Bachelors Grove Cemetery - The Sinthia Rose Investigation

Bachelors Grove Cemetery - The Sinthia Rose Investigation
© 2013
September 23, 2013

This article is dedicated to the memory of Sinthia Rose; operator of the Miami Paranormal Research Society who sadly passed away this year. She was an ardent psychical researcher who fought for author rights and justice. She brought us many interesting legends regarding ghost stories throughout Florida and Illinois, and abroad, and is remembered for her honesty in the field, which is always a pleasant thing. One of her favorite haunts was Bachelors Grove Cemetery, a small, abandoned cemetery in section 8 of Bremen Township of Cook County, Illinois. The location is just northwest of Midlothian and Oak Forest, near the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve on the Midlothian Turnpike, in the southwest Chicago suburbs. As the majority of paranormal investigators are familiar with this fascinating locale, especially for us Mid-Westerners, it is always a treat to walk around the grounds looking for clues of the many allegedly haunted incidents that have occurred here over the last 100 years. There’s no doubt that something is taking place here, though what exactly, we may never know for sure. Regardless, Sinthia had devoted a good amount of her time in search of these tidbits of weirdness, and happily bring her research findings and reaming questions of the unknown for those in the International Consortium for Psychical Research and Paranormal Inquiry, and its readers. For her memory – Enjoy!

Sinthia Rose c. 2007
Originally published in 2008, Miami Paranormal Research Society

As much as I have come to love the state of Florida, there are days when I do miss Illinois and its haunts! St. James is without a doubt, one of my favorite haunts! I’m not quite sure why there seems to be so much paranormal activity here in the south suburbs of Chicago. I’m glad there are-it makes my job much easier and much more fascinating. St. James is located in Lemont and is a lesser known haunt, as compared to Bachelors Grove, Resurrection and Holy Sepulcher Cemeteries. As a matter of fact, St. James and Resurrection seem to share a reported apparition of a hearse with no driver. I have heard of several sightings of this ghostly funeral car. However, I have recently heard that the hearse appears in front of Resurrection Cemetery and travels along Archer avenue to St. James. St. James at Sag Bridge is most commonly known as Monk’s Castle to the locals. Burials here began around 1834. The first person to be buried here was a lady named Honora Ford in 1834. St. James church sits in gothic splendor upon a hill in the middle of the graveyard. When you are here, it is difficult to remember that you are in Illinois and not in a churchyard somewhere in Europe. There are three structures on this property; the church, the rectory and Saginaw Hall. A French fort once stood on the same spot where the church is located. Since 1650 Catholic missionaries held mass for traders and for the Saganauskee Tribe, whose village was about a mile away. Although burials here had taken place since 1834 {and I suspect much earlier than that}, Two gentlemen, James Murphy and John Sullivan granted the right acre graveyard to St. James church in 1858. There was a stipulation in the deed that said anyone who could not otherwise afford burial, could bury their dead in these hallowed grounds for free. Provided that one be willing to dig the graves themselves. Needless to say, St. James is filled with unmarked pauper’s graves, which makes it impossible to determine just how many graves are located here. Of the first one thousand burials, about seven hundred are unmarked and no church records exist to say who was buried here or where. It is worth a mention that Mr. and Mrs. John Sullivan are buried somewhere in this graveyard in unmarked graves. What I find most interesting is that this European-looking churchyard had a very liberal burial policy.

The NW corner of churchyards, historically have held a dubious distinction. This tradition of reserving the North West corner for suicide victims is one that comes from Europe, before the implementation of our modern park style cemeteries. Even in death, your social rank or class dictated your final resting place. The preferred location was burial within the church itself and this of course was a privilege of the high society. For the middle class, interment within the gates of the churchyard was their favored location. The middle class considered the East section most auspicious and the goal was to obtain a spot as close to the church as possible. The closer you were buried to the church, the more prestigious you were. The lower class were buried in the south sections and the North corner was considered evil- the worst place you could be buried. This area was reserved for what were considered the “undesirable” individuals. By this definition I mean those who died by suicide. At this time, most churches didn’t even allow the burial of suicide victims within their grounds. If they did, their caskets had to be passed over the gate, rather than being allowed to pass thru it. This practice was especially true in Europe.

