera House is rumored to house a spirit by the name of Elvira. Elvira has been spotted wearing a dancing gown with her beautiful hair hanging down to her waist. Two versions of the story exist as to what happened to Elvira and why her soul haunts the opera house, though it is unclear which one is true.

The most popular is that as a young actress, she fell into despair over the loss of a role in an upcoming ballet. As a result of her despair, she climbed the five flights of stairs to the belfry tower where she leapt to her death from the top of the Opera House’s bell tower.

The second story goes that Elvira held a broken heart after a failed audition, causing her the same despair as the first version of the story. Rather than leaping to her death, she hanged herself from where the bells are located at the top of the Opera House.

According to both tales she now occupies seat number 113 in the balcony. The seat lowers as if Elvira was watching during rehearsals. The strange thing is that the springs are loaded in the seat, meaning that the seats in the opera house do not stay in the downright position if someone is not sitting on it. Seat 113 had been checked and said to be in working order.


“Colonel Palmer House: Crystal Lake”

The Palmer House was built in 1858 by Gustavus A. Palmer and his wife. The house was originally built as a farm house until it was passed to the city of Crystal Lake in 1979 and is now maintained by the House Restoration Association where the house is open for public history tours.

Stories of hauntings at this location date back to its older days of operation when it was used as an orphanage. The owner of the orphanage treated the children very poorly, even going as far to kill them in the basement of the house.

There are reports of faint wails of children coming from within the house, even if it is completely empty. Sounds of scratching at the doors and stamping on the floor are also heard within the centuries old house.

Historical accuracy for these kinds of tales is often incorrect. The problem is, the Palmer House not once, in its 150 year history, has served as an orphanage. Such stories still live on in spirit, despite their historical inaccuracy.


“The Dole Mansion: Crystal Lake”

The thousand acre mansion was originally the summer home of Charles Dole, in 1865. Later, in the 1920s, it was created into a members-only club named the Crystal Lake Country club.

The house was later conserved for years to come where it now serves as an arts center and gallery for live music, venue rental, and numerous popular events.

It is rumored that accounts of photographers see unexplainable orbs in prints, employees experiencing drastic changes in temperature, and strange apparitions appearing and disappearing at random.

One famous instance at the Dole Mansion was an intern photographing a dead bird found on the second floor of the mansion and posting it to Facebook. Unexpectedly, someone commented under her post, claiming a person was standing in the window. The photo was reprinted and toned to get a clearer view. An apparition of a man standing in the window was indeed spotted in the photograph clearly. It is unsure where his paranormal activity stemmed from.


“Stickney House: Bull Valley”

George Stickney was the first to settle in the township at the time in 1835, and staked a claim on the frontier land. George and his wife became its leading citizens and suffered great tragedies during their life within the mansion.

They have lost seven of their children and, as a result, became devout practitioners of spiritualism. They often attended seances and communicated with spirits through mediums. Their home was designed specifically to the belief that the architecture prevented ghosts from roaming freely and trapping souls within their home.

Urban legend states that George Stickney died in his home, where his corpse was found with a look of terror on his face and his ghost is trapped to this day in that same room of which he gave his last breath.

Trespassers and the spiritually curious have claimed uneasy feelings of being followed, sudden cold sports, and threatening whispers to “go away.”

Whether or not these legends are true, they are sure to keep you on your toes, for you do not know what ghouls may be lurking in your own neighborhood.

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