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Tour to visits ghosts and spirits at Sycamore hotel

SYCAMORE – Home was too hard for Mary Whittemore to abandon, even in death.

Psychic medium Mark Dorsett said the spectral Sycamore resident loves her home, which is now the Jane Fargo Hotel on 355 W. State St. In the 1920s, the property the hotel was built on was the site of a mansion that belonged to Whittemore. She made a deal with hotel developers to continue living in the mansion while they built a hotel around it. 

In the almost 80 years since she’s been dead, Dorsett said she haunts the hotel by pulling pranks on people. She’ll make things disappear, or call people on the phone and say nothing. Sometimes when people are alone, they can hear her humming. 

“Especially if she thinks someone isn’t doing their job,” he said. “She will mess with them.” 

Whittemore is one of several ghosts and spirits Dorsett plans to feature in his haunted tour of the Jane Fargo Hotel on Oct. 19 and 30. Dorsett said history buffs, paranormal enthusiasts and everyone else are invited to tag along for evenings filled with dining and psychic communication with hotel’s “permanent” residents. Dorsett won’t be giving the tour alone, Deb Eineke will be there to provide her own psychic impressions.

Dorsett, who also is a minister for the Universal Life Church, said he has been able to see ghosts and spirits since he was three and has worked for 10 years as a medium, or someone who has an ability to communicate with ghosts and spirits. Ghosts are people who are stuck on Earth for emotional issues while spirits have “crossed over” into the afterlife, he said.

“Some people are natural athletes and musicians,” he said. “I’m just a natural medium.” 

He sees his job as giving a voice to those who no longer have one, such as John Mallonee, who died at the hotel in 1928. Not much historical information is available on Mallonee. 

Dorsett said Mallonee, who was black, might have been pushed down a flight of stairs by a jealous, racist white man who saw he was making nice with his wife. Unlike Whittemore, Mallonee doesn’t know he’s a ghost and still thinks he works at the hotel as a hotel porter or bellhop.

“In his mind, he’s still working so the kitchen staff get a lot of attention from him,” he said. 

Not many hotel staff members believe the hotel is haunted, especially the banquet manager Courtney Weber, who has worked there since the 1970s, said Carrie Burt, guest service manager of the hotel. Some employees report odd happenings, but they tend to be small, subtle things, she said. 

“We tend to tell people we’re haunted if you want us to be,” she said.

Burt said she doesn’t have an opinion on the existence of ghosts, but she sees the tour as an opportunity for the hotel, once known as Stratford Inn, to show people the many changes it’s undergone. Guests can also experience the home-cooked buffet-style meals and desserts the hotel offers, she said. 

“In some ways it’s to showcase our hotel and the changes we made,” she said. “... It’s just something neat.” 

Haunted tour

What: Haunted Evenings at Jane Fargo Hotel

When: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 30. 

Where: Jane Fargo Hotel, 355 W. State St., Sycamore

Cost is $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Visit or call 815-762-6948 for more information.

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