Ghost hunters clean up Bachelors Grove
May 17, 2009
BY JASON FREEMAN
Paranormal investigator John Stephenson knows you can't catch a ghost with a couple of garbage bags and a yard rake.
So why did the Frankfort resident recently travel to Bachelors Grove Cemetery near Midlothian, which is considered by many to be a prime place to spot a specter, carrying the aforementioned household items instead of his usual assortment of electronic ghost-hunting gadgets?
To grab garbage, not ghosts.
"I grew up out here, and Bachelors Grove has been in bad shape since I was a kid," Stephenson said. "It just bugs me. It always has, so I've always gone out there with garbage bags and picked up stuff just on my own."
During a recent weekend excursion to the famous graveyard, Stephenson and nearly 100 other paranormal investigators went to work picking up beer cans, cigarette butts and other garbage in an effort to clean up the cemetery and restore it to its former glory.
"I just don't like the way Bachelors Grove looks," he said. "It's just terrible. It's a graveyard; it deserves some sort of respect, but no one will take care of it."
Stephenson began organizing the cleanup two months ago by getting the word out via his Web site, www.bachelors-grove.com.
"I have 500-plus members," he said. "I put out a global post, and I got a massive response. I even had people contacting me from Germany wanting to know how they could help."
The cemetery has become something of a Midwest legend over the years. People have claimed to spot everything from phantom farmhouses and two-headed monsters to mysterious blue lights and shadows that sulk between the fallen tombstones and broken trees.
"It's been paranormal since the 70s, but to be honest, I don't know why," Stephenson said. "I think the (disheveled state of the cemetery) might make it worse. Kids go in there and break tombstones and steal them. I know if I was a spirit, I'd be a little [ticked] off."
For ghost hunter Rhonda Schienle, of Northwest Indiana Indiana Ghost Trackers, Inc., cleaning up the graveyard seemed like a natural extension of the group's normal paranormal outings.
"Our mission statement is to be community-involved," she said. "We want to not only educate the community about the paranormal and get the word out, but we want to be involved in the community, as well, so this is one area where we know we can go out and help."
Cook County is responsible for Bachelors Grove. County authorities responsible for its upkeep did not return calls for comment last week.
Schienle said the experience was wrought with mixed emotions.
"There was just something very serene about the area," she said. "At first, it was very breathtaking for me, but then to see what I saw when I got in there, I was heartbroken. I went from reverence to disgust."
"I was so heartbroken to see someone had taken a spray can and wrote on a tombstone," she said. "People want to go to cemeteries and pay their respects and not have the tombstones broken or vandalized."
At the end of the day, Schienle said she was shocked to see how much junk they'd accumulated.
"When we were done, we had a couple dozen trash bags," she said. "There was quite a bit. I was impressed."
But picking up a few bags of trash is just the beginning, said Stephenson.
"I've got power, now," he said. "I've got 500-plus people who'll jump when I say something, which is pretty cool, so I've been utilizing them as my own little army. We might start an entire project. There's abandoned graveyards all over the place."
Jason Freeman can be reached at email@example.com (708) 802-8808.
A haunted history
Bachelors Grove Cemetery, which is located in the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve near Midlothian and Oak Forest, can trace its roots to the European settlers who first tamed the area in the mid-1800s.
The old Midlothian Turnpike, the only road leading to the graveyard, was closed in the 1960s, making the secluded cemetery the perfect place for teens to hang out after dark without being spotted. Vandalism was common, and today, only 20 tombstones remain of the roughly 200 that once rose from the graveyard's grounds. The others have either been stolen or knocked over.
Some graves were dug up, and others lost to time as the grass grew over any indication that a marker was once there. Trees fell and crushed the surrounding gates. The cemetery entrance sign was stolen. Beer cans, cigarette butts and other assorted garbage became typical sights. The vandalism, say may paranormal investigators, stirred up the vengeance of angry spirits.
Some of the supernatural claims at Bachelors Grove Cemetery:
â€¢ A mysterious blue or red light seen in the darkness
â€¢ A ghost house and a phantom car that appear and disappear
â€¢ Ghostly apparitions and other unexplained sounds
â€¢ A three-headed monster that stalks the surrounding woods
â€¢ Reports of Satanic rituals and demonic, clandestine meetings
Are these claims true? That's exactly the question hundreds of paranormal research teams have been trying to answer since the 1970s.