BACHELOR'S GROVE CEMETERY
Southwest Side of Chicago


Weird Chicago by Troy Taylor, Adam Selzer & Ken Melvoin-Berg -- The Forgotten History, Strange Legends & Mysterious Hauntings of the Windy City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located near the southwest suburb of Midlothian is the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, an island of trees and shadows nestled in the urban sprawl of the Chicago area. The rambling refuge creates an illusion that it is secluded from the crowded city that threatens its borders, and perhaps it is. On the edge of the forest is a small graveyard that many believe may be the most haunted place in the region. The name of this cemetery is Bachelor's Grove and this ramshackle burial ground may be infested with more ghosts than most can imagine. Over the years, the place has been cursed with more than 100 documented reports of paranormal phenomena, from actual apparitions to glowing balls of light.

There have been no new burials here for many years and as a place of rest for the departed, it is largely forgotten. But if you should ask any ghost hunter just where to go to find a haunting, Bachelor's Grove is usually the first place in Chicago to be mentioned!

The history of Bachelor's Grove has been somewhat shadowy over the years but most historians agree that it was started in the early part of the 1800s. Legends has it that the cemetery got its name because only men were buried here but it actually came from the name of a family who settled in the area. A nearby settlement from the 1820s consisted of mostly German immigrants from New York, Vermont and Connecticut. One family that moved into the area was called 'Batchelder' and their name was given to the timberland where they settled. The settlement continued for some years as Batchelor's Grove, until 1850, when it was changed to "Bremen" by postmaster Samuel Everden in recognition of the new township name where the post office was located. In 1855, it was changed again to "Bachelder's Grove" by postmaster Robert Patrick but the post office closed down just three years later. Officially, the settlement ceased to exist and was swallowed by the forest around it. 

The cemetery itself has a much stranger history -- or at least a more mysterious one. The land was apparently first set aside to be used as a burial ground in 1844, when the first recorded burial took place here, that of Eliza (Mrs. Leonard H.) Scott. The land had been donated by the property owner, Samuel Everden, and it was named 'Everden' in his honor. The last burials to take place are believed to be that of Laura M. McGhee in 1965 and Robert E. Shields, who was cremated and buried in the family plot here in 1989.

The last caretaker of the cemetery was a man named Clarence Fulton, whose family were early settlers in the township. According to Fulton, Bachelor's Grove was like a park for many years and people often came here to fish and swim in the adjacent pond. Families often visited on weekends to care for the graves of the deceased and to picnic under the trees. Things have certainly changed since then!

Problems began in and around the cemetery in the early 1960s. Even before that, the cemetery had become a popular spot along a "lover's lane" and after a nearby road was closed, it became even more isolated. Soon it began to show signs of vandalism and decay and, a short time later, was rumored to be haunted.

The vandals first discovered Bachelor's Grove in the 1960s and, probably because of its secluded location, began to wreak havoc on the place. Gravestones were knocked over and destroyed, sprayed with paint, broken apart and even stolen. Graves were opened and caskets removed. Bones were sometimes found to be strewn about the cemetery.

Was the haunting first caused by these disturbances? Most believe so, but others cite another source for the activity. Near the small pond that borders the cemetery, forest rangers and cemetery visitors have reportedly found the remains of chickens and other small animals that have been slaughtered and mutilated in a ritualistic fashion. Officers that have patrolled the woods at night have reported seeing evidence of black magic and occult rituals in and around the graveyard. In some cases, inscriptions and elaborate writings have been carved in and painted on trees and grave markers and on the cemetery grounds themselves. This has led many to believe that the cemetery has been used for occult activities.

There is no question that vandals have not been kind to Bachelor's Grove, but then neither has time. Roads leading back to it were closed down and people forgot about the place and allowed it to fade into memory, just like the poor souls buried there.

Today, the cemetery is overgrown with weeds and is surrounded by a high, chain-link fence, although access is easily gained through the holes that trespassers have cut into it. The cemetery sign is long since gone.

The first thing noticed by those who visit here is the destruction. Tombstones seem to be randomly scattered about, no longer marking the resting places of those whose names are inscribed upon them. Many of the stones are missing, lost forever and perhaps carried away by thieves. These macabre crimes gave birth to legends about how the stones of the cemetery move about under their own power. The most disturbing things to visitors, though, are the trenches and pits that have been dug above some of the graves, as vandals have attempted to make off with souvenirs from those whose rest they disturb.

Just beyond the rear barrier of the cemetery is a small, stagnant pond. This pond, while outside of the graveyard, is still not untouched by the horror connected to the place. One night in the late 1970s, two Cook County Forest Preserve officers were on night patrol near here and claimed to see the apparition of a horse emerge from the waters of the pond. The animal appeared to be pulling a plow behind it that was steered by the ghost of an old man. The vision crossed the road in front of the ranger's vehicle, was framed for a moment in the glare of their headlights, and then vanished into the forest. The men simply stared in shock for a moment and then looked at one another to be sure that had both seen the same thing. They later reported the incident and since that time, have not been the last to see the old man and the horse.

