Paranormal Peoria

by Meredith Breedwell Rabe

October is the month of spooks running a muck, whether dressed in their Halloween best trick or treating through the streets of the neighborhood or roaming through the halls at the Peoria Asylum.

And the Peoria Asylum is just the place to experience the paranormal on a personal level. Situated on Pfiffer Rd in Bartonville, the hauntingly large Bowen building first housed those were deemed incurably insane.  When the facility opened its doors in 1902 it housed over 600 patients, and at one time a zoo and kindergarten facilities.  Paving the way to assist the insane was Dr. Zeller. Dr. Zeller introduced innovative therapies at the asylum such as color therapy, hydrotherapy, and removing the bars from the windows, treating those insane with decency and respect.   In its years, it has seen over 16,000 deaths

I’ve known of the Asylum since my move here in 2008. Its history and creepiness fascinated me, and when featured on Sci-Fi’s “Ghost Hunters” it fed my intrigue even more.  Thanks to the Save the Bowen foundation, which puts on both historical and ghost hunting tours to raise funds to renovate the building to it's former ghoulish glory, I was given the chance to do a bit of hunting of my own.

Since I was not about to do this alone, I had 11 of my closest friends join me in the two hour tour searching for the lost wandering souls.  We all gathered in a small room with a piano to hear the rules and regulations and safety tips of hunting ghosts at the Bowen. There are two floors we were allowed to explore; an attic, and as you might have guessed, a basement. We were allowed a specific amount of time at each floor, and always led by one guide and followed by another. We were told history of each floor, each room, and personal history of the spirits that may be joining us for the fright… I mean night. 

Some of us had a paranormal experience; whether feeling a cold draft, hearing a spook, or seeing an apparition move along a two story window.  But none of us were brave enough to stay for the overnight tour that’s offered.

It was the perfect thing to do to experience our own paranormal activity and take in a bit of Peoria history.

If you’d like to have a hunt of the haunting kind, ghost tours are running through October. Paranormal tours run $25 a person. Those who love history but hate ghosts can take a historical tour for $10 a person. More info can be found, including tour times,by visiting