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posted: 9/26/2013 5:30 AM

Tavern Day storyteller to offer up Glen Ellyn's secrets

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  • They'll be activities for folks of all ages from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday during the Glen Ellyn Historical Society's annual Tavern Day celebration.

    They'll be activities for folks of all ages from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday during the Glen Ellyn Historical Society's annual Tavern Day celebration.
    Daily Herald file photo


Driving along its leafy, tree-lined streets, Glen Ellyn is the portrait of a charming suburban community.

Who would believe that buried in its nearly 180-year history are moments both strange and sinister?

Just ask Uncle Jake.

He will tell the tale of a murder victim thrown down an abandoned well and buried beneath the Illinois Prairie Path near the Glen Ellyn Public Library, a crime not discovered until 13 years later. Or he'll tell stories of Halloween pranks from the early 19th century.

He will explain how the good folks of Glen Ellyn woke one day to find a cow -- yes, a cow -- tied to the roof of their Congregational Church.

Uncle Jake, or as he is otherwise known, Dan Anderson, a resident since 1969, is the "bawdy storyteller" of Glen Ellyn's secrets. He will be one of the attractions at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society's Tavern Day celebration from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Glen Ellyn History Center, 800 N. Main St.

Pioneer life is the theme of the celebration, with a wide variety of activities for hands-on history.

Visitors can catch treats like Marilyn Goodrich, an 85-year-old Glen Ellyn woman who will bring dairy goats from her 11-acre property north of town. Also on hand for the first time will be Maggie the Electric Milking Cow. And kids can try pioneer chores or pioneer games and learn about stagecoach lines that once operated in the area.

Anderson estimated that this will be his fourth or fifth time putting on the Uncle Jake outfit he said "looks like an undertaker in Old West shootouts" for Tavern Days.

Retired from magazine publishing since 1999, Anderson in 2009 put together a book "Stories from Glen Ellyn's Past, Volume One: Tales of Murder, Mayhem, Infidelity, Pranks and Other Intriguing Tidbits of Glen Ellyn History." A second volume is in the works.

One of Anderson's favorite characters from Glen Ellyn's history is Erasmus Ketchum, grandson of the Churchill family that originally settled the village in 1834. Anderson enjoys a photo of Ketchum sitting on a log, deer antlers at his feet, rifle in hand.

"He looks rough and tumble," Anderson said, "but he was as sweet as the day is long."

A big portion of Anderson's audience features children who appreciate his peculiar stories of Halloween pranks of years gone by with their love of scatological, or outhouse humor.

He said years ago he quit trying to be scary and went to stories featuring more fun. He will, though, pull from his treasure chest the tale of murder by the Prairie Path.

"I tell the kids when they're walking the Prairie Path they are walking over where the body used to be," Anderson said. "That gets their attention."

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