Abraham Lincoln is widely claimed to haunt the White House, but his cousin Dennis Hanks, who lived with him in his childhood home in Indiana, was reputed as well to haunt the house he owned in Charleston, Illinois.
In February, 1970 the Decatur Herald wrote a story based on an interview with Dr. Marie Neville Tycer a university professor who lived in the 19th century home of Abraham Lincoln's cousin Dennis Hanks. She claimed Dennis was one of the ghosts who haunted the home, and surprisingly within only a month, Mrs. Tycer had committed suicide in one of the upstairs rooms of the house.
Footsteps in the hall, and no one there. A crash in the middle of the night, where nothing has fallen.
Rapping on the wall, the creak of a locked door opening.
Strange sounds echo in the large old house on Jackson Street in Charleston, where Mrs. Marie Tycer lives with her 10-year-old daughter, Neville and the ghost of Dennis Hanks, a cousin of Abraham Lincoln.
From the damp, dark slave basement, to the tower behind the house is filled with relics from other ages, and with unexplainable sounds.
Footsteps in the hallway are frequent, said Mrs. Tycer, an English professor at Eastern Illinois University. Sometimes she hears the front door open and close, even though it is locked.
During a snowy January day there were footprints in the snow outside, footprints that led away from the house, but not toward it.
"None of the things that have happened here are frightening or grisly, for us in any way", Mrs. Tycer cautioned.
The Tycers moved into the 14-room house largely to have a place for the antiques they had collected over the years. They had bought the house in 1965 for $20,000.
But when they began to trace the past owners of the 114-year-old house, they found it had a history of its own.
Dennis Hanks was the first owner of the property. Hanks commissioned an agent to purchase the lot for him. But then Hanks was cheated. He found his agent had bought and paid for the lost and recorded it in his own name. The case of ownership came before the court, with Lincoln representing Hanks. Hanks lost the case because it was found he was too young to own land. He lost not only the land but a cabin he had built there.
By 1853 the cabin was demolished and sold to a new owner who built the house that sits on the site.
It was not long, perhaps a month to six weeks, after the Tycers moved in that they began to feel there was something strange living with them. By 1967, the Tycers had daily tours of the home.
The strange happenings have varied from curious or annoying to ominous and startling.
Large doors to the dining room cannot be closed", Mrs. Tycer said. "They always open again, slowly and go all the way back to the wall. I was very flippant about the ghost. You see, I don’t believe in them. I even took a candlestick down and walked around in the slave basement”.
In a damp, eerie corner of the basement is a small room, with chains on stakes driven into the dirt floor.
There are high, barred windows, with bars bent wide apart. The flickering candlelight scarcely reaches the shadowed corners.
"That night," she continued, "all hell broke loose. There were footsteps in the basement first. I went to see if we had a prowler, but there was nothing. Then footsteps again. I felt it was incumbent on me to go again. But there was nothing there. I went back to bed. There was tremendous crash. I had been reading, so I am sure it wasn’t a dream”.
Again she looked for something that had fallen, a pictures, perhaps.
"After 15 or 20 minutes, I couldn’t find anything, I decided it was nothing human, so I went to sleep".
Neighbors are not so casual about “Dennis”.
A teenage girls spent the night once and was frightened at hearing a piano playing in the night.
Another neighbor asked if she could borrow a pillow and blanket while the Tycers were gone.
She felt something go past her on the stairs, she related. And in the room, she felt as thought there were something between her and the bed. She left quickly, without the things she had come for.
And even for Mrs. Tycer there have been ominous moments.
In 1967 there was a set of three raps on the wall. That same day Mrs. Tycer’s cousin died in New York.
Then one day, Mrs. Tycer saw something reflected in an outside window.
It was a man, tall and dark.
"He was perfectly solid, not phantasmagoric. He was about six feet tall, with an aquiline profile. He word an unbuttoned jacket with slightly full sleeves, a vest, trousers and shirt with no collar”.
Several boys were working with her in the yard, but they had seen no one. Later, she saw hm in the reflection again, walking through the yard. Again, no one else had seen him
But Mrs. Tycer remained skeptical, as skeptical as one can be, having already named the “ghost”. "Old houses creak and snap", she said. "I’m sure there is a logical explanation".
But still, she calls him "Dennis".
Dennis Hanks, who taught Abraham Lincoln to read and write and described him in an interview long ago as “ponderin’ all the while”.
Who pressed past other White House visitors to visit his cousin and holler, "Hey, you’re a pretty President, aint’ ye?"
Who wept at the president’s death but said, "I am dubious about us known’ each other in heaven…"
Who was buried in Charleston in 1893 and now Dennis Hanks, who looks solemnly from the old engravings, a dark man in an unbutton jacket and shirt without a collar.
On March 11, 1970 Marie Tycer, 49, was found dead by her daughter Neville in the upstairs bedroom of her home. All indications were that it was a suicide, in which Mrs. Tycer had shot herself with a 22-caliber pistol. Mrs. Tycer had received a doctor of philosophy degree from Ohio State University in 1950, and she held a Fulbright Fellowship at Queen’s University in Belfast, North Ireland until 1951. Her husband Forster had died only a year before in January 1969. They had both died within five years of living at this house.
Source - Decatur Herald, Feb. 5th, 1970
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer