As if Archer Avenue needed another claim to fame as one of the most mysterious and haunted roads in America, in steps August Boness. If you don't know who August Boness is, you're not alone. In fact that is part of the mystery itself.
Directly across from Bethania Cemetery in Justice, IL (which by the way is adjacent to Resurrection Cemetery of "Resurrection Mary" fame) is a seemingly nondescript 3 story apartment building at 7899 S. Archer Ave. From what I have been told, the building was the subject of a story regarding hauntings featured on the TV show "Sightings" which ran from 1992 to 1997. (I have not been able to confirm that fact yet) However, it is not necessarily the hauntings that have sparked my interest but rather what some consider to be the source of the hauntings.
On the west side of the parking lot, underneath shrubbery is a grave marker! In fact not just a grave marker but the large stone base of a grave marker as well! The real mystery is whether or not there is an actual grave to go along with the grave stone.
Initially when I started to investigate I was almost sure that it was a joke, hoax or prank because it appeared as though the last name on the stone was "Bones". I soon noticed that it was actually Boness. The stone is still fairly easy to read but obviously weather worn. The inscription has the German abbreviations for birth and death dates and reads: August Boness born: 15 Oct 1888 died: 26 March 1915. I was also told by several persons that the grave marker was discovered by the TV crew that was shooting the documentary.
My first instinct was that the stone was stuck under the bushes by vandals who may have stolen it from a local cemetery as a prank. It did bother me that there also appears to be two stone bases under the bush as well. The larger one appears to have been the base for August's stone and is larger than what could be carried by a couple of very strong men. (Some prank!)
I proceeded to do some background work on August and could not turn anything up in the way of a death record since they were not required in Illinois in 1915. There was nothing in federal census records, newspaper obituaries immigration/naturalization records, probate records or other court records. There were no local city directories that I could locate in any local library either.
I decided to speak with the office at Bethania Cemetery which is just across the street. The superintendent was very pleasant and was familiar with the grave marker. He stated that they did have burials of other persons with the Boness name but no August Boness who died in 1915 or any other year. He seemed convinced that it was merely a prank and that the stone was probably a reject or sample from one of the many monument companies along Archer Ave. I have to say that I was of the same opinion at this point. He did give me the information on the other Boness burials and they include Fredrick, Louise, Theresa, Ernest, Lena, Clarence, Roy and Lilliana Boness. I proceeded to view what stones I could find to help determine if others were of the same type of August's and none of them were.
I thought it might be a good idea to contact the management company for the apartment building in the hopes that they could possibly shed some light on the subject. I spoke with Paul Montes from the Inland Realty Group and he was unaware of the grave or marker but would visit the site to view it and get back to me with any information that he may be able to receive from the building's owner.
In the meantime I decided to check the genealogy message boards at Ancestry.com . In addition to being interested in the legends of Chicagoland, I also run a genealogical and historical research firm which I started after my retirement from law enforcement. Lo and behold there were a few Boness family members who had ancestors who owned a farm in the area called Tiedtville (now Willow Springs, IL) Tiedtville was a small privately owned town started by Fred C. Tiedt who saw opportunity with the opening of the Sanitary and Ship Canal. He built a Saloon in 1892 and was also the catalyst of what became Santa Fe Park and then Santa Fe Speedway (since closed down) I have sent the author of the posting a message and hope to hear from him soon. The author of the message states that the Boness family was mainly buried at Trinity Lutheran Cemetery behind the church of the same name on German Church Road. I did find a link between the Boness family at Trinity and the Boness family at Bethania. A grave marker of August A. Boness 1872-1950 displays a commemorative plaque which bears the name of Arnold K. Boness who died as an infant in 1934 and was the son of Roy and Lilliana Boness who were buried at Bethania.
I next decided to search out the history of the land where the grave marker sits in the hope that a Boness family owned land nearby and it might be part of a small family burial plot. While there were no Boness families who owned this particular plot of land going back to roughly 1871. (The Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871 destroyed older land records) I did come across the first piece of evidence that would back up the theory that there is actually a grave to match the grave marker. Bethania Cemetery was established in 1894 and in an index to land records the triangular portion of land where the apartment building sits was owned by The Bethania Cemetery Association! What makes matters more interesting is that on February, 23, 1916 (almost a year after August Boness passed from this life and 22 years after Bethania was established) that same triangular portion of land that is bordered by Archer Ave, Oak Grove Road and 79th St. was sold to a private party by the name of August Zuelke! According to the 1930 Census August Zuelke was a restauant keeper at a roadhouse and lived at an unaddressed location along Archer Ave.
Further investigation into the land utilizing the Cook County Assessor's office Interactive mapping function (which by the way has not been operational for the past few weeks due to updates to the software), shows that the area of bushes where the grave or grave marker is may actually be owned by the State of Illinois due to it being possibly part of the parkway associated with Archer Avenue.
Is August Boness ,who died a the very young age of 27, buried in the parking lot of 7899 S. Archer Avenue? Could he be a relative of the August Boness buried at Trinity Lutheran? Could a misplaced and long forgotten burial site be the cause of the supposed hauntings at the apartment building? If the remains of August Boness rest 6 feet below the parking lot of this apartmen building, is he alone?
Unfortunately these are all still unanswered questions which I hope to have answers for soon so stay tuned as I will update the story as soon as I have additional information. (Oh...one more tidbit of graveyard trivia that I came across while researching this story. The last name of the person who owned the land where Resurrection Cemetery sits? I'm not kidding..."Coffin"