THE HAUNTED HOTEL
Carlinville, Illinois can proudly boast one of the most beautiful town squares in the entire state. Many of the original 19th Century buildings have been preserved and restored and are now home to a myriad of specialty shops and restaurants.
The stately dome of the Macoupin County courthouse can be see rising to the east, a symbol of two men’s extravagant vision. Wide streets surrounding a picturesque little park including the required gazebo complete this Rockwellian view of small town American. Dominating the east side of the square stands the silent sentinel that watches over the entire scene. This is the Loomis House, a place where the passage of time scarcely seems to have been noticed. It is a grand old hotel and, as we shall see, it seems its grandeur may still hold sway over some of its old patrons!
The Loomis House is named for its builder, Judge Thaddeus Loomis. There was a time when Judge Loomis’ name shined brightly around Carlinville. That was before the construction of the opulent courthouse brought scandal and sullied his name. Thaddeus Loomis was descended from Joseph Loomis who migrated to America from England in 1638 and was one of the original settlers of Windsor, Connecticut. The family prided itself on their education and became prominent in science, literature and politics even offering one of its own to a professorship at Yale.
Horace Loomis, father of Thaddeus, was born in Connecticut and later moved to New York where he married Julia Tuttles. The couple had three children, all boys, the oldest of which was Thaddeus, born in 1826. In 1838 Horace Loomis packed up his family and headed west to Illinois, settling in Chesterfield Township. Here he became a successful farmer. He also raised fine livestock and ran a large dairy. These pursuits filled his time until his death in 1850.
After his family arrived in Illinois twelve year old Thaddeus undertook a rigorous education. Studying through the winter months and helping his father on the farm the remainder of the year, young Thaddeus quickly earned the reputation of an intellectual. At nineteen he entered Illinois College in Jacksonville and attended a year. The following year he entered the law department at the University of Kentucky in Louisville, graduating in March 1849. Thaddeus returned home and was there but a short while when he, like many other young men of the day, was overcome with “gold fever” and determined to go to California to seek his fortune. Later that summer Loomis, accompanied by eight other young men, one of which was future Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby, set out from St. Joseph, Missouri on their westward trek. After an arduous 90 day journey the wagons finally reached California where Thaddeus Loomis would remain for five years as a miner. Loomis returned to Illinois in 1854 and on December 13 of that year he married Sarah Dukels and purchased a farm near Carlinville. For the next six years he followed the life of his father before him. In addition to his farming, Thaddeus contracted with the Chicago and Alton Railroad to saw timber and ties for the company. He also purchased more land near Carlinville and laid out an addition to the town known locally as “Loomis’ Addition”.
In 1861 the Democratic Party nominated Loomis for county judge and in November he was elected by a large majority. Loomis would go on to serve in that capacity for the next eight years. During his tenure he was able to levy, collect and pay off the county debt of a staggering $200,000.00. That accomplishment, sadly for Loomis, was to be overshadowed by the scandal wrought by his involvement with what was to be called “the Million Dollar Court House”.
The Illinois General Assembly created Macoupin County on January 17, 1829, its name was derived from the Indian word “Macoupiana” which meant “white potato” and referred to the wild artichoke that grew along the waterways of the country. Thomas Carlin, a senator at the time and later governor, worked feverishly to pass the bill that created the county. His efforts were later rewarded when the town of Carlinville was established in his honor, the town was chosen as county seat of Macoupin County. The first county courthouse was a small log building that measure around 18’x24’. This small building was rapidly outgrown and a second, larger courthouse was built in 1830 at a cost of $15,000.00.
By 1865 the county found itself in need of yet a larger courthouse and it became understood that a vote for Judge Loomis, then up for reelection, was a vote for a new courthouse. When Loomis retained his seat he immediately put his plans for the new building into affect. A design by architect Elijah Meyers was chosen, at the same time a Meyers design for a new jail was also included in the project. Construction began in 1867 and was completed in the winter of 1869/70 with Loomis playing a central role in the project. As construction wound down on the courthouse Loomis began building the hotel he would name for himself on the nearby Carlinville square. Almost immediately charges of corruption were hurled at Judge Loomis and his associates the most significant of which for our story was the county clerk, a man by the name of George Huston Holliday.
