Monday, February 27, 2017

The Lights of Bachelors Grove

The unexplained lights of Bachelors Grove are some of the most prolific phenomena experienced here or anywhere.  In fact, countless visitors and investigators have photographed or filmed these lights, which are seen as often in the daytime as at night, and which include blue, white, red, green and yellow versions. Many of the apparitions and other phenomena at Bachelors Grove have been accompanied at times by the appearance of inexplicable lights as well.

My own first paranormal experience at Bachelors Grove was of a mysterious, seemingly intelligent white light which many, many visitors have experienced.   It was during one of my first visits there, as a research assistant to my colleague, Jim Houran, in the late 1980s.  During an evening investigation, a white ball of light—no bigger than a tennis ball-- appeared off the Path in a clump of trees.  It moved with incredible speed, darting back and forth or winking off and appearing a split second later a hundred feet away.  More than twenty years later I was amazed to see that this exact same phenomenon had been filmed by the crew of the television show, Ghost Adventures, during a visit to Chicago in the summer of 2012. 

A red light has also been seen by visitors to the cemetery, sometimes described as rocket-like or as a shooting or streaking light, suggesting that this light is not circular or spherical but comet-like, with a tail of some sort. This light has been seen both on the old Turnpike path, east and west of the cemetery, as well as in the burying ground itself.  Apparently the appearances of this light were at first mistaken as fireworks being shot off, having the appearance of roman candles or other such amusements.  But a strange behavior ruled out the prospect; several witnesses were startled to see that, after the initial “shooting” or “streaking” or even a “shower of sparks” the light was still there, but floating or bobbing among the tombstones.

As chronicled in the introduction to my Haunted Bachelors Grove book, the first tale I heard of the Grove was of the most famous of its lights: a blue flashing light which had “chased” my classmate across the creek and into the woods in the early 1980s.  Such incidents are prolific in local oral accounts dating back into the early 1960s.   Time and again, witnesses describe a “flashing” or “flickering” blue light, ranging in size from a softball to a balloon and larger, which seems intelligent to the point of pursuing them through the cemetery or down the Turnpike path into the woods or towards the Creek.  Some visitors have actually been close enough to "touch" the blue light; most notably a local woman named Denise Travis, who famously told ghost hunter Richard Crowe that she had passed a hand through the light, feeling no difference in temperature or other strange sensations.  One of the first anomalous photographs I took at the cemetery (c.1988) showed an arc of blue light paritally eclipsing the frame of the image.  
A smattering of locals remembers a chilling but as yet unsubstantiated incident which reportedly occurred in 1963, the first year I have been able to verify a sighting of the blue light.  According to the tale, three local boys had gone into the woods surrounding the cemetery and went missing for several weeks.  When they finally wandered out of the woods, unharmed, they could not remember anything about the weeks they had vanished except that they had followed a mysterious blue light.

1963 would bring other brushes with the blue light, including an incident which occurred around Halloween when a group of five young men visiting the cemetery all witness the light in unison, in the wee hours of the morning.  They had gathered in the old overlook next to the quarry pond--now gone--when they saw a blue light moving on the water towards them.  In fear, the men retreated to their cars and claimed to have been chased by the blue light down the new Turnpike road as they fled.

Also in that year, a couple who had "parked" on the south side of the cemetery along the old Turnpike road claimed to have seen a blue light, the size of a basketball, meander up the path from the creek area, turn sharply into the cemetery gates and head out past the Fulton stone toward the quarry pond.

Like the stories of the magic House, many witnesses of the blue light have claimed that the light shrinks or moves father away as it is approached, or even tries to lead them into confusion, as it did for three young women who tried to follow the light across the creek in the summer of 1989, only to find themselves turned around and quite lost when the light suddenly "switched off" like a light bulb.
Though many years passed after my first encounters with the lights of Bachelors Grove, the lights would visit me again, and this time with malice.  In late June of 2012, I was in the woods at night with a steward of the cemetery and experienced one of the most extraordinary visual manifestations I have ever seen. It was an exceptionally hot, humid night, and as we walked through the woods towards the cemetery there was an increasing sense of that impression that visitors here often describe as “enchanted” or “magical.”  I don’t know where we were when we saw this. At first I thought we must be overlooking the quarry, as there seemed to be a large expanse of emptiness before us, but I realize now that this could not have been the case as we walked for a good ten minutes more before arriving at the cemetery. 