The reason I say that Saint James at Sag Bridge had a very liberal burial policy is because here, your social class didn’t matter; a poor man could spend eternity besides a millionaire. Everyone is equal, in the eyes of God. This was and still is, to my knowledge, the only churchyard of its kind in the world and St. James still accepts burials. However, it is within the North section of the graveyard that many tales of curious goings on and colorful characters are told. There are countless stories of the poor coming to bury deceased family members, only to engage in drunken orgies and brawls. Marshall Edward Coen told the Chicago Tribune in an article that Tim Carroll {a legendary gravedigger at St. James} was responsible for having to re-bury the dead after such spectacles. He stated that Mr. Carroll had witnessed many men literally throwing punches as they attempted to dig the graves. Quite often, the mourners would not bury their dead at all, but instead would storm off in a drunken rage. In these cases, Mr. Carroll had the task of burying the abandoned remains himself and without extra compensation. This was during the time that Rev. Joseph A. Bollmann served here {1882-1903. Father Bollman died ,March, 23, 1922 and buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery}. An interesting side note to this story is that the first grave digger of St. James was a woman! A man was officially appointed, but he didn’t know the first thing about digging graves, so his wife did it. One of the bodies interred here in this section is that of John McMahon who died in 1880 at the age of thirty-three. We know that he was murdered, but the question is, by whom? This crime has never been solved. Mr. McMahon was alleged to have been fatally shot in a home invasion, as he lay in bed beside his wife Mary {Holligan} McMahon. Mrs. McMahon reported that she did not see or hear anything. In the seventeen years that followed the murder of John McMahon, Mary had buried three husbands. I have not yet been able to find out what the other husbands died of, but I suspect that they died under questionable circumstances as well. In those days, a woman was considered too fragile to even contemplate such a thing. What a gruesome sight this corner of the churchyard must have been! Most of the pauper’s graves had to be exhumed and re-buried, sometimes in old graves, because people would only dig these graves two feet deep. If you have ever visited here, you already know about the extremely uneven terrain and its potential for soil erosion. With that in mind, I can just imagine some of the surprises that have been discovered.

In 1885, a stranger visited the parish and put a curse on the church, the graveyard and all members of this parish. A mysterious man had come to St. James seeking alms, for which he reportedly was refused. Shortly after, disturbing notes were found tacked to the church door and on the doors of Sag Bridge residents. A man by the name of Mr. Marks had arrived at the church at about one o’clock to toll the bells and he was the first to discover the ominous note on the door. The matter was immediately reported to the police, who treated it as a joke. Neither Mr. Marks nor the other church members found this the least bit amusing. It goes to show how times have changed because today, because the author of these notes would have been charged with stalking, harassment and the threat of bodily harm. After a half-hearted attempt to investigate this, the police never did positively identify the culprit. All believed that the person responsible was the mysterious man who came calling and legend says that this stranger was not a beggar at all, but Satan himself! Bachelors Grove Cemetery is a small cemetery in Midlothian Illinois. Being from Chicago, this is one of my favorite haunts. Bachelors Grove was the first haunted location that I have visited and it was the last one I visited before I left. If you are not a believer in the paranormal, pay a visit to Bachelor’s Grove. I can almost guarantee that by the time you leave, you will no longer be a skeptic. Not much is left of Bachelors Grove, accept for about nineteen grave markers.

Bachelors Grove is a place of overwhelming sadness and neglect

The path to Bachelors Grove Cemetery was a two car road that lead directly past Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. I have a bit of a funny story about driving past Bachelors Grove Cemetery. It made no difference if I was visiting the cemetery or just driving past, but every time I was on this stretch of the Midlothian turnpike, the song by AC/DC, Highway to hell always played on the radio. So as I talk about Bachelors Grove, I have that song stuck in my head. It was just the oddest thing, but very appropriate. This is how the path looked like during my last visit in October 2007. The once paved road is cracked and overgrown with plants and weeds. It is barely wide enough for one person to walk. This is me just before maneuvering past a fallen tree that was blocking the path. Bachelors Grove Cemetery is currently owned by Cook County and each time I have gone out there, the condition of this historic cemetery has deteriorated. I took this photo I took this photo in 2007 from the same spot as the previous photo. You cannot even see the fence through all of the overgrown weeds. In fact, the town of Midlothian has attempted to conceal the exact location and existence of this cemetery.

Bachelors Grove has seen more than its share of neglect and desecration and regardless of any attempts to conceal it or pretend it never existed; the ghostly tales of this one acre cemetery endure. This once two lane street has been closed to traffic for decades. During my last visit in 2007, the sign itself had been stolen. This street was once the main street through this area before the construction of the Midlothian turnpike. It is also an historic Indian trail. In fact, I came across some evidence that Bachelors Grove Cemetery was used as an Indian Burial ground long before modern burials took place here. Bachelors Grove Cemetery is located just off Rubio Woods. The Rubio Woods Sign is just across the street from the path that leads into the cemetery. By discussing Bachelors Grove this evening, I am not encouraging anyone to go out there. In fact I hope that this information and my photographs will be enough to satisfy people’s curiosities about this cemetery so that they don’t go out there. With all the desecration it is not surprising that the souls of those buried here cannot rest. It is this unrest that has earned Bachelors Grove Cemetery the title of one of the most haunted places in the world. This is the Fulton Tomb. It is the largest monument in the cemetery and although there was fresh graffiti on it during my last visit, it is the only monument that has not been move, pushed over or broken.

