(WTVO) — Halloween is Monday, meaning that many kids will be out and about trick-or-treating dressed up as witches or sorceresses.
While they might just be dressing up in these magical outfits, Illinois actually has a long history of witchcraft and sorcery. From a school of witchery to folktales about witches throughout history, Illinois is no stranger to the strange.
Wicca, a modern pagan religion, was developed in England in the first half of the 20th century. When it was first brought to public attention, it was called “witchcraft,” according to Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ethan Doyle White.
About 194,189 people from 193 Illinois counties have shown an interest in Wicca. These people have registered for classes at Witch School International near Rossville, according to WKFR. The school describes Wicca as a “group of related, Nature-based religions having their origins in ancient practices but taking their modern shape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
Those that have signed up for classes can partake in studies of Introduction to Wands 101 and 102, Basic Spell Writing, Progressive Witchcraft and Unicorns, to name a few. The school has a total of 138 classes for those interested in witchcraft to partake in.
While the school is relatively new, Illinois has had people accused of being witches dating back hundreds of years, according to Only In Your State. For example, Caroline Barnes was accused of being a witch back in the 1880s in Ashmore. She was apparently hanged before being buried alive, as she would not die,
Legend says that spirits would rise again on the day they die. For this reason, Barnes’ grave is marked with an impossible date: February 31.
Another reported witch from Illinois is Mary Worth, who is believed to be the origin of “Bloody Mary.” One of the most notorious witches in the world, it was believed that she would kidnap and torture runaway slaves. When locals found out, they burned her to death. Many believe that her body was buried on her property, where it is said that ghost activity took place. The house was burned down in 1986, with no other buildings being there since.
Another story a little closer to home is the legend of “Beluah the Witch,” according to Haunted Rockford. It tells the tale of an old witch who lived in secluded woods on McGregor Road, abducting children to use in her satanic practices. Another legend claimed that she was a teacher in a schoolhouse on the road, which caught fire and killed two of her students.
This version says that Beluah bought the school and turned it into her home, with treatment from locals driving her over the edge of insanity. She would wander the woods, calling to children lost in the fire.
A 1973 article confirmed that Marie Buskie was the woman who lived on McGregor Road. Born in 1907, Buskie was a teacher that worked in many Rockford schools, including Highland and Kishwaukee. She died in 1986 at the age of 78.
It is unknown why Buskie was the target of the stories, or why they would continue to be told of decades.