The Ghosts of Galena
By: Chris Darkes - July 15, 2014
Category : Hauntings
One of my favorite memories growing up was taking family road trips. We usually went somewhere like Wisconsin Dells or anywhere in Illinois I had never been (usually anything west of Rockford and South of Naperville). Apparently I was pretty sheltered. In 1997, we took a trip to a friend of the family’s farm house in Galena, IL. We rode ATV’s through the corn fields, looked up and saw hundreds of stars without the effects of light pollution, and met a dairy farmer who demonstrated how to milk a cow. For a kid who’s only memory of a cow was a plastic Mrs. O’Leary one in the Chicago Water Tower tour, this was pretty exciting.
So when my girlfriend asked to take a road trip to Galena, I was really pumped. It had been over 17 years since I last visited. We drove out on a Friday evening entering the town around 6:30 P.M. The sky had been overcast and threating to rain. The humidity near stifling. Pretty standard for Illinois in the summer. We dropped off our bags at the Country Inn and Suites 3 miles down the road and headed into the main part.
Who wouldn’t love an entrance like this? It feels like you were one of the few selected to enter a king’s castle. By the time we got there, parking had been a zoo. We grabbed a spot on a side street, and walked to our destination. We ended up eating at one of trip advisor’s top 10 rated places. Known for their local caught fish and great ambiance, we went to One Eleven Main.
Upon finishing up dinner, we had discussed what the plan was for the next day. There were a ton of shops, antique stores, and sight seeing to keep us occupied. The words “haunted ghost tour” were uttered. I didn’t even know something like that existed in this town. Since the basis of Shoe Factory Road was about ghost towns, I had to learn more. I figured someone made a claim about seeing Ulysses S. Grant’s ghost (who was born and raised in Galena).
The tour line ups were no joke. There was Amelia’s Ghost Tour, All About a Ghost Tour, & Annie Wiggins Ghost Tour. The oddest part was the DeSoto House (which was included in all the tours)is still an active hotel today. A lot of people stayed in the famous hotel. People like Abraham Lincoln in 1856. Most of the ghost activity is centered on the 3rd floor. Reports of guests saying they felt someone sit on the edge of their bed. The reports were always from guests staying in the same room.
Distinct cigar odor with no signs of smoke permeating from inside the room’s of guests. Heavy footsteps that seemed to go back and forth in certain rooms. On the lower level dining are the most famous “resident” is The Lady in Black.
If it’s one thing I didn’t know about Galena, it was that the town had a few secrets. We ended up not taking any of those tours for fear we may not sleep well the rest of the trip. With that in our back pocket, we ended up spending the rest of the trip enjoying the enormous amounts of candy, popcorn, and antique shops with the occasional rain drizzle. The town really embodied what small town Americana is all about. The local wines, gourmet popcorn, hometown rootbeer floats. This pristine street really made an impact on me. I’ll definitely be back!