Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is a small, historic cemetery located in Midlothian, IL, about 25 miles southwest of Chicago. Despite its serene and picturesque setting, the cemetery is regarded by many as the most haunted cemetery in Illinois. In fact, it may be the most haunted in America. That’s if you believe in the paranormal.
The origins of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
According to Brad L. Bettenhausen, President of the Tinley Park Historical Society, “The first legal record of the cemetery occurred when Edward M. Everden sold his property in the area to Frederick Schmidt in 1864, reserving and setting aside one acre of the land for use as a graveyard. According to the 1935 newspaper articles, Fredrick Schmidt supposedly added additional property to expand the cemetery in subsequent years, however, there is no hard evidence of any additions to the original acre.”
Before it became a hotspot for vandalism including grave robbing in the 1960s, families would picnic at the tranquil cemetery. Kids fished and swam in the clear-watered quarry pond next to the cemetery while their families could visit loved ones’ graves.
By the 1970s, the vandalism at the cemetery peaked. Teens partied on, spray-painted, and smashed gravestones. Some say there was evidence of Satanic rituals. Meanwhile, trespassers even dug up a few bodies.
Why is it the most haunted cemetery in Illinois?
Paranormal sightings have occurred at Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery since the 1950s when teens started partying on the grounds.
Visitors have reported paranormal experiences, including sightings of ghostly figures, eerie sounds, and unexplained lights. They have also seen ghostly apparitions of people who were buried there, including a woman in a white dress, a farmer with a plow, and a man in a top hat.
Paranormal and true crime writer, Troy Taylor has stated “Many cemeteries are often rumored to be haunted; the phenomena experienced at Bachelor’s Grove leave little doubt that it is.”
The phantom farmhouse
A phantom farmhouse that appears and disappears is one of the most famous ghost stories encountered at the cemetery. Some call it the “Magic House.” The most famous description of the farmhouse is a white two-story house.
bachelorsgrove.com describes the ghostly house as “1850s to 1890s vintage and Victorian-style. Other common descriptions include a light shining through a window on the second floor, a swing hanging over the porch, wooden pillars near the porch, as well as a small picket fence close by. Initial sightings of the house are likely to have originated as far back as the mid 1950s with early 1960s reports being prevalent.”
During a 1987 WLS television broadcast, Illinois resident Ted Visnec spoke of his experience seeing the phantom house. Visnic stated, “It had to be about 1973 it was like, when we saw that, we were walking off there with me and some of my friends and we saw the house, you know like that. It was like during the day which was like strange cause you’d think you’d see it, you know, at night time or somethin.” He also added, “The house looked like, like a farm-style house, you know like a, one, you know like one big building, you know like that, it wasn’t like a new modern building or anything like that”
A story from Ursula Bielski’s book Haunted Bachelor’s Grove recounts a story from a local man about an experience he had with the house during his childhood. In 1940, decades before the sightings of the house became prevalent, he and another boy were playing near the cemetery grounds. (The houses in the area by 1940 had been demolished). The boys walked down an old turnpike and saw a friendly elderly woman waving at them from a house. She beckoned them to come to talk to her. She offered them freshly baked cookies. They went into the modest farmhouse and enjoyed milk and cookies. The next day the boys returned to the site to find the house had vanished.
Other witnesses claim that it’s transparent or has an eerie, glowing white color. They see the flicker of a candle in the window or even just a floating window without a house. Others have seen the house appear to shrink in size. Meanwhile, some have seen a place that sounds more like a mansion with elaborate gardens and an iron gate. Sightings of the phantom house continue to this day including an eyewitness account in 2021.
The blue light
Another alleged paranormal phenomenon seen at the cemetery is glowing orbs of light. The basketball-sized blue light appears on clear, moonlit nights according to the most common accounts. It appears to have a mind of its own, even chasing some visitors. However, witness descriptions of it vary.
One legend states that it has been known to make visitors delirious. According to a local school teacher, in 1963, three young boys were lost in the woods around the cemetery for a few weeks. When the police found them, the boys could only speak about a blue light.
A 1984 article from the National Examiner told a story about how “A teenager who had a brush with the sinister light a few years ago put her hand through it.” Previously, in 1971, The teenager, Denise Travis reported to documentary-maker, Richard Crowe that when she put her hand through it there was no change in temperature.
Visitors have also reported lights with other colors. According to Pete Crapia, founder of the Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery & Settlement Research Center, “In 1986, police and a dive team were summoned to the pond adjacent to Bachelors Grove cemetery due to reports of motorists in the water. During their search for anyone in the water, the flood light generator placed on 143rd Street malfunctioned and lost power. The dive team then proceeded to use hand-held searchlights as they moved toward a bubbling noise using a small boat. When they approached the area of interest all portable lights lost power while the air became extremely cold and a “greenish” ball of light “shot” out of the water without making a splash. As the light traveled through the cemetery it ascended into the trees.”
Crapia also mentions that even to this day, police officers tell stories about witnessing the lights in and around the cemetery.
The Caretaker also known as the “Murdering Caretaker” and “One-Armed Sniper,” is one of the famous ghosts known to haunt the area. According to legend the man lived in a house off a road leading into the cemetery. He had a mental breakdown and burned his house down with both him and his family perishing inside.
Visitors commonly see him carrying a kerosene lantern and a shotgun. They often report the man telling them to leave. However, there are numerous descriptions of his appearance and mannerisms.
Crapia in a retelling of eyewitness accounts of the Caretaker, mentions a story from a local school teacher (presumably the same one mentioned in the blue light story). The school teacher, telling the story that allegedly took place in 1971, described two male college students that parked next to the pond near the cemetery. The students walked between the pond and a creek, and they came upon a “man in his early to mid-seventies” walking toward them. The man carried a “clear globe lantern emanating a yellow-orange light.” As the man got closer to them, he started yelling at them.