It is still difficult for me to describe what I saw, but it was a light show of sorts, consisting of thousands of tiny blinking or flashing lights that mimicked flash bulbs going off.  The only thing I can compare it to is the image of dozens of paparazzi cameras going off, one after another, at a celebrity gala.  I was absolutely mesmerized by this experience, and when I say it seemed to be happening with an intelligence behind it, other experiencers will understand that.  It was as if it was happening for us.

That experience threw my perceptions off, perhaps also on purpose, for I felt incredibly welcome in our explorations, as if some unseen host were very happy to find us there.  We continued to the cemetery and spent about an hour quietly recording in the cemetery for EVP and chatting about the history of the site. Then, at about 10:30 in the evening, we left to make our way back to our cars.
It was a very long time before I realized my associate and I had gotten lost.  We walked for many long minutes through the brambles and fallen trees that were everywhere.  I was wearing a sundress, as I had not expected to walk in the woods, and my legs were slashed repeatedly by various thorns and brush.  It was dark with no moon, we had no flashlight.  We both had the idea to use the GPS applications on our cell phones to find which way we were headed but they had both lost their signals.  The possibility of this happening had never crossed my mind. As a 15 year veteran researcher of the place, my colleague had personally marked and mapped all of the trails through the woods and estimated that he’d visited these woods some two thousand times or more.  We could have been no more than two blocks from a suburban road, from houses and businesses.   We continued to walk and my phone drained of power and died.  My colleague used the flashlight application on his phone to help us see where we were walking, but we could see that the light was becoming weaker.

After some time, we began to see a faint light up ahead and thought we had finally neared a road or a subdivision that surrounded the preserve.  We could see lights of houses and even see and hear cars passing on the road and, gratefully and with much relief, walked towards them.  But the lights seemed to get farther away as we walked, and I thought we must be somehow walking at a diagonal, even though that really made no sense.  After some walking, the lights actually disappeared, and it was as if someone had switched off a television: where one moment there were images and sounds, the next moment we were in a vacuum.

This experience repeated over and over, every fifteen or twenty minutes, and it was then that a chilling realization came over us: this was happening on purpose. Something was manipulating the environment to trick us, to tire us and confuse us.  With no way to call anyone, find a way out, and thinking of my little girls at home with the babysitter, having no idea where I was, it was a tremendous feeling of panic and despair.

Four and a half hours after we went into the woods, we found our way out through the “back door” entrance that runs along 143rd street at Central.  We were so far away from where we thought we were, and there was really no way we could have been so lost in such a small area for such a long time.  I have never forgotten the feeling of that experience, and I have never ventured into those woods again, night or day, off the path.  Of course, I was alarmed and amazed to discover, a few years later, the alleged incident in the early 1960s in which a group of boys were lost in the woods at Bachelors Grove for several weeks and, when found—unharmed—could not remember anything that had happened except for seeing mysterious lights that had “led them into the woods.”

I talk about the theories I and others have formulated about the lights of Bachelors Grove in my book, Haunted Bachelors Grove, available on 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pioneers in Peaceful Rest, Revisted: A Modern Tour of Bachelors Grove Cemetery

The lots of Bachelors Grove Cemetery. Original map in Tinley Park Historical Society.

In 1935, on a sunny, tranquil afternoon, a member of the Fulton family gave a local journalist a tour of Bachelors Grove Cemetery, pointing out the names of prominent and pioneer citizens long gone and sharing tales both nostalgic and tragic.  Many of these stones have disappeared over the years, rendering this article, entitled, "Pioneers in Peaceful Rest,"  so important for researchers. We've found many of the pieces of the Bachelors Grove burial puzzle with the aid of this armchair tour of  a cemetery which largely no longer exists.

