Unbelievable Courage

Alma Anderson spent the early morning of June 18, 1957 as she often did.  Her son, LaVerne and his wife Lucille had joined Alma and her husband Eric for breakfast before leaving for work that day.  The family lived next door to each other on Oakes Avenue.  People would later testify how close the family was. 

The four had spent time in the breezeway drinking coffee and sharing the newspaper.  Eric was sent back upstairs to change because the other three didn’t like the suit he had chosen to wear.  The men left for work around 9:30a.m.  The two women decided to spend some time weeding the flowers beds that surrounded the elder Andersons’ home. 

Lucille returned to her home shortly after 10:00 a.m.  She was just beginning her house work when she heard a horrendous explosion and was knocked to the floor. 

Mrs. Aaron Johnson lived in the house on the other side of Alma’s.  That morning she was sitting in her living room sewing.  When the blast occurred it blew out thirteen windows in her house and broke all the glass in a china hutch near where she was sitting.  The glass caused numerous cuts on Mrs. Johnson and she was unable to hear for a few minutes after the explosion. 

Both Lucille and Mrs. Johnson raced outside to see what could have caused the loud eruption.  Lucille was horrified to see the damage at the back of the Anderson home.  She ran toward the home to locate her mother-in-law.  Lucille would later state that she could not even comprehend the scene that greeted her.

Alma Anderson lay on the ground in the midst of the damage.  She had been horribly maimed and was gasping for breath.  Lucille was soon joined by others from the neighborhood and they tried to keep calm while they waited for help to arrive.

Alma was rushed to Swedish American Hospital where the doctors gave little hope for survival.  She was rushed into surgery as the police gathered at the scene of the blast.

The authorities were under the assumption that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak in the home so the Central Illinois Electric and Gas Company sent investigators to look over the debris.  They were joined by local firemen and as they sifted through the debris they came to a chilling conclusion. 

The explosion had been deliberately caused by a handmade bomb.  Police Chief Thomas P. Boustead soon arrived to take control of the scene that was now being labeled a deliberate attempt of murder.  The findings at the scene changed everything and soon the family members were being questioned about their activities on that morning. 

Eric felt he knew who might have planned the attack.  He had served as a First Ward City Alderman for over 25 years and was well-known to the authorities.  Eric felt the bomb was left for him in retaliation of his role in a city dispute.  He became entangled in a fight with the old bureau of sanitation.  The companies involved had been plagued with labor disputes for years and the city decided that it needed to take action.  Eric was a vital part of the group that voted that to terminate the existing contracts and hire a private firm for garbage collection.  He truly believed that the companies that lost the city’s business held him personally responsible.

The authorities must have agreed because they placed Eric and LaVerne in police protection.  They had police guards for weeks after the bombing.

Alma’s wounds were devastating and the fact that she didn’t die immediately from the blast was considered to be a miracle.  Her right arm and leg had been so damaged that the doctors needed to amputate them.  She also lost the sight in her right eye and at first it was feared that she would be blind in the left.  Her face and chest were punctured in numerous places from the metal debris that had blown up with the blast.

Investigators were working hard at the scene to gather the evidence to show exactly what had transpired at the Anderson home that morning.  The door that the bomb had been placed at was very seldom used and they didn’t know why Alma would have been at the door.  Lucille felt that Alma was walking around checking the flower beds around the home when she came upon the box.

It was later determined that the bomb had been placed in an old tackle box.  It contained at least two sticks of dynamite but was probably more and had two different times of batteries for detonation.  The investigators theorized that it was set to go off if anyone moved it.  They could tell from her injuries that Alma had bent down to pick up the box and this protected her lower chest and abdomen from the blast.  This probably saved her life.  Wood from the home and pieces of Alma’s flesh were found over forty feet away.

Alma was on the brink of death for quite a while before the doctors offered any hope.  But slowly, she began to show signs of healing.  Alma thought she had suffered a stroke and had no memory of the blast.  Though this frustrated the police, most people thought it was a blessing.

Alma amazed everyone around her with her determination and positive attitude about the injuries.  Doctors were astonished by her recovery.  They called it “miraculous” and took no credit for it.  They gave the credit to Alma who had and undefeatable spirit and will to live.  When Alma was finally released on August 7, 1957, the staff of the hospital threw her a party. 

Alma went on to impress everyone who heard her story.  She didn’t let her new disabilities stop her from living a full life.  Though Alma was sixty one years old and had to learn how to do even the simplest tasks differently, she never gave up. 

