Bachelor's Grove Cemetery



Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

143rd Street just east of Ridgeland Avenue

Midlothian, IL.  60445

 

 

For all intents and purposes, the area known as Bachelor’s Grove was a large wooded area that included a forest preserve north of 151st Street.  It was occupied by a group of single men while perfecting their titles to tracts of land they purchased at $1.25 per acre.  Each man possessed a five-acre woodlot that dated back to the early 1830's.  The area became a source of outdoor entertainment while many others visited the site of the cemetery itself, which today has been a constant target for vandals.  The earliest tombstone dates back to 1823 and the last burial was in 1965 even though other tombstones indicate a later date. 

One of the largest landholders was John and Jane Fulton who emigrated from their native Ireland.  They arrived in the United States in 1839 and traveled to Bremen Township in 1844 by way of covered wagon.  They purchased about 80 acres of land for the unheard of cost of $200 and devoted the rest of their lives to agricultural pursuits.  John died in 1883 and his widow in 1897.  They were the parents of fourteen children and a few descendants still survive today.

In the fall of 1976 a high-school teacher from nearby Bremen High School began a Bicentennial project dedicated to the study and research of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery.  During that time a direct descendant, Clarence Fulton, still survived and spoke of their Sunday visits to the cemetery, which was more like a park than a cemetery.  The small lagoon served both as fishing and swimming hole for youngsters. 

The site for the existing cemetery was said to have been set-aside in 1864, however the first evidence of private ownership of the land was in 1835.  In 1864 Edward Everden sold this land to Frederick Schmidt but set aside one acre of land to be used as a graveyard.  It is uncertain how many people are actually buried in the cemetery because many of the tombstones are missing and historical records are considered sketchy at best.  Some local historians have been suggesting that the cemetery is actually called Batchelor Grove Cemetery because of the Batchelor family who settled here.  However this author could not find any evidence in over twenty years of research indicating any validity in that story.  But I suppose it could be possible.

Whatever the real origin, the cemetery is surely antique and quite spooky.  Located on what was then known as, Bachelor’s Grove Road, it sets back about a quarter-mile off the Midlothian Turnpike.  The old road used to go right past the cemetery while continuing all the way to around 150th and Harlem Avenue where a log school, Bachelor’s Grove School, once stood.  When the new turnpike was built, the older road was closed down and dead-ended near the main gates of the cemetery.  Today, the road is completely chained off and the only access is by walking the quarter-mile route through a darkened forest preserve.  Some have asked the question of why Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was located so far off the beaten path but the answer is obvious; it wasn’t.  Modern progress just passed it by.

The many ghost stories associated with Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery probably began in the late 1950's.  However this area was well known to the gangsters of the 1920's and 1930's because a number of bodies were found in the small lagoon bordering the cemetery that was thought to be victims of the mob and organized crime.  Police officials discovered not only bodies but also illegal firearms.

In the 1960's and 1970's the cemetery was the target of horrible grave desecration.  Some graves were dug up to the wooden coffins while others had the remains of the deceased disturbed!  There has been occasional desecration in modern times with vandals digging around gravestones, toppling over markers and spray-painting monuments.  Every Halloween, police have their hands full trying to keep Halloween pranksters and vandals from further destroying this pioneer graveyard.

In the middle 1960's there was evidence of cult activity and animal remains found in the cemetery.  Many believe that a group involved in satanic worship may have been the culprit in these apparent animal sacrifices.  This author had a chance to interview a few people who had nearly walked right into a satanic ritual in progress.  They described several individuals in black robes carrying candles who were in the process of killing a small animal in the cemetery during a well-known witch’s Sabbath.

Many ask why the cemetery’s so haunted.  Most believe it to be a combination of the grave desecration, satanic worship and the bodies that have been unceremoniously dumped out here throughout the years.  Add that to the fact that those early pioneers have faded largely out of existence and are now almost forgotten.