The Famous "Million Dollar" Courthouse
George Huston Holliday
Holliday was born in Harrisburg, Kentucky on August 5, 1824 and came to Illinois with his family sometime between 1834 and 1836. Young George earned a reputation as a scholar. He was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and made exceptional use of his native tongue. In 1845 he completed college at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois and returned home to Carlinville. In April 1852 George married Cinderella Chism who was a Macoupin County native and ten years his junior. The marriage produced six children, four boys and two girls. As an outlet for his keen intellect and political interests George became the publisher of the Carlinville “Spectator”, a Democratic county newspaper. The venture was short lived but, after selling his own paper, Holliday continued to write for several others in the area.
In 1868 George purchased the “Conservative”, another Democratic vehicle, which only ran from March to June of that year. During this time Holliday was acquiring one of the largest libraries in the state. It is unfortunate to note that, following the declaration of Holliday’s death; this library was divided and sold at auction with many volumes being purchased by a buyer in New York. George Holliday served as County Surveyor for Macoupin County. In 1850 he and John Shipman laid out the town of Shipman, Illinois. Additionally Holliday served as a school commissioner and during the 1855-57 term of the Illinois Legislature. When Enoch Wall died in office in 1858 Holliday was appointed to finish out his term as County Clerk and was rightfully reelected to that post in 1860. It was in this capacity that he became a member of “the Courthouse Crowd”; he also bought into Judge Loomis’ hotel. Both situations, as it turned out for Holliday, were very bad decisions.
When the county deemed it appropriate to construct a new courthouse a small group of men were designated by the county court to oversee the construction. Judge Loomis and George Holliday were among the men chosen for this task. And who better to lead the effort? Both were respected men in the county who had proven themselves to be loyal and outright citizens! The origins of the courthouse project are detailed elsewhere. As construction began clouds of controversy began to swirl over the project and, as one might expect, it involved money… and lots of it. Immediately a 50-cent levy on each $100.00 of property value was established and bonds issued in the amount of $50,000.00 to pay for the project. By September 1867, with little more than the foundation underway, the new courthouse had already cost the taxpayers $13,000.00. By the time the cornerstone was laid in October the cost began to exceed the previous estimates Meyers and Loomis had put forth at the outset for the entire project.
As January 1869 rolled around the cost had risen to an astounding $449,604.07 and an additional $125,000.00 was still required to complete the roof and magnificent dome. The county issued more bonds to meet the ballooning costs. When the building was finally completed in 1870 the bill was a whopping $1,342.000.00! The staggering costs outraged citizens and in November 1869 three new members were appointed to the court committee. The new members were decidedly “anti-courthouse” and their first action was to launch an investigation into the exorbitant costs of the building project. Their submitted report laid blame squarely on the members of the committee who had let spending run amok.
Thaddeus Loomis, who was to have been the first judge to preside in the new courthouse, George Holliday and the rest of the old committee members resigned in disgrace as talk of illegal activity began to filter thru the citizenry. One angry citizen posted an open letter in several area papers asking Loomis, “Who pays the Courthouse contractors for the building of your house?”
Perhaps because he never fully answered the charges of corruption publicly, Judge Loomis seems to have taken the brunt of the abuse. It was suspicious to many that his magnificent hotel should be constructed at the same time as the new courthouse. Fueling this suspicion was the fact that the building was also designed by E.E. Meyers and built from the same limestone as the courthouse. Although Meyers had received the commission for the fortress-like jail rising across from the courthouse in the initial contract, the hotel was part of an additional agreement between Loomis and the architect. The details of that agreement have not been discovered. Like much of the association between Meyers and Loomis, they remain a mystery.
