Ghost Stories Persist Despite Lack Of Haunted Buildings In Evanston

Dagny Salas

By Dagny SalasThe Daily Northwestern

When you walk the streets of Evanston, don’t expect to hear ghostly whispers in the middle of the night. The city is devoid of haunted sites, officials said.

Although Evanston was named in 1857, older buildings are scarce, said Patrick Quinn, Northwestern University archivist. Many buildings that could have become the playgrounds of ghosts have been torn down over the years.

“Generally haunted houses are older, scarier,” Quinn said. “There aren’t too many haunted places in Evanston.”

But there are always rumors here and there.

Old seafarers who drowned in Lake Michigan are rumored to haunt the Grosse Point Lighthouse, which was built after a number of ships crashed into the shoreline.

The Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., is host to a ghost story of its own. Once a Catholic high school for girls, the building supposedly has been visited by the ghosts of young girls who committed suicide after receiving poor grades.

Others believe the Evanston Historical Society, 225 Greenwood St., is haunted by Robert Dickinson Sheppard, who built the landmark house in 1894. Sheppard was a Northwestern history professor from 1885 to 1904 and a business manager for the school between 1900 and 1903. He also allegedly was involved in embezzling money to build the house. Charles Dawes, who went on to serve as vice president to Calvin Coolidge in the late 1920s, purchased the house from Sheppard in 1909.

Calvary Catholic Cemetery also is rumored to be haunted, but cemetery clerk Tom Berry said there are no documented sightings.

“It’s hard to document something that doesn’t really exist,” Berry said. “Those who claim to have sighted ghosts are apt to believe it because visiting a cemetery is such a spiritual experience.”

But Erica Roewade, director of visitor services at the Evanston Historical Society, said she has never heard about any hauntings.

“Evanston is pretty boring,” she said. “It’s not a very haunted place.”

John McHale, a Weinberg junior, said no haunted sites exist in Evanston because any tales of spirits have been lost. But that doesn’t mean the buildings aren’t haunted, he added.

“Having these kinds of local myths takes a certain type of community (and) oral traditions that might be lacking in Evanston,” McHale said. “There’s no collective memory, and the people who live in haunted houses are unaware (that it might be haunted).”

The Daily’s Jenny Song contributed to this report.

Reach Dagny Salas at [email protected]