The first ghost stories that began circulating amongst the tombstones were the glowing blue balls of light that seemed to display some form of intelligence.  They eluded pursuit even though a Joliet man named Jack Hermanski in the early 1970’s chased them on a number of occasions.  The light was the size of a baseball and floated through the cemetery just out of his reach.  He reported that the ghost light blinked at fifteen to twenty-second intervals and just when he thought he had overtaken it; the light disappeared then reappeared behind him.  And so the chase began again throughout the nights he observed it.

In December of 1971, Denise Travers claimed that she was able to pass her hand through the light on a very close encounter.  She felt no heat or sensation at all.  It was like putting your hand into a void.  Skeptics say that the blue lights were actually the methane gas given off by decomposing bodies.  However, most of those bodies had crumbled to ashes long ago.  The blue lights have not been seen since the latter 1970's however a new light has been reported with increasing frequency zooming up and down the main trail leading to the cemetery’s entrance.  This light has been likened to a red skyrocket and is never stationary but constantly moving.

The most fascinating story is the old house seen on either side of the main trail leading back into the woods.  Witnesses have also reported the house as appearing the same; a white farm-style house with white wooden columns, a porch swing and even a lantern burning dimly in one window.  However, there isn’t a house there nor has there ever been one.  The house is a true phantom house.  As witnesses walk towards it, the house appears to shrink, getting smaller and smaller before disappearing into the dark woods.

The house is never reported in the same place twice.  It’s been seen near the turnpike, along the dirt trail and even within the cemetery itself!  Arlene McComb saw the house with a group of friends in 1975 and watched as the house began to shrink in size until it was entirely gone from view.  Grace Nortman saw the phantom house in the winter of 1966 and 1967 while another witness, Marianne Kerbs, experienced the ghostly abode in 1966.

Along the Midlothian Turnpike there have been numerous tales of disappearing cars which one moment are there, the next they’re gone.  The first occasion was in June of 1977 when a passing motorist saw a car parked on the side of the road near the creek that flows past the cemetery.  That same individual saw it again in September of 1978.  He was driving past the cemetery when he saw a car backing across the road into the Rubio Woods area.  He assumed it was a police car setting up a speed trap but within a few seconds after he arrived at the forest preserve entrance, it was nowhere to be seen.  The chain was still up over the entrance to the picnic area but the vehicle was gone.  Others have passed by cars parked on the shoulder across from the cemetery.  After they pass the automobiles and look in their rearview mirror, the cars have vanished.  Some have made a U-turn only to find no car there.

In 1975 a south-side man went to visit the site in the afternoon.  Suddenly as he approached the cemetery, his SX-70 camera began taking pictures by itself.  Several pictures begin spilling out of the instamatic camera without the shutter being depressed.  On each of the photographs was evidence of a strange white mist.  Some of the mists had an almost human-like form to them.  After sending the film and camera back to Kodak for warranty work, he was told by the technicians that the camera was in perfect operating condition and the film was new and unflawed.  Since that experience he has returned one other time and had some similar images show up on the film.

In the late 1970's two Cook County Forest Rangers on late night patrol came across a most unusual image that they could not explain.   As they began to approach the lagoon, they saw what appeared to be a farmer and his horse pulling a old-fashioned plow suddenly materialize in the middle of the road and quickly disappear into nearby Rubio Woods.  They both looked at one another in utter shock and disbelief but continued their nightly patrol.  While they both had seen the same thing, neither one made an official report of the incident apparently fearing ridicule from their superiors and peers.

Later research indicated that in the 1870's a farmer and his horse did in fact drown in the lagoon while clearing some land for crops.  For no apparent reason, the horse suddenly reared up and galloped headlong into the lagoon.  The farmer not having time to let go of the reins was quickly pulled into the waters and both drowned by being yanked down by the weight of the plow.

A local legend has been circulating since the 1960's of a two-headed monster that supposedly crawls out of the lagoon and across the Midlothian Turnpike before also disappearing into Rubio Woods Forest Preserve.  Perhaps this apparition was actually the ghost of the farmer and his horse in a state of partial materialization?  Surely no one believes in a two-headed monster?

