Chicago's Most Haunted Cemetery Where The Infamous "Madonna" Photo Was Taken

Chicago's Most Haunted Cemetery Where The Infamous "Madonna" Photo Was Taken
June 18, 2009
Rachel Brooks

In a Chicago suburb, at the edge of the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, stands a small cemetery that has not been in use for years. In fact, the cemetery was officially closed back in 1965. But despite the lack of activity, the cemetery seems to be a place of unrest. Countless stories of ghostly encounters and strange sightings in the cemetery have been circulating for years. The cemetery is believed, by many, to be one of the most haunted places in the Chicago area. It is known as Bachelor's Grove Cemetery and it is a ghost hunter's paradise.

There have been many supernatural stories surrounding Bachelor's Grove Cemetery, but by far the most intriguing is that of the "White Lady" or the "Madonna" of Bachelor's Grove as some like to call her. She was a young mother buried in the cemetery next to her infant son. There are no specific details available about who she was, whether she died during delivery or sometime after her newborn baby boy passed on, and no one seems to know how or why her baby died. But far more interesting than who she might have been in life, is who she has become in death. The wandering "Madonna" has been seen strolling through the cemetery carrying her baby beneath the soft glow of a full moon. Better yet, her image has actually been captured on film. A woman was exploring the old cemetery one day, casually snapping photographs of tombstones and other points of interest. While there, the woman never noticed anything unusual. No ghosts appeared and nothing mysterious or supernatural occurred, although she was there during broad daylight. Perhaps a moonlit stroll would have revealed some of the cemetery's supernatural inhabitants.

Regardless, the woman took a few more photos and finished her inspection of the site. She was gone before dark. And although she didn't experience anything spooky or observe any apparitions, she would soon discover she had not necessarily been alone in the cemetery that day. After the pictures she had taken were developed, the woman was astounded to see a woman dressed in white and sitting on a tombstone appear in one of the photos. There hadn't been any woman anywhere in the cemetery when she was there looking around, and there certainly hadn't been anyone sitting atop that tombstone when she snapped the picture. So who was that woman and where did she come from? Many people believe the woman in white to be the very same one who has been seen carrying her baby by the moonlight, the Madonna of Bachelor's Grove. Whoever she is, her photo has baffled even the best photo experts and remains unexplained to this day.

But that's not the end of the story. There are plenty more accounts of apparitions and supernatural sightings in Bachelor's Grove Cemetery. Even the nearby pond and gravel path leading to the old cemetery are purported to be haunted. As you walk along the path on your way to the cemetery you can sometimes see a quaint white house with pillars lining the front porch and a gentle light glowing through the front window as a porch swing rocks in the breeze. But if you choose to approach the house, it's best not to blink or you might miss it. That's right. The house is likely to disappear before your very eyes, as has been the case each and every time the house has been spotted by observers. The charming house seemingly appears abruptly, and disappears just as suddenly. You might wonder if you didn't simply imagine the entire thing, but sightings of this mysterious house have been reported countless times by just as many individuals, each describing the house in identical detail. However, despite thorough research, no one has been able to confirm whether a similar house has ever existed in that location.

There is another story involving the pond on the other side of the cemetery that might shed some light on who might have lived in that house at one time. In addition to sightings of the White Lady or Madonna of Bachelor's Grove and the vanishing house, an old farmer has also been seen with a horse pulling a plow as though he were still farming despite the absence of any farm. This farmer was observed with his horse and plow by two forest rangers in the late 1900s. Interestingly, there was a farmer from that same area who died sometime during the 1870s, more than 100 years earlier. He had been out working the land with his horse drawn plow when the horse, for reasons unknown, waded into the pond that bordered the once active Bachelor's Grove Cemetery. Once immersed in water, the heavy plow quickly began to sink to the bottom of the pond, forcing the farmer and his horse down with it. The unfortunate farmer met his fate that day and drowned next to his horse beneath the weight of the plow, but can still be seen plowing his phantom fields. And who knows, perhaps the disappearing house seen along the cemetery trail is not just a random phantom phenomenon, but was also the old farmer's home at one time.

There have been plenty more tales of dancing lights, strange sounds, and unusual apparitions told about the trail, cemetery, and pond. For instance, there have been reports of figures dressed in monk's robes floating through the cemetery on several occasions. On another occasion witnesses observed a man in the cemetery who had a distinctly yellow glow about him. And that pond has been the center of some very serious speculation involving the dumping of bodies there by Chicago gangsters years ago. It's isolated and discrete location next to Bachelor's Grove Cemetery would have made it the perfect place for drowning evidence. The desolate location of the cemetery and pond could have also contributed to the extensive vandalism that ultimately forced the closing of the cemetery. Since the cemetery is located at the end of a long lonely trail, desecraters could easily disturb the cemetery, stealing and toppling over tombstones, without much risk of being caught in the act. The disheveled state of the cemetery became so problematic that Bachelor's Grove Cemetery was ultimately closed in 1965. Not only has the cemetery largely been abandoned since that time, it has literally been bypassed by road construction that cut off access to the cemetery trail from the major roads around there. This might be for the best, though, considering all the ghosts in the graveyard who seem to enjoy coming out to play in the absence of regular human activity.