Eric continued to work for our city and in September 1957, he received an award for his dedication to the Faust Landmark.  The $6,000.00 he was awarded was spent on some of the medical bills that the couple were required to pay from Alma’s injuries.  He was humbled by the generous award and stated, “I never expected this.  Just your friendship is enough.”

Eric passed away on September 16, 1969.  Alma lived to be eighty four years old and died on November 24, 1979. They both are buried at the Scandinavian Cemetery.

Though a $15,000 reward was offered for tips leading to the arrest of the bomber, no one was ever arrested for this horrendous crime.





Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The Horrors Of War

Andersonville Prison.  That phrase conjures up horrible images of men living in conditions beyond comprehension.  It was notorious even back when it opened.  Any man who was taken prisoner feared being sent there.  Word had spread about the conditions that turned strong men into walking skeletons.

The prison’s official name was Camp Sumter and it was located near Andersonville, Georgia.  It opened in February 1864 and ran for fourteen months.  It was built to house Union prisoners after the Northern forces moved closer to the prison located in Richmond, Virginia. None of the prisoner of war camps on either side had adequate food or housing for the men taken prisoner but Andersonville was the worst.  There wasn’t even enough food for the Confederate men assigned there as guards.

The camp was originally intended to house 10,000 men but within a few months over three times that number lived behind those walls.  During the time it was opened over 45,000 men were imprisoned there.   

The creek that ran through the camp soon became fouled with human waste and disease was rampant.  Men struggled every day with hunger, parasites, disease, and guards.  They also feared each other.  Desperate men banded together to form groups called “Raiders”.  These men would attack other prisoners and steal food, blankets, clothing, and any money that they possessed.

The commander of Andersonville was Captain Henry Wirz during the entire time it was opened  until it closed in April 1865.  He was arrested after the war ended and put on trial for his horrendous treatment of the prisoners.  Wirz was convicted and sentenced to death.  He was executed in Washington, D.C on November 10, 1865.

A lot of the men that died were buried in mass graves and records for the others were vey unorganized. One prisoner who was asked to assist with the record keeping was Dorwent Atwater.  He feared that the Confederates would try to cover up the amounts of men that were dying on a daily basis so he turned one set of records in and hid another set.  This was used to paint a more accurate portrayal of life and death in the camp.

After the war ended a National Cemetery was created.  There are 13, 714 men buried there.  921 of them are marked “unknown”.  In the grave marked number 747 was a young man named Oscar Rogers.

Oscar’s family lived in New Milford at the time the Civil War began in 1861.  Though the reason that compelled the young man to join the fighting has been lost to time, records show that he signed up in September, 1862.  New Milford’s quota for recruits was 80 men. Over 139 men from the town signed up.  

By September 1862, the romantic notion of war had been replaced with the stories of true horror.  So Oscar Rogers would have known what exactly he was signing up for when he joined that month.  He was assigned to Company A 12th Cavalry Unit.  This regiment would fight in some of the bloodiest battles including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Antietam.  

Research did not reveal exactly when Oscar was taken prisoner. But his name appears in Atwater’s records.  Oscar Rogers died on April 26, 1864 from starvation and dysentery.  He was originally buried in the cemetery at the prison.  But his body was retrieved by his family and brought home to rest with his parents in the New Milford Cemetery.  His tombstone reads:

Oscar Rogers
Co. A 12th IL Cavalry
Died Prisoner of War at Andersonville, Ga.
April 26,1864
Aged 30 years

Next to Oscar’s tombstone is the stone of his sister, Fannie.  She married Dr.James Rosecrance and together they built a house to use as a clinic to assist veterans after the war.  Later, they would focus more on housing young children who were orphaned.  When Fannie died in 1916, the house became the Rosecrance Memorial Home for Children.  Their legacy has continued and spread to help individuals with substance abuse and behavioral health services.  

Oscar Rogers, like so many other men and women from Winnebago County, did not hesitate to step forward when his country needed him. His family turned their grief outward to help other veterans when they returned wounded from the battlefields.  Their story of sacrifice and dedication to help other veterans and their families is only one of the thousands of men and women from this county who have served their country.  



Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

A Christmas Tragedy

December 22, 1905 started out bright and chilly.  Mr. Enderle was walking down South Main Street shortly after 6:00a.m., when he noticed a man staggering into the Harbough’s Restaurant.  Enderle thought he recognized the man so he pushed open the door.  He found a man that he considered to be a close friend on the floor covered in blood.  