Within the cemetery itself an apparition of a lady dressed in white and holding an infant in her arms allegedly appears on moonlit nights.  She has been dubbed “The Madonna” of Bachelor’s Grove.  No one knows whom she is however there is a small tombstone with no name or date but simply “Infant Daughter” etched into the granite.

Electronic devices such as cameras, tape recorders and camcorders react strangely while in or near the cemetery.  Battery drains are common even though the batteries were fully charged before entering.  Cars would mysteriously stall while near the cemetery entrance but after being pushed for a short distance, they would suddenly spring to life.

Tape recordings of strange sounds and sometimes voices have been recorded in the cemetery over the years.  One recording simply says, “Hello, blackman”, while another sounds like a forlorn voice calling, “Minna. Minna”; just wailing in the wind.  Within the cemetery is a tombstone with that name Minna.

During a weekend in August 1984, Carol Williams and her girlfriend experienced sweaty hands, someone following them, strange voices stemming from nearby bushes and a weird white form near a grave marked Hamilton.   Besides that the girls remembered the cemetery as being quite cold for an otherwise warm August night and that the interior of the cemetery seemed to have been illuminated by an unknown light source.

The area is extremely photogenic and many have come away with alleged spirit forms, strange lights, shadowy figures or full-blown apparitions.  During a visit in August of 1991, Ghost Research Society members conducted a full-fledged investigation with the latest in scientific equipment, cameras, tape recorders and camcorders.  All members were given maps of the cemetery and instructed to walk through and note any changes in electronic, electromagnetic and ion readings as well as their own psychic experiences.  After the maps were compared, it became apparent that several investigators had indicated one or two areas where unusual readings or sensory experiences were encountered.  Returning to those areas, the team attempted additional tests and photographic experiments with both black and white infrared and other types of film.  Nothing was seen at the time of the picture taking.

After the film was processed, it was discovered that on one frame there was the unmistakable image of a strange woman sitting on a checkerboard tombstone in an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century, full-length dress.  She had long brown hair and was staring off in the distance in profile.  On closer examination, parts of her body are semi-transparent, especially her head and legs.  Everyone on the team was stunned with this revelation as it seemed to coincide with the electromagnetic deviations team members were experiencing at the time.  It is one of the clearest images this author has ever seen to date!  It was taken by Jude Huff-Felz.

Additional investigations were conducted three years later and also in the 1990's with some interesting results.

 Of course there are many folk legends also “told as truth” about Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery including the famous story of the “Hooked Spirit”.  It is said that a man who lived in the area lost his arm in an accident and now sports a hook for a hand.  He is said to chase trespassers away with a double-barrel shotgun.  Some claim he even attempts to enter your car to pull you out. 

Couples who have visited the area at night to make out have sometimes complained of a sound of metal on metal near their front door handle.  Finally after the female is totally spooked, she asks to be taken home whereby they find a hook swinging on the door handle.  Allegedly he was about to open the door when the couple drove away, pulling the hook from his arm!

Another favorite tale spun at Bachelor’s Grove is the story of another couple parked out there kissing and listening to soft music.  Suddenly a news bulletin tells of an escaped convict that has been seen in the area.  The girl again becomes frightened and begs her boyfriend to take her home.  He tries to start the car but discovers he is out of gas.  Telling his girlfriend to wait while he takes a gas can to fill up; he departs but warns her not to leave the car.  The girl now totally scared at being left alone begins to hear a weird scratching on the roof of the car.  Finally after quite a long wait, a patrol car arrives at the scene.  They tell the girl to get out of the car and approach the police car but not to look back.  Of course her curiosity gets the best of her and she does look back and sees her boyfriend hanging from a tree above the car.  His throat has been slit and his fingernails scraping on the roof of the car, is what the girl had heard all evening.

While these last two stories aren’t true actual witnesses related the others just as they remembered them.  

This video is a rare Super8 film shot in 1976 with the newly installed fence at Bachelor's Grove Cemetery. Bachelor's Grove Fence 1976


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