Archer Woods Cemetery in Justice, Illinois sits near Chicagoland’s infamous Archer Avenue and shares many similarities with the more infamous Resurrection Cemetery. Both feature a tavern across the street, and both host the ghost of a woman in white. Some researchers believe this is no accident―that the two locations are inexorably linked in the beyond.
Ursula Bielski is one of the few credible folklorists to have examined this site in detail. As she pointed out in Chicago Haunts (1998), Archer Woods is easily passed over in favor of the more famous haunts that dot the area.
In the past, she assured her readers, Archer Woods Cemetery was one of the most notorious of the local cemeteries as a result of its resident specter, a lonely, sobbing woman. Like the sobbing woman of Bachelor’s Grove, it is likely that this spirit is in search of a lost child or lover. These apparitions are so common that they warranted their own category in Trent Brandon’s Book of Ghosts (2003).
According to Brandon, the sobbing woman of Archer Woods Cemetery is known as a “Broken Heart” because “the feelings of guilt have become so overwhelming that this ghost believes that it must suffer forever to make up for her child’s fate.”
What links Archer Woods Cemetery to the other locations along Archer Avenue, besides the predominance of ghostly women, is the appearance of a terrifying black hearse pulled by a team of mad horses. The vehicle has no driver.
In 1897, two musicians claimed to see a spectral woman and a similar black carriage near the grounds of St. James-Sag, which is located only a couple of miles southwest of Archer Woods. Stranger still, local legends have placed the body of Resurrection Mary inside the hearse. They claim that the driverless carriage is trying to transport her spirit into the afterworld.
On the grounds of the cemetery there is a strange-looking monument called the “Garden of Hymns.” It is a block of sandstone slabs with several metal pipes jutting out from it, which were fashioned to look like part of a pipe organ. Local rumors claim that organ music can be heard coming from the area on clear nights.
Back in 2002, on a visit to Archer Cemetery, I talked to a groundskeeper who had a strange tale to tell. I had noticed a hole in the fence and asked how that came about. The man told me he didn’t know, but that out of the four people employed at the cemetery, he was the only one who had been coming into work lately. A lot of press had been snooping around as well. Could this have been related to the hole in the fence, or was there something else?
Whatever the truth to these stories, Archer Woods Cemetery is a nice excursion for any folklore enthusiast looking to get off the beaten track.
- Kleen, Michael. Paranormal Illinois. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2010.
- Markus, Scott. Voices from the Chicago Grave: They’re Calling. Will You Answer? Holt: Thunder Bay Press, 2008.
- Bielski, Ursula. Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 1998.