Dead Bodies in The Rock River: A Legend

The following is a conversation with JK that describes his interpretation and knowledge of the legend that dead bodies are dumped into the Rock River in Rockford, IL.


JK: So, Rockford [Illinois], is this small town but is actually one most dangerous cities in Illinois and one of the worst cities to live in in the country (U.S.A.). But anyway, the worst part is the West side, kind of in the downtown area, it’s super sketchy there, it’s like the hood. So, there’s this river called the Rock River that flows through the city close to the bad part of town, I don’t know really where it starts or ends, but basically, it’s really gross looking and murky and dirty, no one swims in it or fishes or anything; it’s just nasty looking. So, there’s this legend that the river is full of dead bodies that have been dumped from murders downtown. And tbh (to be honest) I’m pretty sure dead bodies have been pulled out of there. So, like, because of that, no one swims in the river. And it’s kind of funny and ironic because some of the nicer houses in town are on the river, but the last place I’d ever want to live is on the river for this reason.


EK: So how did you learn of this legend? What does it mean to you?


JK: I think it’s something that every kid picks up if they grow up in Rockford. I remember learning it in Kindergarten or First Grade, some corrupted little kid probably told me, and it spread like wildfire. But if you ask any kid from the area, regardless of the school, it’s just a legend that everyone knows; kind of like common knowledge. I’ve definitely passed it on to people before, haha.


My Interpretation:

The legend of dead bodies showing up in the Rock River seems like it can travel fast in a smaller town, especially because it has a lot of shock value. I’m sure some kids even tell it as a ghost story around Halloween. I also assume that the legend plants uncertainty in a lot of people, especially those who don’t live right by the river and are unfamiliar with the area; where the area goes from being the good part of town to “the hood.” The fact that JK believes that people have actually been found in the river, regardless of whether the person found was the result of a murder, a suicide, or an accident, it makes the river that much more eerie to citizens in the area, and helps the story spread like wildfire among kids in grade school who are looking to share the “next big thing” with their friends. When JK told the story, he told it very eerily/spookily, as if it were the perfect Halloween story.