Trick-or-treaters visit haunted houses every year in hopes of a fun scare and a sweet treat. But what if there was an actual haunted house just one town over?
In 1910, Benedictine monks opened St. Joseph Bohemian Orphanage in Lisle, where it operated until 1956. The building was then incorporated into the school now known as Benet Academy. But many believe some of the orphans never left.
On the western edge of Benet’s campus just behind the baseball field, you’ll find a small cemetery with 23 graves, mostly of children who died during their time at the orphanage. Father Julian partially attributes the popularity of Benet’s ghost stories to rumors around this cemetery.
St. Joseph Hall
The fourth floor of St. Joseph Hall was recently renovated, but for decades it was closed off to students.
One room, now a classroom, used to serve as the dormitory. An orphan named Anna tragically died of an illness in the room when she was very young. For years, students said you could see Anna along with a nun clothed in black looking out the window of her old room.
But the most haunting stories involved unlocking the door to go up the stairs in person.
Perhaps it was experiences like that which inspired a variety of staged hauntings.
Father Julian is also guilty of staging these happenings. He’s given many tours of the fourth floor to groups of parents, altar servers, and more. To add to the experience, he would sometimes have older students hiding in the attic above the group, walking around, scratching, and dropping things.
One time though, that plan backfired, when he brought a group of students to the gym for some terrifying tales.
Are these actually ghosts?
Father Julian referenced something called psychic residue, where places where there was a lot of emotion felt can be tapped into when others feel that emotion.
Where Did They Go?
Since the fourth floor was completely redone about six years ago, Father Julian says there haven’t been any encounters. “They’re all gone,” he says.
But perhaps the spirits have moved to other parts of the building where there’s less student traffic.
Though most of the old spirits seem to have left Benet’s buildings, the stories will continue for much longer.
“People have an interest,” Father Julian said. “And especially as you get close to Halloween, we liked to be scared. Being scared reminds us that we are alive. It’s part of an adventure without really being in danger.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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