Ghost Stories Of Illinois
Pages 102 to 105
Southwest of Chicago, at the end of a bare dirt path that can be found about a quarter-mile from the Midlothian Turnpike, is an abandoned cemetery by the name of Bachelor's Grove. This small, nearly inaccessible graveyard hasn't seen a burial for decades. It is far from being forgotten, however, for Bachelor's Grove holds the dubious distinction of being one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world.
Bachelor's Grove was founded in the 1830s, and reportedly named for the scores of single men who broke the nearby land for farming. Situated in the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, the cemetery is surrounded by a dense thicket of trees and a quarry pond. Originally, it was considered to be a peaceful and private oasis in the forest. Today, "private" feels more like dangerously isolated, and what was once peaceful has become disturbed. Furthermore, no one would now use the term "oasis" to describe this sad, desecrated place. Bachelor's Grove has been terribly damaged over the years, and the damage seems to have resulted in a wild variety of ghostly phenomena. Since the 1950s, more than 100 supernatural incidents have been reported to have happened on this one-acre plot of land. They range from random cold spots and sudden feelings of dread to far more dramatic occurrences.
Bachelor's Grove has been visited and studies by countless psychics, ghost hunters and students of the paranormal, but there is still no consensus on what opened the cemetery's spiritual gates. Many say that the ghostly activity was inevitable, claiming that Bachelor's grove was built upon sacred Native Americans. Others say that the cemetery's general decline began in the 1920s, when the pond was a rumored dumping ground for gangsters who needed a secluded spot in which to dispose of their victims' bodies. What is a matter of record, rather than rumor, is that vandalism has become a common occurrence since the 1960s. By the 70s, evidence of satanic rituals was routinely found in the cemetery. In the years since, tombstones have been rearranged, thrown into the pond, or stolen. Signs of damage and disrespect are common. Not surprisingly, some families have thought it necessary to move the bodies of their dearly departed to other cemeteries. Today, there are none who go to Bachelor's Grove to visit the grave aloved one--but there are many who come looking for the ghosts. And the ghosts tend not to disappoint.
Even the most steadfast skeptics will admit that, in this terrible place, it is impossible to shake the feeling that one is being watched. Even more unsettling is the sensation of being touched by invisible, cold hands. But this general sense of having "company," unnerving though it may be, is usually only the tantalizing appetizer in the ghostly repast that the Grove prepares for its guests. Astonishing apparitions are the hearty main course.
One of the most famous phantoms of Bachelor's Grove is known as the "White Lady" or "the Madonna." Some locals have also dubbed her, for no apparent reason, "Mrs. Rogers." When the moon is full, this misty vision if often drifting through the woods near the cemetery in a flowing, ivory white gown, with an infant who appears to wail soundlessly in her arms. She is believed to be buried in the Grove, in a grave next to that of her son, by whom she was predeceased.
Other oft-seen specters include a farmer and his plow horse, both of whom drowned in the quarry pond in the late 1800s, a number of quiet figures obscured by dark hooded robes, and a grotesque two-headed man, who some say was hidden away by his family during his time on earth. There are numerous ghost lights that dance among the tombstones, sudden flurries of attacking bats, and a variety of other frightening phenomena. For pure intrigue, however, it's tough to top the phantom house.
For the last half century, many people visiting Bachelor's Grove have encountered what has come to be known as the "vanishing house." It appears in broad daylight, and looks quite solid and real. When people try to approach it, however, it shrinks into the distance, and eventually disappears from sight.
Mysteriously, there are no records of a house ever having been built there, and no physical evidence of a foundation of any kind.
Testament to the building's realistic appearance is the fact that many witnesses saw the house without trying to approach it, and were completely unaware of having witnessed anything paranormal. Imagine the shock such people would experience when later hearing or reading about the spectral abode.
Over a period of many decades, numerous people who have seen the house offer nearly identical descriptions of it. One researcher gathered a dozen drawings of the dwelling from unrelated witnesses. They all depicted the same thing--a white, two-story, Victorian-style farmhouse with a porch swing. The house is always surrounded by a picket fence, and there is always a low light that can be seen bleeding through the closed draperies. If only it were possible to get close enough to peek through those windows.
Another common phenomenon associated with Bachelor's Grove occurs not in the cemetery itself, but on the roads nearby. Phantom cars--big, black, 1930s-era sedans--have been encountered near the Midlothian Turnpike. Drivers have often been left shaken and incredulous when a vehicle approaches and then vanishes before their eyes. Other motorists have had experiences even more frightening, when they've collided with these cars. Several people have reported being sideswiped by a speeding sedan that appeared out of nowhere. They would feel the impact, hear the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass, and pull over, but upon inspecting their car, they would discover that their automobile had sustained no damage at all. The theory is that these vintage vehicles once belonged to the Chicago gangsters who used the cemetery's quarry pond to hide the grisly evidence of their murderous crimes.
Bachelor's Grove, with its extraordinary variety of anomalous activity, has been long been a dream destination for fans and students of the paranormal. The chances of encountering something strange are high, as are the chances of capturing it on film. many claim to have had great success with spirit photography at the cemetery, offering an assortment of curious images as proof. Some are reported to show ectoplasmic forms rising from the tombstones, or strange, swirling bodies of mist. In other photos, people claim to see faces superimposed on the grave markers. Likely the most famous ghost photo from bachelor's Grove was taken by Dale Kaczmarek, president of Chicago's well-known Ghost Research Society. Taken with infrared film, it shows the well-defined image of a woman in a flowing white dress, seated on the remains of a tombstone. Some have dismissed the picture as a double exposure, but Kaczmarek, who acknowledges that 90% of photos thought to show a ghost can be explained in some logical way, defends it.
Whether or not anyone has pictures to prove it, there is little doubt that Bachelor's Grove is haunted. In fact, it is only haunted: not much exists there now except ghosts. Few headstones remain intact. Each year, the dirt path will be irretrievably swallowed up by the forest, and then Bachelor's Grove will be forgotten, left to die its own death in the remote silence of the woods.