It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travel homeward. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky. He had never felt so lonely and dismal save the day the Illinois tollway hiked rates.
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard earlier now came crowding upon his recollection.
Vote in tollway map contestOne lucky and artistic student's drawing could be in everyone's car. Tuesday is the last day to vote on the Illinois tollway's map cover art contest. Choose among designs by 30 high school students. The winning submission will be displayed on the 2012 tollway road map. To vote, visit illinoistollway.com.
Just at this moment, in the dark shadows under the trees on the edge of Cuba Road, Ichabod beheld something misshapen, black and towering. It stirred not, but seemed like some gigantic monster ready to spring.
Slamming his foot on the gas pedal, Ichabod drove as if the hounds of hell were at his heels. It was not until he beheld the twinkling lights of the nearest strip mall that his heart stopped pounding.
Thank you, Washington Irving, for inspiring that oh-so-slightly revised version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Ever been on a stretch of road that creeped you out? We have. Here's our unofficial and totally irrational list of haunted roads. Read it if you dare ...
• Cuba Road in Barrington is the favorite of Daily Herald staff members of all ages who report being spooked in the '70s, '80s, '90s and right up to the present day. The main attraction is White Memorial Cemetery, which is said to generate jaywalking ghost couples, phantom cows, spectral cars and floating orbs of light.
Want proof? One reporter writes, "We passed the cemetery there many times this summer ... almost every time the same Katy Perry song would come on the radio."
• Was eerie Rainbow Road (just off Cuba Road) the site of an insane asylum with a sinister past? Or is it haunted by Al Capone-era gangster ghosts? Reports are conflicting, but the truth is out there.
• If you put your car in neutral on the railroad tracks at Munger Road in Bartlett, the ghosts of children killed in an accident years ago will push it off, or so the tale goes. "Munger Road," a new horror flick, has popularized the old story, but I wouldn't advise hanging out on the tracks -- it's dangerous, and a ticked-off cop is likely to cramp your paranormal style.
• Watch out for Ava Ellsworth on Chicago Avenue just past Washington Street in Naperville. The 25-year-old woman mysteriously killed herself in 1867, likely by stepping in front of a horse and carriage, Naperville ghost hunter Kevin Frantz thinks. The tortured spirit freaks out drivers by walking in front of cars, "reliving the last 20 seconds of her life," said Frantz, whose website is napervilleghost.com.
• Speaking of accident victims, I can't leave out "Resurrection Mary," who might just show herself if you're cruising along Archer Avenue by Resurrection Cemetery in Justice during the wee hours. Mary was hit by a car in the 1930s while leaving a dance.
• Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates is infamous for a stone house where a child killed his parents and a farmhouse where (a) the farmer murdered his family or (b) an escaped mental patient killed the homeowners and hung their bodies in the barn. Either version makes this stretch of road through Poplar Creek Forest Preserve one to drive at your own peril, according to the website trueillinoishaunts.com.
• River Road in Libertyville leads to "The Gate." The ghost story is another case of picking whichever ghastly legend you prefer. Either a (a) headmaster (b) nun or (c) escaped convict killed students at the former school decades ago and put their heads on the spikes of the ... well, you know.
• You may be distracted by paranormal lights or a wraithlike black sedan as you cruise by St. Mary's Cemetery at Buffalo Grove and County Line roads in Buffalo Grove at night. Just remember, looking at ghosts and texting while driving is illegal in Illinois.
• Don't pick up that hitchhiker at Palatine and Ela roads in Inverness. Yes, he may have Christ-like features and a religious message, but odds are he'll vanish from your car within minutes. Or so we hear.
Finally, no haunted road column would be complete without checking out the town of Sleepy Hollow, which proudly depicts the headless horseman on its crest.
Paranormal activities in Sleepy Hollow? Pshaw, Mayor Stephen Pickett scoffed.
"We don't have any haunted roads," Pickett said. Unless, of course, you drive on Sleepy Hollow Road and go past the old Indian mounds, he added.
A Fox Valley reporter cautions, "If you speed down Sleepy Hollow Road, the cops will haunt you with a $75 ticket."
Been spooked on a suburban road? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You should know
I'm a little haunted by a news conference in August 2009, when Gov. Pat Quinn announced the appointment of Chair Paula Wolff and Directors Tom Weisner and Bill Morris to the Illinois tollway board. "Each will be a strong and steady advocate for everyone who uses and supports our vital tollway system," Quinn said.
Weisner and Wolff are still there, but Morris -- the only board director who voted against a toll hike -- is off along with another newish director, Maria Saldaņa.
Morris said he wanted to stay. "Administrators of the tollway had grown uncomfortable with my questions and likely did not support my reappointment," he told supporters in a statement.
"We have not been at all uncomfortable with his questions," Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. "We encourage questions and an open dialogue."
Naperville Mayor George Pradel, who also was dropped from the tollway board by Quinn, went off in style at Thursday's board meeting.
Brandishing a 2006 Daily Herald with a front-page article about who might replace him as mayor, Pradel joked he waited for his name during roll call but "they didn't call my name." Serving on the board "has been the highlight of my life," he said.
Wolff thanked Pradel for his "incredible integrity."
IDOT crews will close the westbound I-290 exit ramp to westbound Lake Street in Elmhurst today. The access won't reopen until Nov. 23. Detours on York Road will be posted. It's all part of a $6 million project to streamline the interchange.
Steve Heeter of Palatine was irked by my recent column on expense account excesses by former Metra CEO Phil Pagano. Well, actually it was the spending that irked him. "With all the information out about how Metra's ex-CEO squandered money left and right with hardly any oversight, Metra has the gall to say we need to increase fares by about 25 percent," Heeter wrote.
"Nowhere do I hear (or read -- no fault of yourself) that Metra employees will take the blame themselves and use furlough days (sound familiar?) or pay cuts (sound familiar?) to help offset any shortcomings in the budget. Instead of the current employees taking the blame, they're going to pass along the mismanagement mistakes to the common folk who use these services on a daily basis."
Metra holds hearings on a proposed fare hike this week. From 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday forums are at: Geneva City Hall, 22 S. First St.; Woodstock City Hall, 121 W. Calhoun St.; and Arlington Heights Village Hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road. Also, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Clarendon Hills Village Hall, 1 N. Prospect Ave., and Grayslake Village Hall, 10 S. Seymour.