In writing about the current state of the site for Haunted Bachelors Grove, I wanted to give readers this same experience of the cemetery today; I wanted to create a virtual tour of the cemetery, describing the stones and sharing what I know about the families and individuals interred there.
I hope that, in reading it, you are transported not only through space to the burial ground today, but through time to the years these noble people made their mark here.

The Lots and the Stones
There are 82 lots at Bachelors Grove Cemetery, some with one or two burials, a couple of them seeminglly empty, and some with multiple burials. Historians have in the past estimated that there were between 135 and two hundred burials in the cemetery between 1838 and 1989.  Unfortunately, again, there are no known burial records for Bachelors Grove Cemetery.  The only known notations made by the Trustees were of ownership or transfers of the lots, and these only beginning after 1860, more than two decades after the first known burials. Therefore, creating a picture of the actual interments (also taking into account the possibility of undiscovered re-interments) is, in short, a pretty much impossible task.   Heroic attempts to make sense of the situation were made twice.  First, by the students of history teacher Earnest Wilkinson at Bremen High School in the 1970s.  Mark Preston and other students read the stones and researched the graves as part of their Bicentennial History Project of 1976.  Through their research Preston came to believe that the cemetery is older that has been believed, possibly dating to 1832 or even earlier.  

John Cachel's map of remaining stones at Bachelors Grove.
One additional stone has been returned since this drawing was made.

One of the Everdons, the original owners of the Bachelors Grove Cemetery
land,is believed to be pictured here, left.
No evidence of Everdon burials at Bachelors Grove, however, has been found.
In 1994, Tinley Park historian Brad Bettenhausen published an heroic lot breakdown of the cemetery, listing all known information about the burials.   Unfortunately, the excellent, detailed diagram which was produced from this effort has been widely misinterpreted.  Many lot notations indicating ownership or sales have been interpreted as actual burial records on internet cemetery record sites, which in turn have been utilized by family historians spreading the misinformation through ancestry and genealogy sites.  Often, it seems, these lots were transferred or abandoned altogether, as the original owners went on to other settlement areas, and yet the original owners or transferees are frequently listed as interred at Bachelors Grove. 

For the past several years, Bachelors Grove historian Wendy Moxley Roe and I have separately and together attempted to track down as much actual burial documentation as possible, in order to present a more accurate picture of the interments at the Grove, starting with Mr. Bettenhausen’s record and incorporating county vital records, funeral home registries, obituaries and other newspaper articles, public and private family trees.

Though many of the graves around the perimeter of the cemetery are listed on the ownership map as “Unsold,” and presumably empty, in the spring of 2016 we surveyed the cemetery with dowsing rods to confirm that the lots marked as unsold actually are empty. Most of these "unsold" lots have as many as eight burials on them. There is literally no way of knowing the occupants of these graves, unless a burial registry surfaces in the future.  We believe these were "potters" graves which were used for indigent neighbors.  As was customary, such graves were likely never marked with headstones.

There are fewer than twenty headstones, markers or bases which still remain at Bachelors Grove today. Entering the cemetery from the old Turnpike road and the southeast quadrant (to the right), the visitor encounters the largest grouping of stones in the burying ground.  These are also the earliest burials.   The remains of the markers nearest the entrance are believed to be the remnants of Fulton family stones, from the fence to the stone marked "Wheeler.”

John Fulton, Sr., and his wife, Jane Johnson, were both born in Ireland and immigrated to America in 1839.  The made their way west to the burgeoning Illinois lands outside of Chicago, where they purchased eighty acres of the wooded area of Bremen Township known then as Bachelors Grove. 
James Fulton, one of John & Jane's children, plows on his land,
 current day Yankee Woods Forest Preserve.
The couple bore fourteen children on the farm they operated in Bremen Township.  At the time of his death in 1883, Fulton had become the most influential and respected of the area’s citizens, owning more than a thousand acres of land, with his family closely tied to the administration of the community, as his descendants still are in Tinley Park today.   As a young couple raising their family in the recent “Indian lands” of the Illinois wilds, local Native Americans would come each morning to the Fulton farm for milk, often returning after the day’s hunt with a cut of deer meat for Jane to prepare for the family.  During the building of the Rock Island railroad, the Fultons boarded the workers for ten cents a day meals and free lodging. 

