Category Archives: Folklore

Miles and Miles: The Miles Mausoleum

Stephen W. Miles was a violinist with pretensions of greatness. Bit by bit, he purchased over a thousand acres of bottom land in Monroe County and made a small fortune. Eventually, he commissioned a mausoleum to be built on a bluff in Eagle Cliff Cemetery, where he could see his land “for miles and miles.” Completed in 1858, the mausoleum cost $25,000 and was made from Italian marble. It contained 56 burial vaults. Unfortunately, Miles’ son went bankrupt and lost his father’s estate. Only eleven individuals were ever interred in the crypt.

Sometime during the 1950s, vandals desecrated the tomb, stole jewelry, and damaged the bodies of the Miles family. In the 1960s, a Satanic cult burned the rest of their remains in a bizarre attempt to resurrect them from the dead. Today, the grand mausoleum sits empty, but it is marred by graffiti and widely believed to be haunted by the angry spirits of the Miles family.

Eagle Cliff Cemetery is located off D Road, just south of where HH Road intersects with D Road, in rural Monroe County. HH Road is accessible from Bluff Road, south of Columbia, Illinois.

Cuba Road’s White Cemetery and Phantom Vehicles

Cuba Road sits nestled between the towns of Lake Zurich and Barrington, Illinois in Lake County, northwest of Chicago. The main portion of the road runs between Route 12 (Rand Road) and Route 14 (Northwest Highway) and is home to a veritable cornucopia of legends. The ghost stories that seem to literally pour out of the mouths of visitors led famed author Ursula Bielski to proclaim, “For Chicagoland ghosthunters, Cuba Road is the single most notorious haunted site north of southwest suburban Bachelors Grove Cemetery.”

Along Cuba Road, a few yards west of Route 59, sits the most frequently visited spot along Cuba Road: White Memorial Cemetery. There would, arguably, be no other legends along the road if it wasn’t for the alluring power of this cemetery, which was the first to attract the attention of curiosity seekers and paranormal enthusiasts alike. Dale Kaczmarek called White Cemetery, “the most haunted location on the north side.”

White Cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in Lake County. It dates back to 1820, when Barrington’s mighty mansions were nothing more than farmer’s fields or untamed wilderness. Like many other cemeteries in Illinois, this one developed a reputation during the 1960s as a place to get drunk, smoke pot, and “just be.” Not all the activity at the cemetery was harmless fun, however. According to Dale Kaczmarek, in 1968 vandals spray painted swastikas on many of the headstones and knocked down many more.

The vandalism led to the cemetery being locked up at night, but as it can be seen clearly from the road, that hasn’t prevented the curious from trying to catch a glimpse of the mysterious, white balls of light that are said to hover around the burial ground. In More Chicago Haunts, Ursula Bielski claimed that “luminescent figures” have occasionally accompanied these spook lights.

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The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts

The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts by Owen Davies was first published in England in 2007. A paperback was released in the United States in 2009. The Haunted is not a traditional or linear history. Davies looks at trends spanning several centuries, from the Reformation to the present day. By exploring these trends, he hopes to explain how and why England has become so “haunted.”

Debates over ghost belief reveal much about England’s social and intellectual history. Davies makes a compelling argument that being haunted by the dead is part of the human condition, at least for a significant portion of the population, as all attempts to eradicate ghost belief over the past 500 years have failed.

Davies divides his book into three parts: Experience (what did ghosts look like, where were they found, and how have people tried to find them?), Explanation (how have people made sense of ghost sightings?), and Representation (how have people sought to replicate or reproduce ghosts and ghostly phenomenon?). The Haunted runs the gamut of English (and some Continental) cultural and intellectual experience, but its organization opens these topics to the reader in an easy to digest format. Every chapter explains the key players, arguments, and trends, while offering plenty of primary examples.

Most studies of ghosts from 1700 on primarily rely on four authors who collected hundreds of accounts, but these accounts were collected from the middle and upper classes. They say little about the beliefs of rural and urban working classes, who made up the majority of the population. Davies scours a grab bag of sources to add these voices to the discussion, while never losing sight of the dominant intellectual trends.

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Barrington’s Mysterious Cuba Road

I grew up in the northwest Chicago suburbs. Des Plaines to be exact. Home of the famous Choo Choo Restaurant, the first franchised McDonald’s, and the stomping grounds of John Wayne Gacy. When my friends and I wanted a scare, we usually trekked out to Cuba Road, a lonely avenue north of the Chicago suburbs, about a good half hour drive from my home. My sister, being four years older than I, was the first person I ever heard mention the road. She had just gotten her driver’s license, and like many teens, wanted to take her new found freedom somewhere thrilling. Cuba Road was such a place.

It was dark and remote, filled with mansions set far back from the road, and where one never knew what was lurking around the bend. There were rumors of abandoned insane asylums, phantom cars, haunted cemeteries, and a whole host of things that went bump in the night. For added danger, a few of the more fool hardy visitors turned off their headlights to see how long they could drive along the inky black avenue before common sense, and fear, got the better of them.

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 (Rand Road) and Route 14 (Northwest Highway) and is home to a veritable cornucopia of legends. White Cemetery, located along the western 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 off Cuba, had the distinction of being home to an abandoned mansion that some believed was either and old asylum or a getaway for gangsters. That building has since been torn down and the property is being redeveloped.

