“In a matter of almost forty years, I stumbled – purely by accident – into ghostly and phantasmal locals and places at every single stop, in every single year and in every venue that the realm of the paranormal offers. For a time, I became paranoid and almost convinced that some unseen force was guiding me from haunted situation to haunted situation everywhere I went. However, the solution to this mystery-life of mine was far more veiled and prosaic: I lived in Illinois. It took me a long time, loads of research and numerous relocations within this beautiful state to fully come to terms with just how many exceptional haunted locations could be found everywhere throughout the state. Illinois is a weird place!”
- Scott Maruna, in The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations
It was September 1, 1944, the fifth anniversary of the opening salvos of World War 2. American GIs had been fighting their way across northern France for three months. Across the nation, the press churned out lurid accounts of Nazi rocket attacks on London, and comic books depicting Nazi thugs battling super heroes with space age weapons were sold at dime store counters. In Peoria, Illinois, the search for a German prisoner of war who had escaped from nearby Camp Ellis ended that afternoon in a local tavern.
At a nondescript home on Marshall Avenue in Mattoon, Elsie Kearney and her three year old daughter Dorothy readied for bed. Her sister, Martha, occupied the living room and two young children were asleep in other parts of the house. As Mrs. Kearney lay with her eyes closed, she began to smell an overpowering, sweet scent she assumed came from the flowers outside her window. It seemed harmless at first, until she felt her lower body go limp and her legs became unresponsive. “Martha!” she screamed. “Martha, help!”
After a few agonizing moments in which the paralysis slowly climbed up Mrs. Kearney’s body, her sister burst into the room. “What’s wrong?” she asked, frantically throwing on the light.
Mrs. Kearney explained that she was unable to move from the bed. Martha noticed the unusual smell, determined it must be coming from outside, and closed the window. She then rushed over to a neighbor’s house and told him to call the police. The neighbor, Mr. Karl Robertson, searched the Kearney’s yard, but failed to find anything out of the ordinary. The police had similar results, and Mrs. Kearney recovered the use of her limbs shortly before midnight. Her daughter was also ill, and remained so until the next morning.
Meanwhile, a friend had gone out to find Mr. Kearney, who was working late as a taxi driver. He was unable to return home until 12:30, when he noticed a man lurking near his wife’s bedroom window. He later described the man as tall, wearing dark clothes and a knit cap. He shouted and rushed toward the intruder, but the intruder disappeared into the darkness. Mattoon police officers were again summoned to the home, but found nothing.