In the winter of 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an Extermination Order demanding that Mormons leave Missouri by March 8, 1839, or be killed. More than 5,000 Saints fled the state by crossing the frozen Mississippi River into the tiny town of Quincy, Illinois. With throngs of Mormon refugees overwhelming the kind-hearted community, shelter was scarce, so one family gladly—and knowingly—took refuge in a haunted farmhouse.
“Some were willing to take whatever [shelter] they could get, despite the living or the dead," writes Richard E. Bennet, a BYU professor of Church History and Doctrine and author of Mormons in Quincy, Illinois, 1838–1840. "Take the case of a Mr. Robert Stilson and his haunted house. Eager to rent his vacant farmhouse to the soonest new tenants, Stilson willingly rented out his property to a Mormon newcomer, Mr. Hale, and his young family as long as Hale did not mind living in a spooked environment. . . . The story was that a black peddler had been murdered there and his body thrown into the well. Hale, a very active Latter-day Saint, saw absolutely no problem with the arrangement since he, as a priesthood holder, could cast out every devil in Adams County."
For months, the family lived in the farmhouse without incident, but then things began to take a disturbing turn. One of the Hale children, Aroet L. Hale, wrote the following spooky account in his journal:
"Father had called the family together for prayers at bed time and had read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and had knelt down and commenced to pray when there was something that fell on to the top of the house that fairly shook the house so that the dishes rattled on the cupboard . . . and so Father sprang to his feet run to the door up the corner of the house on to the roof and rebuked the evil spirits and commanded them to depart. Came back, knelt down and had his family prayers.
"A few Sundays after this occurrence, Father was having prayers before going to bed. He was on his knees and had commenced praying when there was something sounded like a man braying and a lot of log chains past by close to the door. These logs [had lain] for a week in front of the door. The chains rattled over those logs and passed to the end of the house. Father sprang to his feet ran down to the door and commenced rebuking this evil spirit and commanded it to depart and leave the premises. It started off dragging its chains. He followed it about 20 rods, returned to the house, had prayers and went to bed.
"The third and last time was on Sunday again at the close of the meeting. We had had a very good meeting. The Spirit of the Lord had been in our midst to a great degree. One of the sisters looked across the room and there stood the Devil or evil spirit in the shape of a large Newfoundland dog only much larger with eyes glaring like balls of fire looking into the house. This scared the women and children. Father spoke to one of the Brethren [and] they followed this spirit off of the farm and into the woods rebuking it by the power of the Priesthood and ordered it to return no more. No more evil spirits returned to bother us" (Aroet L. Hale, Journal, Church Historical Department).