Dorothy Evans remembers her first experience with the paranormal when she and her twin sister Margaret were barely a year old and living in Libertyville.
At night, a woman with dark hair gathered in a bun, wearing a long dress and a shawl, would visit them in their bedroom. The woman carried a candle, and used it to light another candle on a table.
Since then, Lara has lived in several other Lake County and northern Illinois towns, where she has seen other spirts from beyond. She said she shares those experiences with others on a Facebook group called “Ghosts of Waukegan and Lake County.”
“I was born with an open mind, so I am sensitive to these things,” said Lara, who now lives in Dixon. “If a person has a closed mind, they are less likely to experience these things.”
Lara believes some humans remain with us even after they pass. “For whatever reason, good or bad, some souls are not willing to move on and remain earthbound for however long it takes them to finally let go of their past life. Eventually though, they must let go,” she said.
That’s what she thinks happened in the case of the woman carrying a candle in her and her sister’s room.
“At that time, my grandparents owned the two-flat we lived in. They lived upstairs; we lived downstairs,” Lara said.
The woman with the candle visited them until a few days before their grandmother, who lived upstairs, died.
“My sister and I concluded that our nightly visitor was our great-grandmother, Maggie Protheroe Williams, who was my grandmother’s mother. We believe Maggie was biding her time waiting for our grandmother, her daughter, to pass,” Lara said.
“At around age 7 or 8, my dad showed us Maggie’s picture taken in Chicago in 1886. I immediately recognized her as our past nightly visitor. Maggie died in 1928. We were born in 1948.”
Lara concluded the lit candle was a message to, “always look for the light.”
Lara said she lived with an invisible roommate in a two-flat apartment in Zion for 12 years while she was working in the medical records department of a Waukegan hospital.
She learned the woman who had rented it moved out suddenly after only living there for a few days.
Lara found out why when, on the third day after she moved in, she awoke to the sound of book pages flipping, and later saw items being thrown out of her kitchen cabinets. She decided to ask a priest to bless the apartment, she said.
When he left, a loaf of bread flew off the top of her refrigerator and went flying across the room, Lara said. She researched the history of Zion, and learned that the apartment complex was built with wood from an old house along Lake Michigan. She thinks her invisible roommate came along with the lumber.
Old houses seem to attract ghosts, as Wayne Summers of Mundelein said he has learned. He lives in a brick building that is more than 100 years old. His home is above a carpeting store he owns.
“I never believed until I saw it,” Summers said about otherworldly spirits.
One day he arrived to work early before anyone was there and walked downstairs to the basement. “Halfway down, the light flicked off and there was a woman at the bottom of the stairs. She turned around and walked into a wall and disappeared,” he said.
Lady in a long, white gown
Summer said he’s seen this same woman with a long, white gown several times.
“I’m not the only who has seen this,” he said. “People say sometimes there’s a lady standing there in a white gown in our store. I would love to know who she is.”
Summers learned the building where his home and business are once housed a post office and the town morgue.
“They had no funeral homes back then,” Summers said. “They buried you the next day. What I think is that in the winter time, they’d bring the bodies downstairs because the ground was too hard to dig. I don’t know what went on, but we definitely have a ghost down there – or multiple ghosts.
“Sometimes when I’m in the basement, it gets super cold even though there’s a furnace down there,” he said.
About five months ago, Summers asked ghost-chasers to check out the building. They never saw the lady with the long, white gown, but they told him they did speak with a male ghost with a German accent named Otto. That gave Summers the chills because Mundelein was founded by European immigrants, he said.
Tarah Nicole Hoffmann of Lindenhurst and her husband Mark believe the tattoo shop they run in Waukegan has been visited by otherworldly spirits.
Dinosaur Studio is on the fourth level of the building, which is actually the ground level, Tarah Hoffmann said. It was built in 1936 to house a furniture manufacturing business, she said. The three levels below were for storage. The fourth floor – which is level with the street – was the showroom.
“Once when I was down on the third floor, all of a sudden I heard this little girl laughing. I looked behind me, and I saw a girl running down the hallway giggling, and she was in her nightgown,” Tarah said. “I’m getting goosebumps talking about it.
“Every one of our employees that’s ever worked at Dinosaur Studios – they’ve all spent time there alone, and they’ve all seen this, even without us thinking to bring it up,” she said.
Mark said when he was drawing alone in the studio one day, he heard what sounded like giggling and then saw a little girl run from a hallway and then through a wall.
Mark said he and his wife learned some ghoulish history of the building where their shop is located. After the furniture store closed, the building was vacant for about 25 years, he said.
“People hung out there,” Tarah said. “They were known as the lower-floor people. People would do drugs. Bodies were found. One of the bodies they pulled out was this young girl. It was related to the couple who were known users, and the woman was a schizophrenic.”
Mark added: “They think the girl had been abducted by this couple.” They supposedly killed her and dumped her body across the ravine, next to the building where his shop is, he said.
“The little girl apparently went to the building to hide after she passed,” Mark said.
“In between the rich history, and then the building being vacant for so long, I feel like there are just lost souls down there,” Tarah said.
Those who see ghosts think they can be coaxed to leave.
“The last time we heard someone had seen the little girl, we walked around the building and said, ‘It’s OK. You can go,’” Tarah said.
Mark said, “We haven’t seen her around in a while. She might have gone to the light.”
Thing with red eyes
Mark said he believes the city of Waukegan is so old and steeped in history that it’s bound to have spirits roaming. One of his clients has told him about being chased in Waukegan by something about 7 feet tall with red eyes. Tarah said she’s heard about the thing with the red eyes as well.
“All you can see is a shadow, and it has red eyes and it feels really negative,” she said. “Any time it’s around, you want to leave.”
She’s convinced she and her 9-year-old daughter, Anyah, saw the thing with the red eyes one evening while walking along Waukegan Beach.
Tarah believes some people are born with a sixth sense, a gift of seeing people beyond the living. She believes she inherited that gift from her grandmother, and has experienced that phenomenon several places where she’s lived.
When their daughter was 2 years old, Tarah and Mark lived in a home built before the Civil War on Sheridan Road in Waukegan.
“I would be in one room cleaning while Anyah was napping, and I’d touch a glass and the glass would shake and explode,” Tarah said. She learned the home was one of several owned by brothers who had served in the Civil War. “We learned the person who lived in the house we lived in had never come back from war.”
Such experiences inspire her to learn more about the history of where she lives and works.
“I’m infatuated with it more and more – and it makes me want to delve deeper into history,” she said.