For his part Loomis agreed that the limestone was, indeed, taken from the courthouse project but he argued it was leftovers and that he had obtained the material legally. Though many called for it, proof of this was never forthcoming from Loomis, Meyers or anyone else involved. Eventually Loomis was cleared of any wrong doing-mainly due to lack of substantial evidence-and life went on for the judge. And what of the county clerk who had overseen the project finances? George Holliday, as the investigation reached it’s most heated period, skipped town in 1870 and was never seen again. Holliday’s sudden disappearance convinced many of his guilt but, in a case of good riddance, he was forgotten and no proof of his wrongdoing was ever confirmed. In the latter part of 1879, a man claiming to be Holliday returned to Carlinville. Now perhaps the accusations would be rightfully addressed!
The man claiming to be the missing Holliday had come from Washington state where he had been living under the name S.W. Hall. When no one could identify Hall as George Holliday the matter was dropped and the county was forced to free the imposter and pay his way back to Washington. It was later learned that, upon his return to Washington, Hall had abruptly sold his law firm and, without settling his accounts, fled the area. Could it be a case of history repeating itself? To this day the question remains unanswered and while it’s unlikely Hall was actually Holliday it is just one more mystery surrounding the Loomis House’s colorful history. Eventually Holliday was legally declared dead and his estate was settled; the remainder of his family moved to Missouri.
It took a county of 32,000 souls forty years to pay off the notes left by Loomis and company for the grand courthouse. On September 7, 1904 the town of Carlinville held a great celebration when the last of the bonds was paid off. Today the lavish courthouse stands proudly in its place, it’s past a footnote in its history.
Escaping with his reputation more or less intact, Thaddeus Loomis retreated to his hotel and devoted himself to making it a showpiece for the town. Before leaving town Holliday had sold his share of the hotel to Loomis who was now the sole owner. Over the next eleven years the Loomis House played host to traveling actors, circus performers, politicians and traveling salesmen known as “drummers”. These men would take up residence in the hotel for a period of days and go out into the community to “drum up” business. While William Siemens entertained patrons downstairs in his bar another type of business was carried on upstairs between the gentlemen of the town and the “fair ladies” employed by Siemens for more discreet entertainment.
Business was booming at the Loomis House until 1881 when Siemens was convicted of violating Illinois’ liquor laws and the bar closed. Needless to say the other profit making ventures he perpetuated came to a halt as well. Suddenly unable to meet the mortgage payments, Loomis was forced to turn the hotel over to the banking firm of Chestnut and Dubois who held the mortgage on the controversial property.
The Loomis House still stands on the Carlinville Square today
Chestnut and Dubois was already teetering on the verge of financial ruin due to complications arising from handling courthouse bonds. Within months the firm folded and sold the hotel to William A. Robertson, a wealthy farmer and businessman who also happened to be the bank’s principle creditor. Robertson was a strict prohibitionist who vowed liquor would never again be served in the Loomis House. Soon after purchasing the hotel Robertson died and control of the building reverted to his family who shared his views on alcohol.
Two photos showing the deteriorating conditions of the Loomis House
For the next six months the wonderful hotel remained closed, it’s future in doubt. When it was reopened the self-imposed ban on alcohol kept business away and, again, the building was put up for sale at public auction. The buyer was a Mr. Simonson of Decatur. Simonson, believing the name “Loomis House” relayed an “unsavory reputation” changed the name to St. George Hotel and outfitted the hotel on a grand scale with all the latest luxuries. In 1909 Simonson sold out to Theodore C. Loeur, a druggist who opened a pharmacy on the first floor. Today the pharmacy remains intact and is a spectacular vision of that bygone era.
Loeur’s nephew, Ralph Surmon, later took over the pharmacy and became a longtime fixture on the square. Surmon sold the hotel to the Carlinville Elks Club in 1953 and the club continued to operate the hotel for nearly two decades under the name Elks Hotel. During the time the Elks had the building the old roof began to leak and eventually each rain sent torrents of water spewing thru the rapidly deteriorating building. The resultant damage is clearly visible today in the peeling walls and crumbling plaster of the top two floors. In 1975 Alex and Fern Perardi purchased the old building from the Elks and changed the name back to Loomis House, the attached bar they opened was dubbed the St. George Room and life once again returned to the place. By now the hotel was too far gone to reopen so the Perardis closed off the top two floors and set about converting the second floor into a restaurant. The spacious dining area was a welcome addition to Carlinville’s business community and operated for nearly a decade. It was during the restaurant’s earliest days that tales of ghostly happenings began to be reported in the Loomis House.