Two of John and Jane’s children, Ella and Robert, are also interred here. According to local oral history, Robert committed suicide at the age of 31 by walking in front of a Rock Island train near present day Tinley Park, sometime before 1935.   Ella’s husband, Chauncey Wheeler, also rests here with his wife, their graves marked by the Wheeler marker, often toppled.  Amazingly, Joseph Fulton, born in the 1770s, is also interred here: the father of John, Sr. and Hamilton Fulton. According to old records, a large white obelisk once stood here, reading

Joseph Fulton, Died 15 Oct 1852 at the age of 80

Photo: Wendy Moxley Roe
Near the Fultons is the iconic “Moss” marker, which is only the base of a complete marker that once towered here.  However, when family members found that the granite obelisk topping the base had been dragged nearly to the road, the marker was given into the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society, cleaned and placed outside the Society headquarters at the Old Landmark Church, where it may be seen today.  Thomas Moss's life, like many residents of the Grove, was often visited by death.  His first wife, Isabella, died in 1848 after a thirteen year marriage. The couple had seven children, two of whom were stillborn and two of whom died in childhood.  After Isabella's death, Thomas married Sarah McGettingen, who passed away less than a year later.  Two years later, Thomas wed again.  His third wife, Anna
Moss stone top portion tipped over in cemetery before
being given to the Tinley Park Historical Society.
Photo by Robert Patterson.
Turney, was the sister of Hulda Turney Fulton, buried under the famed Fulton Stone near the quarry pond.  This third marriage produced seven more children, of whom one was stillborn and two died in infancy.  Then, in 1885, Anna and her last child died in childbirth.  Thomas never married again.  Isabella is buried here with him. 

The recovered top of the Moss stone is
at the Tinley Park Historical Society today.
Also in this quadrant is the lot of the Crandall family, now unmarked. The Crandall brothers were some of the most colorful characters in Cook County in its earliest days, well known at Chicago, and not a little notorious.  In 1833 Heman Crandall (sometimes called Herman in records), then 21, left the shores of Lake Champlain in New York and walked more than 800 miles to Chicago.  He also went back and forth on visits twice more--on foot. Two of his brothers--David and Mark-- made the journey to Chicago by canoe, and at the first government land sale in Illinois, held at the Bull's Head tavern on Lake Michigan, the brothers purchased prairie lands in Bremen Township for $1.25 an acre.   Some of the Crandalls went on to settle in present-day Worth, then called Lane's Island, building the first houses there.   The Crandalls were typical of the very earliest settlers, who spent most of their lives not as farmers but as loggers, moving west with the expanding frontier.  When he was 69 years old Ben Crandall went on to Nebraska, where he purchased a substantial tract of largely unimproved land, intending to divide it among his children.  Returning later to Bremen Township, he continued to farm until his death in his late '70s.   Mark Crandall's daughter, Alma, was only sixteen years old at the time of her death and burial at Bachelors Grove in 1870. His surviving daughter, Electa, lost her own daughter, Clara Webber, when the infant was only three weeks old.  She was also buried at Bachelors Grove.  Several of the Crandall family members interred at the Grove were reinterred at Mount Greenwood Cemetery in Blue Island in 1895, on the same day.  It is uncertain if any of the grave markers on the Crandall family lot at Mount Greenwood originally stood in Bachelors Grove.  In 1935, however, at least one Crandall grave marker remained at Bachelors Grove: that of Alvah Crandall, who died in July of 1843 at the age of 39.  His stone was still present in 1935, when it was mentioned in a newspaper article. No re-interment records exist for Alvah. It is presumed he remains at the Grove.
The Crandall brothers walked or canoed to Illinois from New York and
purchased some of the first public Illinois lands. Alvah
Crandall is the only family members still at the Grove. The rest
were interred at Chicago's Mount Greenwood Cemetery.
Photo: Crandall Family.

