All About Ghosts - Pete Crapia
Bachelor's Grove is without question one of the most visited and photographed haunted locations in the world. Located near Chicago, Illinois, the small cemetery has attracted ghosthunters, paranormal researchers, and tourists for decades.
Visitors to Bachelor's Grove have often reported paranormal activity, ranging from photographs of possible orbs and ecto to bizarre reports of phantom houses and cars that seem to vanish into thin air.
Mel: According to research, the correct spelling of the name is actually Batchelor. Throughout its history, Batchelor's Grove went through several different name changes, from Batchelor to Batchel. How did Batchelor's Grove get its name and what is the significance behind all its name changes?
Pete Crapia: So far, no one is positively sure how it originally gained its name. But through Brad Bettenhausen's research, who is the president of the Tinley Park Historical Society, all evidence points to a family that used to live in the area. Over the years people in the nearby town of Blue Island such as Stephan Rexford and Eli Williams claimed that the name Bachelors Grove originated from Bachelors Hall which in turn was run by them as well as other individuals. But historical facts show this to be false and the name was in use prior to their arrival. As for the name Batchel and others, it all comes down to spelling variations in different languages as well as from illiteracy.
Mel: How did you personally become so interested in Batchelor's Grove and its history?
Pete: Back when I was in high school I used to visit the library a lot to read up on the history of the towns I've lived in. From then on reading up on local history just became something of a hobby to me and at times more, as is the case with Batchelors Grove cemetery. Skipping much of the finer details, I lived in a house located in Orland Park, IL which displayed some extreme paranormal activity. It was in this house where I had my first encounters with the paranormal.
I used to go hiking in the forest preserves nearby at that time and other than knowing about some cemetery which was located on a forest preserve map it wasn't until I moved out of Orland Park that I heard a few stories surrounding Bachelors Grove cemetery and decided to make a visit. As with a lot of places I go to I decided to bring along a video camera.
I wasn't planning on capturing anything paranormal, it was just something I liked to do. In fact, at the time I didn't know there were people out there such as "ghost-hunters" let alone knowing it was possible to capture such activity on video tape. But all of that had changed for me after making my first visit in 1996. After seeing its condition along with capturing a few anomalous images on video I decided to look into its history and eventually decided to combine my knowledge of electronics with investigating the paranormal.
It was tough looking for historical information in the beginning. Most of what I found were repeats of various ghost stories in newspapers. Then after three years, when I had more time on my hands, I began a more serious search. After discovering a lot of information I decided to create a web site so that others wouldn't have such a hard time researching the area. I also thought it would help me compile more information as well, which it has.
Mel: On your website, you have a large archive of photographs and videos taken in Batchelor's Grove. What's the most interesting photo or video footage you've ever seen from the Grove?
Pete: That's a tough question... I don't necessarily have a "most interesting" photograph or video footage. I actually have a lot of photographs I like and have helped me in coming up with partial theories relating to the paranormal.
But to answer your question I guess I would be inclined to say that the most interesting piece of material I have seen so far would be the video footage which shows a floating anomaly next to the Fulton family monument. (Click here for video)
I still remember when I captured that footage like it was yesterday. I remember removing my eye from the view finder and looking over by the monument because I thought I had seen something moving around. But I didn't see anything with the naked eye so I just shrugged it off and continued on with generally filming the area as intended.
It wasn't until later on that a friend of mine was looking at the footage and said "Hey, look at that.. what is that?" and then I remembered the incident all over again thinking "I did see something..."
If that were to happen again today I would pay more attention but this happened on my first visit there and at that time I didn't know It was possible to capture paranormal activity on video tape. Pursuing research into the paranormal from that point on helped me make more sense as to how it's possible.
As far as still photographs, there are two of them.
One is more of an artistic favorite taken by Sherry Shine of Homewood, IL but it also holds evidence of paranormal activity. (Click here for photo)
The other photograph which I find interesting is of a humanoid type anomaly with me standing off to the side holding a video camera. (Click here for photo)
There is an interesting story behind that photo which will be included some day on-line. But I can talk about it here for quicker reference. It was captured for me by George Jaros during a time when I was having video camera malfunctions. I had brought along two freshly charged batteries and all were working correctly throughout the entire visit. However, when I would walk near a certain spot in the cemetery the camera would persistently power down. Time and time again it would power down. I couldn't even get it to power back up unless I walked away from that part of the cemetery which I humorously figured out after cursing at the camera while walking away. After about the seventh time of this happening I told George to take a couple photographs of me when I told him it was powering down again. Only one of three photographs showed an anomaly which a lot of people end up calling a "hooded figure."
