Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 6, 2019

Looking back on campus’ harrowing events

The interior of the old jail still shows its cells and solitary confinement spaces. (Photo courtesy of Matt Koester/Galesburg Register-Mail)

As Halloween has come and gone, so have many harrowing stories told around campfires, piles of candy and dinner tables. Stories of true tragedy, horror and frightfulness have left their footprint all across the world. Knox hasn’t been immune to such horrific-turned-campus-myth events. Here are some older examples you may not have known about.

Ghost on campus’ Old Jail

Located next to the brand new HOPE Center, the Knox County Jail was built in 1874 and continued housing inmates until 1976 before being turned into Knox offices and classrooms. Knox professor’s working in their offices, which had been previously jail cells and solitary confinement spaces, have reported having uncomfortable encounters such as seeing or hearing things they cannot understand.

It is said that the only person to escape from the jail escaped through a window from a cell on the second floor, second from the right. A couple days later, the escaped inmate was caught and returned to the same cell he escaped.

A day later, the inmate committed suicide.

According to Ghosts of Galesburg, many people feel uncomfortable sensations when walking by the second cell from the right.


Student’s ghost lives in professor’s home

September 1942 issued in another freshman class to campus, including Orval Cobb, a nineteen-year-old from the Chicago suburbs. Cobb’s first term at Knox went on without a hitch, except that he was failing chemistry.

After receiving poor marks on a chemistry exam and worried about a possible outburst from his parents, Cobb killed himself in his house on West Street with potassium cyanide he stole from the chemistry lab in GDH.

Photography professor Michael Godsil has lived in that very house since 1964. He and his family have always felt Cobb’s presence, hearing human footsteps in the attic and seeing his silhouette through the shower curtain while they were showering.

Eventually the Godsils found out about Cobb’s suicide and figured he was the presence living amongst them. They then started to use his name when he was about and noticed his personality changed to becoming more open and friendly, even joining the family to watch TV at the same time every afternoon.

Dead newborn found on campus

On a Monday morning in 1901, it is said that a group of boys were playing baseball next to the “Old Gym” (demolished, but located near the current Auxiliary Gym and CFA) and were in need of a ball. They heard that the Knox team had lost a ball the day before underneath the steps by the entrance to the North side of the gymnasium and decided to go looking for it. Instead of a baseball, they made a shocking discovery. A blue box, about a square-foot in size contained the body of a newborn baby girl wrapped in rags with bruises on her head, bruises that caused her death.

Later that day, the group buried the baby girl off the Seymour Union side of the “Old Gym.” A few members of the group had been at the previous day’s baseball practice and had noticed a middle-aged woman “walking about the campus with her eyes on the ground, as if looking for some lost article,” as the Register-Mail reported on the matter. The woman then proceeded to sit on the steps above where the boys would find the body the next day.

The woman nor the child were ever identified, nor was the reasoning for the violent death ever understood.

The Old Gym was torn down just three years later.


Special thanks to The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox Special Collections

Dmitri Chambers, Co-Mosaic Editor
Co-Mosaic Editor

Tags:  ghosts halloween history Michael godsil old jail Orval Cobb

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