Oakdale Nature Preserve is one of the most peaceful settings in the Freeport area. Once out amongst the trees and the birds, you really hate to leave. This is the story of someone who never did.
Jim, the former supervisor at Oakdale, has had several experiences with this long time nature lover.
“The first time I witnessed anything strange was in the spring of 1993,” Jim said. “I was cleaning out the Tabernacle late one evening with another Park District employee. We had hosed it down and were sweeping the water and garbage towards the middle of the room when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.”
When he turned to look at it directly, however, it disappeared.
Jim described it as white and misty.
“My sixth sense kicked in and I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck,” he said. “The phenomenon kept happening, I kept seeing just through my peripheral vision – but never got a good look at it.”
“When we were finished and locking up, I turned to the person who had been working with me and mentioned what I saw to her,” Jim said. “I thought that I would sound really stupid, but I wanted to ask her about it.”
“Jim,” she had replied. “I saw the exact same thing.”
Jim has had other experiences with this ghost.
“Every year, for the past few years, we have had the Cub Scout Day camp out here. For some reason this thing gets real riled up when the Scouts are out here,” Jim said.
He and a maintenance foreman were having a discussion about a future project that they were going to be doing in the dining room. They were standing in the middle of the dining room when they heard footsteps above them, upstairs in the dormitory.
Jim asked the foreman if there was anyone else in the building and the foreman told him that it was just the two of them. There are only two ways up to the dormitory – Jim took one way and the foreman took the other. When they met upstairs in the middle, neither man had met anyone else.
“The ghost seems to be an indoor thing, I’ve never seen or heard anything on the trails,” he said. “It’s not spooky – it’s kind of fun and exciting. I like it when my sixth sense kicks in.”
Jim is not the only one who has had reoccurring experiences with the ghost. George (not his real name) was an intern at Oakdale during the 1970’s.
“There were five of us who were out there during most of the summer,” George said. “But at the end of the summer, I was the only one who stayed on.”
The first indication George had that something strange might be going on was when he had to go outside one night to go to the bathroom.
“There were no bathrooms in the dorms at that time,” George said. “So you had to go outside and use the public restrooms outside the building. I walked toward the bathrooms and heard the toilet flush.”
George waited, figuring that he would meet one of the park security guards. He waited for several minutes and then walked up to the restroom and knocked on the door. He waited again. Finally, he opened the door and looked inside. No one was there.”
Later, from his upstairs dorm room, George could hear footsteps on the floor downstairs.
“I thought that the park police were going through, so I went downstairs to talk with them, but once again, there was no one there,” George related. “The next day
I asked them if they had stopped at Oakdale during the night and they said no.”
Just to make sure his nocturnal guest wasn’t a vagrant; George would check each door every night before going to bed.
“The doors locked automatically when they closed,” George said, “But sometimes they would stick and not close tightly.”
George would pull on each door, just to make sure it was locked up tight. One night, after he had checked the doors and gone up to his room, he heard the footsteps from within the dining room and then he heard a door open and close. He went downstairs and found one of the doors open.
“I asked the park police again, but they hadn’t been out to Oakdale.”
George and the ghost peacefully co-existed for the remainder of his three weeks at Oakdale.
“It got to be a joke,” George said, “People would ask me if I was spooked being out at Oakdale all by myself and I’d tell them I wasn’t by myself. I had the ghost to keep me company.”