Mel: A lot of urban legends add to the mystique of Batchelor's Grove, from phantom cars to two-headed creatures in the lagoon to a ghostly farmhouse that appears and reappears near the cemetery. Are there any that have basis in fact?
Pete: I'm still trying to find answers. That is why there is no information on the web site besides archived newspaper articles which talk about specific "sightings." I want to compile and present some sort of legitimate evidence that proves or disproves the most talked about legends such as the two-headed creatures, phantom cars, etc,.
Although it may seem easy to quickly dismiss a small percentage of the claims right away, I still hesitate on presenting certain information labeled as "fact" due to information that still needs to be cross referenced and validated.
It may take many years before any information is presented and hopefully other interested readers/researchers will be able to wait to see my own results.
Mel: Which ones seem to be the most widely reported?
Pete: I would say that the most widely reported legend is sources of unknown light with some of them being in the shape of circles, streaks and various parts of the cemetery illuminated in a confined area which appears to come from nowhere to the observer.
Mel: What's the most outrageous legend you've heard?
Pete: There is none. Given that I have experienced some very bizarre paranormal events in my life, which by the way were not all related to Batchelor's Grove cemetery, I am open to a lot of very strange claims. To me it just becomes a part of the research.
Mel: What's the most common ghostly occurrence reported there?
Pete: I would say that reports of monk style figures seem to be the most widely reported, especially in the past two years, over all of the others combined.
Mel: People seem to have been drawn to the abandoned cemetery for decades, from ghosthunters to sightseers and, unfortunately, a number of vandals who have caused extensive damage over the years. Why do you think Batchelor's Grove holds such a fascination for people?
Pete: It could be a mixture of things. The largest being that it gets so much publicity, the power of advertisement... Then there is the mystery aspect. People love a mystery and some come to find an answer for themselves as to if this sort of activity really takes place, or to experience it again. But there is more to it for some people. There seems to be something specific about the general area of Batchelors Grove cemetery that draws people to it. This claim comes from the reports I get personally as well as from my own research. What that "something" may be is still uncertain but from the descriptions of those I've spoken to there are similarities with other areas on the planet that produce a phenomenon which relaxes people.
Of course you will find other individuals that gain a sense of fear and/or general anxiety for various reasons but the calming effect appears to be taking place as well. On the other hand there are reports where people have this attraction to the cemetery itself but have no answer as to why, even they are confused. They are neither relaxed nor filled with anxiety, just simply attracted with no apparent interest at all.
As for the vandals.... they found themselves a secluded place just to be a jackass.
Mel: Once a place for family picnics, the Batchelor's Grove has suffered extreme neglect and vandalism in the past and the property has changed hands a few times over the years. Can you tell us about the Graveyard Restoration Project, the petition, and the efforts to preserve Batchelor's Grove?
Pete: The Grove Restoration Project was formed during the creation of the web site. I realized that by using the power of the internet I could raise awareness and at some point possibly turn the tables on vandalism.
After launching the web site I discovered someone else created what was called the "Bachelors Grove Restoration Project." It was run by David Burault and we eventually combined both teams together. But he had to attend other obligations and dropped out of the restoration efforts. Right now the restoration project is run by me and Amanda Lubben.
Currently the GRP is going through some revisions after it experienced some deceptive activity from Illinois officials. A lot of work now resides in preparing for a stronger come back which includes many meetings, phone calls and letters to other state departments. Until certain legal issues are taken care of we can't just go in and start cleaning up.
The petition that is set up right now is for support when the GRP has to deal with officials who again say there is no public interest in preserving the cemetery and other absurd comments. It will also be helpful if there is a need to go to court on certain matters too. In the future there will probably have to be other petitions on specific issues relating to the cemetery for stronger support but the current petition as it stands will become very helpful and I urge everyone who is concerned about the cemetery to sign it.
Mel: In what ways can people help with the preservation efforts?
Pete: It would be best to use the resources found in the GRP section of the web site. But since it is temporarily down and being revised that isn't going to help people too much. Until the GRP section of the web site is revised all I can say at this point is to contact Illinois state representatives and voice your concerns as to the condition of the cemetery and do it frequently. I do anticipate that the section for the GRP will be revised enough to go back on-line by the end of 2003 so hopefully people will come back to review it and help out.
Many thanks to Pete Crapia for taking the time to answer our questions!