Mysterious America

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Cuba Road

Cuba Road has received some attention from writers of ghost lore. Two of the original and most authoritative writers on Chicagoland ghosts, Richard T. Crowe in Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2001), and Ursula Bielski in More Chicago Haunts (2000), have selections of work on it. Scott Marcus devoted an entire chapter to the road in his book Voices from the Chicago Grave (2008).

Cuba Road sits nestled between the towns of Lake Zurich and Barrington, both upper and upper-middle class retreats. The main portion of the road runs between Route 12 and Route 14. Its legends are numerous. White Cemetery, located on the eastern half of the road, has its spook lights.

The avenue itself hosts a phantom car (or cars), a pair of spectral lovers, and a vanishing house. Rainbow Road, a side street, formerly had the distinction of being home to an abandoned mansion or farmhouse that some believed was an old asylum.

White Cemetery is usually the focal point of this lore. The small, rectangular graveyard is said to date from the 1820s, undoubtedly a local family plot at the time of its establishment. Mysterious, hovering balls of light are most often associated with White Cemetery, but other unusual occurrences have been described as well.

Richard Crowe related the story of a young man who witnessed the gates inexplicably change position, from open to closed depending on when he drove past that particular night.

The vanishing house of Cuba Road is said to appear in the woods near White Cemetery. It is a small dwelling, apparently occupied by an elderly woman. Legend says that the house burnt down long ago, but it still makes an appearance on some moonlit nights. Apparently there is concrete evidence that a house did actually burn down along the road at some point in the past.

In the summer months, according to Ursula Bielski, “a mysterious couple walks arm and arm along the deserted stretch of roadway, vanishing into the horizon.” I have never heard an explanation of who this couple is or what event propelled them into the afterlife.

Phantom automobiles also make an appearance along the road. Bielski believes the ghosts of gangsters are the occupants, but other accounts point to a popular urban legend as the origin of this tale.

Friends familiar with the Cuba Road folklore have informed me that a pickup truck, blaring its headlights, tries to run unsuspecting drivers off the road. Most likely, the same urban legend that inspired that tale also inspired the opening scene in the movie Jeepers Creepers.

Then there is the “asylum” off Rainbow Road, which is accessed via Cuba Road. This abandoned mansion, or perhaps a large farmhouse, inspired many trespassing attempts. The property has been recently reclaimed, however, and is being sold as “Kaitlin’s Way.”

As long as rising gas prices do not discourage the traditional weekend drive, I believe Cuba Road will continue to draw ghost and curiosity seekers alike.

Further Reading

  • Ursula Bielski, More Chicago Haunts: Scenes from Myth and Memory (Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 2000).
  • Scott Markus, Voices from the Chicago Grave: They’re Calling. Will You Answer? (Holt: Thunder Bay Press, 2008).
  • Dale Kaczmarek, Windy City Ghosts: An Essential Guide to the Haunted History of Chicago (Oak Lawn: Ghost Research Society Press, 2005).
  • Rachel Brooks, Chicago Ghosts (Atglen: Schiffer Books, 2008).
  • Richard T. Crowe, Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (Oak Park: Carolando Press, 2000, 2001).

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