Lot 43 is home to settler Richard Moss and family, including wife Maria and numerous children and spouses. There are three stones remaining, including Richard’s headstone showing his name and dates.  A landmark here on the lot until very recently was the “Split Tree,” which was strangely beloved by visitors. Its double trunk split almost to the ground for years, a friend of the Grove in its last year chained the trunks together, hoping to keep them from falling apart altogether, but county maintenance crews finally sawed them down to the stumps.  Remaining at their base, however, are the twin markers of John McKee and Delaney Ann (Hulett) McKee. Born in 1854 to pioneer parents, before her death in 1920 Delaney Ann was a twenty-five year veteran teacher in the Cook County schools, including at the famed Stone School at Bachelors Grove.           

The Patrick Stone, out of place as usual,
has been "moving" since at least 1951.
Nearby is the lot of the Patrick family, which is home of the famed “moving tombstone”—one of the most recognizable stones at Bachelors Grove.  One of the earliest known photos of Bachelors Grove Cemetery—which appeared in a local paper in 1951 and which refers to the burial ground as “Smith’s Cemetery” in the article—shows the stone had by then already moved from its appointed spot.   Keep in mind that this years after vandalism began at the Grove, so one assumes that it was vandals, and not spirits, who first began to move it.  The Patrick family’s most famous member was Amelia Patrick, who married Senator John Humphrey, whose “Humphrey House” historical museum still operates today in Orland Park??  Amelia and John’s infant daughter, Libby May Humphrey, rests at Bachelors Grove, where she and her mother are the source of much talk in paranormal circles, of which more later.

Past the area known as “The Pines” is the stone marking the Rippet family lot, which was last photographed upright in 1951. The Rippets were dairy farmers in Blue Island, and James Rippet was a Blue Island police officer.  The farming members moved to Oregon, Illinois later in life.  and in the very far corner of this quadrant is the lot marked by the stone of William Hamilton, whose identity is unknown.  Though other Hamiltons are buried elsewhere in the cemetery, we do not at this time know if this is a relation, as burial records for a related William do not match up.  This plot is, however, believed to be the burial site of the oldest known burial here—that of William Noble in 1838, his marker long gone.

Ilse Dorothea Regine Eleonore (Dorothea) Schmidt (nee Hamell), left, is interred
at the Grove, along with granddaughter, Emma Schmidt, center. On the right is
Margaretha Schmidt, who sold the last family homestead
 to the Forest Preserve District in the 1920s.
Photo: Bob Schmidt
Continuing north along the east fence wall, visitors can see the severe erosion that began after the flood of 2013 , worsened by the recent removal of wild and cultivated plants that helped to curtail earlier erosion, and along the fence line of the northeast quadrant the ground slopes dangerously down into a small stream of runoff water.  In lot 4 is Emma Schmidt, who grew up in Bachelors Grove as part of the Schmidt family, who lived in the last houses in the Grove.  Her grandparents are also interred at Bachelors Grove, either in this plot or in plot number 24. 

Bernard Deck with Edward Schmidt. Ed's childhood home was the last to stand in the Grove. Photo: Bob Schmidt

In this quadrant visitors find the lots of the Deck family and the Shields family.  Joseph and Jennie (Deck) Niklas were two of five family members killed in July of 1921 when their car stalled on tracks at 90th street and Vincennes Avenue and was struck by a freight train.  Bernard Deck, Jennie's brother, is also interred here.

Desecration of the Deck family lot in the 1970s.

The Shields family monument on the day of the
 last burial in the cemetery, October 1989.
Photo by Clay Krueger.
The last burial at Bachelors Grove was at the Shields family plot.  The Shields stone is one of the largest still remaining at Bachelors Grove, though it toppled long ago. The burial was of the ashes of Robert Shields in 1989, when Mortician Clay Krueger made the trek to the cemetery with a family friend of the deceased to inter the cremains.   The photo here shows the state of the family marker the day of the burial in 1989. 

The northwest quadrant of the cemetery houses two important sites for visitors: the Fulton Stone and the entrance to the quarry pond.  Also here is some of the only coping (stone fencing) found in the cemetery today, marking more mysterious graves.  Original cemetery plat notations assign these to Louis and Johanna Buch, but while there was a couple with these names living nearby, they farmed in Palos and are buried in Worth.  No burial records have been found for this lot, though a 1935 newspaper article describes a headstone or headstones indicating that the Buchs are, indeed, interred here. 

