Bachelors Grove Cemetery is located in Midlothian, Illinois, a far southwest suburb of Chicago. It has a reputation of being one of the most haunted sites in the Chicagoland area, and there are numerous stories about it, including a really strange one about a phantom house that is sometimes glimpsed from among the trees.
I had the chance to visit the cemetery when I was taking a class on the paranormal at the local community college. Unfortunately for me, the class was taught by a skeptic, with a capital S, and so his entire class framework was that no topic he covered in class, be it ghosts, UFOs, or monsters,was actually real, and that there were always scientific ways to debunk anything that even smelled of a haunting or other paranormal activity. Bummer for me! Nevertheless, we were invited as a class on a weekend field trip to visit Bachelor Grove Cemetery. And since I had never been, I made the drive out on a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning.
As far as historical sites go, this cemetery did not disappoint. The tombstones were old, some were beginning to lean, some were nearly smothered in vegetation, and some were missing altogether. Names and dates engraved on the stones weren't always legible. The whole area felt old and isolated, despite the fact that we were just a short walk away from an intersection of fairly busy streets. The trees surrounding the plots were tall and at full foliage, and they cut off any sense of the urban reality all around us.
The instructor gave us a short tour, including the gravestone where the famous picture at the top of this post was taken. He reminded us that the picture is a hoax since the spectral figure's shadow can be seen (can it?), and then let us wander freely where we wanted to go. I did that, and found that the cemetery is quite benevolent in the daytime. The sun was high and bright, and all the shrubs and flowering plants that were growing wild seemed free and undisturbed, like one might find on any other patch of uncultivated land in a prairie state.
But then I thought about how the place would look in darkest night, and all sense of peace and harmony vanished, like flipping a switch. Being out there in the dark with nothing more than a flashlight or a lantern would not be something I'd sign up for with enthusiasm. Ghost story reader? That's me. Active investigator? I don't think so.
And then I thought, why is it that some places become disturbed as if by a flip of a switch? The house where I grew up was exactly like that. My sister and I could be playing in the basement for hours, and then all of a sudden, something in the air would change. We would look at each other and then beat a hasty retreat for the first floor. And the basement wasn't the only room that had that kind of split personality. The sun room had it, as did the attic, and even the living room on occasion. What was wandering our house that would leave us in peace for an allotted period of time, then make its presence known with such cold malevolence that we knew there suddenly wasn't enough room for all of us in that space? What could obliterate so much of the cheer and the harmony in a given area that we would feel driven to leave?
Those experiences have led me to examine new places that I visit with a particular line of questions. What would this place look like -feel like- in the dark? What would it be like to stand here at night, with no lights on? Sometimes the answer is benevolent and peaceful and I know there would be no change regardless of sunset. But other places? Others respond to me with a cold touch, even in broad daylight, and let me know that when the dark comes, that switch does indeed get flipped. And that I would not like to be there.
And I always wonder, when that happens...why is that? And also, would I really want to know?