The Watseka Wonder
Called “America’s first documented case of spiritual posession,” the “Watseka Wonder” is the name given to the strange case of the possession of a young Lurancy Vennum by the spirit of Mary Roff, the daughter of a founding founder, within the small town of Watseka, Illinois.
As documented by the eyewitness accounts of Dr. W.E. Stephens, and later retold in the 1977 fiction novel “Watseka,” Mary died suddenly in 1865 at age 19, only to come back 12 years later to possess the body of 13-year-old Lurancy Vennum.
The tale, well known in Watseka and Iroquois County, has also been the subject of writings by philosopher William James, Troy Taylor (“Weird Illinois” and “The Possessed”) and most recently the subject of the documentary “The Possessed” by the Booth Brothers.
The Vennum House, where the possession took place, is currently a private residence.
The Roff Home, where Lurancy lived for 100 days when she believed herself to be possessed by the spirit of Mary Roff, still stands in Watseka today and is currently undergoing an extensive renovation to return it to its former glory.