(Also known as the Murdering Caretaker and One-Armed Sniper)
Last updated October 14, 2011
The following was written by Pete Crapia, founder of the Bachelors Grove Cemetery & Settlement Research Center. A great appreciation goes out to all of those that have and continue to contribute to the research efforts!
The legend of the Caretaker has been found to include many variations. Today, the most common story speaks of a house located near the cemetery which is supposed to have been the home of the caretaker.
The house is said to be located a short distance west of what is now the roped-off entrance to the main path leading to the cemetery off of 143rd Street, across from the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve parking lot. This path is also known as a portion of the Midlothian Turnpike that was closed to vehicle traffic in the 1960s.
Legend has it that the caretaker went crazy and murdered his family. There are variations to the story and that includes how they were killed. Afterwards, the caretaker is said to have taken his own life inside of the house, in which his death was also carried out in different ways, but ultimately the house was burned down with all of them inside of it.
The above legend is generally the most common version repeated today but the earliest caretaker stories involve visitors to the cemetery running into the caretaker himself. During these incidents it is said that the caretaker would tell you to leave the area, while at times carrying an oil lantern in his hand, and would also be carrying a shotgun from time to time. The reports of shotgun and lantern stories possibly date back to the 1960s with more widespread coverage through radio broadcasts in the 1970s by researcher Richard Crowe of Illinois.
He describes two male college students who park on the once popular, but now defunct, 143rd Street pull-off next to the pond near the cemetery. They proceeded to walk south on the narrow path between the pond and creek and come upon a man in his early to mid seventies walking toward them. The elderly man is described as carrying a clear globe lantern emanating a "yellow-orange" light and begins to yell at the two students as he gets closer.
The students eventually calm the man and let him know that they are visiting due to the stories of the blue light and disappearing house. Becoming agitated once again, he states that the blue light does not exist. He continues to tell them that the house is very much real and that it is the caretaker's house, in which he also mentions that he is the caretaker.
The old man ends up telling them to go see the house for themselves and follows behind them on a path going toward it. While on the path the light from the lantern goes out and both students turn around to find that the man has disappeared. There was no mention as to if they found the house or which path was used.
The Caretaker legend shares a similar detail with that of the Hooked Spirit legend. Once in a while people will give reference to a hooked hand man, with a shotgun, who used to live in the area. Such a tale can be found within the 1989 book True Tales of the Unknown: The Uninvited. On page 52 it states, "He is sometimes reported to be carrying a double-barreled shotgun and chases these lovers from the property which once belonged to him." The Hooked Spirit legend, which can also have small variations in itself, is generally considered an Urban Legend and that there are no facts to support it.
The earliest written record found of the tale thus far as it relates to Bachelors Grove cemetery goes back to 1975 within The Herald newspaper in Illinois. The article briefly states, "Hair-raising stories about a mysterious one-armed sniper," while speaking about other various stories associated with Bachelors Grove cemetery. Today, when visiting the cemetery you can even come across "old-timers" that still give reference to a "one-armed sniper."
Regardless of where the murdering Caretaker legends had originated from there is still no evidence to substantiate them. In fact, Bachelors Grove cemetery did not have a specific caretaker as it was more of a collective effort in maintaining the grounds by family members such as Clarence Fulton. During an interview with Richard Crowe in 2011, he also mentions that the tale of any caretaker is unfounded since the cemetery did not have one assigned to it.
This would not locate the house close the cemetery as legend usually states. Amazingly, according to historians, the house was later relocated from the old settlement and placed on the property where it stands today. Within an aerial photograph from 1938 you can verify that the house was not even on the property yet. This also contradicts the common legend because it was never burned down, nor had it ever been burned down and rebuilt.
During 2005 a statement was made from one of the current owners that the house was once used as the caretaker's home. At present, there is no information to substantiate the claim.