A pair of ill-fated lovers at Stevens College and a lingering tension in the music of John William "Blind" Boone are among the ghost stories featured in the latest book, which aims to take young readers on a terrifying journey through Central America.
Diane Thelgen's Midwest Ghost Stories is one book in a deep and wide American Horror Story series for readers in grades three through seven.
Other chapters are set in places like Hamilton, Ohio; Crown Point, Indiana; and Bloomington and Normal, Illinois.
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Two horror stories at Stevens College
Thelgen's book The Creepy Spirit of Stevens College tells two stories about Columbia's historic women's college. The first is a doomed couple. Early in the story, a Confederate soldier and Stevens student Sarah June Wheeler have an affair at Fort Union, Columbia.
After the soldier was killed, at least according to legend, and Wheeler pursued him until his death, the couple allegedly ended up on campus. According to testimony from the early 1970s, they confirmed rumors of their paranormal activity to a reporter, a teacher, and several students who sought their presence in senior hall.
Thelgen then switched gears and focused the second story on Maud Adams, an early 20th-century Broadway star who later taught at Stevens. Known for his "hard work" and "demand for perfection", Adams had a message.
A student visiting the campus ten years after Adams' death recalled a familiar voice, Thelgen wrote.
"Suddenly I heard these distinct footsteps on the floor: knock-knock-knock, and then I heard Miss Adams' voice," the former student testified to Thelgen.
When he moved into something like his sentences, the student realized that Adams' ghost was "teaching a lesson. We were always repeating the same meaningless syllables," Thelgen wrote.
"However, Adams' ghost is not only for his former students," concludes Thelgen. “Young women who have never worked with him swear they can hear him reciting his favorite roles in student theater. Sometimes this is William Shakespeare's favorite work. But most often it is the French play Chanticleer.
Did "Blind" Boone make music from the underworld?
One of mid-Missouri's true musical legends, the late ragtime pianist "Blind" Boone is featured on the second volume of Thelgen's Columbia.
In detailing Boone's life and later his death in 1927, Thelgen goes further. It tells the story of a woman who was haunted by Boone's former piano playing at what is now Douglas High School circa 1960.
"Perhaps you think someone else can play Boone's music," Thelgen wrote. "But he never signed up. He published only a few of his compositions as sheet music or piano rolls.
And Boone's "Marshfield Tornado" is a complex piece that many pianists won't be able to learn, he wrote. "Only Boone's ghost could play this extraordinary part." he added.
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Thelgen also tells the story of Boone's soulful music at an unnamed theater downtown, which has been described as a Missouri theater. From the theater balcony, interested groups were recording ragtime on their house organ when, as the book says, "the theater organ lost all its internal parts."
"If blindness and prejudice couldn't stop 'Blind' Boone from making music, what do you think death could?" Telzen wrote:
Where readers draw the line between the natural and the supernatural is of course up to them. But Thelgen's work provides useful historical context for each setting, as well as fun, easy-to-read stories that young Ghostbusters should easily finish.
Learn more about this book and find other books in the series through its publisher, Arcadia Children's Press: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/.
This article originally appeared in the Columbia Daily Tribune; How Stevens College and "Blind" Boone are featured in a new ghost story book.