St. James of the Sag Church and Cemetery’s Phantom Monks

St. James of the Sag Church and Cemetery, abbreviated as St. James-Sag, sits on a bluff overlooking the juncture of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet Sag Channel in southwest suburban Chicago, Illinois. Two roads, Archer Avenue (Route 171) and 107th Street also converge at this point. It is the tip of a heavily forested triangle in between Palos Hills to the east and Lemont to the southwest.

The area has a long history. According to Richard T. Crowe, there is evidence that French explorers used the bluff as an observation post as early as the 1690s, and before that, Amerindians camped there and may have lived nearby.

The church and cemetery also have distant origins. One burial can be traced to 1818, but the graveyard began to be heavily used in the 1830s when Father St. Cyr built a log chapel to accommodate the spiritual needs of the Irish canal workers. St. James-Sag was in fact the second Catholic house of worship founded in the Chicagoland area. The limestone building that exists today was built in 1850.

As the geographic focal point of the area, St. James-Sag also happens to be the supernatural focal point, if you believe the stories. In her book Chicago Haunts (1998), Ursula Bielski claims that phantom monks have been seen at the location since at least 1847.

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Leah at The White Lady’s Castle

Model Leah Hotte poses at a stone wall, located in Durand-Eastman Park, which was once part of a hotel dining hall that served swimmers in nearby Lake Ontario. According to legend, a woman in white haunts the ruin, searching for her long-lost daughter. The park is located in Irondequoit, New York, north of Rochester.
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Bye, Bye Mysterious Heartland

After nine and a half years, 1,150 posts, and 5,220,000 site views, Mysterious Heartland is finally closing its doors. Well, you’ll still be able to see the archives at trueillinoishaunts.wordpress.com (its original name). It’s no secret posting has been sparse over the past couple of years. As I moved out of the Midwest, I wanted to focus on more generalized travel writing and photography. People seemed to just come to Mysterious Heartland for the top 10 lists anyway, and there’s only so many of those you can write. You can still follow my adventures here and the new Memento Mori photo blog:

Memento-mori.co

Thank you for your readership and patronage over the years. I hope you enjoyed reading that website as much as I (once) did in creating it.

Oneida Community Mansion House in Central New York

The United States has long been a place of religious experimentation, sectarianism, and utopianism, encouraged by the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the most unique and long-lasting utopian experiments was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1844 based on the Christian concept of perfectionism: that it is possible to live a sin-free life.

Noyes was expelled from Yale University in 1834 after he declared himself to be free from sin and established his own Bible school in Putney, Vermont. By 1844, it solidified into a religious community.

“Complex marriage,” or communal marriage among members, was one tenet of this new community. Noyes was arrested for adultery in 1847.

His followers and he fled to Oneida, New York, where they again established their commune. They built the Mansion House in 1862, where they lived until 1881.

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Twin Sister’s Woods’ Unlikely Phantoms

Twin Sister’s Woods is located in Rockford, Illinois and is part of Twin Sister Hills Park—22.44 acres of recreational land complete with two baseball fields and three sled hills. It is a popular winter destination, when the snow is thick and area youths come out to careen down the hill slopes, but some locals claim this park is home to more sinister guests.

The woods, they say, has been the scene of several murders, hangings, and even a drowning. Add feelings of dread, disembodied voices, and mysterious figures and you have one of Rockford’s closely guarded secrets.

Twin Sister Hills Park is wedged between Keith Creek, 27th Street, and a shopping center called Rockford Plaza. To the south runs Charles Street. East High School—with its own resident phantoms—stands on the opposite side of that street.

Many of its students grew up sledding on Twin Sister Hills, and as they grew older, appropriated the nearby woods for less than family friendly activities. Twin Sister Woods is 8-acres enclosed on three sides by a fence on the west side of the park. An imposing willow tree, which is the focal point of several legends, sits at the entrance.

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