Memories Of The Raven
Jim Warfield of the Raven's Grin Inn shares some
of his memories from working the Raven's Grin Inn

By Jim Warfield


And now for something different?

This haunted attraction was bought by myself, Jim Warfield, sixteen years ago to be eventually personified as my vision of what would constitute an entertaining experience for people trusting enough to give me some of their money (and time) to take them through this seven-level 1870 inn. What I found out after getting the place that it already was a "haunted" house (just according to former tenants and most anyone living in the town over the age of 70!)

The day before I signed the papers, I was wading in the wine cellar in 1 1/2 foot of accumulated rain water(the house hadn't been lived in for two years, no electricity, means no sump pump!), my boot leaked and later at my parent's house my grandmother asked how I had gotten my foot wet, after I told her, she had real terror in her normally very calm voice and said, "Don't go down there(the wine cellar), that room has a bottomless pit in the floor!" "Grandma, if there was such a thing, wouldn't all of the water run down it and the room be dry?" (I am still searching for the "Bottomless Pit" in that room, it would be quite a display, especially when the creatures that fell into it centuries ago could be made to struggle to claw their way up it's side walls , using small, tender children as "bait", WHAT A SHOW!) Ironically, this room has had a ghost in it ever since at least 1925, that I know of.(Maybe she has the combination to open the "Bottomless Pit"?) I read that 65% of gossip is unusually true, maybe I should be more careful when I'm working down there.... "Visit the Ravens Grin Inn in downtown Mount Carroll, Illinois, a small village in the middle of a big cornfield, that just so happens to have a sub-basement portal to another world underneath of it!?" Does this sound like Madison Ave. ? Hollywood? The bigger question is, what sort of tourists would show up here looking for such a promised thing? This is scary!

People all ask me if I'm afraid living in this house, I'm a lot more curious than afraid. Almost everyone I have ever been related to is buried right out my west window on the hill overlooking the town(city graveyard)(I bury others like ex-wives, bad customers, etc on the other side of my house, c, no markers, but don't tell anybody.) I try to entertain people here, not terrorize or make them lose their lunch, I have a steady summer business of families out for a weekend camping trip(2 1/2 hours from Chicago, we is.) We have "Hyde & Shriek" parties for groups of ten or more, by reservation. Any scare or startle , I really try to offset with a laugh . People love to see their friends get "the treatment", and sometimes even help to scare them, this feature has brought so many back here over the years! A tour of this house can require from one to one and a half hours , so possibly the experiences here may tend to stick in their memories and after all, it has to be "Worth-the-Drive", a ten minute haunted house wouldn't qualify as a "destination" for most of these people, this is also why I rely upon my own artwork, and ideas, trying to create something they haven't seen before(because nobody else has it!) In October when all that I can do is a ten-minute front room routine all night long, I still manage to find some fun for myself. Personally, a successful front room routine is when I can make them laugh, frighten them, then make them laugh again, then scare them yet again , all in about ten minutes!

The sound of people gasping in fear is my favorite customer sound because this means that they are so afraid they either can't scream or don't want to scream and give away exactly where they are in the dark room that is my living room , and that they have all seen me drop the big steel bar down over it to securely lock it as they came in. Throughout a week, I give many different styles of tours through the house because I have so many different groups and types of customers. from birthday tours for small, nervous children who may have to have their own flashlight in-hand, to elderly who have their own very special needs to navigate the place, to rowdy screaming wackos who need to meet our police. My most fun group is usually either couples out for the night, or groups of summer-stock actors(the "imagination" factor really gets them going!) Haunted-House people can be fun, but usually after they've been through the house already once and spent that tour squinting and figuring everything out, second time, they relax and enjoy it, as it is meant to be, then it's fun!