The Spirits of the Loomis House
A visit to the Loomis House is like nothing I’ve ever encountered. There is a feeling here that permeates the entire building and leaves one almost overwhelmed by the sense of history surrounding you. It’s very easy to look about you and imagine the bustling hotel that once was. Although the upper floors have become a refuge for pigeons and bats, it is not difficult to visualize busy bellboys and chambermaids going about their appointed duties. With each visit I half expect to be greeted by a gracious hotel manager as I enter what was once the lobby.
As you walk thru the upper three stories of the huge building you encounter many artifacts of the past, left much as they were at the height of the building’s glory days. On the second floor much of the old restaurant and lounge remains in place as if waiting for the party to renew itself. Visitors names painted on the ceiling of the bar are a tangible reminder of the many people who once passed thru the building. The doors that used to lead diners up the staircase to the restaurant still open to the sidewalk below. To get to these doors you must descend a set of stairs. This imposing staircase is the scene of our first haunting.
You will remember that the Elks Club operated the Loomis House as a hotel after they purchased the building. As the years went on the once glamorous rooms became home to men who were down on their luck and needed a place to stay. One such gentleman was living in the Loomis House in the 1960’s and one night this poor soul took a tumble down the staircase and died instantly on the landing, his neck snapping from the impact at the bottom. Since the day this unnamed man died here visitors have reported odd feelings near the stairs. Some have described it as the feeling of being watched while others have claimed to see a shadowy figure out of the corner of their eye. When they turn to see who is there the vision vanishes.
I was involved in my first investigation of the Loomis House on March 30, 2003. Although nothing specific was seen or recorded in the vicinity of the stairs it was the scene of considerable activity with dowsing rods. One investigator reported cold chills near the head of the staircase while the rods were in full swing. While it can’t be proven it makes one pause to think these investigators may have been in the unseen presence of the unfortunate transient as they went about their work. Staff at the restaurant were among the first to report the apparitions in the hotel. One waitress, a woman by the name of Gussie, made a startling claim one night shortly after the place opened.
Gussie was working before the restaurant opened for the day. She was alone as she went about her tasks preparing for the customers. As she exited the kitchen and walked into the dining room she was surprised to see a man standing in the middle of the room. At first she believed someone had come in early and was about to tell the man the restaurant wasn’t serving yet when the man turned and walked across the room, about halfway thru the large room he simply vanished. Gussie ran screaming from the building. While she continued to work at the hotel it was the last time she was ever alone there.
Gussie left no description of the apparition she witnessed but one man did. He was a man named Bill who was a regular at the bar. One evening as Bill sat drinking with some friends he glanced toward the back of the room and noticed a man standing alone and looking very out of place. The man Bill described was wearing clothing that was out of style, the type of suit he imagined men wore around the turn of the century, and wore a thick, white beard. As Bill pointed out the odd man to his friends the odd fellow turned and stepped thru a solid wall! Bill was shocked and begged his friends to confirm what he had just seen but none of them had turned quick enough to catch a glance of the mysterious ghost. Fearing ridicule from his drinking buddies, Bill put down the encounter as the beer talking and never said much more about it. He did, however, report the strange figure to Fern Perardi who tells the story with a flourish.
As Fern and I discussed Bill’s encounter she raised an interesting point. How many others, she wondered, had seen the same man standing alone in the crowded bar and simply dismissed him as just another customer? It makes you wonder just how many people we encounter everyday may not be flesh and blood! From that day on the rumors spread that none other than old Judge Loomis himself haunted the Loomis House. A photograph of Judge Loomis found in a Macoupin County history shows a stern man bearing a striking resemblance to the man Bill described. Perhaps there’s more to the “rumors” after all. If Thaddeus Loomis still wanders the halls of his old hotel he is not alone. Our investigations have yielded evidence to suggest that at least two other spirits keep him company and both of them have ties to the building…specifically Siemons’ brothel.