Little did the rangers know, but this apparition was actually a part of an old legend connected to the pond. It seems that in the 1870s, a farmer was plowing a nearby field when something startled his horse. The farmer was caught by surprise and became tangled in the reins. He was dragged behind the horse and it plunged into the small pond. Unable to free himself, he was pulled down into the murky water by the weight of the horse and the plow and he drowned.

Even the road near Bachelor�s Grove is reputed to be haunted. The Midlothian Turnpike is said to be the scene of vanishing "ghost cars" and phantom automobile accidents. No historical events can provide a clue as to why this might be, but the unexplained vehicles have been reported numerous times in recent years. People who are traveling west on the turnpike see the tail lights of a car in front of them. The brake lights go on, as if the car is planning to stop or turn. The car then turns off the road. However, once the following auto gets to the point in the road where the first vehicle turned, they find no car there at all! Other drivers have reported passing these phantoms autos, only to see the car vanish in their rearview mirrors.

It remains a mystery as to where these phantom cars come from, and where they vanish to. Why do they haunt this stretch of roadway?

For those searching for Bachelor's Grove, it can be found by leaving the roadway and walking up an overgrown gravel track that is surrounded on both sides by the forest. The old road is blocked with chains and concrete dividers and a dented "No Trespassing" sign that hangs ominously near the mouth to the trail. The burial ground lies about a half-mile or so beyond it in the woods.

It is along this deserted road where other strange tales of the cemetery take place. One of these odd occurrences is the sighting of the "phantom farm house". It has been seen appearing and disappearing along the trail for several decades now. The most credible thing about many of the accounts is that they come from people who originally had no idea that the house shouldn't be there at all. 

The house has been reported in all weather conditions, both in the daytime and at night.  There is no historical record of such a house existing here but the descriptions of it rarely vary. Each person claims it to be an old frame farm house with two-stories, painted white, with wooden posts, a porch swing and a welcoming light that burns softly in the window. Popular legend states that should you enter this house, though, you would never come back out again. As witnesses approach the building, it is reported to get smaller and smaller until it finally just fades away, like someone switching off an old television set. No one has ever claimed to set foot on the front porch of the house.

Also from this stretch of trail come reports of "ghost lights". One such light that has been reported many times is a red, beacon-like orb that has been seen flying rapidly up and down the trail to the cemetery. The light is so bright, and moves so fast, that it is impossible to tell what it really looks like. Most witnesses state that they have seen a "red streak" that is left in its wake.

There have also have been many sightings of ghosts and apparitions within Bachelor's Grove Cemetery itself. The most frequently reported spirit, though, is known by a variety of names from the "Madonna of Bachelor's Grove" to the "White Lady" to the affectionate name of "Mrs. Rogers". Legend has it that she is the ghost of a woman who was buried in the cemetery next to the grave of her young child. She is reported to wander the cemetery on nights of the full moon with an infant wrapped in her arms. She appears to walk aimlessly, with no apparent direction and completely unaware of the people who claim to encounter her. There is no real evidence to say who this woman might be but, over the years, she has taken her place as one of the many spirits of this haunted burial ground.

The Weird Chicago gang has visited, and investigated, Bachelor's Grove many times. In 2007, the series 'Cringe', for which Troy Taylor is the executive producer, filmed an episode at Bachelor's Grove, spending the night among the toppled tombstones. In the course of the filming, much of the digital footage was inexplicably distorted and destroyed, something that a crew with many years of experience had never encountered before. Similarly, attempts to record a podcast there (a follow-up to the first episode of the Weird Chicago Podcast) were abandoned after equipment failures ruined the recording.

In 2006, Ken Melvoin-Berg, Weird Chicago's own psychic detective, accompanied a reporter from the Chicago Tribune to the old graveyard and encountered the spirit of a young boy. Soon after arriving at the cemetery, Ken heard a child's voice crying to him, telling him that he had lost something. A few moments later, Ken understood that it was money. According to the reporter, Ken appeared 'to lose it himself' and he staggered out of the cemetery toward the adjacent, algae-filled pond. Wading into the murky water, Ken stopped, bent down, stuck his shaking hands into the muck, and pulled out a 1942 Walking Liberty half-dollar coin - exactly where the ghostly boy told him that it could be found.

Is Bachelor's Grove Cemetery as haunted as we have been led to believe? The reader has to decide that for themselves, but, based on the stories, it seems to be one of the most haunted places in the Midwest.

But haunted or not, Bachelor's Grove is still a burial ground and a place that should be treated with respect as the final resting place of those interred here. It is first and foremost a repository for the dead and should be protected as such by those who hope to enjoy it, and possibly learn from it, in the years to come. It is also a piece of our haunted history that we cannot afford to lose.

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 © COPYRIGHT 2013 BY TROY TAYLOR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.