Enderle was shocked by the condition of his friend, Gottlieb Arnold.  Gottlieb operated a tavern near the intersection of South Main and Green Streets.  When Enderle questioned Gottlieb, he stated, “My God, I have been shot.”  

Gottlieb also told Enderle that he was putting money into the cash register when a man stepped from behind the ice chest.  The man said, “Hold up your hands,” before he opened fire.

Enderle agreed to go back to the tavern to check on the money.  As he pushed open the swinging doors, he found another injured man on the floor.  Enderle knew that the authorities had already been called so he locked up the money that still sat on the bar.  Later it would be determined that only $30.00 was taken.

The other injured man was David Fuller, another friend of Gottlieb’s.  Both of the injured men were rushed to Rockford Hospital for treatment.  Fuller would live for several months before finally passing away from his wounds.  Gottlieb was taken into surgery but the bullet had ripped through his liver, completely destroying it.  There was nothing the doctors could do to save him.

This crime shocked the entire town for many reasons.  Gottlieb Arnold was a well-known and respected business owner.  He was also known to be a kind, generous man who served his community through the Germania Society and the Bar Tenders Union.  Gottlieb was fair to his employees and customers.  But he was best known to be a wonderful family man.  He had a lovely wife Annie and four children that were under the age of nine.

Another shocking element of this crime was how close it was to Christmas.  Everyone who knew Gottlieb knew that the Christmas season was his favorite time of year.  He was especially excited that year because he found the perfect presents for his family.  Gottlieb had purchased some beautiful dolls for his girls and rocking horses for the boys.  

Gottlieb told everyone who came into the bar about the presents he had purchased. He even kept the presents at the bar just to ensure that the children did not find them.  It was these presents that would catapult this story into the headlines of all the local papers.  

Authorities were searching the tavern for clues and collecting evidence when they found the stash of presents that Gottlieb had hidden.  It was common practice to collect, register and then store all the evidence from a crime scene but this was a special case.  The men that were charged with the task decided not to confiscate the toys that they found in the tavern.  

Gottlieb’s funeral was hosted on Christmas Eve at the Arnold house on Charles Street.  Family and friends escorted Gottlieb’s body to its final resting place at Cedar Bluff Cemetery.   When the family returned to the house afterwards, several officers came to pay their respects and to drop off the presents for the family.  Later, Gottlieb’s widow would state that the officers’ gesture meant more than they could ever know.

It would be some of those same officers who would attempt to get justice for the murder of Gottlieb.  It took over eight months but they finally arrested someone for the crime in August of 1906. Stone Boyce was a drifter from South Carolina who had been suspected of several crimes.  He was arrested when he was identified by one of the witnesses of Gottlieb’s murder as the man he had seen running from the tavern that morning.  Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to prosecute Boyce for the murder of Gottlieb Arnold and he was released.

Some townspeople thought that justice still prevailed a few months later when the word came that Stone Boyce had been killed while attacking a woman back in South Carolina.  The woman’s husband heard the screams and grabbed his gun when he ran to rescue her.

Though Gottlieb’s tavern was closed because of his murder, his wife Annie would eventually open a grocery store and bakery on Crosby Street in Rockford.  Annie would live to be ninety four years old and was laid to rest by Gottlieb’s side in Cedar Bluff Cemetery when she died in 1966.

According to her friends and family, Annie never forgot the kindness of the Rockford Police Officers who helped get Gottlieb’s presents to his children.  Their selfless act made that dark Christmas of 1905 a little brighter for her family.



Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The Phantom Pain

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

An article written in the Daily Gazette in March 1886 told the strange story of Goodliff family.  Mrs. Goodliff had suffered for some time with pain in her leg.  The pain eventually grew so bad that couple had to make the difficult decision to have Mrs. Goodliff’s leg amputated.

The operation went well and Mrs. Goodliff was hopeful as she began the long journey to recovery.  But it was not very long before she began to suffer from pain all over again.  This pain seemed to be centered in the leg that now was buried in the cemetery. She endured the pain as her doctors and her family watched helplessly.

Doctor Townsend, the physician who had performed the amputation of Mrs. Goodliff’s leg, consulted with other doctors about the “phantom pain.”  But they had no idea what could alleviate the poor woman’s suffering.  There were times that the pains were so bad that she would scream in agony.  She stated that it felt that her leg was still attached and that something was wrapped too tightly causing the leg to throb with pain.

