The tiny, one-acre Bachelors Grove Cemetery in southern Cook County, playground of Chicago ghost hunters and known for generations as one of the most haunted graveyards in the world, has been getting a lot of different attention lately. A group of volunteers, each of whom found the hidden-away spot in very different ways, have bonded together, determined to locate at least some of the many missing stones in this extremely desecrated spot, lobby for a new fence, piece together the long hidden puzzle of its history, and keep faithful watch over this mysterious site.
Bachelors Grove--whose name is often written Batchelors--has a long but sketchy history. Even that name orgin is unknown. An old historical narrative claims that a group of single men settled the area in the early 1800s and that the Bachelors Name hails from those first homesteads, while most local historians connect the name to the Batchelor family, a prominent fixture in 19th century Bremen township, where the Grove still slumbers, nestled into the woods of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County's Everdon Woods (Everdon was the original cemetery name, taken from the name of the Everdon family who owned the property).
Whatever the origin of its name, Bachelors Grove has drawn curious visitors and historians, as well as Chicago ghost hunters and paranormal investigators from around the world since at least the 1950s, when the first reports of vandalism occurred here—and the first extraordinary tales began to circulate.
Tales of a phantom farmhouse—here one minute, gone the next—are rife, as are those of black ghost dogs, phantom cars seen on the path in and on the Midlothian Turnpike, strange lights, mysterious voices, and a pervasive sense of being never quite alone. Also plentiful are photographs of “little people” who some believe are ghost children or maybe even fairies or elementals, black cloaked figures, and other oddities. Many researchers credit these seemingly paranormal photo effects to a phenomenon called “matrixing,” in which the eye searches for patterns which aren’t really there. Most investigators, however, agree that matrixing is a prevalent phenomenon at Bachelors Grove, though no one really knows why.
One of the most famous of the Grove's many ghost stories is that of the so-called Madonna of Bachelors Grove, also sometimes known as “Mrs. Rogers”: a white-cloaked woman who glides through the enclosure, legendarily in search of a baby. One of the most famous paranormal photographs of all time was taken of her by investigator Judy Huff during a foray into the cemetery with the famed Ghost Research Society, an organization headed by legendary researcher Dale Kaczmarek. The image, taken with infrared film, shows a woman in a white gown reclining on a monument base with a quilted texture. That stone today is eagerly sought out by visitors to the cemetery, many of whom re-create the pose for their own souvenir photos.
But while the Chicago ghost stories intrigue, it’s the history of those buried here that has hooked volunteers. Though a record of the settlements here remain, and a plot map of the burials, many of the tombstones are missing or gone. Some ended up in local police stations after having been stolen by vandals. Some were rescued by family members when the desecration here began. Locals believe that a number of the smaller stones rest at the bottom of an old quarry pond adjacent to the burial ground.
Volunteers are actively seeking to locate these stones, and encourage anyone with them in possession to bring them forward to volunteers or to the Tinley Park Historical Society in Tinley Park, Illinois, which already has several of the rescued stones in its possession.
Author Ursula Bielski, long known for her books on the history and ghost lore of Chicago, is also organizing a multimedia exhibit at the Blue Island Library this summer and asks for vintage photographs and video, artifacts and memorabilia of Bachelors Grove Cemetery, such as maps, found objects, Girl Scout and Boy Scout patches from the Big Foot Trail, signs, flyers, etc, and even artwork inspired by the Grove, as well as personal accounts, memories and paranormal experiences. Inquiries about the exhibit should go to email@example.com or to Bachelors Grove Forever on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bachelorsgroveforever