Haunts and Jaunts: Magical History Tour #1

(Photos by Rick Hinton)

Recently, to satisfy my indulgence of Abraham Lincoln—where he walked, where he spoke, the things he touched—Laura and I made a pilgrimage to Springfield, Illinois to explore his Illinois tenure. From Laura’s photos on Facebook, she received the comment—“It looks like you guys are on a magical history tour!” Indeed we were!

After Lincoln left southern Indiana, he ended up in New Salem, Illinois for six years before moving just south to Springfield in 1837. Twenty-four years were spent in the city until his departure for the nation’s capital, and the presidency, in 1861. He had married and set down roots.

On our first evening in Springfield, Laura picked up the book Haunted Springfield Illinois, figuring to do some light entertaining reading. On our last night in town we took a haunted walking tour. The owner of the tour company, Garret Moffett, was our tour guide. As it turned out, he was also the author of Laura’s book. Good times!

   Lincoln’s House:   The only house Lincoln ever owned sits in a restored neighborhood, representing the way it was back in the day. Lincoln was a believer in the supernatural world, having had strange visions and foreboding dreams; one in particular about his own death. Lincoln is not felt to be haunting the home, however his wife Mary, and sons Willie and Tad, is another matter. Apparitions have been seen in the kitchen and parlor (small, around Mary’s height) and National Park Service employees have reported the sound of children running in the upstairs hallway, giggling, and one saw a child’s hand on the upstairs railing. There are also instances where people outside on the street have heard the sounds of horse and carriage barrel up on them from behind, with the pungent smell of the horses associated. There is nothing there.

It is claimed that the years in the house were the happiest times for Mary. A bond or love of a place may very well keep a soul behind. The curved stair rail is original. The guide pointed out that if we kept our hand upon it while ascending or descending, we just shook hands with Lincoln. I liked that thought!

   The Great Western Railroad Depot:   The site where Lincoln boarded a train on February 11,1861, bound for Washington, D.C., to be inaugurated 16th President of the United States. His farewell speech ranks in eloquence with his Gettysburg Address. He would only return to Springfield on his funeral train. 

   The Old State Capitol:   Directly across the street from his law office, Lincoln argued hundreds of cases within its walls. It was also in this building the citizens of Springfield said farewell. The Capital’s dome was under renovation when we were there, so consequently no interior tour.

   Oak Ridge Cemetery-The Lincoln Tomb:   The entire Lincoln family (with the exception of oldest son Robert) is interred here, however, it took awhile to get Lincoln into the ground permanently—1901 to be exact. He is buried in a ten foot grave lined with a steel cage and encased in concrete. 

Standing outside of the Lincoln home that last night in Springfield with Moffett, we chatted after the tour ended. Lincoln is said to haunt the White House (there have been stories of this for years). Abe has also been spotted around his tomb site in Oak Ridge Cemetery and even on the streets of Springfield, walking his once daily route from the house on Eighth and Jackson Street to the Old State Capitol, and back again.  

   It’s hard to keep a good president still!