Marlene Hammer, a 1955 graduate of Chillicothe Township High School, brought to the newspaper office a letter from Betty Heiden about the theory of how Chillicothe got the Grey Ghost as a mascot. Heiden’s brother, Gene Behrens, was a basketball player for CTHS for four years. In 1938, his senior year, the team got new grey uniforms. Up to this point, their uniforms had been black with maroon lettering.
Behrens (through his sister) recalled after an away basketball game, players were standing out in the hall. There were no school buses at that time and they relied on rides from family members and friends.
While waiting for their rides, someone said to them that they looked like “grey ghosts” on the court in their new uniforms. Virgil E. Keithley, who had served as head coach for eight years, was present at the time and brought the term back to the high school.
Retired longtime fire chief Gail “Mike” Myers, remembers the same turn of events transpiring at a basketball game in Henry. At that time, Chillicothe was in the running to be the site for a new bridge over the Illinois River.
When local businessman Frank Bacon learned that Lacon was selected over Chillicothe to receive the bridge, he purportedly told the Peoria media that without the bridge, Chillicothe would lose the railroad, close their gravel pit, and turn into a “ghost town.”
In 1940, the football team which up to that point was called the “Maroons,” was referred to as the “Ghosts” in the local newspaper, and the “Grey Ghosts” three years later. Also in 1943, the school yearbook was called “Grey Ghost,” although the “Maroon and Black” name reappeared on the cover of the yearbook a couple of years later.
Chillicothe football coach George Taylor was interviewed in 1987 when the Grey Ghost was being inducted into the Nickname Hall of Fame by ESPN. He recalled the same Frank Bacon story, as told to him by Charles Johnson, as well as a game where someone said the team looked like ghosts.
(Information provided by Jeff Rushin from his article in the Chillicothe Independent Newspaper)