Central Illinois author Troy Taylor's
"Bloody Illinois" is the newest addition to his "Dead Men Do Tell Tales"
series. Taylor is the founder of the American Ghost Society, the Illinois &
American Hauntings Tours, and the author of more than 50 books. In this
edition, "Taylor unlocks files of rare, seldom-told and favorite stories
from both the cities and rural areas of the Prairie State." Here's a sample
of the sensational episodes of terrifying crimes and hauntings:
"The First Century of Illinois Crime"
The first part of the book covers the history and hauntings from the
early period of statehood to the early 1900s. One of the more bizarre
criminal cases in central Illinois occurred in Menard County in 1826.
In the 1820s Nathaniel and Peggy Van Noy established a homestead
approximately five miles west of present-day Athens. By all accounts the
couple enjoyed a happy marriage and Nathaniel's blacksmith shop prospered.
On Aug. 26, 1826, passers-by found the lifeless body of Peggy Van Noy on the
couple's cabin floor. Suspicion turned to her husband after an array of sophisticated
counterfeiting equipment was discovered on their property.
Van Noy was
convicted of his wife's murder and condemned to the gallows -- but not
before he made a deal with Springfield doctor Addison Philleo. The good
doctor sold Van Noy a device "which applied to the corpse just after death,
could reanimate the body." The deal was ruined when Van Noy's body was left
hanging for five hours after the execution.
To this day, visitors claim to see the ghostly, spectral image of Peggy
Van Noy wandering the woods and fields of the old family property.
"The Roaring 20s"
The next part of the book looks at the murder and mayhem that took place
during the Prohibition era.
In 1921 central Illinois was rocked with the news that a 45-year-old
Decatur woman named Josephine Cooper had been arrested for the murder of her
former lover James Parker. Cooper ran a boarding house on Decatur's King
Street and had begun an affair with Parker, a new tenant. Eventually she had
a change of heart and became involved with another man. When Parker refused
to "go gentle into that good night," he became the victim of foul play and
his dead body was found in the Cooper home.
The police immediately suspected Josephine Cooper since "she was a very
clumsy killer, as Parker's body became the fourth body to be found in her
home in just a few years!" More evidence came to light when it was revealed
that Cooper had tried to persuade her current lover to secure some poison.
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Josephine Cooper was convicted of the murder of James Parker and
served 11 of the 14 years of her prison sentence. Even in death
Cooper continued to be a source of controversy. She died in 1954
after sustaining injuries received by falling from a window in her
second-story apartment. To this day it is unclear whether she jumped from the window or
was pushed by someone.
Meanwhile strange things continue at her
former home on King Street. Visitors and residents report hearing
groaning voices, slamming doors and unaccounted for footsteps at all
hours of the day. Is this evidence of the ghostly presence of
Josephine Cooper's unlucky victims?
This portion of the book examines the most infamous chapter in
the history of Illinois crime -- the lawlessness during the Great
Depression. In an era of notorious criminals such as John Dillinger
and "Baby Face" Nelson, a most heinous criminal act took place in
Alton -- the murder of policeman August Mayford. Unsolved to this
day, this 1937 crime remains an open case in the Alton police files.
Mayford served as a patrolman and merchants' watchman in the
Alton business district. During his usual rounds on the night of
Oct. 16, 1937, he conversed briefly with a fellow officer, began his
duties of checking the locked doors and windows -- and mysteriously
vanished without a trace. On Halloween night his bullet-riddled body
was discovered near Edwardsville's Cahokia Creek. It was speculated
that Mayford had interrupted a crime in progress, was "taken for a
ride" by the criminals and eventually murdered. No clues to the
criminals' identity were ever found.
Over the years a number of ghostly sightings have been reported
in downtown Alton. Witnesses report seeing "a solid, stocky man with
gray hair, wearing an old-fashioned police uniform." The route taken
by the apparition? The exact route Mayford took the night of his
disappearance. Residents in Alton wonder if Mayford is making his
nightly rounds, or is he a restless spirit due to his unsolved
"Bloody Illinois" is another winner in Troy Taylor's "Dead Men Do
Tell Tales" series. The book freely admits that it is not for the
faint of heart. Readers who want to journey back into the chilling
and unsavory side of Illinois crime will surely be thrilled with
this collection of recountings from the seamy side of the state's
history. This book is especially recommended for true crime fans,
believers in the supernatural or paranormal, and local history
[Text from file received
from Richard Sumrall,
Lincoln Public Library District]