Climbing the stairs to the third floor and top floor beyond one encounters the hotel much as it must have appeared in its heyday. The destruction time and the elements have wrought is considerable but for the most part the building is sound. Although debris and dead pigeons litter the floor now it’s very easy to imagine the splendor of this building in its prime. Once a large skylight let sunlight into the building from the roof thru large spaces in each floor. The skylight has been removed and the access ways between floors are now covered and piled high with boxes and junk. Daylight finds it’s way into the upper floors stubbornly blocked today. The eerie calm of the hotel reminds visitors of a sacred place where hushed tones are in order. Each floor has several rooms along the west side of a large, open hall. To the east a long hallway with several more rooms runs the length of the building. It was in these now vacant guest rooms where the first contact was made with the ghostly inhabitants of the hotel during our investigations.
On our first investigation several investigators entered what was once the bridal suite on the third floor. This spacious room is not only larger than the others but came equipped with it’s own bathroom. A truly luxurious accommodation for the newlyweds! As those investigators entered that room I walked into the adjacent guest room to take EMF scans accompanied by another investigator with a video camera to document my explorations.
I have very deeply held theories on sensitives and their use during investigations. I am very skeptical about most people who claim to have “powers” of this nature and believe they should be used sparingly during ghost investigations. Only if their claims can be backed up by additional evidence do I take them seriously. One researcher, Jenny B., is one that I have worked with that has convinced me she is legitimate. Jenny has an astounding record of backing her “sightings” up with hard evidence. What happens next in our story, from my vantage point, is one of her most astounding successes.
The other group was in the next room and Phil and I circled our chosen room looking for signs of anything unearthly. I carried an EMF meter while Phil videotaped my efforts. I, at the time, had no idea what was going on in the next room. Suddenly I was hit by a blast of cold air. I didn’t have a thermal gun handy but earlier scans showed an average temperature of 54 degrees. For a second or two the air around me was much colder than it had previously been and then it returned to normal. At the same time the cold blast hit me the meter in my hand let out a long screech and then stopped.
There is no electricity on the top two floors of the building to set the meter off not to mention just seconds before, while I stood in the same spot, the meter registered no activity at all. Subsequently I’ve spent a great deal of time in this room trying to repeat the event but have been unable to do so. There is simply no reason why that meter should have reacted save the one we were hoping for. I had just been run into by a ghost!
Seconds after our event the others came out of the bridal suite and into the room we were working in. Jenny told me what had happened as they entered the suite, “I saw a man… and he looked like he was cradling something in his arms like a baby.” Jenny described the man as about 6’3”, in his mid-forties. He wore a dark suit and a prominently displayed pocket watch. She was sure she could recognize him in a picture.
The man looked up at Jenny and told her, “Find me in the armoire,” and then stepped thru the wall…the same wall I was on the other side of at the time! I believe this man walked thru the wall and right into me on the other side resulting in the cold blast and the EMF hit. This is not an isolated case. Jenny has proven her abilities time and time again with resulting photographs, video, audio recordings and meter readings. It happens too often for it to be coincidence in my eyes.
Although none of us understood the armoire reference at the time it was soon made clear to us as we roamed thru the dark building. During the course of the investigation an antique armoire was indeed discovered on the second floor (a large part of this floor and much of the basement is now used as storage). Inside was an old photograph of three men standing in front of a dry goods store on the Carlinville square. The men were identified as F.L.J. Breymann, Albert Muller and William Grotefendt.
Jenny was asked to look at the photograph and see if any of these men were whom she had seen. Jenny immediately identified Breymann as the man she had seen upstairs. Later we learned that Breymann was a local businessman who had run a men’s clothing store adjacent to the Loomis House. Some research quickly turned up the significant fact that Breymann had a reputation as a ladies man who often spent time with the girls of the Loomis House. Although it’s certainly not conclusive evidence that revelation does place Breymann in the building (often) with a very obvious reason to want to be there. To date the cradling action has not been explained but, then again, the Loomis House is not giving up its secrets easily! Does Breymann’s frisky ghost still show up at the hotel looking for a little action? If so the next ghost we encountered might accommodate him…if the price is right.
