The Culver House
The History & Mystery of a Legendary Decatur Mansion

According to history, Decatur was originally built atop the burial grounds of the Native Americans, who came to this place before the settlers did. Many believe that these lost burial grounds may provide the reason behind the large number of hauntings reported in the city.
A case in point would be a residence called the Culver House, located on Prairie Street in Decatur's west side historical district. The house is a desolate ruin now, but was once one of the finest houses in the city. It has been all but destroyed over the past two decades, but the legends of the house still remain. The place is ramshackle and foreboding, especially at night, and all of the lower windows have been boarded up. Restoration attempts in recent years have not quite succeeded and the house may yet be demolished. It seems as though the suicide and murder, which took place in the last years of occupancy, have somehow left a dark shadow on the property. Or perhaps that happened many years ago, before the house was even built....
The property may have been cursed from the very beginning as it has the distinction of being built directly on top of one of the mentioned burial grounds. It has been recorded in the building records that workers on the house were actually removing the bones and skulls of the people buried there. This may have been what "tainted" the land in the first place --- or maybe the Native Americans knew something that the settlers did not.

The land was originally settled in 1881 and a man named Josiah Clokey started construction of a home here. For some unknown reason however, the project was abandoned and the land and unfinished home came into the possession of John Culver, but not until 1901. He completed the house and turned it into a grand mansion. Culver was a man of many interests and ideas. He had only a grade school education and yet owned a grave monument business and was responsible for bringing heat and electricity to downtown Decatur. In 1901, he and his brother did some of the reconstruction work on the Lincoln tomb and monument in Springfield, which financed the purchase of the mansion on Prairie Street.

The house, which was grand in Culver's day, is now a shadow of its former self. However, the shadows of the house that once existed can still be seen among the ruins. It was originally constructed of red brick with stone trim and boasted a turret on the west front and a wide rounded tower on the east side. The interior of the house had large rooms, built into odd sizes to match the particular interests of each room. The first two floors of the house were living quarters, while the third floor was used as a ballroom and had a stained glass skylight. The house also had a massive library with built-in bookcases and large French windows that looked out over the street. Also interesting was the fact that every room on the first floor of the house had its own fireplace ---- except for the dining room. It was once boasted a fireplace of its own but something happened that caused it to be removed.

It seems that the strange cloud that hangs over the property was present during its heyday also. The story goes that the Culver family was seated in the dining room for the evening meal when "something" came down the chimney of the house and entered the dining room. It could have been a bird, but legends suggest something far stranger ---- something so strange that Culver immediately ordered the fireplace torn out and the opening bricked over! We will never know for sure what this frightening creature may have been, but some have suggested it may have been connected to the dark history of the land itself.

Culver lived in the house until his death in 1943 and for several years after that, people strolling by the house in the evening claimed to see a man peering out the windows of the library, even though the house was empty. Was this John Culver's ghost, still inhabiting the house he loved?

In 1950, the house was sold and divided into apartments and it seemed that each new decade brought another tragedy to the house. In 1966, a young woman committed suicide in one of the second floor apartments and then in May 1979, a third floor apartment caught fire and caused over $90,000 in smoke and water damage to the mansion. The cause of the fire was said to be a faulty extension cord used by one of the tenants. In 1988, a tenant of the building, Patsy Rosich, was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. Her assailant, Maseo Richmond, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison. One year after this horrific event, the house was found to be unfit for human habitation and it was boarded up.
What is it about this house that attracts such a strange energy?

Other questions also remain. Does this energy seem to attract the spirits to the house? If so, have they joined spirits who were already here? Some believe there may be many ghosts hauntings this old mansion, including John Culver, the spirits of the Native Americans first buried here, the ghost of the woman who took her life here when the house was an apartment building, and perhaps even the spectral victim of the terrible murder in 1988.
The Culver House now sits abandoned on the city's west side --- the victim of neglect and according to some, the result of disturbing a burial mound with connections to the next world.
 

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Copyright 2006 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.