Dughill_1022_kld, Dug Hill in Jonesboro

By Gus Bode

A hill of haunts

is home to legend of murder and revenge that has almost disappeared into the landscape

The rain looked like thin silver strings that streaked through the round beam of light shining from the flashlight.


The roar of car engines cutting through Dug Hill on State Highway 146 occasionally echo in the quiet Southern Illinois landscape.

Blackened logs and sticks were piled in several different areas, and dark beer bottles were melted into curvy, solid masses of torched glass.

The local drinking spot, gnarled with braches and overgrown weeds on top of a steep muddy hill, was one of the most haunted places in Southern Illinois.

Dug Hill, located about five miles west of Jonesboro on State Highway 146, once a dark dangerous passageway through the area, is no longer a place of mystery and intrigue to people who live around it.

Many people who live near the hill have never even heard the story of revenge and murder that took place more than a hundred years ago.

The Legend of Dug Hill (subhead)

According to Troy Taylor, who wrote the book “Haunted Illinois,” the legend begins with a provost marshal named Welch during the final days of the Civil War.


Welch arrested three deserters from the Union Army and turned them over to authorities in Jonesboro. Several days later, the deserters were released after word of General Lee’s surrender, signifying the end of the war.

The deserters, still enraged with Welch for their treatment, plotted revenge against him.

Later that night, when Welch was riding home, the deserters ambushed him through the cut alongside Dug Hill and shot him to death.

They left his body lying in the road and no one was ever arrested for the crime. The mystery still remains unsolved.

After the body was found and removed, travelers and local farmers began to report Welch’s ghost on the road through Dug Hill.

In one account, a wagon driver saw the body of a man laying face down in the middle of the road. When he tried to turn the man over, his hand went right through the body and touched the dirt beneath.

As he rode away terrified, he felt the wheels of the wagon thump over the body. When he looked behind him, the body had vanished from the road.

Other eyewitness accounts tell of a clamor of a team of horses and a wagon approaching the road. Just before the horses hit the witness, the horses lead the wagon into the air above them, the hooves and wheels pounding and grinding in the sky. The vision would then sail out of the distance and out of sight.

Loss of a Legend (subhead)

Paul Morgan of Jonesboro lives near Dug Hill and has lived in the Jonesboro area for 79 years. He said that he has heard of stories but believes that they are made up.

“I’ve heard that there was supposed to be spook up there, but I haven’t ever seen anything,” Morgan said.

Several other people who lived in the area also said that they had not ever heard anything about the area being haunted.

Morgan said that he does not believe there ever was a ghost and said that it is more like a plotline from a movie.

“I just think it is a big story someone made up,” Morgan said. “I don’t think it has ever existed.”

According to Taylor, the more “sinister” aspects of the passage no longer exist and it is a much more traveled area than during the times of the Civil War. Because of this, Taylor said that the legends have almost been forgotten.

Tress of red, yellow and orange cover the hill, allowing it to blend in with the other hills of the area. Road construction on a bridge on the highway slow traffic down to stop right at the bottom of Dug Hill. Yet most passers-by are unaware of the rich history just behind the trees and up the muddy worn path.

But to the witnesses of the ghosts of Dug Hill, the legend of Welch and the galloping horses will not disappear into the landscape of Southern Illinois.

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]