the old slave house
The Old Slave House

The Hickory Hill slave house is located near Junction, IL, a small villiage near Harrisburg, IL in the southern part of the state.
In 1842, a wealthy salt mine owner built this building to house the slaves he "rented" to work the mines. Apparently at the time there was a law in place allowing businessmen to "import" slaves from slave states into free states like Illinois and use them for miserable tasks (like working in salt mines). Soon, this Illinois entrepreneur found that he could increase his profits by kidnapping free black men and women and selling them back into slavery in the south. He also had a little side hobby of siring the most virile and strong men with the fertile women slaves to produce more slaves to sell.
He kept his "crew" in an attic in stalls, similar to what cattle are kept in, shackled to the floor. The room was rumored to have secret passeges that lead to the main house and the river, to expedite his illicit dealings at night. Two windows ventilated the large room. I don't know if you've ever been in an attic room in the summer in Illinois, but I can tell you it gets miserably hot and chokingly muggy. He took to beating the slaves, sometimes to death.
Finally brought to trial in 1842, he wasn't convicted on the first count of illegally trading slaves. However, within a short amout of time he was on trial again, and oddly enough, a slave ended his salt mining career by whacking his leg off with an axe. The slaves rioted and burned down his mill. He died years later and was buried alongside his wife.
After the slave house was opened up for tours, it soon became the infamous home to sightings of apparitions and the sounds of moaning and chains rattling. One turn of the century "exorcist" spent the night there and died the next day from a sudden unexplained illness. Others, including some Vietnam vets who thought they had the gonads to stay all night, tried and failed in the quest to stay all night in the haunted attic. Finally, in the 1970's a local TV station put a TV personality up for the night in the slave quarters, part of a Halloween publicity stunt. He succeeded, a sort of prequel to the Geraldo Rivera's opening of the Capone Vaults (another Illinois media event) in that the spirits were apparently camera shy and they ended up with a pretty boring show. The caretaker closed off the house to overnight guests after a knocked over latern nearly burned the dried out old building down. It was closed to the public in 1996 due to lack of funds, and has not of yet been named a historical site in Illinois, which would qualify it for state funds, I'm sure. I don't know if the state government is embarrassed by its' less than glamourous history, but I do know it's a shame. I've seen some of the places that this state deems "historical" and this site seems much more significant than "the site of Adalai Stevenson's First Hard-on", or some of the other plaques I've seen stuck to the sides of rocks in our Illinois towns and villiages.
The Old Slave House is located near the junction of Highway 45 and Highway 13 in Southern Illinois. It is 14 miles east of Harrisburg.

the old slave house