Reports of ghosts on Beloit's West Side are common, according to Beloit College Associate Professor of Theater and Communications Amy Sarno, the leader of The Beloit Ghost Stories Project of 2005.
Sarno has interviewed many sources claiming to have experienced ghosts on the West Side. Because many of Beloit's oldest homes are along St. Lawrence Avenue, there are many reportedly haunted buildings around the area.
“It makes sense because it's the oldest street in Beloit,” Sarno said.
The good news is that most of the West Side ghosts seem to be charitable and loving toward immigrants and children.
Sarno suggests that people may create the ghost stories to explain what they don't understand, the ever-changing cultures of various immigrant groups and the unique history in the West Side of Beloit.
Here are some of the West Side buildings people say are haunted:
The Gallagher Building, corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and Hackett Street
The building was a grocery store owned by an Irish family at the turn of the century. During the 1918 flu pandemic, all the children of the Irish family died. From time to time, people report seeing a little girl in the upstairs window looking down.
Hanchett-Bartlett Homestead, 2149 St. Lawrence Ave.
Volunteers have reported a female ghost which can be heard walking back and forth upstairs at the 1857 Victorian farmstead. One person reported that a rocking chair in the living room started moving by itself.
Sarno said that Mary Bartlett, an eccentric Beloit doctor, was known for taking care of immigrants from Greece and Italy during the flu pandemic, something frowned upon at the time.
Bartlett later died in the house. Although she never had children of her own, she was always remembered for her love of children. Some have said Bartlett's ghost brings comfort to children and her voice can be heard in the home.
The Grinnell Senior Center, 927 Fourth Ave.
People report hearing the flutter of a canary's wings. When the center was built in the 1900s, the Lee house - a former boarding school - was torn down. During the erection of the hall, a box with a canary was found in a beam.
“The canary was laid very gently inside this box on a cotton bedding with a ribbon inside and a note of poetry,” Sarno said. “Somebody actually took the care to bury this bird in a box and entomb it inside granite.”
Sources believe a lonely boy was stuck in a boarding school and the only thing that loved him was the bird.
The box was laid to rest in Grinnell Hall.
“The people who told me this story said they believe it flutters its wings when it feels love,” Sarno said.
Steelworkers Union Hall, 1620 Shore Drive.
Ghost hunters say the building is haunted. People have reported hearing footsteps. Some sources say there once was an underground railroad in the building, although it's not confirmed. However, other sources say they can hear the chains of slaves trying to escape.
Sarno said a German doctor practiced medicine in that building, called the Carpenter home. At the time ,there was a fear of Germans so some say the doctor may still haunt the area.
People have reported that on windy days the clomp of horse hooves can he heard up and down Bluff Street. Sarno said the street is one of the oldest areas of town.