Like Barrington’s Cuba Road, Munger Road in Wayne, Illinois sits at the periphery of the Chicago suburbs and has attracted many strange legends. The road itself penetrates deep into Pratts Wayne Woods and until recently was remote and not very well traveled. Rumors of abandoned houses and occult practices abound. Motorists have also reported being chased by a wolf with glowing red eyes as well as a vanishing Oldsmobile.
Perhaps the most famous legend centers on the now-defunct railroad tracks that intersect with Munger. The legend is a familiar one: three children pushed a baby carriage across the tracks just in time to save it from a passing train. Unfortunately, the children were killed. Today, if your car happens to stall on the tracks, phantom hands will push it to safety. While that is a common rural legend, a train did in fact derail nearby.
According to a former forest preserve employee interviewed by author Ursula Bielski for her book Chicago Haunts 3, an old abandoned house also sat north of the railroad tracks. Its owners left after a fire, and vandals and curious teens moved in. Naturally, they claimed the house was inhabited by Satan worshippers. The house was demolished in 2000.
“There was a hole in the floor where a fire had ruined the house for its inhabitants…” the forest preserve employee said. “There were numerous signs of vandalism and the discarded packages of masks and things which someone had used in a lame attempt to scare someone else.” He described the house as being two stories, white, and surrounded by large oak trees.
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has been an enigma of southwestern suburban Chicago for over four decades. Like most such locations, it started out with a mundane existence. Over a century ago, picnickers dressed in their Sunday best lounged under oak trees in the park-like atmosphere of the cemetery. Two of the grove’s neighbors heated their small homes with coal burning stoves and drew water out of their brick wells, while horse drawn buggies trotted down the dirt road. It was a much different scene from today.
Much of the origins of Bachelor’s Grove have been obscured by the passage of time. Even its name is a mystery. Some say it was named after a group of single men who settled in the area around the 1830s, but a family named Batchelder already owned the land. According to Ursula Bielski, author of Chicago Haunts, the cemetery itself was originally named Everdon’s. Its first burial was in 1844, and the cemetery eventually contained 82 plots.
In the early half of the 20th Century, the Midlothian Turnpike ran past the cemetery, over the stream, and beyond. Today, the broken road appears to end at the cemetery gates, but closer inspection of a long ridge across from the stream reveals a roadbed that has been nearly reclaimed by the forest. The road was closed in the 1960s. Locals say that was when the trouble began.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s Jason George, the body of a teenage girl was found in the woods in 1966, and in 1988 a man, who had been murdered by a former girlfriend, was found in the cemetery. Aside from those gruesome incidents, grave desecration regularly occurred. Bodies were dug up, animals were sacrificed, and headstones were moved or stolen.
Then the ghosts came.
The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois was established as an industrial university in 1867 and first opened on March 2, 1868. It became the University of Illinois in 1885 and was renamed the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1982. As one of the oldest public universities in the state of Illinois, the campus hosts a number of folktales and oddities.
John Milton Gregory, the first president of the university, is buried on campus. His grave rests between Altgeld Hall and the Henry Administration Building, marked by an unsculpted stone and a plaque that reads, “if you seek his monument, look about you.”
The university is home to a number of ghost stories as well. To my knowledge, Troy Taylor is the first person to have written about these stories in a book. His accounts can be found in several editions of Haunted Illinois (2001, 2004) and were reprinted briefly in Field Guide to Illinois Hauntings (2001) by Jim Graczyk and Donna Boonstra. Cynthia Thuma and Catherine Lower filled in some of the blanks in their book Creepy Colleges and Haunted Universities (2003).
Taylor claims that principal haunted localities on campus include the English Building, the Psychology Building, and the YMCA. If the other, scattered sightings are true, that would make the U of I one of the most haunted universities in the United States.
Until 2008, the most distinctive feature on Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates was an old, derelict Spanish Colonial revival style building. Just down the street, in the direction of the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve, sat an abandoned farm. Both were rumored to be haunted. Unfortunately, both have been torn down and encroaching subdivisions threaten to erase all traces of these unusual places.
The unique stone house was at one time the Charles A. Lindbergh School, named after the famed aviator and American patriot. According to John Russell Ghrist, who has written on and researched the school extensively, the current structure was built in 1929 to replace the Helberg School, named after a neighboring farmer, after it burnt down.
The Lindbergh School’s first enrollment consisted of 29 students from the surrounding community. Their teacher was named Anne W. Fox, who would be employed there for most of the school’s existence.
The institution was closed in 1948 when rural schools began to be consolidated into the modern Illinois public school system. The stone structure spent the next 30 years as a residence, until it became abandoned sometime during the 1970s.
Greenwood Cemetery is rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in central Illinois. According to Troy Taylor, a popular author on haunted locations in the Midwest, the land that would become Greenwood was originally an American Indian burial ground, and was later used by the first white settlers to bury their dead until the late 1830s.
These graves have since disappeared. The oldest visible marker on the grounds dates to 1840, and Greenwood Cemetery was officially established in 1857. Between 1900 and 1926, the cemetery was the premier location to be buried in Decatur, but by the end of the ‘30s the cemetery association ran out of money and the grounds were barely maintained.
In 1957, the city of Decatur took over ownership of the cemetery to save it, but they estimated that repairs would cost around $100,000. Volunteers gathered, and after much effort, the cemetery was restored. Vandals plagued the grounds, however, and rumors circulated regarding ghost lights and eerie sounds that emanated from the old public mausoleum.
To control who went in and out of the cemetery, the city sealed two of the three entrances and closed a road that ran through the woods west of the cemetery.
For years, students and faculty in Western Illinois University’s Simpkins Hall have told stories about phantom children. Many other odd occurrences are attributed to “Harold,” a former janitor or graduate assistant who lurks among the classrooms on the third floor.
After classes finish for the day, the disembodied sound of keys jingling, doors opening and closing, or a typewriter clicking, rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned educator. In addition to Simpkins Hall, several of the campus dorms—Bayliss just to name one—are also rumored to be haunted.
Nestled in the small town of Macomb, Western Illinois University began as a teacher’s college. Originally called Western Illinois State Normal School, its classes were confined to one building, now known as Sherman Hall. Sherman Hall was originally known as “Main Building.”
In 1937, the university built a new training school adjacent to Main Building. Local children enrolled in the Training School and were taught by the students at the college.
In the 1960s, as Western Illinois State Normal School became Western Illinois University, the Training School building was given to the Department of English and Journalism. The children went elsewhere to accommodate the deluge of incoming college freshmen from the baby boom generation, but closets with tape still bearing the names of the last occupants, rows of green lockers, tiny desks, and wooden loudspeakers remained.
Join Dean Thompson and Mark Schwabe from Ghost Head Soup as they recall their first impressions of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens and discuss a few unusual events they witnessed there. Then head over to Amazon Video Direct to watch Tinker’s Shadow: The Hidden History of Tinker Swiss Cottage in HD!
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