From the start, my ideas of what constitutes a "Haunted House" were probably quite a bit outside of the "norm", and even after 16 years of being open for business 301 nights a year and a whole lot of Saturday and Sunday afternoons there still are very few things to be found here during the house tour that you may see or find in any other haunted attraction. Maybe its because my "Monsters" come from a more personal reference point, like the Nazi-Babes half naked on top of the almost full-sized Panzer 4 tank in the upstairs of this house.(O.K., I admit it, the tank wasn't there when I bought the house, I built it!) When I was growing up in the 1950's. (will Peter Pan ever grow up?) I would see these Men's Magazines that very often had these fantastic, fictional pictures of these, "creatures". They were beautiful, yet evil women whipping little dog-face G. I.'s in a prison camp setting, talk about a "Monster" evoking mixed emotions on the part of the audience, "She's so foxy, yet there's that evil swastika all over her uniform and she's doing bad things to people!" Admittedly a swastika gets some people vocal when they are about to enter this area and all that they see is a swastika, but once they see it in context of this goofy display, I think any ire stemming from their political-correctness gets diffused. This is the historically illustrated account of why the Germans lost the battle for Stalin grad, they forgot their winter uniforms! Bring the disinterested teenage boys here teacher and history becomes more memorable!

So for something really "New and Different" for a haunted attraction, I closed the house to regular tours from 9 O'Clock on ,October 31st and hosted a "Ghost seekers" event. After many expressed a lot of extreme interest in doing this and the dust cleared (as did their checks!) I had eleven paying patrons for the event. For $70.00 per person we all had some very fancy and delicious sandwiches and desserts at the Mad Hatter Tea Room which is now just around the corner from my house in an antique mall. The library room there looks like a movie set and we kept an eye on some of those old books to see it a whole wall of them would do the "Stooge Spin-around" or not! Then we went to my house and I told them in great detail the haunted history of this house, complete with printed hand outs, then a walk-through of the place, then they divided into groups to spend time in the wine cellar. The second such group of four people had been in that room in total darkness for 45 minutes when one guy noticed that he could suddenly see his hands in front of him!? The illumination for this was coming from a glowing mist floating around the room! As all four of them watched, the mist moved back and forth, up and down, then eventually went into the solid stone wall they all had their backs to as they sat on a bench, then the mist came out of the wall on the other side of them, took on sort of a reddish hue and continued its show. They all saw this and it went on for 20 minutes, when they came here that night, there were two skeptics in this group, there were no skeptics when they went home at 4 AM!

I will not have a booth at Transworld this March selling "The Glowing Mist Display", because I don't know how to do this! Just as I have never had a "Lady-In-White", floating out of the corner of the wine cellar", either, because, no matter what some of my customers think, I don't know how to do this either!

The main reason that I had this Ghost seekers event was because the supernatural activity in this house had been becoming so regular here! Last August there were four nights in a row of such goings-on. When I have the time and energy, I will tell as much of this haunted stuff as I can (I ask the customers first, I don't want to waste my efforts if they don't have the time to hear it) I have never "made up" anything concerning the supernatural here, I live in this house and my hope is that maybe someday, someone will be able to give me some answers or insight as to the "Why's" and "When's" of this activity. To stand there and spout fiction would be a waste of my time. Some of the things that have happened here sound as if they were made up by a ten year old child, but they weren't, they actually happened. The "Truth" doesn't have to sound believable, after all, because it is the "Truth", whereas a lie has to really sound believable to have half a chance of being taken as the truth, because it's just a "lie"! When my now ex-wife would tell me about a voice calling her name in the part of the house above the wine cellar, I admit it, I did believe her, 90%, but then, last August after the voice from the back of the wine cellar called my name, well, let's just say that it severely modifies your perspective on such things! When this name-calling happened, I was walking toward the stairs to leave the room, the lights were all on very bright, of course I hesitated when it happened, but I continued walking to and then half-way up the stairs, I then turned and said, "Well, after 16 years, you finally know my name!" (What else could I do?)

Yes, I'm living in the old definition of the term "Haunted House", "The big, old creepy house at the edge of town that people are afraid of , don't want to live in or walk too close to, maybe next to the graveyard?" The graveyard is my westerly neighbor on the next hill, as the leaves fall, you can see the stones now, look, the tallest one up there just so happens to have my last name on it, "Beelzebub!", err, no, "Warfield, Warfield"! That stone belongs to my great-great Grandfather, we think that stone is where he spent ALL OF HIS MONEY!?

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