Mysterious America

Ramsey Cemetery’s Harrowing Casbah

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.

Further Reading

  • Lewis, Chad and Terry Fisk. The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations. Eau Claire: Unexplained Research Publishing, 2007.

4 replies on “Ramsey Cemetery’s Harrowing Casbah”

From the legends I heard there was also a small shack that once stood in the woods a bit away from the cemetery where they found a small altar and Pagan symbols this is what I had always heard the man in black cloak was tied to. A former practitioner or priest of whatever was going on out there at the time.

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David, thanks for your comment! That is interesting about the town. I’m familiar with the Witch Lore – you might enjoy my book Witchcraft in Illinois, which came out a couple years ago


I am a resident of Effingham County and I enjoyed your article on the Kasbah. It is an unusual and beautiful area and has seen its share of odd occurrences. I am a retired police officer and I remember one night when a wild beer party resulted in a young man jumping off the bridge, into the river and suffering a paralyzing injury. Kids probably still drive out there at night to scare themselves.
Effingham County has some really unusual historic legends and stories. I have been doing research on the original Effingham County seat, the now extinct (as a town) village of Ewington. My mother’s family settled there and the long history of that very small area (about ¼ square mile) is bizarre in its story of violent death. Murders, accidents of all kinds, insanity, and trouble seem to like to coalesce around Ewington. The town was picked up and moved, almost overnight, to a location just 3 mile away and I have always wondered if it was for more reasons that what people might believe. At any rate, my reading has included The History of Effingham County written in the 1880’s. And I thought you might be interested in one section dealing with the early exploration and settlement of the area. It mentions the presence of “Witch Deer”. They were supposedly dangerous and could only be killed by use of a silver musket ball. It further states that when shot with a silver bullet, the deer would sicken and revert to human form. I think that is interesting because this story originates long before the advent of books from Shelly, Stoker, and others, that popularized the notion of ‘Were” animals and the use of silver in killing them. I also think it is the only mention I have seen of a White settler talking about a Native American skin walker.
Anyway thanks for the article, it was enjoyable and well written.

David Landers

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