Hauntings of Galena, IL - WNEM TV 5

Hauntings of Galena, IL

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

"I had to actually stay here one time last winter because of an ice storm and I slept with the TV and all my lights on all night. Just because I was afraid someone would come in my room. They say you can feel someone sitting on the edge of your bed," said Gale Schultz, food and beverage supervisor at the Desoto House Hotel.

Galena, Illinois is a historic town with a haunted past. It is home to several historic buildings, each with a ghost story of their own.

Perhaps the most popular is the Desoto House Hotel located right downtown.

"A lot of things have happened here," Schultz said.

Historical librarian Steve Repp said the most famous haunting is the lady in black.

"The ghost like figure of the lady in black went into this wall right here. Now at the time this was before the flood of July of 2011. This whole area looked like this. This wasn't water damaged. It was just a wall, they covered this. So being waist deep in water here they cut out this whole section and they found this opening. They thought that was strange. So they went up higher with it and the opening goes to about this level. So then they remembered that this was the wall that the lady in black went into," Repp said.

While no one knows who the lady in black is, or why she haunts the hotel, there's been several reported sightings of her over the years.

One of those sightings was from Schultz.

"I was walking with another server one day and I stopped dead in my tracks and I saw her just walk right past me and go up the stairs. And I turned to the server and she said 'Oh my God, I just saw that too.' So she did see the lady in black as well," Schultz said.

Schultz said she had on black clothes and had a smokey type of figure.

But the mystery doesn't end there.

TV5 was told the two most haunted guests rooms at the Desoto House Hotel include the Abraham Lincoln Room, where he actually gave a speech off the balcony in the room back in the day. The other haunted room is the Grant Room.

While the Desoto is well known for giving its guests an unforgettable story to tell, there's plenty of other haunted happenings around the city.

Amelia Wilson who owns a ghost tour company in town. She said one of the mansions in town is haunted by the Ryan family.

"The house was built in 1876. The family lived here. Only four out of nine of the children lived here," Wilson said. "Catherine died six years after it was built. So she would've been funeraled in this room. She passed away in what we call our red room upstairs, but there's definitely a haunting here. They had over 23 servants. You hear voices, you hear piano playing, you hear footsteps in the ballroom."

TV5 had the chance to sit in on a real life seance in the mansion's dining room where a medium attempted to make contact with the Ryan family.

TV5 then went upstairs to the most haunted room in the house - the red room. That is where one of the owners, Catherine Ryan, died. 

Emma Wall, tour guide, said the place used to be rented out as a bed and breakfast, but after several complaints about strange incidents from guests, they had to close it down. 

"There had been guests staying here and they'll get spooked. People will just leave. A bed and breakfast doesn't really work out when people rent a room for three nights and only spend three minutes there," Wall said.

So now it is used for tours and ghost hunting.

Wall explained how some of the tools they use work, including an EMF detector.

"You hold it out in front of you. You can see the meter move here and it will light up if it detects a large amount of disturbance and that disturbances in the magnetic field, which has been linked to paranormal activity," Wall said.

"We're also gonna use another piece closely related to that. This is the renpod. So it's a bigger stationary version of your EMF detector."

So whether you believe in ghosts or think it's all just a myth, all of it is up to interpretation.

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