Hickory Hill, now called the Old Slave House because of it's dark history, is located in southern Illinois, in an area better known as Little Egypt. For many years visitors have come to see this former "chamber of horrors." What happened to the slaves who were tortured here is now commonly known, but it is said that they don't rest in peace.
Even though the free blacks were supposed to be protected by law, it didn't stop the "night riders" from kidnapping them and their children and selling them into slavery down south.
Built in the mid-1800s by John Crenshaw, a respected member of the community, it was used as the main center for his illegal slave operation. It was near the Kentucky border (which was a slave state), where Crenshaw's slave catchers would wait at night to capture slaves trying to get away over the border.
It is said that the Saline River was once linked to the basement of Hickory Hill via a tunnel where the slaves were loaded and unloaded. There was also a channel built so that a wagon could enter the building and unload the slaves without being seen.
The third floor was filled with small cell-like rooms with barred windows and flat wooden bunks. An average-sized person could barely fit in them.
Chains and metal rings left marks in the walls and floors of the cells. They are on display as well as the two whipping posts. Crenshaw was said to have beat and disfigured many of the slaves that he kept there. He was supposedly attacked by one of the slaves, cutting off one of his legs. Due to this and the drop off of his business he finally had to sell Hickory Hill.
Many people have reported the hair on their arms rise, and hearing "mysterious voices can be heard in that attic, sometimes moaning, sometimes singing the spirituals that comfort heavy hearts." Ghostly faces have been seen looking out of the attic window.
Strange noises have been heard, such as cries, whimpers, and the rattling of chains. Reports of cold chills and invisible hands touching are common.
Only one person, David Rogers, was ever successful at spending the whole night in the attic. He said that he felt "queasy" going into the house. "I heard a lot of strange noises," he said the following morning. "I was actually shaking. The place is so spooky. The tape recorder was picking up sounds that I wasn't hearing."
The Old Slave House was closed in 1996. The state of Illinois bought it in 1999, and they plan to re-open it as a state historic site. Hopefully the ghosts will not be "scared off" by the renovation.
Tale from Donna M.
"I just wanted to tell you that my husband and I visited the Old Slave House when it was still open, and when we were up in the attic in one of the cells, I felt the hair on my arms stand on end. Slave House AtticI called my husband over, and he felt a cold chill pass over him when he walked through the door. I have never been so scared in my life!" -Donna M.
Tale from David A.
"I was passing through southern Illinois in the late 1970s on my way back to Chicago, where I teach at a university, and decided to stop and see the Old Slave House. I was the only visitor there that day, and I took my time going through the house, except for when it came to the attic. Slave House Attic The whole time I was up there, I was sure that someone was the with me. I was constantly turning around to see who was behind me, but there was never anyone there.
Finally I became so unnerved that I left the house and walked out to my car. It was parked in the gravel lot directly in front, and when I reached it, I looked up at the attic window. I clearly saw a face looking out at me, even though I knew no one had been in the house! I was so shaken up that I went back in and asked the owner if someone else had come inside. He said that no one had. I still have no explanation for what happened. I never believed in ghosts before that, and while I'm still not sure that I do, I just have no explanation for what I saw in that window." -David A.