Peck Cemetery’s Restless Residents

Peck Cemetery in rural Macon County, Illinois is yet another of those cemeteries that developed a bad reputation in the 1970s and has since been rehabilitated. The cemetery itself is of the typical rural stock, formerly hidden in a wood at the end of a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. Things have changed a little in recent years.

People I have talked to who remember when the cemetery was at the height of its reputation tell me that the area has been dramatically transformed. Houses dot the pothole-filled road. The gravel path to the cemetery is now a driveway. “Beware of dogs” and “no trespassing” signs are prominently displayed. Passersby would never guess that Peck Cemetery is only about fifty yards away.

Troy Taylor has done much to publicize this place, but stories have circulated the Internet for years. One photo purportedly shows a dark figure standing among the headstones.

Unlike cemeteries with similar claims, Peck Cemetery seems to have actually been a location of Satanic worship in the past. Hidden from view prior to the 1990s, it would have been the perfect place to hold nighttime excursions far from any prying eyes. The evidence of these practices included burnt candles, graffiti, headless statues covered in red paint, and even statements from alleged Satanists themselves.

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The Chesterville “Witch’s Grave”

Chesterville is a small Amish and Mennonite community in east-central Illinois consisting of no more than a few dozen houses. If you are traveling from the direction of Arcola (the nearest town), you will have to cross the Kaskaskia River twice to get to Chesterville cemetery, once on Route 133 and once over an old one-lane bridge just north of town.

Within the neatly trimmed grounds of Chesterville Cemetery, an old oak tree stands at the edge of the woods that separates the graveyard from the river. The peculiar thing about this tree is the iron fence that surrounds it, and the old stone marker that no longer bears a name.

According to author Troy Taylor, this is the grave of a woman who turned up dead after being accused of witchcraft in the early 1900s after she challenged the conservative views of the local Amish church elders. The town planted a tree over her grave to trap her spirit inside and prevent her from taking revenge (picture something like the opening scene of Ernest Scared Stupid… “and here ye shall be buried…”).

Her ghost can still be seen from time to time hanging around the area. However, an alternative theory exists that the grave’s occupant was a young woman who lived during the mid-1800s and was reputed to possess healing powers, as well as the ability to control humans and animals. When she died of natural causes, her father planted a tree near her grave to preserve her spirit.

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Calvary Cemetery and Seaweed Charlie

Compared to Chicagoland’s more notorious haunts, Evanston’s Calvary Cemetery is barely a footnote, yet it is not so obscure as to escape the pages of most books on Chicago and Illinois ghost lore. This picturesque resting ground along the shore of Lake Michigan is home to a tale too strange to resist even brief mention. It is the tale of “the Aviator,” or as he is sometimes affectionately known, “Seaweed Charlie.”

The Aviator’s ghost story appears in Ursula Bielski’s Chicago Haunts (1998), Jo-Anne Christensen’s Ghost Stories of Illinois (2000), Richard T. Crowe’s Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000, 2001), and Troy Taylor’s Haunted Illinois (2004).

Richard T. Crowe, as always, has done impeccable research on the tale and found its likely origin in a real event. Unlike most hauntings, that would make the story of Evanston’s “Aviator” grounded in historical fact as well as geography and folklore.

The story begins along Sheridan Road between Lake Michigan and the eastern gate of Calvary Cemetery. During the day, there is hardly ever a break in traffic and bicyclists and joggers navigate the winding path along the boulders overlooking the lake. It is a charming scene.

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Bishop-Zion Cemetery’s Ghostly Guardian

Nearly a half-century ago, the smoldering embers of a rural church gave birth to a legend—a legend that has since been passed down among the residents of Mason County, Illinois. The church’s former preacher, it is said, was buried in the nearby cemetery under a tree, where he could forever tend his flock. Anyone brave enough to walk to the back of the cemetery and knock on the tree would be treated to the sound of the preacher’s voice calling out from the grave.

Mason County was carved out of Tazewell County and established on January 20, 1841. According to Pioneers of Menard and Mason County (1902) by T.G. Onstott, the land around Bishop-Zion Cemetery was not settled until 1840, when a man named A. Winthrow built a cabin there. Peter Himmel, A. File, Henry Bishop, and Stephen Hedge followed.

There are at least two dozen descendants of Peter Himmel buried in Bishop-Zion Cemetery. Ultimately, however, the cemetery and nearby village came to be named after the Bishop family.

Henry Bishop, we are told by the Portrait & Biographical Record of Tazewell & Mason Counties, Illinois (1894), was brought by his parents from Hanover, Germany to St. Louis, before ultimately settling on pristine land in the heart of Mason County. According to the Portrait & Biographical Record, “He was a member of the Evangelical Association… and aided in building Zion Church.”

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Archer Woods Cemetery’s Wailing Woman

Archer Woods Cemetery in Justice, Illinois sits near Chicagoland’s infamous Archer Avenue and shares many similarities with the more infamous Resurrection Cemetery. Both feature a tavern across the street, and both host the ghost of a woman in white. Some researchers believe this is no accident―that the two locations are inexorably linked in the beyond.

Ursula Bielski is one of the few credible folklorists to have examined this site in detail. As she pointed out in Chicago Haunts (1998), Archer Woods is easily passed over in favor of the more famous haunts that dot the area.

In the past, she assured her readers, Archer Woods Cemetery was one of the most notorious of the local cemeteries as a result of its resident specter, a lonely, sobbing woman. Like the sobbing woman of Bachelor’s Grove, it is likely that this spirit is in search of a lost child or lover. These apparitions are so common that they warranted their own category in Trent Brandon’s Book of Ghosts (2003).

According to Brandon, the sobbing woman of Archer Woods Cemetery is known as a “Broken Heart” because “the feelings of guilt have become so overwhelming that this ghost believes that it must suffer forever to make up for her child’s fate.”

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Luna at Mount Hope and Warner Castle

Model Luna Mae at Mount Hope Cemetery and Warner Castle in Rochester, New York. I continued to refine my use of a basic 70-300mm lens for this photo shoot.

Luna at Mount Hope

One technique I’m experimenting with uses exposure compensation and my camera’s highlights feature to help produce a brighter exposure. With exposure compensation, you can increase or decrease the brightness of your photos (essentially by adjusting the shutter speed). With the highlights feature, the camera shows you what parts of your photo are “clipped“, or so bright the camera can’t reproduce the image (essentially pure white).

Luna at Mount Hope
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Phantom Monks of St. James of the Sag Church and Cemetery

A 19th-Century ghost story forms the backdrop to unusual sightings at this 168-year-old Catholic church southwest of Chicago.

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.

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