Investigation Planned for Ghostly Western Illinois University Building

The folklore of Western Illinois University's history includes tales of a "mischievous" but ghostly janitor who plays practical jokes inside Simpkins Hall.

A Midwest Haunting, co-owned by Tim Weaver and Chad Frederick of Macomb, is taking on the academic building for its latest round of ghost hunting tours. The company's four ghost hunters hope they can lure Harold the ghost, and others rumored to exist, into action when they offer four weekends of tours inside the historic WIU building, starting March 21.

"When we do investigations, we look for common themes," Weaver said. "There were a huge number of people on our tours last year, and a large number had stories about Simpkins Hall."

Previously, Weaver and Frederick and their team of ghost hunters conducted tours of downtown buildings. They said it's always been a desire to branch out to the university because of the stories of paranormal activity that have been shared with them.

"It's not just students, it's also people who work there," Frederick said. "A lot of it happens at night, but it's been anytime."

Weaver, Frederick and fellow hunters Matt Smith and Erin Glasnovich will be guiding guests on a search for signs of not only Harold but also a little girl who has invited people to play.

"Harold moves things; he pokes people when they're not looking," Weaver said. "The unusual thing is that people only hear him but never see him. People hear his keys, but no one sees anything . . . most of the time they just hear a voice."

Frederick said other stories of unusual happenings in the building include props being moved in the theater, costumes not being where they were just minutes before and hearing the laughter of a little girl.

The group of ghost hunters has been researching the history of the academic building in preparation for the tours.

Simpkins Hall was built in the late 1930s and was part of the Western Illinois Training School, a K-12 laboratory school. It was later named for former education department head Rupert Simpkins.

"In room 20 in the basement, behind the chalkboard, there are still kids' coat hooks from the original school," Weaver said.

The building is now home to the school's English and journalism departments and also includes a theater.

On previous ghost hunting expeditions the team has used tools such as divining rods and pendulums to look for evidence of paranormal activity. They hope recent purchases of alarmed motion detectors, spot check thermometers and voice recorders will help provide a more detailed search.

This fall, Weaver and Frederick will continue their tours of downtown, and both said they hope to add a tour of Oakwood Cemetery. A portion of the tour proceeds would benefit the cemetery's restoration efforts.

Tours of Simpkins Hall begin March 21 and continue each Friday and Saturday night over four weekends. Guests are encouraged to bring a camera, either digital or video, and a flashlight.

"We want as many open minds as possible," Weaver said. "We're just looking to prove all of this, right or wrong, but we can't wait to find out."

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