The ghost stories that seem to literally pour out of the mouths of visitors led famed author Ursula Bielski to proclaim, “For Chicagoland ghosthunters, Cuba Road is the single most notorious haunted site north of southwest suburban Bachelors Grove Cemetery.” Those familiar with the notoriety of Bachelor’s Grove understand the challenge of filling shoes of that size. Scott Markus, who has done impeccable research on the folklore of the road, dubbed it “the Archer Avenue of the North Side,” because of the variety of stories.

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Lakey’s Creek and the Headless Horseman of Illinois

“I almost wept as the spectra placed
The head back into the sack;
Clop, clop… the headless rider
moved on.” –Neil Tracy “The Legend of Lakey”

LaKey Creek drains the farmland northwest of McLeansboro, Illinois and heads south, eventually joining the north fork of the Saline River in rural Hamilton County. From there, the Saline River grows more robust, until it ultimately empties into the Ohio River on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest. The creek would have been a strategic place for any early setter of McLeansboro Township. Unfortunately for Mr. Lakey, who would lend his name to the creek, the picturesque tract of land he picked for a homestead was also his place of death. For it was with his life that he purchased the immortality of having both a creek and a local legend associated with his name.

Not long after the death of Lakey, two travelers reportedly were chased by a fearsome black steed, upon which sat a headless rider. The horseman menaced them until they crossed the creek, at which point the phantom turned downstream and disappeared.

The headless horseman of Lakey’s Creek is quite possibly one of the oldest ghost stories in Illinois. Passed down as an oral tradition until John W. Allen put the story on paper in 1963, the mysterious man named Lakey, as well as his untimely end, has been immortalized in the folklore of Southern Illinois. Like Jonesboro’s legend of Dug Hill and Provost Marshal Welch, this story may also be preserving the memory of an unsettling event in local history.

Long before a concrete bridge spanned the shallow creek 1.5 miles east of McLeansboro along Route 14, folklorists say, a frontiersman named Lakey attempted to erect his log cabin near a ford along the wagon trail to Mt. Vernon. His task was nearly completed when he felled an oak tree to make boards for his roof. The next morning, a lone traveler stumbled upon Lakey’s bloody body. Lakey’s head had been severed by his own ax, which was left embedded in the stump of the oak. According to legend, his murderer was never found.

But the story doesn’t end there.

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The Phantom Lady of Kennedy Hill Road

It was a few weeks before Christmas, 1980. Outside the sleepy town of Byron, Illinois, the massive cooling towers of the nearby nuclear power plant were still under construction. Kim Anderson turned down Kennedy Hill Road and headed for home after attending church early Sunday morning. Snow drifted across the country road and ice glistened on the barren fields. As her driveway neared, her mind wandered to thoughts of getting inside and cooking a hot breakfast.

Without warning, she noticed a young woman around the same age walking down the road toward her driveway. The woman had long, blonde hair, and strangely, wore a pair of light colored shorts. Kim pulled her car into her driveway and ran into the house. She threw open the curtains on the front room window to see if the woman was going to come up the driveway. She didn’t. Instead, she continued walking toward Byron. Kim didn’t think much of the encounter after that, until she began to hear the rumors.

Between mid-December and early January, dozens reported seeing a young woman in various stages of dress walking down Kennedy Hill Road. By January 20, 1981, the sightings had reached a fevered pitch. Wild reports circulated around Ogle County, and motorists parked their cars in the frigid temperatures along the narrow rural road to catch a glimpse of what became known as “The Phantom Lady of Kennedy Hill Road.” Newspaper reports reached as far away as Chicago, and the Rockford Register Star ran five consecutive articles on the sightings.

Kim Anderson was one of the first to spot the scantily-clad woman, but other reports soon followed. Register Star correspondent Diane Moats diligently collected dozens of eyewitness accounts from what she described as “credible” regular folks, “not the kind you’d think would make up something like this.” Years after the sightings, she told Bill Rowe of Rockford Magazine, “Each of them claimed to have seen the woman walking alongside the road. By the time they stopped to see if she was OK, she had disappeared.” The woman was always described as being inappropriately dressed for the weather, and occasionally barefoot.

While many encounters with “the phantom” seemed down to earth, many more crossed the line from reality to fiction. At least 20 individuals with whom Diane spoke fell back on a familiar folklore motif; that of the Vanishing Hitchhiker. They told the reporter that they each knew someone who picked up the young woman and drove her home, only to find out upon arrival and after speaking with her mother that she had died years earlier. In all instances, the mysterious hitchhiker vanished from his or her car when they arrived at their destination.

While those particular encounters were obviously driven by hearsay and wild speculation, the majority of sightings were simple and straightforward. Many of the passing motorists were genuinely concerned for the young woman and turned their car around to ask her if she needed help, but she was then nowhere to be seen. For all, it was too incredible to believe. What would a living, breathing person be doing walking along the roadside in the dead of winter, and how could she just disappear? “Usually if you meet someone just walking along the road, there’s a car out of commission somewhere, but there was no car on the road whatsoever,” a waitress and eyewitness named Betty Lingel told the Register Star. “I thought it was kind of goofy, just walking down the road like that. It was cold, below zero.”

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