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Annie Wiggins – Ghost or Fantasy?

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Galena is tucked into the far northwestern corner of Illinois, almost within touching distance of Wisconsin to the north, and Iowa to the west. It is a city steeped in rich history, yet it has a small population of just under 3,500. Among its many attractions is the ghost of Annie Wiggins.

Everyone loves a ghost, even those who don’t believe in them. They are classed by most of us in a similar way to zombies, vampires and other scary entities; great fun to watch in a movie, but hey – let’s be serious. Could the ghost of Annie Wiggins be different? Could there really be a lost soul haunting Galena, still living through the mid 19th century?

The answer is a rather disappointing, no. The conclusion is not based on any scientific lack of evidence for ghosts, but rather on the fact that the origins of Annie Wiggins is known, and freely admitted, by her creator, Wendy Heiken.

However, that’s not to say that the ghost can be dismissed. On the contrary, this ghost can open up a whole world of exciting history through a fascinating walking tour of haunted Galena that has allowed thousands of people to discover how life was in this small city, back in the 1840s.

Wendy, aka Annie Higgins, tells the stories of Galena through the eyes of real people who lived in the city in the 19th century. This is what brings the history alive, lifting it from 150 years ago to place it directly into a present day reality. All the stories told are quite true. It’s only the ghost of Annie Wiggins that has been created, and yet…

The Sac and Fox Indians lived in this area before the French established several trading posts in the 17th century. Galena was organized as a town in 1826, and was chartered as a city in 1841. The area is rich in lead deposits, and in fact, the city’s name comes from the technical term given to sulphide of lead: galena.

Probably the best known of Galena’s past citizens is Ulysses S. Grant. He came to the city in 1860 to work in his father’s store that sold leather goods. Before long he became one of the best known generals on the Union side in the Civil War. Does his ghost now haunt the streets of Galena? Who knows.

One other famous name is associated with this city: Abraham Lincoln. He once gave a rousing speech from the DeSoto House Hotel balcony, a building that still stands today. But perhaps the most famous of all Galena’s residents, past or present, is Annie Wiggins, a delightful ghost who never actually existed as a live person.

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