For years, visitors to this curious northern Illinois landmark have told wild tales of decapitated heads and gruesome murders, but few know the real history behind Independence Grove and “Devil’s Gate.”
A campfire crackled deep in the Independence Grove Forest Preserve north of Libertyville. Charity, Travis, Wade, and Katrina sat on thick branches around the glowing embers of the fire. Chatty and nervous, they knew they weren’t supposed to be there, but they hoped they were deep enough in the forest that no one would see them. They spoke in low whispers. Far above their heads, tangled branches interrupted the silhouette of the waning moon while hushed laughter echoed from their campsite on the east bank of the Des Plaines River.
Earlier in the evening, they had explored the woods along the equestrian trail and came across cement foundations, broken bottles, rusted playground equipment, and old fire hydrants where they had been told nothing like that should be. They could hardly contain their excitement.
Katrina hushed her friends. When they finally settled down, she began to tell the tale of “The Gate.” They had all heard rumors about the gate and the nearby woods, but Katrina promised them the real story. “I heard it from my uncle, who heard it from a guy who knew someone who was there,” she said.
“It was the 1950s, and at that time this whole area was the property of an exclusive all-girls school. The elite of Libertyville—doctors, lawyers, politicians—all sent their daughters there. Unbeknownst to them, a dangerous man had recently been hired as one of the school’s janitors.
“They should have paid more attention to who swept the halls and took out their trash, because this particular man had been spurned by the wife of a local politician, whose daughter now attended the school. It had been years since the incident, but this man would never forget the pain he felt. He swore revenge, not just on the politician, but on all the village’s elite who had treated him like dirt.