My third visit to the Loomis House was a media event. Accompanying us that night were Dave Daniels and Eric Gortney from WDBR radio and a cameraman from WICS, Channel 20 news, Springfield’s local television station. Based on our previous jaunts, we had high hopes for this foray into the dark, forbidding hotel. It was a few days before Halloween, 2003 and we hoped to give the listening/viewing audience something truly spooky for the season. Ghosts might be many things but cooperative isn’t always one of them. Eric, in particular, was skeptical about the whole process and it was my hope to prove to him something was going on in the Loomis House. The upper floors fairly scream “Haunted!” just by their appearance and the resident bat population adds to the eerie atmosphere. That night, unfortunately, even the bats stayed tucked away in their dark corners.
Eric, Dave and I sat alone in a dark room on the fourth floor listening, hoping something would happen. Although we sat there for nearly an hour we saw no sign of the supernatural. We should have been down on the second floor! As we sat in the quiet dark, events were unfolding below us that have since proven to be quite significant. While the remainder of the group, including the cameraman, roamed the old lounge and restaurant Jenny came face to face with the second spirit she’s met in the building.
She was first sighted near the spiral stairs that lead up to a small suite of rooms once occupied by the hotel’s live-in maid. It was there Jenny asked her name. The sad looking young girl answered, “Isabelle” before fading away. Later in the evening, after I’d given up the vigil upstairs, we made our way downstairs and joined the rest of the team in scouring the second floor. As I walked thru the lounge with Barb Leveque, another investigator, our EMF meters began to register sporadic hits in various places around the room.
One time a certain spot would register and a few minutes later there would be no result in the same area. It was as if someone was moving around the room and, on occasion, Barb and I would chance upon them. Sadly, our photographs revealed nothing during this game of ghostly cat and mouse however, I have no doubt we were in the presence of some unseen entity. Isabelle? Judge Loomis? Perhaps it is someone altogether different but it seemed apparent someone was there with us as we moved around the room.
The identity of Isabelle didn’t stay hidden for long. Hotel records reveal she was a young maid who was fired because she sometimes supplemented her meager earnings with income gleaned from her participation in William Siemons’ illicit ventures in the hotel. And now Isabelle still calls the Loomis House home.
Other strange phenomenon has been documented in the hotel, particularly in the basement. When Loomis House first opened space was rented below street level to a variety of businesses. The first was a barbershop opened in 1870 by two gentlemen named Winn and Hinton. The barbers were black men who enjoyed a long, successful run in their basement shop. It says a great deal for the progressive nature of the town of Carlinville just after the Civil War. Another long-time tenant of the Loomis House basement was a bakery. It is said that prime baking times the smell of warm, fresh bread and hot sweet rolls would waft up the stairs to the street above filling the air along the whole east side of the square with pleasant odors. A few years after it opened, a fire swept thru the bakery. Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze but the destruction was severe. The proprietors were able to repair the damage and continue operations but evidence of the fire is still visible in the charred ceiling beams of the space it once occupied.
A flight of steps led patrons from the street down to the shops below the hotel and light filtered in thru glass panels embedded in the sidewalk running the length of the hallway in front of the shops. Today only a portion of the barbershop façade remains but once each shop had it’s own storefront along the long hall and, by all accounts, the businesses downstairs were always as busy as the ones up top.
The Perardis use the basement for storage. A wide variety of antiques and odds and ends fill the spaces that were once busy retail shops. It’s hard to say just who it is that’s remained behind in the cavernous space but our investigation indicate that someone is there yet today. The basement has yielded its share of mysterious phenomena.
During one of our many investigations Cheryl Berkler placed a tape recorder in a dark corner of the old bakery. She and another woman were the only two in the basement at the time. On the tape you can hear Cheryl and Diane walking away. As they become almost inaudible a man’s voice, clear and distinct says, “Stop.” It is one of the clearest examples of EVP the group has ever recorded.
