CHARLESTON — Three Coles County legends are examined in “Paranormal Illinois,” a new book by Michael Kleen.
The book includes three chapters devoted to the Airtight Bride, EIU’s Pemberton Hall and Ashmore Estates.
Kleen said this is the first book to examine Airtight Bridge and Ashmore Estates. The chapter on Ashmore Estates is the longest in the book and contains a complete account of its history, dating back to its days as the Coles County Poor Farm.
The book is dedicated to Mark Temples, a local broadcaster and journalist who died in 2007. Temples aided Kleen with research, especially pertaining to the Airtight Bridge case.
Kleen, who grew up in the Chicago area, lived in Charleston and attended EIU from 2000 to 2008. He earned a master’s degree in American history from EIU, and is currently taking graduate classes at Western Illinois University. He now resides in Rockford.
He also has written numerous other books, including “Tales of Coles County, Illinois”; “Legends and Lore of Illinois: Case Files”; “Autumn and Winter: Seasons of Gray”; and “One Voice.” He also is the author of “Legends and Lore of Illinois,” a monthly newsletter that highlights infamous places in Illinois.
He is the publisher and executive editor of “Black Oak Presents,” a quarterly journal of Middle American art and culture, and the proprietor of Black Oak Press Illinois and Black Oak Media.
Kleen said “Paranormal Illinois” is the culmination of nearly a decade of research, but much of the book was completed in the first half of 2009.
“I did not choose the title,” Kleen said. “Yes, it is a book about the ghost lore of Illinois, but it also goes in-depth into the history of the state. This is not your usual book of ghost stories.
“It is fun to read, but it is also well documented and suitable for a library, a school, or a university.
“I don’t just write about the ghost stories, I write about the history of each location. In fact, in the case of Airtight Bridge, it’s 98 percent historical,” he said. “I have interviews in that chapter with journalist Mark Temples and the daughter of the Airtight victim, Vanessa LaGesse. As far as I am aware, these chapters are the most comprehensive accounts of the history and legends associated with any of these locations ever written.”
Kleen said he has been interested in the paranormal since he was a child.
“I’m not sure what triggered the interest; it could have been the result of experiencing the deaths of several close relatives at a young age, or it could have been the influence of the movie ‘The ‘Burbs,’ which I loved as a kid. But even before those events I think I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on.
“I started writing short stories in middle school and high school, most of which had paranormal themes,” he said. “I didn’t start writing about local folklore and ghost stories until I went to Eastern Illinois University in the fall of 2000, when I discovered that there were a lot of interesting local places that hadn’t been written about before.”
Contact Beth Heldebrandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-6857.