Calvary Cemetery and Seaweed Charlie

Compared to Chicagoland’s more notorious haunts, Evanston’s Calvary Cemetery is barely a footnote, yet it is not so obscure as to escape the pages of most books on Chicago and Illinois ghost lore. This picturesque resting ground along the shore of Lake Michigan is home to a tale too strange to resist even brief mention. It is the tale of “the Aviator,” or as he is sometimes affectionately known, “Seaweed Charlie.”

The Aviator’s ghost story appears in Ursula Bielski’s Chicago Haunts (1998), Jo-Anne Christensen’s Ghost Stories of Illinois (2000), Richard T. Crowe’s Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000, 2001), and Troy Taylor’s Haunted Illinois (2004).

Richard T. Crowe, as always, has done impeccable research on the tale and found its likely origin in a real event. Unlike most hauntings, that would make the story of Evanston’s “Aviator” grounded in historical fact as well as geography and folklore.

The story begins along Sheridan Road between Lake Michigan and the eastern gate of Calvary Cemetery. During the day, there is hardly ever a break in traffic and bicyclists and joggers navigate the winding path along the boulders overlooking the lake. It is a charming scene.

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Photo by Michael Kleen

Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, Vermont

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield originally started their ice cream business in the late 1970s, built a national brand, and then sold it to a European corporation called Unilever in 2000. Throughout their history, they re-invested their profits into left-wing social causes, which was part of the brand’s appeal among its fans.

As for me, a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, Vermont seemed like a fun detour on a recent trip through the Green Mountain State. The 30-minute guided factory tour was somewhat underwhelming; I expected something a little more impressive for an international ice cream company.

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USS Constitution and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts

Compared to modern warships and aircraft carriers, the USS Constitution might not look like much, but it was once the most storied ship in the U.S. Navy. It was launched on October 21, 1797, and is still considered to be in active service.

The USS Constitution was originally a 44-gun frigate with a crew of 450 sailors, including 55 Marines. She earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. Today, she is still crewed by 60 active duty U.S. Navy personnel, though she has been in dry dock at the former Charleston Navy Yard in Boston under restoration for the past three years.

The USS Constitution Museum is a private, nonprofit museum located in a restored shipyard building nearby. It is a first class effort at telling the USS Constitution’s history through art, models and dioramas, hands on displays, and volunteers.

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Many Mysteries of Willow Creek Farm

Willow Creek is an unassuming farm in rural Carroll County, Illinois, just outside the town of Shannon. In recent years, it has been the subject of at least a dozen different paranormal investigations, all of which have uncovered a treasure trove of mysterious phenomenon both of the visual and auditory variety.

The farmhouse itself is said to be haunted by at least seven ghosts or spirits. Since Albert Kelchner, its current owner, moved there in 2006 to get away from the big city, he has kept a careful record of all the unusual events that have happened in the past several years.

The farm has a long history, dating back to the 1830s when the Boardmans settled on the property. William and Mary Boardman came from England in 1835 and made their way to Rockford when the future city was merely a trading post along the wagon trail from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

In 1838, William staked out a claim in Section 10, Cherry Grove Township in Carroll County and built a log cabin. This log cabin was still standing in the 1920s. William then left to retrieve his family, who had stayed in Rockford. Unfortunately, a claim jumper got wind of William’s activities and rode ahead on horseback. He arrived in Dixon before William and stole part of the claim.

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Hudson River Valley in Summer

The Hudson River flows 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean at New York Harbor. It’s named after Henry Hudson, a seventeenth century English navigator, and its beauty inspired an entire school of landscape painting. The Hudson Highlands are particularly picturesque in the vicinity of Bear Mountain, Peekskill, and Fort Montgomery, where I took these photos.