Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Memento Mori

Nothing says Halloween more than a cemetery so packed with ghosts it barely leaves room for the living. Batchelors Grove is just such a cemetery. Nestled in the Rubio Woods forest preserve outside Chicago, it lies abandoned and forgotten behind a rusted, broken down chain link fence. But just as the fence doesn't keep curious visitors out, it no longer keeps the ghosts in. Mysterious occurrences are the norm in this scenic cemetery including random equipment malfunctions, eerie cold spots , and creepy noises which come from nowhere. A phantom farmer and his plow horse who both drowned in a nearby lake have been seen plowing fields which no longer exist. A woman in white roams the grounds, her dead infant in her arms. A quaint farmhouse appears along the trail leading to the cemetery itself, vanishing without a trace as hikers approach. Phantom cars have been seen tailing drivers along the stretch of road, disappearing like the mist. What makes this cemetery so active? There are as many theories as there are spine-chilling anecdotes, but one thing is certain. The bulk of the haunting didn't begin until the cemetery was vandalized and desecrated. No matter what awaits us beyond the ebony veil, no one wants or deserves to have their peace disturbed. Perhaps we are granted a brief glimpse into what awaits after death through ghosts in order to remember that, in the end, such is the fate of us all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Echos of the Eastland

Perhaps one of the most terrible tragedies to hit the Windy City short of the Chicago Fire was the Eastland disaster. On a sunny July day in 1915, nearly 3200 passengers boarded the Eastland steamer moored on the Chicago River. Bound for a company picnic, eager men, women and children crowded the boat, excited for the lovely day they had planned. No one's sure what happened next, but when the Eastland pulled away from the dock, the boat capsized sending people sailing from the top decks into the river and trapping many other poor souls inside. What had been laughter moments before turned into terrified screams as onlookers from the nearby bridge and boats did their best to save as many as they could. Sadly, what began as a rescue mission swiftly turned into a recovery mission as rescue workers including police divers and local volunteers hauled corpses out of the river. In the end, 840 people including 22 entire families were among the dead in the makeshift morgues set up in hospitals, warehouses and even the 2nd Regiment Armory. The victims of the Eastland may be gone, but they ensure they aren't forgotten. On occasion, those passing over the bridge where the boat sank have heard terrible screams rising from the otherwise calm river. At the old Armory, now Harpo Studios, ghostly footsteps, sobs, and childish laughter have all been heard and an eerie woman in gray has appeared not only to employees but on security camera footage as well. Echos to remind us that even the seemingly happiest of days don't necessarily have a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seaweed Charlie

If you find yourself desiring a drive on a balmy Chicago eve, follow Lake Shore Drive north to Sheridan Road. This street lazily winds its way along Lake Michigan, past humble row houses and prestigious universities alike. However, pay attention as the pavement snakes around a sharp bend between the lake and Calvary Cemetery. Those who don't keep their eyes on the road have nearly collided with the spectral form of Seaweed Charlie. In the 1950's, during World War II, it was common to see pilots from the Glenview Naval Air Station practicing maneuvers over the calm, azure waters of Lake Michigan. Most of these training flights were uneventful until the day a plane lost radio contact, never to be heard from again. Two days after the plane fell off radar, the body of the unfortunate pilot washed up on the rocks along Sheridan Road directly adjacent to the cemetery. To this day, unlucky motorists continue to see a dark, drenched figure in an aviators jacket drag itself out of the lake and across the road. The horrifying wraith disappears inside Calvary Cemetery, leaving only the stunned drivers and a slimy trail of water in his wake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Bride of Mount Carmel

"Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me..."

Everyone who knew Julia knew she was going to be a beautiful bride, and on her wedding day she did not disappoint. Much beloved by family and friends, she led a happy existence until her life was tragically cut short at the tender age of 20, dying in childbirth. In their grief, the family erected a life size statue of Julia in her wedding dress to mark her tomb. For whatever reason, Julia didn't go quietly into the afterlife. After her daughter's death, her mother had dreams of Julia calling to her, pleading for help. For 6 years, her mother endured these nightly visitations until she could stand it no longer. Julia's casket was exhumed and much to everyone's shock when it was opened, beautiful Julia was laying there, her body in pristine condition as if she wasn't dead, merely sleeping. Julia has since been returned to her resting place, but she does not rest easy. She can frequently be seen roaming the grounds of Mount Carmel Cemetery at night, a vision in her white wedding dress. In death, as in life, ever the blushing bride.