Finally, William’s mother could not stand her daughter-in-laws cries any longer.  She convinced Mr. Goodliff that something must be done.  They decided that Mr. Goodliff needed to dig up the leg and bring it home to show his wife that the leg had been amputated.

So William, accompanied by a friend, went to the cemetery and unearthed his wife’s leg.  When he found the leg, he unwrapped it and found that the leg actually did contain tight bindings.  One wrapping was at the toe area which is exactly where his wife complained of feeling the worst pain.  The other was wrapped tightly just below where the leg had been separated.  William carefully unwrapped the bindings and removed the stockings to free the leg from anything that might cause any discomfort.  He packed up the leg carefully and carried it back to show his wife.

William was pleased when he returned home to find his wife’s pains were relieved.  The article went on to say that many of the family and friends of the couple were with Mrs. Goodliff at the home while Mr. Goodliff was at the cemetery.  Later, everyone was shocked when they realized that Mrs. Goodliff’s pain receded at exactly the same time as William loosened the bindings on the amputated leg, though these incidents occurred many miles apart.

Even the doctors that were attending Mrs. Goodliff stated that they had never seen a case similar to the young woman’s.   She recovered quickly after this incident and Mr. Goodliff eventually returned the amputated limb to the cemetery where it remained until his wife’s death.



Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Hitchhiking Wraith

Originally published in the Rock River Times

Most people in this area have heard of the Resurrection Mary story from Chicago.  But Rockford had its own hitchhiking ghost during the summer in 1933.  What makes this story especially intriguing is that the Chicago story was first reported in 1934 or 1935 (depending on the source).

In an article written in the Register-Republic on July 15, 1933, a couple told of their encounter with the “hitch-hiking wraith.”

The couple was returning to Rockford after a visit to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.  They were on Highway 20 which was more commonly called the U.S. Grant Highway.  Theirs was the only car on the highway when they spotted the woman on the side of the road.  She was dressed all in black and just seemed to appear in their headlights.

They pulled to the side of the road and asked if she needed some help.  The woman accepted their offer and slipped into the back seat.  They all spent some time chatting.  The couple noticed that the young woman was beautiful and dressed as if going to a party.  She spoke of friends and dancing the night away.  The woman told the couple her name was Mrs. Johnson and gave them her address in Rockford.

Mrs. Johnson spoke quite a bit about her life in Rockford and the party she had attended.  The conversation wound down after a while and the couple noticed that the woman had gone silent.  They figured that she had fallen asleep.  The wife leaned over the seat to check on the woman and was horrified to notice that the back seat was completely empty.

The husband brought the car to a sudden stop and the couple searched the car and the surrounding area for the young woman.  They found no sign that she had even been in the car.

They traveled the rest of the way back to Rockford in silence.  Neither of them got much sleep during that long night. In the morning they discussed the incident, trying to remember every detail that the girl had shared with them.

They decided to go to the address she had provided the night before.  They arrived at the house and hesitantly approached the door.  The man that answered the door looked very confused as they explained the whole situation.  He answered that yes, a young lady named Mrs. Johnson had lived there.  But she had been killed some time ago when she was struck while walking on the highway.

The man showed them a picture of Mrs. Johnson and they were able to identify the girl in the picture as the one they had picked up the night before.  Unfortunately, the couple was not identified in the article nor was Mrs. Johnson’s address shared.

Research into possible deaths on the U.S. Grant highway did reveal that there was a Mrs.Johnson that was struck by a car and killed on that road in 1932.  She was out with two other women when for some unknown reason they pulled their car off the highway by a little cafe outside of Belvidere.  The three women decided to walk on the highway and were struck by a car driven by a local businessman.  Mrs. Johnson was instantly killed and the other women suffered severe though not life-threatening injuries.   The three women had spent the evening at a party and were supposedly intoxicated.  This was during prohibition and there was an investigation into where they had obtained the liquor.  Mrs. Johnson was divorced and the mother of two small children.  The last mention of the accident stated that the authorities were still attempting to find the relatives of Mrs. Johnson.

The stories of the ghostly hitch-hiker along U.S. Highway 20 continued for quite some time during 1933.  All of the stories were very similar and spoke of the confusion and fear of the good samaritans when they realized that their passenger disappeared without a trace from the back of a moving vehicle.



Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events