Creepsville – True Tales from Our Fair Town

This Spooky Marion update is a bit more personal than most. Many readers of this blog might not know that I don’t actually live in Marion anymore. Almost twenty years ago I met a girl from Germany who was working as a nanny in Marion, we fell in love, and I eventually moved to Germany, which is where I am today. I still consider Marion home, however, and started this web site as a project that would keep me involved with Marion, especially its weird and macabre side. I still come back to town as often as my schedule (and bank balance) allows, though. This past July, I was in town visiting family when, one afternoon, we got to talking about the creepy experiences we’ve had over the years in Marion, and these four stories are from that discussion. I hope this bit of family lore entertains you and, hopefully, creeps you out just a little.

- Josh Simpkins

A Surprise in the Toilet

Note: Our family used to have a sporting goods business called Rich’s Fishing and Hunting Supplies down on North Main Street between The Wonder Bar and the railroad tracks. My mom, who worked up there part-time for years, tells the following story:

We bought the building, located at 171 North Main Street, in 1989 from barber Don Bowen. My dad, Rich, sold the business (though not the building) in 2001. Another barber, Chris Owens, bought the building from us in 2008 and opened his shop, The Corner Barbershop, which is still in business there today.

I was up at the shop one day working alone – this would’ve been some time in the 90s – and had to use the toilet. Everybody knows how scared I am of mice and rats, so you can imagine how horrified I was when I went into the bathroom and saw a big brown rat swimming around in the toilet bowl. I’m sure I screamed but at least had the wherewithal to slam the toilet lid down. Later Rich got up to the store and just flushed it back down into the sewer. He flushed it a few times, actually, just make sure we were really getting rid of it. Apparently the rat had swum up the sewer pipe and somehow made it through the trap and, finally, into the toilet bowl. Until then, I didn’t know such a thing was possible. After that we made a habit of keeping the lid down except when we were actually using it. It gives me the creeps even now just thinking about it. It was a long time before I could even open that toilet lid – let alone use it – without my heart beating a little faster .

To see how a rat could swim up your toilet, check out this video by National Geographic.
To see how a rat could swim up your toilet, check out this video by National Geographic.

Tradio Caller

The following story is actually mine:

WMRN has been broadcasting since 1940. Rod Serling, who would later go on to create The Twilight Zone, even worked there briefly in the late 1940s.
WMRN, which is located at 1330 North Main Street, has been broadcasting since 1940. Rod Serling, who would later go on to create The Twilight Zone, even worked there briefly in the late 1940s.

When I was a kid in the mid 80s, I was way deep into magic. I used to put on little shows on the porch of our Silver Street home for the other kids in the neighborhood. Around that time, I decided I should perform some kind of escape trick, and for that I needed a pair of handcuffs. Real handcuffs. Of course, this was way before the internet, and if you wanted to buy something even slightly our of the ordinary, you had to make phone calls, ask around, etc. Well, my mom hit on the idea of sending a card into Tradio. For anybody unfamiliar with Tradio, it was (and still is) a show on the local AM station, WMRN, where you can call in and tell the host, Jeff Ruth, what you’re looking to buy or sell. You could also send in post cards, which Jeff would read on the air. So my mom (naively, in retrospect) sent in a card with something like, “Looking for a set of handcuffs. Call 382-XXX.” The next weekend, my dad went on a fishing trip, which left me and my mom and my sister and brother alone at home. This usually wasn’t a problem (and to be honest, we were more than happy to get rid of the old man for a few days because it meant we got to watch what we wanted on TV). Late on one of the nights he was gone, the phone rang. Naturally, late-night phone calls are almost never good, so my mom answered it with a certain amount of trepidation.

“Hello,” she said.

“Are you the woman looking for the handcuffs?” This question was followed by the sound of heavy breathing.

Mom hung up the phone, and although it’s a funny story to tell now, it really freaked all of us out, probably because it left all of us feeling so vulnerable, especially dad out of town.

Lincoln Park

This is another story my mom tells:

I remember playing with my older sister in Lincoln Park in the 1950s. I was probably 8 or 9 years old, so that would’ve made it around 1955. We were living in vet’s housing at the time. Anyway, while we were playing, I noticed some guy sitting in his car reading a newspaper. Except there was a hole cut in the newspaper, and he was watching us play. He wasn’t doing anything else as far as I know. Just watching us. It spooked us so much we went home and told mom, and she just told us not to go back there. But she didn’t call the police; people just didn’t call the police over stuff like that back in those days. What’s really disturbing is that I saw that guy around town for years, and, as a matter of fact, when I went into labor with [her daughter] Lisa [in 1966], that man’s wife was also in the hospital having a baby, and I recognized him when he came to see her. The experience has stayed with me all of these years.

The White Van

My niece told us the following story about an experience she had as a teenager:

We had so many weird things happen when we lived out on Route 4. People randomly stopping to ask if they could use our toilet. We’d wake up and see tire tracks running through our front yard where somebody had run off the road in the night. Our mailbox got hit so many times…

Anyway, the creepiest thing happened when I was 16, which would’ve made it around 2004. I had just gotten my license, and it was snowing really hard. I was out with my friends at El Campesino and thought I should get home. Seth [her brother] was having a recital so everybody else was gone when I got home. You could enter the either through the front door or go through the garage, and I went in through the garage that night and put the garage door down behind me. Although we almost never did it, that night I locked the door going from the garage to the house behind me, too. I was also talking on the phone with [her friend] Haley.