Another strange and frightening event happened in the basement when Diane and Cheryl were wandering around. They had come to an area that is used for liquor storage for the St. George Room bar upstairs. The door had a padlock, which was not latched, and as the women stood beside the door it started to rattle violently. Several investigators were present at the time and they all witnessed the same thing. Attempts to explain the event proved unsuccessful and the rattling continued for nearly a minute.
“It was like someone was trapped in the room,” Diane told me later, “there was no wind or anything and nothing that should have caused the door to act that way.” Once the door stopped shaking the investigators gathered their courage and swung the door open. Beyond was a room stacked high with a variety of bottles and no other way out. Needless to say, the room was otherwise empty.
While this was occurring downstairs several of us were scattered around the upper stories of the building and many of us were experiencing things we couldn’t explain. Take long-time investigator Barb LeVeque who was exploring the second floor with a new member, Phil. Phil, as you may recall, was the member who videotaped my collision with Breymann earlier. Now he videotaped Barb as she scanned the old restaurant.
“I witnessed a decorative fork, which was hanging on the wall, swing back and forth…it was hanging next to a [matching] spoon which was completely still. There wasn’t enough breeze in the room to make the fork swing in this manner.” Oddly enough, after capturing all this strange activity on video, Phil has quit the field of paranormal investigation. Maybe the spirits of the Loomis House were a little too much for him!
Carl Jones and I were up on the third floor taking meter scans when the room filled with a powerfully sweet odor akin to black licorice. I had a cold at the time but Carl smelled it distinctly, it lingered a few seconds and then dissipated and was not repeated. During another visit my friend Greg Miller and I were nearly overcome by an odor similar to fresh popcorn in this same room.
As the group prepared to leave following our first investigation I had to go upstairs and retrieve a tape recorder. I had been asked to check for a missing investigator while I was up there. On the third floor landing I yelled, “Is anyone still here?” There was no answer so I went to the top floor and asked again-again no answer. There was no one beside me upstairs (our missing investigator had gone to the basement) so I collected my equipment and headed for the stairs.
Let me set the stage here ---- Although we were in the building during daylight hours the upper two floors are still very dark. A tornado a few years ago sucked all the windows out of the west face of the building and the Perardis have boarded them up. There are portions of the upper floors that are perpetually dark because of this. I headed for the long staircase and paused in the archway that separates the main room from the landing at the top of the stairs to take a couple more pictures. As I packed up my camera I felt a strange sensation wash over my body as if fingers from several hands were running themselves all over my back and arms. The hair on my arms is standing even as I write this!
With no small degree of trepidation at what I’d see when I turned around, I braced for the worst and peered back into the room. Of course I saw nothing at all. The feeling was gone now and as I quickly swept the empty hall I considered unpacking my EMF meter to run some scans. I’m not too proud to say at that moment I ultimately decided to leave well enough alone and quickly descended the stairs. Later this event came back to me in a new light as I thought of Isabelle still prowling the corridors in search of an extra buck!
Halloween week is reserved for my vacation each year. In 2003 my main goal was to complete as much of my book as I could during that time. One of my main objectives was to return to the Loomis House to research the place a little more in depth. On October 28 Greg and I went to Carlinville where I interviewed Fern Perardi and her daughter, Charlotte Westenberg about the history of the hotel. Fern and Charlotte have never seen anything themselves (although Charlotte has been present at all of our investigations) but they don’t dismiss the stories of ghosts in the Loomis House. Charlotte provided me with many of the historical photographs seen here during this interview as well as collaborated the timeline for the text. It was during this interview that Fern revealed Bill’s encounter in the bar.
Following the interview I took Greg upstairs to see the hotel. It was a bright day and the hotel seemed surprisingly peaceful as we walked from room to room. When we entered one particular room I was telling him about the encounters we’d had there when suddenly the door slammed shut! As we stood in pitch-blackness (this is a boarded over room) I said, “Well, this can’t be good.” We made our way to the door and found, at first, it wouldn’t open. Of course initially I made the classic error of pushing when I should have been pulling. Even after I’d realized the door swung in it was difficult to open due to the warped floorboards. For a fleeting second I feared we were stuck in the room!