The Fulton Stone was recently reinforced by a volunteer who brought dirt and stones
from the creek bed to steady the stone against recent erosion. Myriad
gives for Marci May Fulton, the "Infant Daughter," can be seen.
Photo: Wendy Moxley Roe
The most famous tombstone at Bachelors Grove Cemetery is also the largest of the few still standing. The “Fulton Stone” has stood through generations of varying tranquility and turmoil, not unlike the dynamic family interred below. The Fulton family stone stands on an increasingly unstable base where the path splits, one artery leading into the cemetery’s northwest quadrant and the other down to the old quarry beyond the northern fence. 

The Fultons would emerge as one of the most important and influential families of the Bachelors Grove and Tinley Park communities.  An extensive network of parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, the Fulton line still thrives in Tinley Park and even became world famous through marriage into the Bettenhausen family of racing fame.  One of the children of John Fulton, Sr., John Fulton, Jr. (pictured above with his wife, Hulda and several children) was interred at Bachelors Grove after his death in 1922.  The dates on the stone silently tell some of the tragic family story of the Fultons.  Though infant and child mortality was high at the time they lived, the Fultons experienced more than their share, losing son Johnnie B. at the age of ten, and an older son, Frank, at 32.  John’s brother, Robert Fulton, took his own life by throwing himself in front of a train at the age of thirty-one. Daughter Luella Fulton was struck by a hit and run driver in January of 1937 while walking on Oak Park Avenue (Batchelor Grove Road) at the age of 65. Abandoned in a ditch, her cries were finally heard by a passerby, but Luella died of internal injuries in a nearby hospital. 

Katherine Vogt Fulton, , second from left top row, buried her infant daughter,
Marci May Fulton, at her husband's family plot. Picured next to her is
Luella Fulton Rogers, who was tragically killed in her aging years.
Photo: Tinley Park Historical Society
Today, thousands of visitors each year make the ritualistic visit to the Fulton stone, many bringing toys, candy, stuffed animals and flowers to place at the attendant stone reading “Infant Daughter,” which marks the grave of little Marcia May Fulton, daughter of John and Hulda’s son, Bert Fulton, and his wife, and Katherine Vogt.   The Vogt family was one of the most important families in Bremen Township, but according to local historians, the Fultons and Vogts did not get along very well at the time, and the Vogts did not approve of their daughter's marriage to Bert. Marrying anyway, the two gave birth to a daughter, who perished.   Though the Vogts owned a large mausoleum, which may still be seen today, in Tinley Park's Zion Lutheran Cemetery, the child was buried the child at the Fulton lot at Bachelors Grove.  Years later, after her own death, Katherine was interred in town, far from her infant child. Some wonder if it is, then, her ghost who wanders the cemetery, dressed in white, in search of her baby. 

The stone of little Emma Fulton, aged 11 days, was also placed here upon her death and burial at the lot, then was stolen from Bachelors Grove but recovered. It is today in the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society.  The stone, in excellent condition due to its sheltered location, reads,

God's lovely bud, so young and fair

As time moved on, later Fultons began to choose burial in town, at Zion Lutheran Cemetery, where numerous children and grandchildren are interred.  A cenotaph or memorial stone placed in Tinley Park’s Zion Cemetery near other Fulton family members commemorates the Fultons buried at Bachelors Grove, though no bodies have been moved.

The stone of  John Hamilton was recovered in recent
years and returned to Bachelors Grove. John Hamilton's
father was one of the first "bachelors" of the Grove.
Photo: Wendy Moxley rose
Howard Gilson. His grandfather was one
of Bachelor's Grove's early bachelors, Dexter
Gilson, who ran one of the first schools in Illinois on his
 nearby homestead in Bachelors Grove and helped
plant one of the first orchards in the American interior.
Photo: Gilson Family.
Also in this quadrant is the lot of the John Hamilton family.  The stone which resides here today was stolen at an undetermined time in the past but recovered in a recent summer, when Bachelors Grove advocate Peter Crapia was contacted by a Joliet man who had found it in his backyard years before but had no idea where it belonged.  When he discovered that it belonged at the Grove, he contacted Crapia, who returned it to its proper location on the cemetery grounds.  William Hamilton, John’s father, was one of the first “bachelors” to settle here.  He traveled to New York City from County Down, Ireland, around 1830.  He and Dexter Gilson—another original settler of Bachelors Grove-- boarded together in a local cabin before starting their own families.  Gilson hosted one of the area’s first schools on his homestead nearby.  

