Categories
Mysterious America

Maple Lake’s Tragic History

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.

Categories
Mysterious America

Abandoned in New York

When it comes to urban exploration, New York has it all. The Empire State stretches across 54,555 square miles. Relics of the past can be found in every corner.

Upstate New York is filled with abandoned, out-of-the-way places. Each represents someone’s dream; a career; fond memories; a home; all quickly fading into the past. But explorers beware: while most of the following places are open to the public, some are restricted and you visit at your own risk.

Camp Beechwood

An abandoned Girl Scout camp deep in the woods is something from a horror movie, and you can experience it yourself in Upstate New York. In 1929 the Girl Scouts of America purchased 150-acres between Maxwell Bay and Sill Creek for use as a summer camp.

Unfortunately, rising tax rates, declining membership, and environmental factors led to the camp’s closure and sale in 1996. New York State bought the land but budget cuts forced it to designate the site as a preserve. The buildings were left to rot. The camp is remarkably well preserved for having been abandoned and accessible to the public for over two decades.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Legend of Bonapartes Cave

Missing jewels, exiled European royalty, old bones, and a lakeside cave make this unassuming spot one of Upstate New York’s most enduring mysteries.

Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844), older brother of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, saw his fortunes rise and fall with his more famous brother. He once reigned as monarch over two kingdoms, amassing a small fortune before Napoleon’s downfall. How did a lake in northern New York come to be named after him?

In 1794, Joseph, a French lawyer and diplomat, married Marie-Julie Clary, and in 1806 Napoleon crowned him King of Naples. During the ill-fated French occupation of Spain, he reigned as King of Spain and the Indies. After Napoleon’s defeat and exile in 1814, Joseph fled to Switzerland with a trove of diamonds and jewels, but made plans to leave Europe. Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 sealed his fate, and Joseph landed in America in August 1815 under the assumed name “Count de Survilliers”.

James Le Ray de Chaumont, son of a prominent French supporter of American independence, had purchased large tracts of land in northern New York and the Delaware Valley, where many French aristocrats had fled after the French Revolution. Using his stolen wealth, Joseph purchased land along the Black River in Upstate New York from James Le Ray. He named the lake at the heart of his Black River property Diana, but it would come to be known as Lake Bonaparte.

Categories
Mysterious America Photography

Loyal to the Grave

This black, cast iron dog stands in silent vigil over the grave of Florence Bernardina Rees in Hollywood Cemetery, 412 S. Cherry Street in Richmond, Virginia. Florence (1860-1862) was less than three years old when she died of scarlet fever. Her parents were Thomas B. and Elizabeth S. Rees, who to my knowledge aren’t buried nearby.

According to folklorist L.B. Taylor, Jr., the dog used to stand outside a shop on Broad Street, and Florence would pet it and dote on it as if it were real. When she died, the owner placed it by her graveside. Another legend says the cast iron Newfoundland was placed in the cemetery to avoid being melted down and turned into bullets during the Civil War. Whatever the reason, visitors love leaving tokens of their affection for little Florence.

Florence Bernardina Rees (1860-1862)
Categories
Mysterious America

The Terrifying Truth Behind Crawford Road Bridge

The sinister reputation of haunted places are often unearned, but in the case of this remote Virginia bridge, the truth is more horrifying than fiction.

Click to expand photos.

A remote road in Virginia’s Historic Triangle holds secrets, or at least that’s what storytellers say. Otherworldly phenomena is responsible for events ranging from electronic disturbances to car accidents, and real-life murders have darkened the spot’s already sinister reputation. “Bad vibes” and “negative energy” make some locals steer clear.

This object of morbid fascination is a concrete bridge, built in the 1930s, where Tour Road passes over Crawford Road in the woods north of Newport News Park, south of the Yorktown Battlefield where George Washington defeated Lord Cornwallis in 1781. Crawford Road bypasses Yorktown Road between I-64 and US Route 17, but there’s not much to see aside from occasional wildlife. This remote patch of wilderness lends itself to unusual stories.

The most popular legend involves a young bride forced into a loveless marriage. Rather than spend the rest of her life with a man she loathes, the woman hanged herself from the Tour Road overpass. Since then, a ghostly woman in white can be seen standing on the bridge, only to reenact her sickening plunge. Cars swerve to avoid a lone specter in the road, or experience engine trouble while driving through the narrow tunnel.

Categories
Photography

The Angel of Death Victorious

Bronze and polished granite monument to entrepreneur Francis Henry “Frank” Haserot (1860-1954) and family at Lake View Cemetery, 12316 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. Known colloquially as the Haserot Angel or “Weeping Angel”, this statue was sculpted by Herman Matzen and titled “The Angel of Death Victorious.” An inverted torch symbolizes life extinguished. Dark streaks emanating from the angel’s eyes have given rise to a legend that the statue weeps on Halloween.

Francis Henry Haserot (1860-1954)
Categories
Mysterious America Photography

From Sorrow to Serenity

Monument to Mead Belden (1833-1876) and his first and second wives, Sarah Elizabeth Hubbell (1834-1855) and Amelia Gertrude Woolson (1844-1864) and their family in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Mead was a Freemason, a clothing merchant, and senior partner of Belden & Van Buskirk. Later, he was involved in construction and helped build canals and reservoirs.

Mead Belden (1833-1876) I

According to legend, either a ghostly bride or bride and groom have been seen descending the stairs to the bottom of the hill. The following eyewitness account appears on a sign for the Oakwood Ghost Trail: “Me & my friends spent the night in Oakwood one night. Over by the stairs graves in the west of the cemetery, I looked to my right and saw the bride and groom. They were beautiful, but they were bloody and they vanished before our eyes.” It’s unclear how this story is related (if at all) to the Belden family.