Hampton, Illinois is a quiet river town nestled into the bluffs alongside the Mississippi River. It was probably the last place that Jim Arpy expected to hear about a haunted house.
And yet there he was, ready to investigate one.
Jim Arpy worked for one of the biggest newspapers in the region, The Times-Democrat. He had reported on all kinds of things over the years, and, like most other reporters, was always on the lookout for a good story. And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?
Still, Arpy remained skeptical. He wasn’t dismissing the story outright, but he made sure to take things with the proverbial grain of salt. It was the late 1950’s, and the amateur ghost hunting trend that would take the nation by storm was still decades away.
There were many people during that time who outright dismissed any claims of the supernatural, and anyone who said that had experienced something along those lines were dismissed as mistaken, deluded, or maybe even crazy.
To make matters worse, Arpy couldn’t dismiss the possibility that these people were lying outright. In his line of work, there were always some people who were just looking to get attention. They liked the thrill of seeing their name in print and having people ask them questions about their story. These kinds of individuals would do anything for that kind of rush.
Regardless, the veteran reporter had been intrigued by what the home-owners had told him, and so he had decided to go out and see for himself. Along with a photographer with the paper, Arpy headed out to Hampton to look at the house.
As they drove down the shaded river road toward their destination, Arpy began to think about what the couple had told him.
They had said that there were plastic curtains hanging between their living room and bedrooms. One night, as they sat there in the quiet of the house, the curtains suddenly moved. They had pushed inwards, then swung back into place, just like someone had walked through them.
Needless to say, it surprised them. At first, they tried to pass it off as normal. Maybe it was the wind, or maybe they had caught on something and then worked themselves free, falling back into place.
But there had been no wind. And neither one of them had noticed them hanging strangely or bound up in any way.
The next time, the phenomenon became harder to dismiss. The time after that, harder still. By the time it became a normal occurrence, the couple reluctantly accepted it as something they just couldn’t explain.
If that had been the only thing that was going on in the house, then perhaps the couple would have just accepted it and moved on. But soon, other things began to happen.
Objects began to fall off shelves, even when there was no one near them. Once again, the couple couldn’t find any explanation. Other times, they could hear what sounded like someone walking on their roof.
The worst thing, though, were the screams.
On several occasions, the deep silence of the house would be broken by an unseen woman’s bloodcurdling screams. It sounded as if she was fighting for her life. But try as they might, the couple couldn’t ever find a source for the sound.
All of this went through Arpy’s head as they approached the house.
It was a simple basement-style house, surrounded by woods. There was nothing unusual about it. Nothing made it stand out from any number of other houses in the region. From all appearances, it was just another house.
Arpy and his companion walked up to the front door and knocked. Soon they were greeted by the home owners.
After some friendly small talk, the reporter got down to business. Once again, the couple recounted the strange things that had been happening to them. Arpy listened close, taking notes and asking questions as he needed. At no time did they seem insincere to him. They seemed to be telling him the truth, or at least what they believed to be the truth. And the more they talked, the more apparent it became how terrified they really were by what was happening around them.
When he was finished, Arpy thanked them and left. He went through the area, interviewing some of the neighbors. They told Arpy that they had also heard a woman screaming, just like the couple had described it.
Depending on who he asked, Arpy got different answers.
Some said that the sound came from the abandoned mines in the area.
During the 19th century, large coal deposits were found in the area surrounding Hampton. Some individuals dug mine shafts down and extracted the coal, but the deposits had long since played out. However, some locals claimed that some of the old mine shafts still existed.
They said that the sound could be the wind howling through those old tunnels, or maybe some animal had gotten into one and it amplified their cries and howls.
Others, however, offered a much more bizarre explanation. They said that it was the ghost of a murdered woman.
According to them, a local man had become angry with his wife years prior. He was so angry that in a fit of rage he grabbed her and began to drag her to a nearby well. She struggled as hard as she could, and the entire time, she screamed, desperate to escape. But it was all in vain. He threw her down the well and left her to die.
Some said that the woman’s ghost still cried out in the afterlife, her terrified screams carrying through the woods.
Ultimately, for his own reasons, Arpy decided against writing the story. While they had invited him to talk about their experiences, the couple was absolutely adamant that he not use their names. Like so many people, they were afraid of what other people might think of them.
Arpy lost track of them. They never contacted him again. Maybe, they learned to live with their ghost. Maybe they just sold the house and left, leaving the new owners to deal with the problem. Whatever they did, the haunted house never gained notoriety in the region.
We can only hope that, if it was a ghost, that it found some semblance of peace at last.
Hampton Township, Illinois. Illinois Genealogy, illinoisgenealogy.org.
Wundram, Bill. Excursions Into Supernatural of the Quad Cities. Quad City Times, 10/25/1959