There are many ghostly legends told about this cemetery including the sightings of apparitions, unexplained lights, mists, disembodies voices, glowing balls of light. Along the path leading up to the cemetery, there have also been many sightings of a phantom farmhouse which despite being viewed by independent witnesses, is always described the same way. The ghostly abode is always described as a white farm house from the Victorian era, having porch pillars, a swing and a light in the window. But as any of the witnesses approached it always disappears. The Satanic rituals, suicides and murders have all added to the legends and the over 100 accounts of strange activity in this area. The haunted history of Bachelors Grove begins in November 1843 with its first documented burial of Elizabeth Scott. Bachelors Grove, formerly known as Everdon’s, was a popular cemetery until the mid 1960’s. Bachelor’s Grove was also named Smith Cemetery in some historical documents. The last known funeral service took place here in 1965 and the last internments were the ashes of Robert Shields in 1989. This was the current state of the Shields plot during my last visit.

The cemetery was renamed Bachelors Grove in the mid-1800’s. Although the origins of the name are uncertain, there are two popular theories. The first one tells us that this area was inhabited by unmarried men-German immigrants who found employment building the Illinois-Michigan Canal. Hence, this area became known as Bachelors Grove. Another theory alleges that Bachelors Grove was named after the Batchelder family who settled in this area in 1845. Although there are no historical records supporting this theory, old cemetery records do spell Bachelors with a T, which is the German spelling and accepted by most historians as the official or authentic spelling of Bachelors Grove. On the opposite side of the cemetery, is a small lagoon. Here you can see the metal guardrail across the lagoon that boarders the Midlothian turnpike. There are many ghosts said to haunt this lagoon as well. The most famous tales about this lagoon which are far from being urban legend involve gangsters. Al Capone, one of the most famous of them all, owned a house a few blocks from Bachelors Grove and this lagoon was a popular spot where he would dispose of his victims. The souls of those he murdered still linger here. Another apparition that has been reported near this lagoon is that of a farmer and his plow horse. Back in the 1870’s a farmer was pulled into this pond by his horse. The horse drowned under the weight of the plow, pulling the farmer in with it. More than a century later, forest rangers have spotted the phantom farmer being pulled to his death. What lies beneath the murky water are not only bodies but over the years many missing tombstones have been found there too. Even police officers that frequently patrol the area have documented their personal encounters with apparitions, ghostly lights and phantom cars and car accidents along the turnpike. Bachelors Grove cemetery has long been considered a thorn in the side of Cook County since the 1960’s when the cemetery became a hangout for teenagers. I have spoken with some older residents who described Bachelors Grove as a place where people would come to picnic and swim in the lagoon. It was once a very grand cemetery. That is at least until the vandals and grave robbers discovered it. Let me show you some examples of the desecration. This is the grave of William Hamilton as it looked at my last visit. And this is how the grave of William Hamilton appeared after a robbery attempt in 1997.

Time certainly has not been kind to Bachelors Grove. Vandals have left few graves untouched and most of the tombstones have disappeared. It’s a rare occasion if you come out here and you don’t feel like you are trekking through a jungle rather than paying homage to pioneer graves. The cemetery is always littered with trash as well. There are many people who care so much about this cemetery and preserving its history. There are groups who want to volunteer their time to come out here and pick up the trash and cut the grass in Bachelors Grove which is currently owned by Cook County. Despite the fact that there is no shortage of volunteers, the county stands in the way of the cleanup and actually sells permits to volunteers on Sundays to provide a much needed cleanup. Kind of ironic that the county sells permits to clean a property they seem not to care about. On the internet, as some of you may have read the cemetery is in the hands of the Land Management office of Cook county and I have been in touch with some officials from the Forest Preserve district to try to persuade them to sell the land to me. One of the most frequent sightings reported in this cemetery are of phantom monks. They are said to be the guardians of the grove. One thing is for certain, when you are in the cemetery, despite the fact that it lies in a secluded wooded area, you always get the feeling that you are never alone. On my first visit to Bachelors Grove, I captured photographic evidence that I really wasn’t alone. As I walked down the path toward the cemetery, there was no one else on the path. In this photo, you can see what looks like someone wearing a brown or black monks robe. A few moments later, I took this photograph, which showed nothing. The shadowy figure was underneath the branch that curves above the path. A settlement known as Goeselville was located near Bachelors Grove Cemetery. Strangely enough this lost settlement still appears on modern maps. Christian Goesel settled along 147th and Oak Park Avenue (then Bachelor’s Grove Road) in 1861 in a community named Goeselville. In its heyday there were about 30 residents in this area with a few general stores that supplied goods to area farmers.

Another famous ghost of this cemetery is known as the Madonna of Bachelors Grove. Mrs. Rogers is thought to be this famous ghost also known as the white lady. She supposedly wanders the cemetery with a baby and legend says she died in childbirth. The only Mrs. Rogers that I have a record of is Luella Fulton Rogers. She was the wife of Daniel W. Rogers. Luella died at age 65. It is extremely unlikely that a 65 year old woman was pregnant. Let’s hope that the vandalism at Bachelors Grove Cemetery will stop and those buried here may finally rest in peace. I hope you enjoyed this look into one of Chicago’s famous haunts.

If you have any photos, video or your own personal stories from Bachelors Grove Cemetery, please contact the ICPRPI in care of the Miami Paranormal Research Society. We would love to know about them and perhaps feature them here.