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History of notorious Peoria haunts

With Halloween just around the corner, the mid-semester stretch won’t be the only horror experience around campus.

Peoria is home to several spooky locations with ghosts, including the Metropolitan Opera House, Springdale Cemetery and the Peoria Public Library. But some of the creepiest places are closer than you think – some on Bradley’s campus.

The Madison Theater 

Although the theater shut down in 2003, this historical landmark is still in downtown Peoria. It thrived in silent pictures when it opened in 1920, but struggled to attract business in the 1990s. With three prominent ghosts living in the theatre, silent films aren’t the only thing “playing in Peoria.”

A young actor haunts the main stage of the auditorium. He was killed in the neighboring alley following a performance. Visitors said they could hear footsteps pacing the stage and could smell cologne with his presence. When the building did renovations several years ago, the ghost moved tools around to stop work.

In 1950, a small child was lured away from his parents and murdered in the theatre’s basement. Visitors reported childish laughter, along with icy-cold air, in the auditorium.

A former usher haunted visitors in the form of a flashlight gliding past the aisles in the foyer and disappearing into darkness.




The Bartonville State Mental Hospital 

Another historically haunted location is the infamous asylum in Bartonville. The original hospital was built between 1899 and 1910, and “inmates” from all over the state were transported there. Longtime hospital director Dr. Zeller treated patients with kindness and care, versus the typical treatment of abuse and experimentation on mental patients of that time. Despite Dr. Zeller’s efforts, some patients were still treated poorly and neglected. In 1973, after two patients’ murders, the hospital closed. For those brave enough to face the ghosts of the asylum, tours can be booked at But be warned – it’s known for creepiness.

In the attic of Bowen building, a nurse hanged himself. Visitors can still hear his heavy boots and labored breathing. On moonlit nights, his silhouette can be seen in the attic from the road.

Also residing in the attic is the “Woman in White.” As a housekeeper in Bowen, the woman jumped to her death in 1933 after being rejected by a married doctor. Visitors can hear her singing religious tunes in the attic.

Too scared to tour the asylum? Ghostly faces still appear at night while driving past.


Bradley University

Believe it or not, there are some ghosts on the Hilltop. Spirits are found in the dorms and administrative buildings – including the bathroom across from the Scout Office (yikes!).

Lydia Moss Bradley’s nephew, who lived in her house on Moss Street after her death, said he could hear Lydia’s cane across the floor frequently. Visitors have also seen an apparition of Lydia in her beloved rose garden.

In the 1980s, a student was rumored to have hanged herself during Spring Break in the third floor women’s bathroom of Sisson Hall. She wasn’t discovered for 12 days. Visitors complain of the sound of water rushing in the bathroom frequently, despite it being empty. The Scout Office is located across from this bathroom.

Before Constance Hall was home to the School of Music, it was a women’s residence. Former Dean Olive White haunts its halls. Her heels can be heard clicking through the corridors, making sure her residences are behaving.

The seventh floor of Harper Hall is haunted by a student who died in 1987. Heavily drunk after finals, the student walked over the bridge in Laura Bradley Park, tripped, hit his head on the rocks and broke his neck. The elevator in Harper often takes visitors to floor seven regardless of the button pressed. Uneven footsteps can still be heard in the hallway of the student trying to get back to his dorm room.


Information taken from: Haunted Peoria by Stephanie E. McCarthy

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