With this post, I begin a series of five articles documenting my trip up to Illinois and back last week. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit where I had attended college almost 20 years ago but there were some exciting sidebars along the way. Those who have been following the blog may be aware that I attended Illinois State University in Normal, IL (which is right next to Bloomington). In fact, it was here where I met Jeeg. My major was Mass Communications – Broadcasting where there was an actual television news studio. ISU’s TV-10 does a nightly newscast and for three years, I was a part of that. More on the ultimate reason for the trip in the third part of this series.
It was a 14 hour drive, with no stops, from Tallahassee to Bloomington. So with stops, it wound up being a 17 hour drive. And I did it in a day. With a couple hours left, I needed dinner and an extended break. I just so happened to be close enough to where PLee lives that I shot him a text and with hardly any heads up, he showed up and we had a brief meet up. Always a pleasure to see him.
On Thursday, I met up with my old college friend who still resides in Bloomington-Normal, Carl. Carl and I were TV-10 pals and he was one of my groomsmen. Sadly, I hadn’t seen Carl in almost 20 years (at my wedding!), but we were able to spend quite a bit of time reminiscing and catching up.
I won’t run through everything, but highlight one in particular that is applicable to Nerd Lunch. It was one of our fond remembrances…when Carl and I were grips for an episode of “Sightings” that was shot in LeRoy, Illinois. It was December of 1996 and Carl was at the TV-10 studio just hanging out. TV-10 had been contacted by Paramount Pictures because they wanted to hire some production students to be grip on a shoot about this house in LeRoy, only a few miles away from Normal. So Carl called me up, told me to drop everything because we were going to be doing this.
Now 21 years later, it’s hard to remember everything, but it was a little bit like living the game Clue in real life. We all hung out in this house all weekend shooting various pieces for this feature on the Johnson family and their encounters with spirits that lived in their old house.
The primary players there throughout the weekend were the following:
Patrick Taulère, the director of the episode
Jorianne De’frey, a psychic medium
The weird but cool pet house bunny
Photo courtesy Chad E. Young (not actual bunny from the shoot)
I think Carl and I arrived on a Friday afternoon/evening and worked through Sunday morning/early afternoon. On Friday, the family, director and paranormal investigator were there. Then on Saturday, the actors and psychic medium showed up for their scenes.
The basic gist of the story was that the daughter had awoken to seeing an old lady in the house and they determined she was the ghost of a previous occupant of the house named Harriet. They brought Rob Conover, paranormal investigatory, in to investigate and they were able to convince the ghost to “go to the light.” Shortly after that, the family encountered a malevolent spirit who was also a former occupant, a boarder, who was a woman-beater and very violent. They were unable to remove him initially, but the psychic medium who came in while we were there burned sage throughout the house and believed she removed the spirit.
You can watch the segment here, because I can’t embed it in the article. It’s missing some of the end but I think most of the story is there. We also shot the follow up piece while we were there. Sightings usually did a longer story and then would do a shorter piece in a later episode. We did go to a graveyard on the last day of the shoot and there was definitely footage shot of a washing machine going crazy. Neither of those shots made it into this footage so I think that was included in a second story that I can’t find.
Carl and I did various odds and ends for this shoot: carried equipment, ran errands (like driving all the way back to Bloomington for Subway since the director wouldn’t eat the grocery store sandwiches), moved objects from off-camera, and made notes for continuity purposes.
It was a great experience that I’ll never forget. Although, I do wish I could remember more of it or had some pictures of it from when we were there. We just didn’t carry cameras everywhere with us at the time.
I’ve invited Carl to hop on Skype with me sometime and maybe we’ll talk about this in podcast form someday.
For more on the haunted house in LeRoy, IL: