Sharing Rockford’s Spirit(s)
Kathi Kresol has always had an interest in the supernatural, but it was her own unexplained encounter that inspired her to collect and share Rockford’s spooky past.
“When we bought our first house in Rockford, we got more than we bargained for,” she says.
As a busy mother of four, Kresol had been ignoring the odd occurrences that had been happening, chalking it up to exhaustion or childish pranks. But the day she found her daughter’s lost bottle, she realized something else was going on.
“I found it five years after it was lost – inside the wall, behind the plaster and the lath board,” she says.
A trip to the library confirmed that Kresol’s home had been the site of a murder/suicide in 1958 when Geraldine Bourbon was killed by her husband.
“She was 28 when she died and I was 28 when I discovered her,” says Kresol. “I started looking into her family history, and that’s where it began.”
Kresol has been sharing Rockford’s haunted history ever since. Kresol is a member of the Rockford Historical Society, and in 2004 she formed Haunted Rockford Paranormal Tours, a group that conducts walking tours, lectures and other events year-round. She has also been published in six books, two of which – “Murder & Mayhem in Rockford, Illinois” and “Haunted Rockford, Illinois” – were solo projects. Her column, “Voices from the Grave” can be read in the Rock River Times. She also shares stories for Rockford’s Center for Learning in Retirement, using Greenwood Cemetery as her classroom.
“Rockford’s history is a wonderful tapestry,” she says. “When people join my walks and talks, even if they don’t believe, they learn about our history.”
When she isn’t investigating the paranormal, Kresol can still be found at the library. A former school library paraprofessional, she began working for the Rockford Public Library (RPL) as a page in 1999 and worked her way up to managing RPL’s Montague branch and the Mobile Library.
“Montague turns 100 years old this year, which is really neat for a history buff like me,” she says. “And the Mobile Library is a new service for the library. Both locations have wonderful and dedicated crews that work really hard to come up with great ideas for people of all ages.”
Despite her busy schedule, Kresol has found time to start a new book and looks forward to continuing her work, shining a light on some of our region’s darkest stories.
“Rockford has been very good to me,” she says. “I’ve had a magical life and I’m humbled that so many people listen to these stories and get what I’m trying to do.”
Source: “25 Most Interesting People.” Northwest Quarterly. The Annual 2023, page 116.
Articles in this series are by various writers: Chris Linden, Lindsey Lukas, Jim Taylor, Steven Bonifazi, Paul Anthony Arco, Stephanie N. Grimoldby, Paula Hendrickson, and Jermaine Pigee.
Photography by Samantha Behling.