The house in question, located on Marion-Marysville Road in Prospect.
The house in question, located on Marion-Marysville Road in Prospect.

As I walked into the living room I saw that there was a white van idling in our driveway. I was like, that’s weird, since I hadn’t seen it pulling in behind me. At this point, I still hadn’t turned on any lights in the house, so I just stood there in the living room watching this van. After a minute, some guy got out – he looked like he was in his 40s – and came up onto the front porch and started pounding on the front door shouting, “Hey, let me in. It’s cold!” Of course, I didn’t open the door. So after a few minutes, he walked over to the garage door and started pulling on that handle. Like I said, it was closed. After a few minutes, he went back out to his van and just sat there. That’s when I noticed somebody else was in the van, too. I was really starting to freak out at this point, but at least I still had Haley on the phone with me. After a few minutes, the guy got out of his van and tried the garage door again. Although the garage door was down, and you couldn’t just pull it up using the handle, there was a button outside that you could push to make it go up. Well, he figured this out, and the next thing I knew he was in the garage and trying the door to the house. Thank God I had locked it behind me when I came in! I ran and hid in Seth’s room, and when I peeked out the blinds a few minutes later, he was standing right there on the other side of the window. I screamed and ran to get a knife out of the kitchen. I told Haley to look up our neighbors in the phone book and call them. A few minutes later, the neighbor came out and started over to our house. The guy saw him and ran back to his van and drove off. But get this: the guy left a note in the door with a message saying something like, “We really like your couch and want to know where you got it,” and there was a phone number with it.

Our neighbor stayed with me until mom and dad and Seth got home, and they called the sheriff. When the deputy tried calling that phone number, it wasn’t a working number. I wish I had got the van’s license plate number, but I was just a scared kid and it was snowing hard anyway. To this day, I have no idea who this guy was. I think he may have followed me from El Campesino, but I don’t know for sure.

If you’ve got a story like the ones you’ve just read, drop me a line at spooks@spokymarion.com!

Marion’s Ruins, Part III

Back in 2013 when I put together the photos that would become Marion’s Ruins: A Photo Essay, I never imagined I would at some point have enough photos for a part two let alone a part three. But here I am with a few more, some of them recent and some of them a few years old.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion about why we find abandoned houses and crumbling building so fascinating. Personally, I think images like these are symbolically powerful in that they remind us that all of our endeavors - indeed, all of us – are ultimately at nature’s mercy. Being reminded of this is both profound and a little, well, spooky.

If you know any additional information or stories about these properties, please feel free to comment below!

- Josh Simpkins

irvinshootsrdhouse
An abandoned house located near the corner of Irvin Shoots and Goodnow Road.
Of course, the Huber Building on the corner of Prospect and Center Street is well-known in Marion. Constructed by Marion industrialist Edward Huber in 1903, the building has been home to a variety of businesses over the years. The property is currently being developed into lofts by Lois Fisher and Associates.
Of course, the Huber Building on the corner of Prospect and Center Street is well-known in Marion. Constructed by Marion industrialist Edward Huber in 1903, the building has been home to a variety of businesses over the years. The property is currently being developed into lofts by Lois Fisher and Associates. This image is courtesy of Mike Crane who has an outstanding collection of old Marion postcards and photos which you can see on his website.
uhlerbuildingdentistchair
As the renovations in the Huber building are ongoing, there are still areas of the building where signs of former tenants remain.
An abandoned house on Wilson Avenue.
An abandoned house on Wilson Avenue.
Located on the corner of Mt. Olive-Agosta and Mt. Olive-Green Camp Roads, this church dates back to 1893 and hosted a Methodist congregation until 1991.
Located on the corner of Mt. Olive-Agosta and Mt. Olive-Green Camp Roads, this Methodist church dates back to 1893 and hosted a congregation until 1991.
Currently, the former church is privately owned and facing an uncertain future.
Currently, the former church is privately owned and facing an uncertain future.
An abandoned house on Quarry Street.
An abandoned house on Quarry Street.
New Bloomington School was constructed in 1916. The school became part of the Elgin Consolidated School District in 1960. In 1975 the building was no longer being used for instruction but was
New Bloomington School was constructed in 1916 and became part of the Elgin Consolidated School District in 1960. By 1975 the building was only being used to house administrative offices. However, after these offices relocated to Kenner Road, the building fell into a state of disrepair.
newbloomingtonschool
New Bloomington School in 2014. In February of 2016, three teenagers were arrested for setting a fire inside the building.
423house
An abandoned house near the Corner of Owens Road and Route 423.
Located on the relatively obscure Showers Road north of town, this former one room schoolhouse is currently being used to shelter farm animals. It dates back to 1896.
Located on the relatively obscure Showers Road north of town, this former one-room schoolhouse is currently being used to shelter farm animals. It dates back to 1896.
fountainstreethouse
On a personal note, this abandoned house on Fountain Street is a real heart-breaker. It used to belong to my aunt and uncle, and I have a lot of good memories of cookouts and hayrides there. I recently heard that someone was attempting to fix the place back up. I hope they succeed.