Readers, readers, pumpkin eaters: It's time once again for a scary, Halloweeny installment of B/F/L. Strap in and prepare for the chills and thrills!
A SPOOKY BUILDING
The Illini Grove Log Pavilion
The Illini Grove (the wooded park at Pennsylvania and Lincoln in Urbana) is a spooky place. Did you know that the trees in the Illini Grove are actually older than the Morrow Plots (U of I campus tour guides would have you believe that nothing on this planet is older or more important than the Morrow Plots)! Older is always spookier as I’m sure you’ll agree, making the Illini Grove one of the spookiest places in town. Deep in the heart of the Grove (well, more like deep in the Southernmost quadrant of the Grove) is this building: the “Log Pavilion.”
It’s supposed to be a picnic area, but at all times of day it looks like a haunted Old West jailhouse with its log construction and barred windows and doors. Also there’s a significant amount of spider webs in the rafters, and moss growing on the roof. All great spooky cabin stuff!
There’s a pair of restrooms which were locked while I was there. The men’s room had the light left on which decreased the spooky factor somewhat. Additionally, you’ll find this tiny water fountain, which I’m sure is not a feature on most haunted Old West jailhouses.
So, the Log Pavilion is a fairly spooky destination, but I gotta say the Grove was not as terrifying as I expected. The Illini Grove has always had a reputation of being a place where real, actual, non-spooky crimes happen: muggings, assaults, abductions, and, most heinous of all, teens smoking weed. However, I think many steps have been taken in past years to make the Illini Grove a safer place. There’s multiple emergency call boxes and lights, and while I was there at 9 p.m. on a weeknight there were quite a few people passing through the park or down nearby Pennsylvania Ave.
I’m pleased that the Illini Grove seems less susceptible to real crimes, at least relatively so, but all of this does make it less spooky. I mean, when I visited, there were still people playing tennis in the brightly lit courts just 50 yards away. Tennis is a decidedly non-spooky sport. In fact, it’s probably in the top 10 least-spooky things imaginable.
I still wouldn’t recommend walking through the Illini Grove at like 2 a.m., but if you want some gentle spooks, you can take an evening stroll through the woods. Also, if you’re having Old-West-themed barbeque, there’s really no better place in town than the Log Pavilion.
AN EERIE FEELING
Thinking ‘bout the Loneliest Gargoyle
Gargoyles are scary creatures, and I’m sure we’ve all suffered from terrifying, crippling loneliness in our lives at one point or another. So, this Halloween season, let me tell you all about the Loneliest Gargoyle.
Can you see her? All alone on her rooftop corner with not a friend in the whole wide world?
Can’t find the gargoyle? There, on the Southwest corner of Joe’s.
This little gargoyle probably used to have friends, but they’ve all escaped and left her here, still chained to her pedestal. Look how sad she looks!
Anyhow, Halloween is about friendship just as much as it’s about peeing your pants in fear, so if you’re ever at Joe’s, or even if you’re just walking by, give the Loneliest Gargoyle a wave, or even just a wink. She could use it.
VERDICT: I would gladly die protecting the Loneliest Gargoyle from harm.
A CREEPY LATRINE
Horticulture Field Lab basement men’s room
Some weeks ago, I put out a call on the social media asking people for scary bathroom recommendations. One friend told me that I must check out the men’s room in the basement of the Horticulture Field Lab near Orchard Downs.
I’d not been to the HFL before but the whole place seemed a bit eerie. I didn’t see another soul around. Much of the first floor is now occupied by the Archives Research Center. As such, there was a lot of creepy old stuff in glass displays, all University of Illinois affiliated. I didn’t stop to check out the artifacts though, I was on a mission.
Down to the basement I went, and boy, it was not inviting, despite the baby blue paint.
I found the men’s room and I must say, it is indeed one of the creepiest restrooms I’ve ever encountered.
Right when you enter, you’re greeted by a single large, metal locker. It’s padlocked and there’s no indication at all as to what it contains. Very ominous.
Turn and you’ll see the sink and urinal. Far too close together for my comfort. I’d rather not be peeing right next to a person trying to wash their hands. That’s not a spooky thing, that’s just a general hygiene and social norms thing.
Worst part of this area of the bathroom is the medicine cabinet though. The mirror is covered in bizarre stains. The cabinet itself appears to be disintegrating from the inside despite being empty. Notice also the antique light fixture which is lacking a bulb.
Moving to the rear of the bathroom, we’ve got a fairly standard stall and, yes, a shower.
The shower absolutely does not look like a pleasant place to bathe. Its cold stone walls are cracked and coming apart, and, though you can’t fully see in these photos, it contains a truly staggering amount of spider webs. If you’re wondering, I did not try to see if the shower actually works because I did not want to anger its many arachnid inhabitants.
The toilet stall is fairly normal. It’s got the same severe stone walls as the shower, and what I assume is a real antique toilet. The stall door too looks to be original. It’s over an inch of solid wood and I think it’s the stoutest stall door I’ve ever seen. Important to remember when whatever is in the locker breaks out and tries to attack you.
Final thing of note: this restroom has four filthy ground-level windows for letting in light, but two have been hastily painted over just to ensure that this bathroom is never too bright or welcoming.
VERDICT: Two severed thumbs way up for this creepy commode. I was there at noon and it was still among the creepiest bathrooms I’ve ever been in. I would never go down there after dark.
Hope all you dear readers have a lovely Halloween. Stay safe out there, and if you have recommendations for the column, drop a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!