Death Whispered a Lullaby

Death Whispered a Lullaby
Sculpture of a palm laid over the headstone for Charles (1813-1864) and Mary (1816-1865) Pope in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. The headstone is a large open book covered with palms, with the deceased’s names engraved in storybook lettering. It’s one of the most unique monuments I’ve ever seen.
Oakwood Cemetery was designed by landscape architect Howard Daniels and opened in 1859. It is a secular Victorian “rural” or “garden” style cemetery where over 60,000 people are interred in 160 wooded acres.
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Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York

Mount Hope Cemetery, at 1133 Mount Hope Avenue, in Rochester, New York, was founded in 1838 as a municipal rural cemetery on the hills overlooking the Genesee River. It sprawls over 196 acres adjacent to the University of Rochester. More than 350,000 former residents are interred there, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass, suffragette Susan B. Anthony, and city founder Nathaniel Rochester.

All Life Ends

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland, escaped to Massachusetts in 1838, and became an abolitionist. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), was popular in the North, and Douglass quickly became a leading voice in the antislavery movement.

Tree of Suffering
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The Elusive Light

The Elusive Light
This beautiful, neoclassical bronze statue, called “Meditation” and designed by sculptor Charles Calverley, depicts a woman sitting in contemplation under the maple trees. It is a monument to Jeptha (1820-1887) and Sarah (1818-1907) Boulware in Albany Rural Cemetery, on Cemetery Avenue off NY State Route 32, in Menands, Albany County, New York. The couple had two children, Theodrick (1844-1876) and Hannah (1845-1901). Dr. Jeptha R. Boulware was a surgeon and a major in the 177th Regiment, New York National Guard during the American Civil War.

Old Union Cemetery’s Ethereal Glow

A forgotten graveyard squirreled away in the cornfields of central Illinois makes for good storytelling, and almost all have their ghostly tales. Old Union is no exception. This cemetery first received attention on Troy Taylor’s website, Prairieghosts.com, and he later included it in Weird Illinois (2005).

Though he failed to disclose its location, Old Union Cemetery is clearly marked on cemetery and plat maps available to the general public through the DeWitt County Genealogical Society.

A history of the cemetery is difficult to find, and several sources appear, at first glance, to be fractional or contradictory. Troy Taylor provided a general overview on his website, but Genealogytrails.com, in an excerpt from an article entitled, “The Disciples of Christ History,” filled in some of the details.

According to the article, Old Union Church was established 10 miles west of Clinton on October 13, 1831 near a large, white oak tree. The stump of the tree, and “the gravestones of the cemetery which grew around the house of worship” are “silent sentinels of faded joys and departed glories,” the article opined.

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Ridge Cemetery and Mysterious Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill is the highest point in Shelby County, Illinois and is accessible by 1100 E, a road that horseshoes around the tiny community of Cold Spring. Visitors can pick up 1100 E just west of Tower Hill on Route 16, and it will lead them straight to the hill and its cemetery. Due to its unsavory reputation, this is a place many locals avoid.

As far as I can tell, Troy Taylor was the first person to write extensively on the strange legends of Ridge Cemetery and Williamsburg Hill. He included them in a number of books, including Haunted Illinois (2001), Haunted Decatur Revisited (2000), and Beyond the Grave (2001).

As Taylor explained, the hill that Ridge Cemetery occupies once also sheltered a town, one of the many that sprung up and disappeared in nineteenth-century Illinois. Williamsburg, as it was known, was platted in 1839 by two men, Thomas Williams and William Horsman. Many Horsmans can be found buried in Ridge Cemetery to this very day. The village disappeared in the 1880s as the railroad bypassed its inconvenient location.

The legends surrounding Ridge Cemetery involve occult rituals, spook lights, and the ghost of an old man who disappears upon approach. “There is little evidence to suggest these stories are true,” Taylor wrote, “but once such rumors get started, they are hard to stop.”

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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.

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A Quick and Dirty Guide to Cuba Road

Cuba Road has received some attention from writers of ghost lore. Two of the original and most authoritative writers on Chicagoland ghosts, Richard T. Crowe in Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2001), and Ursula Bielski in More Chicago Haunts (2000), have selections of work on it. Scott Marcus devoted an entire chapter to the road in his book Voices from the Chicago Grave (2008).

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 and Route 14. Its legends are numerous. White Cemetery, located on the eastern 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, formerly had the distinction of being home to an abandoned mansion or farmhouse that some believed was an old asylum.

White Cemetery is usually the focal point of this lore. The small, rectangular graveyard is said to date from the 1820s, undoubtedly a local family plot at the time of its establishment. Mysterious, hovering balls of light are most often associated with White Cemetery, but other unusual occurrences have been described as well.

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