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Bachelors Grove Cemetery: Haunted By Urban Legends, Vandals But Not Ghosts

Bachelors Grove Cemetery: Haunted By Urban Legends, Vandals But Not Ghosts
Flyer/Tempo - Lewis University, IL USA
October 29, 2004
David Ashby

Bachelors Grove cemetery is very, very creepy.

Many people have taken the excursion into what is considered by many paranormal investigators and supernatural enthusiasts as one of the most haunted places in the world. The cemetery is located just south of the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve in Midlothian, a 10-mile drive east of Lewis' main campus.

It's no secret. The supposed hauntings have been well-documented in books, web chat rooms and television shows over the past decade. The cemetery even has its own website, Unfortunately, many of the urban legends involving the cemetery are just that: urban legends, which are kept alive by overzealous ghosthunters and the vast spread of misinformation.

There are no markers directing the curious sightseers to the cemetery. In fact, finding it can be a little tricky. The little pathway connecting the cemetery to civilization lies just off of 143rd Street. There is a yellow cable stretching across the entranceway with a sign hanging from it reading 'No Parking,' but that doesn't stop people from walking around it. The pathway, which used to be an actual road, has deteriorated so bad over the past century that only bits and chunks of blacktop remain. The walk down the path is about one third of a mile, and the roar of the traffic from 143rd Street can be heard all the way to the cemetery gates. Thick foliage run parallel along the sides of the path, giving the hiker an unpleasant and creepy sense of confinement. Occasionally, a startling sound can be heard from the surrounding woods. Usually it's just a rabbit or squirrel running through the leaves. Sometimes it can be a sneaky cop waiting to bust any wanders for trespassing. One hopes that it's not a group of muggers or Satanists, because here, in the middle of the woods, nobody can hear you scream.

When you finally get to the cemetery, you will find an encircling metal fence, which has been beaten down by time and vandals. Vandalism has been a reoccuring problem here over the years, and it clearly shows they have made their mark on this cemetery.

The gravestones have been moved around and if you look hard enough, you could find Satanic graffiti. Some reports say that various gravestones have been stolen over the years.

There are weeds and overgrown brush everywhere. It is so bad in some areas that the prairie grass just towers over the tombstones. Nearby you will find a pond riddled with scum and algae. If you go after a rainstorm, you can see a disturbing fog settling over the little secluded cemetery. Its mystic qualities alone make it appealing for ghosthunters.

The cemetery is one of the oldest in the Chicagoland area, with records of burials dating back to the 1830s. Long before the area around Rubio Woods became populated with fast food restuarants and gas stations, the Bachelors Grove area was used by local residents as a recreational park. Families would have Sunday picnics after church services, the kids would take a swim in the pond and the dad would go fishing.

However, the cemetery slowly but surely soon fell into disarray and neglect over the next century, as families of the buried deceased moved away and the road connecting the cemetery to any busy streets was closed down in the 1950s. It was during this time that the stories about the hauntings began. This was also the time the cemetery started to get heavily vandalized.

Many, many ghost stories concerning the cemetery have emerged over the past 50 years, most if not all of them are based on urban legends rather then real evidence.

"I have never found any evidence to validate any of these claims," said Brad Bettenhausen, president of the Tinley Park Historical Society. "Most of these stories I would classify as campfire tales and urban legends." Bettenhausen has done extensive research over the years into the history of Bachelors Grove Cemetery. He believes that the cemetery is haunted. Not by ghosts or spooks, but by the often ridiculous myths associated with the cemetery.

One of the most unique stories concerning Bachelors Grove Cemetery is the phantom farm house that appears on certain nights. Legend has it that if you enter the house, you will never be seen again, even though there are no records of such a house ever being built in the immediate area. Bettenhausen points out that this legend cannot be true because the house has been witnessed in so many different places along 143 rd Street. Another common story involved with the cemetery is the flying blue orbs of light that seem to come out of nowhere, move around crazily, scare the ghosthunters, and disappear. Though this phenomenon has been well documented on video tape, Betthausen laughs it off.

"You can get the same effect by standing on a sidewalk and filming passing traffic at night," he said.

The most ludicrous story, according to Bettenhausen, is the story that Al Capone used to dump his victims in the nearby pond. Bettenhausen says he and his associates looked at all sorts of documents from around 1910 to the early 1950s, and they have found absolutely no evidence to back up that claim.

"Around here, if there were dead bodies found in the pond, it would have been big news," he said.

There is a famous infrared photograph taken in 1991 at Bachelors Grove that depicits a ghostly woman sitting on a grave. Many ghosthunters claim that this photo, which has been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, is proof that the cemetery is haunted, even though the "ghost" projects a shadow.

Regardless of what the skeptics think, Bachelors Grove continues to be a favorite hot spot for paranormal researchers, ghosthunters and adventurous people looking for a good fright. However, whenever these people come to investigate and see "one of the most haunted places in the world" firsthand, the local police are right there to bust them for trespassing.

Kevin Terlep of Joliet has frequented the cemetery on numerous occasions with his friends, and on one night in September of 2003, they paid the price for it. He and his friends were fined $100 by the police for trespassing. Still, Terlep and his friends are convinced that there is something supernatural going on in the cemetery.

"It is totally haunted," he said. "A few times, there was this strange mist that would follow us as we left the cemetery."

Terlep is not alone, though. Countless people out there who have visited the sight have claim that they have had bizarre things happen to them. The Cook County Forest Preserve Police (CCFPP), which patrols the area, says that 80-100 citations are usually issued in an average week for trespassing on forest preserve property after dark (the forest preserves close after sundown). However, that number tends to increase in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

"This time of year is a nuisance for us," said Steve Mayberry, spokesperson for the CCFPP. "We do step up our beats during this time of year."

Regardless of the stories and the questions regarding their authenticity, Bettenhausen, who has ancestors who were once laid to rest in the mysterious cemetery, says that it is essential that visitors still remember that it is still a cemetery, and that those who are buried there should be allowed to rest in peace. "It deserves a little more respect than what it's given," he said.