Southern Illinois has a far more diverse topography than the rest of the state. Situated at the gateway to Little Egypt, Ramsey Cemetery in Effingham County is no exception. Its claim to fame is the nearby “caves” or rock shelters. Formed by thousands of years of erosion, generations of local residents have carved their names and proclamations of love into the sandstone walls.
Back in 2002, the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places labeled it “Kazbar Cemetery.” The entry described it as an “old cemetery that has haunted caves.” Eschewing details, it added, “a were wolf and a man in a black coat with red eyes is said to be seen there. Many weird things have happened there.” Kazbar, or Casbah, seems to be a local place name.
Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk uncovered more information for The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations (2007).
One story they uncovered was the tale of a young man who allegedly committed suicide in Ramsey Cemetery. According to Lewis and Fisk, a small chapel existed on the cemetery grounds for the benefit of mourners from the 1920s until the 1960s when it was torn down due to vandalism.
“The story goes that one dark evening in the 1960s, a troubled young man drove out to the chapel,” they wrote. “Once there he grabbed a shot gun from the trunk of his car, walked inside the chapel and blew his head off.”
Another version of the tale has the man hanging himself. The authors were not able to locate any evidence to substantiate the story, however, I was later contacted by a relative of the deceased who did confirm the tragic event.
The legend of the werewolf that inhabits the nearby caves is slightly more interesting, if not more fantastical. Like the rumors of the werewolf that wanders around the stone quarry in Coles County, this tale has very little background information. It may have origins in the unique history of the area, however.
According to several histories of Effingham County, the back country was always rough and tumble, and the roads and hills were inhabited by transients and brigands. Some of them may have occupied the rock shelters near Ramsey Cemetery. In the late 1800s, a wanderer called “Leather-man” made his home in the hills of western Connecticut. It is possible, if not unlikely, that the werewolf legend began with a similar man, living the life of a backwoodsman north of Effingham, Illinois.
And what to make of the black-clad man with glowing red eyes? His appearance might have something to do with the occult activity that is rumored to take place in the cemetery at night, or he might dwell in a more earthly realm—in the minds of local visitors. One thing is for sure, Ramsey Cemetery is one of the more interesting cemeteries in south-central Illinois.
- Lewis, Chad and Terry Fisk. The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations. Eau Claire: Unexplained Research Publishing, 2007.