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Grimes Sisters and the Ghost Car of German Church Road

Location (off to left over guardrail) where the frozen bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes were found
Location (off to left over guardrail) where the frozen bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes were found
Author's personal collection

If you had gone to school in Chicago during the late 1950s you probably remember the tragic story of Barbara (15) and Patricia (13) Grimes. We are coming up on the anniversay (54th to be exact) of when their frozen bodies were discovered along a still very lonely section of German Church Road on the border of Cook and DuPage County.

Barbara and Patricia Grimes' frozen bodies discovered along German Church Road
Author's personal collection

Barbara, a sophomore at Kelly High School, and her younger sister Patricia (Petey), an 7th grader at St. Maurice Grammar School, left their home at 3634 S. Damen Ave. at about 7:30 pm on December 28, 1956 with the intention of seeing the Elvis Presley movie, "Love Me Tender", for the 15th time at the Brighton Theatre (now demolished) at 4223 Archer Ave in the Brighton Park Neighborhood of Chicago. Their mother would never see them alive again.

What happened next was one of the most widespread and detailed missing persons searches ever conducted by the Chicago Police Department. Hundreds of police officers from Chicago as well as from task forces made up from neighboring towns including; LaGrange, Justice, Bridgeview, Summit, Bedford Park, Willow Springs and The Forest Preserve Police utilized thousands of man-hours searching, following up tips and circulating thousands of flyers. Elvis Presley himself appealed to the girls via the radio to encourage them to go home.

Initially the police began to think that the girls had run away but their mother, Loretta Grimes, didn't believe that for a minute. Reports came in from as far away as Tennessee of individuals who had supposedly seen the girls.

The news that nobody wanted to hear came on the afternoon of January 22, 1957. A man by the name of Leonard Prescott was driving east on German Church Rd on his way to the grocery store when he noticed what he thought were a "couple of mannequins" lying at the side of the road. He didn't stop right away but went back to get his wife, Marie, before confirming that they were indeed human. They reported the incident to the Willow Springs Police Department at about 1:30pm. The bodies were found unclothed and there were no apparent fatal injuries to either of the girls. The autopsy proved to be inconclusive and the only cause of death issued was "exposure".

Over the next months the lists of suspects grew to include, Walter Kranz, Bennie Bedwell, Max Fleig and others but ultimately nobody was ever charged in the murders and the case remains open today. (I go into a more detailed account of the case in my book which is scheduled to be released this July..stay tuned)

Over the years there have been numerous reports of eerie activity near the area where the girls' bodies were found over fifty years ago. Some have reported hearing a phantom car slow down near the area, the sound of something (presumably the bodies of the girls) being thrown from the vehicle and then the sound of the vehicle racing off. There have been other reports concerning a house (now demolished) that existed near the corner of German Church and County Line Roads just west of where the girls were found. I have personally spoke with those that say in the 1980s they were at the abandoned house (presumably abandoned shortly after the killings) The northeast corner of The Bridle Path Subdivision on Greystone Court in Burr Ridge is located near where the house used to be. I don't want to list the address closest because it may draw too many unwanted guests to the area. Many teenagers would visit the abandoned house in order to peer into the windows of the house and see the vehicle which was still in the garage. A car drove up the long, lonely driveway with its lights on and then turned around and left. Immediately afterward a police vehicle pulled up and told that group that they had to leave. One of the individuals asked the officer how long he had been there and he stated that he had been watching for quite a while. He asked the officer if he saw a car leave and the officer did not know what he was talking about.

The area where the abandoned house was is still a very lonely stretch of road and even though there are very affluent subdivisions nearby, the land with the abandoned house remains undeveloped. Are the events of 1956 and 1957 forever burned into the ethereal memory of the lonely wooded area? Do you believe in the possiblity of restless spirits angered by a long-forgotten, unsolved injustice? The case remains an open one.