Monument to businessman and real estate mogul Potter Palmer (1826-1902) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. Potter Palmer was born and raised in New York, but came to Chicago seeking opportunity. He founded the Potter Palmer and Company dry goods store, where he pioneered many of the retail trends we see today, including a generous return policy. He helped found Marshall Field’s in 1865. Later in life, he went into real estate and developed Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
While hoping to catch a glimpse of Resurrection Mary or some of the area’s other famous haunts, visitors to this southwest suburban Chicago road often overlook these lesser-known but no less spooky destinations.
Archer Avenue—the name sends shivers down the spines of locals well-versed in Chicago lore. Archer Avenue begins in Chicago and travels steadily west until merging with Route 171 in suburban Summit. There the road turns sharply southwest at an obtuse angle, then runs parallel with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. It passes through Justice and Willow Springs before ultimately entering scenic Lemont.
It is near these three villages—Justice, Willow Springs, and Lemont—where the road has gained an unusual reputation. Starting with Resurrection Cemetery and ending at St. James-Sag Church, this section of Archer Avenue forms the northern border of a triangle of forest preserves, lakes, trails, and burial grounds encompassing most of the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Palos Division.
At the hinterlands of civilization, this area has a well-deserved reputation built upon generations of strange encounters and creative storytelling. It is home to no less than ten mystery sites involving everything from hauntings, to unsolved murders, to healing springs, to the site of America’s second nuclear reactor. These locations dot the area on either side of Archer Avenue, with the majority falling inside the boundaries of the triangle.
The roads there are long and dark, the lakes and parks remote, and the landmarks emerge from the shadows to capture the imagination of visitors.
Headstone for heavyweight champion Jack Johnson (1878-1946) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. Johnson was born and raised in Galveston, Texas and became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion from 1908 to 1915. In June 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, a charge that many saw as racially motivated. President Donald Trump officially pardoned him in 2018. He died in a car crash in North Carolina in 1946 and is buried next to his first wife, Etta Duryea Johnson.
Wealthy real estate developer Charles Jerold Hull (1820-1889) was best known for donating his house at 800 S. Halsted Street in Chicago, Illinois to aid newly arrived immigrants. Social reformer Jane Addams leased his home and operated it as Hull House from 1889 to the 1960s. Hull died in 1889 of Bright’s Disease. His monument in Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, was designed by Richard Henry Park in 1891.
Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895) was a marble cutter and sculptor who helped establish the Chicago Academy of Design. He was related by marriage to Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas. Through Douglas, he met Abraham Lincoln and later went on to carve a bust of the famous president. In addition to his Lincoln work, Volk is known for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Rochester, New York and the Stephen A. Douglas tomb in Chicago. He designed his own monument in Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
Most visitors to Maple Lake in southwest suburban Chicago come for recreation, some to witness unusual lights that emerge from its water at night, but few know of the lake’s violent past.
Every spring and summer, visitors by the hundreds of thousands descend on the southwestern corner of Cook County. They come to the Palos and Sag Valley Divisions of the Park District to ride horses, hike, and bicycle on the trails, or drop a fishing line into one of the dozen lakes and sloughs. Many grab a quick bite at the Ashbary Coffee House before heading south down Archer Avenue to 95th Street. There they enter Pulaski Woods under a canopy of maple trees and continue east until they reach Maple Lake, a man-made body of water roughly half a mile in width. With its wide, curving shores and tranquil waters, it is a deceptively peaceful place.
Over the years, Maple Lake has acquired a reputation for the unusual. A handful of visitors—those who stuck around after sundown—have reported seeing strange lights hovering over the lake. These lights, although they are the subject of speculation by every chronicler of Chicagoland folklore, are just the tip of the iceberg. Maple Lake has a grim history into which few have delved.
Monument to George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. George Pullman invented the Pullman sleeping car. He’s perhaps best well-known for the town he created for his factory workers in Illinois. When his workers went on strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland intervened and sent several thousand troops to Chicago to break the strike. The violence left 30 dead. Pullman died in 1897 and he is buried in a lead-lined coffin sealed in cement to prevent desecration.