Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery One of the Chicago area’s most haunted sites, with a long history of more than 100 reports of paranormal phenomena occurring there. It is often called one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world, fascinating ghost investigators and ghost thrillseekers for decades.
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is a small, one-acre plot near the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve near the southwestern suburb of Midlothian. The cemetery is fenced in, with a single gate on the south side and a single path winding through the plot. A stagnant pond lies just outside the northwestern corner.
The cemetery is overgrown and unkempt and is subject to frequent vandalism, perhaps because of the popularity of the haunting legends. Graves and markers have been defaced and mutilated, and coffins have been disinterred and opened. Evidence of animal sacrifices near a lagoon at one corner of the cemetery has pointed to possible occult rites practiced there.
The area around the cemetery was settled in the 1820s and 1830s primarily by German immigrants, many of whom worked on the Illinois-Michigan Canal. The cemetery was first known as Everdon’s Cemetery, and the first burial was in 1844.
It is not certain why the cemetery became known as Bachelor’s Grove in 1864. According to one popular story, the name came from unmarried men who were among the first settlers. Perhaps more likely, it was derived from a German family name such as Batchelder.
During the gangster era of the 1920s and 1930s, bodies of the victims of gang warfare allegedly were dumped in the lagoon.
Stories of haunting phenomena began to proliferate in the 1960s. Burials decreased after 1965, and the area became popular as a lover’s lane and gathering spot for youths—many of whom were eager to be spooked. Youthful vandals also began visiting the cemetery, overturning tombstones, desecrating and opening graves and strewing bones about. Haunting reports reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s. The last recorded burial was in 1989.
Little of the strange phenomena has been connected to known historical fact or to specific individuals buried there. Rather, most of the stories are more like urban legends circulating elsewhere in the United States, especially in the Midwest. Some historians believe that some stories have been fabricated by ghost hunters in order to draw customers for ghost tours.
The most-often reported apparition at Bachelor’s Grove is a vanishing house or floating house. It is a twostoried Victorian farmhouse with a white picket fence, a colonnaded porch with a swing and a warm light shining within it. The house is always seen at a distance and looks convincingly real. But those who approach it find that it shrinks in size the closer they get, or abruptly disappears altogether. According to legend, anyone who succeeds in reaching it and entering will never return. The vanishing house has been widely reported since the 1960s and drawn by numerous witnesses; however, there is no historical record of such a house existing in the vicinity.
A number of ghosts of human beings have been reported, including repeated sightings of hooded PHANTOM MONKS, and a woman, called either the “White Lady” or the “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove.” The presence of phantom monks is puzzling as no monastery was ever in the area. The White Lady carries a baby in her arms and wanders aimlessly through the cemetery on nights of the full Moon. Popular myth says she is the ghost of a woman who is buried there next to the grave of her baby. No historical records document the story.
Other apparitions are a two-headed man, a child, a black carriage and a glowing man in yellow. Many reports have been made of sightings of a ghostly farmer and his horse and plow. The story goes that in the 1870s, a farmer was plowing land near the pond when his horse inexplicably bolted into the water; both man and animal were drowned. PHANTOM VEHICLES also have been reported on the cemetery’s path and on the Midlothian Turnpike just outside the plot. The vehicles vanish as people approach them. Some people have reported seeing or being in phantom accidents.
Flashing and dancing lights have been reported in the cemetery, especially a blue light that resembles that of a police car. Flashing white lights also have been seen in both daytime and at night, as well as a red light that streaks across the sky over the path in the cemetery. (The Midlothian Turnpike can be seen through the trees on the northwestern side of the cemetery.) The lights do not exhibit quite the same behavior as Ghost Lights. Sightings of these lights were especially frequent during the 1970s. In December 1971, a young woman said she succeeded in putting her hand through one of the flashing lights but felt nothing.
Other phenomena include sensations of unusual cold, the awareness of an invisible presence that causes discomfort and the tactile sensation of sweaty but invisible hands upon the skin.
One of the cemetery’s best-known legends is “The Hooked Spirit” or “The Hook,” an URBAN LEGEND. According to the story, a young man takes his date to the cemetery and tells her about the Hooked Spirit, hoping she will be frightened into his arms. Instead, she asks to be taken home. The young man obliges her. When he reaches her home and gets out to open her door, he finds a hook swinging on the door handle—supposedly the spirit had been attempting to open the door just as they drove away.
Another urban legend linked to Bachelor’s Grove is “The Boyfriend’s Death.” A young couple park at the cemetery one night for necking or lovemaking. They are interrupted by a radio report that a mass murderer has escaped from a psychiatric hospital nearby and may be headed in their direction. They decide to leave, but naturally, the car won’t start. The young man gets out to go for help and instructs the girl to remain in the car. Presently she hears a strange scratching on the roof but thinks it’s only tree branches. Her date does not return, but soon a police car comes. An officer tells her to get out, walk toward him and not look back. She does. More police cars arrive. The girl’s curiosity gets the better of her, and she looks behind her. She is horrified to see the body of her boyfriend hanging head down from a tree, his throat slit ear to ear. His fingernails are scratching the car roof.
Though the incidence of phenomena peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, hauntings continue to be reported. In the 1990s, reports began of a spectral BLACK DOG reminiscent of Black Shuck. The large dog is seen near the entrance to the road and vanishes as people draw near. According to lore, such “graveyard dogs” are either guides or are warnings to visitors not to trespass on cemetery grounds.
Many paranormal investigators have attempted to capture Bachelor Grove’s phenomena on film. Numerous photographs show strange light effects (see ORBS), wispy shapes, ghostly faces, and blobs resembling Ectoplasm. Some photographs can be explained by light anomalies, atmospheric effects, photographic effects or defects, or simulacra (see Spirit Photography).
A controversial photo was taken at the cemetery by Mari Huff, a member of the Ghost Research Society (GRS), on August 10, 1991, during the daytime. Huff, part of a group of GRS investigators, used infrared film to shoot a panorama of an area where unusual effects were detected on the group’s equipment. The photo shows a semitransparent young woman, dressed in old-fashioned clothing, sitting on a broken tombstone. No such figure was visible to Huff or the rest of the group.
Skeptics have called the photo a double exposure. Among those who believe the photo shows a genuine anomaly are Dale Kaczmarek, founder and president of the GRS, and Troy Taylor, cofounder and president of the American Ghost Society. Taylor showed the photo to several professional photographers, who ruled out double exposure.
Kaczmarek has taken photographs showing anomalies, including a hooded figure holding a baby and floating faces and forms. Investigators also report capturing Electronic Voice Phenomena, such as names of the dead buried there being called over and over again.
FURTHER READING :
- Bielski, Ursula. Chicago Haunts. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 1998.
- Kaczmarek, Dale. “Bachelor’s Grove: The Most Haunted Cemetery.” In Sharon Jarvis, ed., True Tales of the Unknown Vol. II. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.
- Miller, Paul Richard. “Chicago: The World’s Biggest Ghost Town.” Fate (Nov. 1990): 53–68.
- Taylor, Troy. Haunted Illinois. Alton, Ill.: Whitechapel Productions Press, 1999.
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