Some authors log onto the Internet to do research. Stephen Osborne contacts paranormal investigators and does whatever it takes to tell the tale even if it means standing in the dark in a haunted theater, barn or house.
Osborne is the author of “The Ghosts of Northern Illinois,” published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. He presented a program on Oct. 9 at the Schaumburg Twp. District Library in Illinois. He arrived with a box of his trade paperbacks, a computer powerpoint presentation and a wicked sense of humor. The audience immediately was drawn into the ghostly tales lit up on the oversized projection screen. Many enjoyed learning about paranormal sightings from cable television shows and so they were more open to Osborne’s program.
The first question Osborne asked of those that gathered was “How many people have seen a ghost, specter, or apparition?”
He stated he was not a part of any paranormal investigation group. He was just interested in ghosts and ghost stories.
“After 2008, I said to myself that I was interested in this. Ghost Hunters had been on TV for awhile and I decided I was going to write a book. I noticed that no one had written anything about South Bend so I decided to. I thought who wouldn’t want to be in a ghost book? I was going to call up these people and say I heard your place was haunted…”
He explained that the truth is that you spend nights in cold, drafty houses. By two and three in the morning nothing still has happened. You start tapping your EFM meters to see if they’re working. That occurs sometimes. Other times, if you’re brave enough to voyage into the ghostly domains you may observe more than a few things. It’s not just observing, it’s sensing and hearing. Osborne’s book explains that there are two different types of hauntings: One is an intelligent haunt where the entity knows you are present and attempts to contact you or interact in some way. Then there’s a residential haunt, which occurs whether anyone is present or not. It’s like a tape recording that reruns an event at a certain time or date if the conditions are right. He noted that ghost hunters use the following devices during their investigations: cameras and recording devices to capture EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and an EMF meter.
Osborne’s narration of his slideshow presentation was a bit on the frightening side so he interprets with a sense of humor to lighten things up.
Below are just a few summaries of the “hot spots” Osborne focused on in his program and his book.
Originally known as the Coronado Theater
Willard Van Matre, in the 1920s, was an officer of the Schumann Piano company located in Rockford. With American families gathering for radio programs and leaving their pianos to gather dust, the company recognized the decline of sales. They came up with the idea of building an atmosphere movie palace. These architectural buildings had become focal points in the U.S. because of their design and the entertainment they offered the community. Five stores and eighteen apartments were added to the investment property to ensure its success. The company formed the Rockford Enterprises Group and placed Van Matre at the helm. Their movie palace was designed by architect Frederick Klein. Van Matre and his wife, Erma, rented two apartments over the front lobby, making it one with Art Deco elements. They signed for it in 1927, but didn’t move in until 1932. With great pride, Van Matre acted as host greeting those that bought tickets to watch the Hollywood movies or the live theatrical performances. In 1953, he died and his wife continued on as manager until her death in 1970. Shortly after, Osborne explains, patrons began hearing “odd sounds, phantom scents, and seeing ephemeral apparitions,” which had some people thinking Mrs. Van Matre is one of the spirits that still remain in the Coronado. Other people smell the perfume “Evening in Paris” which was popular during the 1920s and ‘30s. Lights that were shut off would turn on again and there’s been shadows and more in the old theater.
A roadhouse in Oregon, IL
As far as Osborne can determine through research, the roadhouse was a grocer in the late 1800s. It became a gasoline station and then a bar. During Prohibition, Eva Stenhouse owned the property and her husband supplied locals with liquor in the basement. In the popular meeting place, under the radar, there was also gambling. Even Chicago gangsters hung out there. In 1934, the roadhouse reopened out from under its dark cloak of operation. At this time, Esther ran the roadhouse and the poker games continued. A new owner bought the restaurant in 1993 and he had a huge renovation job ahead of him. He began hearing “odd” noises at night. Then, not once, but three times, a woman appeared and stated how wonderful the renovations will be when they were completed. Twice he didn’t think anything of it. The third time he followed her out of the building. He followed her as soon as she left, but he didn’t see her anywhere. Afterward, the new owner smelled cigars and heard the sounds of poker chips. No one was there. One song frequently played on the jukebox after closing.
These and other stories can be found in Osborne’s book. Check it out.
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