Crapia recounting the story says “The students eventually calmed the man and let him know that they are visiting due to the stories of the blue light and disappearing house.” After the students mentioned their reasons for being there, the man became visibly angry. He told them in direct terms that the blue light doesn’t exist. But the vanishing house was definitely real. The man stated that it was the Caretaker’s house and he knows it because he is the Caretaker.
The man told the college students “to go see the house for themselves.” He followed them while they continued toward the path to the alleged location of the house. Once they reached the path the man’s lantern light went out. The college students turned around to see what happened, but the man had disappeared.
Other stories regarding the Caretaker, are reminiscent of the classic “Hooked Man” urban legend. Witnesses report him as carrying a double-barreled shotgun appearing in front of young lovers parked in lovers’ lanes. The man with a hooked hand then chases the young lovers away.
Meanwhile, the backstory of the Caretaker has never been definitively verified. Bachelor’s Grove never had a caretaker.
The “White Lady”
The White Lady, also known as “The Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove,” is another famous ghost at the cemetery. Locals sometimes refer to her as “Mrs. Rogers.” There is an abundance of descriptions of her appearance, to the point that it’s difficult to discern if they are sightings of the same ghost.
The most common description of the White Lady is a woman wearing a long white dress. She has dark hair and walks through the cemetery. She sometimes carries an infant, puts flowers on graves, or searches for her lost infant.
Authors and researchers sometimes refer to her as “Mrs. Rogers.” The name Mrs. Rogers comes from Luella Rogers’ grave at lot 15. People infer that Luella is the White Lady because there is a grave marked “Infant Daughter” next to Rogers’ grave. However, according to Brad Bettenhausen, President of the Tinley Park Historical Society in Illinois, the infant tombstone doesn’t belong to Luella’s daughter. It was moved and placed in the Rogers’ family lot.
A Chicago radio show hosted by Eddie Schwartz in 1977 aired one of the earliest accounts of a sighting. A caller reported that she snapped a photo in the cemetery of the Virgin Mary holding a baby. The motherly figure was wearing blue.
One of the most famous sightings came in the form of a famous photo in the 1990s. In 1991, Jude Felz, a paranormal researcher, captured an alleged apparition of a woman sitting on the base of a headstone during daylight. Photos she took just seconds before, showed no one was sitting on the gravestone.
A guardian angel
Another story from Ursula Bielski’s book Haunted Bachelor’s Grove recounts a ghostly intervention. A Gulf War veteran struggling with PTSD attempted to commit suicide in the woods surrounding the cemetery. After he put his head in a noose and kicked off his stand, he suddenly awoke. As he was laying on the ground. A man in a “brown suit and a fedora” asked the veteran “Are you okay?” The man then said “They are looking for you” and motioned to a path. The veteran followed the path where there were police officers awaiting him. He turned around to thank the brown suit man, but the man had vanished. The officers had received a call about “there being some trouble near the cemetery.”
Other paranormal phenomena
There are a host of other paranormal activities that occur in and around the cemetery. Visitors hear voices, see robed figures, get tail-gated by “phantom cars”, see tall figures, and take pictures of ghostly fog. Others have reported seeing multiple people in 19th-century clothing. They have seen a ghost horse and phantom dogs. Visitors have reported almost every kind of paranormal phenomenon at the site.
Explanations for the hauntings
There are countless legends that explain the reasons behind paranormal experiences at Bachelor’s Grove. Some say it was built on a Native American burial ground or that the pond was a dumping ground for Al Capone. However, many of these stories are falsehoods. Although there have been accounted murders and suicides in the area, the numbers pale in comparison to the stories floating around.
Many of the paranormal experiences people experience match urban legends across America. Urban legends can be used as a way to alleviate social fears, confirm prejudices, or to make a semblance of sense out of tragic events. Friends pass their stories to friends or say “my friend knows a guy that saw this.” The details of these stories evolve and veer toward the narratives of infamous urban legends. The dense woods outside the urban area recall the Germanic fairy tales warning children not to go into the forest, especially the account of the children’s experience with eating cookies inside the phantom house, almost a Hansel and Gretel-esque story.
The Bachelor’s Grove cemetery stories took off in the 1980s. Once a place gets a creepy reputation, the effect snowballs. The legends start to manifest “paranormal” experiences themselves. Anything visitors see in the corner of their eye their brains assume it’s paranormal. The sound of a deer walking through the woods becomes the sound of ghostly footsteps. Pixel problems on a digital camera become photos of apparitions of spirit orbs. The Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s made people think the site was filled with Satanic cults. There are some reports of practitioners in the woods, which eventually made the site even more attractive to fans of the occult.
Whether a site like Bachelor’s Grove is haunted or not, it’s impossible to deny the stories have become part of our country’s cultural fabric. Could it be haunted? Sure. But what makes the legends fascinating is their ability to reflect our beliefs and how we view our own position in the universe. They are captivating. Meanwhile, paranormal adventurers and reality shows like Ghost Adventures will continue showing up at the cemetery, spreading the story worldwide and adding colorful layers to the legends.
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery today
Today, the site known as the “most haunted cemetery in Illinois” is surrounded by a fence. Numerous gravestones have been removed for protection from vandalism. Beer cans are still found throughout the woods and the once clear pond has turned murky. The cemetery is open from dawn to sunrise. Police strictly enforce trespassing. Meanwhile, a constant police presence surrounds the graveyard at night.
Unfortunately, the vandalism is still happening. There are people in this world that just need to let the dead rest.