Updated: Jul 28
Swamp monsters. Phantom cars. And a mother searching for her dead child. There are just a few of the things said to occupy the cemetery that some call the most haunted in the world. Let’s talk about the paranormal legends of Bachelor’s Grove.
The Batchelors Grove settlement was established around the 1820’s, about 18 miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois. Most of its early inhabitants were of English, Irish and Scottish descent. It’s not clear just where the name came from, but it was likely from a family of pioneers that settled in the area. There are also multiple different spellings, but by 1851 was known by the spelling used today.
The first burial at Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was in 1844. Families would venture to the cemetery on Sundays to picnic and swim in the pond while they visit the graves of their loved ones. As the years went by, the already small community grew shrank more and more until it became a virtual ghost town. Rumors circulated of things like body dumping by the mob, Satanic rituals, grave robbing and paranormal activity. The last burial was in 1989.
Today, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery sits in the middle of the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve in Midlothian, Illinois. The area around it is rural, wooded and largely abandoned.
There are different theories on how the paranormal stories began. Some believe the Satanic activity, vandalism and rumors of mob members dumping the bodies of their victims gave the area bad vibes. Others say the early settlers buried in the area are angry in the afterlife about being long since forgotten. Whatever the reason, Bachelor’s Grove has earned quite the reputation. It’s been called the most haunted cemetery in Chicago, in North America and even on the planet.
So let’s get into some of the paranormal stories about the cemetery — and there are quite a few of them, so strap in.
One of the earliest legends involves lights in the cemetery. A floating blue light and a zooming red light have been spotted by numerous witnesses. Some believe they’re the work of ghosts, while skeptics say they’re simply the result of methane gas given off by decomposing bodies.
Another phenomena reported in the area is phantom cars. Motorists will pass a car on the road, then look in their rear view mirror only to see it disappear from sight. There’s never anyone in the driver’s seat of these vehicles. Sometimes the car will turn into the forest, only to vanish if you try to follow it. Phantom car accidents have also been reported.
And cars aren’t the only objects that disappear around here. Stories have been told of a phantom house on the trails surrounding the cemetery. It’s usually described as a two story Victorian farmhouse floating above the ground with a swing on the porch and a lantern in one window. As you get closer, the house gets smaller and smaller until it disappears. If you somehow manage to get inside the house before it vanishes, you’re never seen again. There has been speculation that this house is the Schmidt house, which was nearby and bears at least some resemblance to the house from the stories.
In the early days of the Batchelor’s Grove settlement, buildings were reportedly physically moved. According to Brad Bettenhausen, president emeritus of the Tinley Park Historical Society:
“Back in the old days they moved buildings like we back the car out of the garage today.”
Is the phantom house some sort of manifestation of this?
The next legend is that of the farmer and his horse, both of whom drowned in the lagoon by the cemetery. Their ghosts, along with a plow that materializes in the woods and then drives off, have been reported. There’s also a two headed ghost said to be the ghost of the farmer, though it’s not clear why he would have two heads.
The so-called ‘murdering caretaker’ used to live near the cemetery — until he went crazy and killed his entire family, then himself. Now, he’s reported to show himself to visitors, carrying a lantern and shotgun and trying to run them off.
But the most well known — or at least most talked about — ghost story here seems to be that of the ‘madonna of Bachelor’s Grove.’ This ghost woman has been spotted numerous times, sometimes in a wedding gown or holding a baby. She’s thought to be the spirit of a woman who lost her baby and now returns to the cemetery in the afterlife, looking for her dead child.
(A related legend of the cemetery is the sound of a crying baby just before dawn.)
An apparition believed to be the ghost woman was captured in a photograph by a member of the Ghost Research Society in 1991. Skeptics believe the photo may be a result of double exposure, a photography technique where two pictures are laid on top of each other and the opacity of one of them is decreased. Those present that day insist it’s real and that there was nobody in the cemetery who looked like her when it was taken, only discovering her presence when the film was developed.
So if the madonna is real, who could she have been in life? One theory is that she’s Luella Fulton Rogers. There are no children listed for Luella on Find A Grave, though it’s possible she did have a child who died as a baby and they just aren’t in the database. Still, she was in her sixties when she died, making her a bit older than the age the ghost woman appears to be.
Another possibility is Amelia Humphrey. Amelia and her husband, John, had a daughter named Libby who died at eleven months and is buried in Bachelor’s Grove. Amelia died several years later at the age of 54, after having several more children — most of whom, like their sister, didn’t survive to adulthood. Amelia and John are buried in Orland Park Cemetery, about 7 miles away. Did Amelia’s spirit return to Bachelor’s Grove to look for her child?
Other reported hauntings at the cemetery include: Shadow people, fully charged electronics being completely drained of battery, ghost dogs, phantom monks, a yellow ghost man in 1930’s attire and a so-called ‘hook man’ story. This last story is typical of the popular urban legend in which a man with a hook for a hand targets ‘lover’s lanes’ and kills unsuspecting young couples. The Bachelor’s Grove hook man has also been said to chase away trespassers with a gun and even try to pull people out of their cars!
People will sometimes report getting lost on the paths in the woods for hours at a time, even in smaller areas. When they finally make it out, they’re stunned as to how they got lost in that particular area. Are these people simply being careless or losing their way on the trail? Or is there some supernatural force at work?
So those are just a few of the paranormal stories of Bachelor’s Grove. Whether real, fiction, or maybe a mix of both, it’s certainly earned its reputation as one of the most haunted places in the world.