A publishing company asked a western Illinois writer to come up with quirky and weird stories from the state’s past.
And Richard Moreno said it was no challenge to come up with some.
“I actually had a much longer list that I started with and then kind of whittled my way down to the ones that, frankly, I thought were most interesting and the ones that I was most interested in researching and writing about,” said Moreno, who teaches in the English and Journalism Department at Western Illinois University.
The result is the new book Myths and Mysteries of Illinois: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained.
It includes chapters about the Macomb poltergeist, serial killer H. H. Holmes, and the so-called “Watseka Wonder.”
Moreno said he came up with story ideas by doing a lot of Internet research and reading other, similar books. But some of his favorite stories came from out of the blue.
“The ones that I found the most gratifying to work on were actually ideas people gave me,” Moreno said, adding one such tip came after he spoke to a group in Bushnell a few years ago.
“After I was done talking, a woman came up to me with a piece of paper and a name on it and said ‘You should look into this.’ And that’s one of the chapters in the book. It’s the story of Fay Rawley.”
Moreno said Rawley was a farmer and prominent political figure in Fulton County. He disappeared after breaking up with his girlfriend, who said she was going back to her husband. Rawley left her in Macomb and was never seen again.
Moreno has written a couple similar books about Illinois, and he’s penned ten books about unusual stories in Nevada, which is where he lived before coming to Illinois.
Moreno believes he’s drawn to the unusual because of his background in the newspaper industry. He said reporters are always looking for “the story.”