Finally the door creaked open and only after we stepped into the main foyer did it dawn on us that there was no way that door should have slammed shut. The air was completely still; the building is old and in poor repair but no breezes stir the thick dust on the upper floors. In addition to the lack of breeze, the warped floor had made the job of opening the door difficult but when it shut it had slammed as if someone had forcibly swung it shut. Maybe Isabelle wanted a little privacy! We didn’t stay to find out.
Other witnesses to strange events in the hotel include a group investigators from Missouri who experienced, among other oddities, wild reactions from their equipment and more recently a group who came with a sensitive who uncovered more of the hotel’s dark, sordid past. On this occasion the sensitive went to the little room that used to be the live in maid’s quarters. There he said he saw the spirit of the man who gave him his name and claimed he often came to the hotel to visit one of the maids who worked there.
Later he asked Charlotte if the name Sid Parker meant anything to her. Charlotte told me, “Sid Parker had been a bellboy here in 1917 and was known have a thing going with one of the maids. He later went on to be the president of one of the banks in town.”
Charlotte was fascinated with the claim because, “these people were from the middle of Missouri and there is no way he could have known about that.” If that claim was legitimate, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, the sensitive’s other revelation is all the more eerie.
He was in the kitchen area of the second floor restaurant and felt someone had been stabbed to death in the room. To date no proof of this has been discovered however past investigations have noted that particular room, actually series of several small rooms, as a place of high activity with several sensitives claiming feelings of anger or fear in the area.
On July 18, 2004, before the information regarding a possible murder had been revealed to us a sensitive with our group, upon entering the kitchen, reported a feeling of anger and said he felt a pain in his upper back-like he had been stabbed. It was only later that Charlotte told me of the previous claims. For all my skepticism regarding psychics I find myself looking over these claims and wondering if there may be something to some of it after all. Unless proof of a murder in the hotel is unearthed (and the first sensitive said the killer went to trial so there is a chance more information will be found), these claims must remain unsubstantiated but they are intriguing nonetheless.
It was during this investigation that one of my team, Sam Bricker, witnessed (without benefit of psychic ability mind you) a frightening sight. I was on the fourth floor when I heard a scream and the sound of someone running out of one of the rooms below me. June and July are the bats’ breeding season and my first thought was someone had kicked up the sleeping rodents. I went down to the third floor to find Sam visibly shaken. She had been leading a group from room to room when she entered one of the darkened, old guest rooms. As she did a figure walked in front of her, across the room and through the wall of the adjoining room. Her reaction has already been noted.
The figure, Sam said, was a tall male but it was too dark to distinguish any features. Although she didn’t feel particularly threatened during the brief encounter it was enough to keep her from entering that room again. Subsequent scans and photographs failed to turn up anything significant in the two rooms but one has to wonder just what…who…she may have seen. To her credit, Sam continued the investigation with no further adventures.
And so the Loomis House remains a mysterious tribute to Judge Thaddeus Loomis, one of the restless spirits who roam its rooms. Thrill seekers and vandals have recently caused some extensive damage to the building after breaking in hoping to see ghosts. The Perardis have been forced to install an expensive alarm system in the hotel in the hopes of preventing further damage. I like to think, however, that should things get out of hand the spirits of the Loomis House will step in to protect their beloved hotel on their own.
There are plans to begin offering haunted tours of the historic, old building. My advise, should you take a tour someday, take a good look at the people in your group. In the Loomis House you might find someone unexpected tagging along!
John Winterbauer is the Springfield, Illinois Area Representative for the American Ghost Society and co-founder of the Sangamon Valley Ghost Research Group and is working on a book of central Illinois hauntings. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Leonard, Cynthia K., “Macoupin County’s Famous Courthouse”
Watkins, Dennis H., “George Huston Holliday, 1995
History of Macoupin County, Illinois with Illustrations Descriptive of It’s Scenery and Biographical Sketches of Some of It’s Prominent Men and Pioneers, Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia, Publishers, 1879
Investigation Reports by members of the Springfield Ghost Society
Personal interviews and correspondence