Stephen Rexford Waren, top right.
Also in the northwest quadrant is the lot of the Warren family. Ezra Snow Warren and his wife, Susan Lamsen went west from Vermont in the 1840s, having been given a wagon, a team of oxen and five hundred dollars in gold by their fathers as wedding gifts.  Family tradition holds that Susan was a cousin of President Martin Van Buren.   
Richard Warren

Ezra and Susan had two sons who fought in the American Civil War.  Stephen was enlisted for only three months, from July to October of 1862.   Richard was captured at the Battle of Ware Bottom Church in Virginia, in June of 1864.  He was incarcerated at Andersonville Prison (Fort Sumter) and was mustered out in December of 1865 in Norfolk, Virginia.  Richard went on to marry Charlotte Hatch.  They had a daughter, also Charlotte, in 1868.  Family stories say he was “never the same” after the war.  He died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty.

Richard Warren's stone is one of several Warren family stones which have vanished. Photos: Warren Family.

The Flassig family was a large Bachelors Grove family.
This is one line: The family of Robert Flassig, whose sister, Dora Flassig Newman, is interred at Bachelors Grove.
Photo: Flassig family.
The final quadrant is the northeast sector.  Here lies the Newman family, near the west fence. Dora (Flassig) Newman was born in 1870 to Frank and Dora Flassig, a large Bachelors Grove family. Daniel Newman, Dora’s husband, was the son of John and Rosanna (Turney) Newman.  Rosanna was the sister of Hulda (Turney) Fulton, buried at the large Fulton stone at Bachelors Grove.  In the very corner of this quadrant is the last lot at Bachelors Grove, where an unmarked grave holds little Hattie Mae (Stratzenberg) Adams—also a Newman relation--, who was stillborn in 1909. Hattie Therese (Stratzenberg) Adams died in childbirth in 1913. She and baby Esther are also interred here in the last lot at Bachelors Grove. 

The Adams (Sturteznburg) family, filled with tragedy.
Photo: Adams Family
Edna Wright Hardy Sanderson is in an unmarked grave here at Bachelors Grove, alone. An English native, she had seventeen children, several of whom came to Bremen Township to live. She visited Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893, after the death of her husband.  Returning to England and remarrying, she again visited Bremen Township after her second husband’s death.  During that visit, Edna became too ill to return home.  She passed away and was interred here.  Her son, Albert, lived over the creek, likely in the house whose foundation may still be seen there today.  Her mother was originally interred here but was moved to the family’s plot in town, where Albert and her other children are also interred. This woman, then, with two fruitful marriages and seventeen children, is alone at Bachelors Grove, an ocean away from home.

Judy Huff's famous "Madonna of Bachelors Grove" photo.
Also here, next to a tree stump, is the lot of James Fullerton, a Blue Island farmer born in Scotland. He met his wife, Sarah Chapman, in England in the 1860s, and the two immigrated to Illinois, where James farmed until his death. They are interred here together.

Across the path from the couple is the famed “checkered stone” or “quilted stone”: the scene where the “Madonna of Bachelor Grove” photo was taken in 1991.  This is believed to be the base stone of a now-vanished monument to members of the Rick family, including two Mary Ricks, wives of the Rick brothers. The headstone photo below was taken by a little girl on an outing to the cemetery in the 1960s.  The whereabouts of the stone or the rest of the monument are unknown.  
At the cemetery entrance in this quadrant is the lot of the Hageman and Cool families, some of the earliest German settlers in Bremen Township, though the Cools were reinterred elsewhere.

Lost headstone of John and Mary Rick.  
Many other burials remain here, under these stones and in unmarked graves. The process of learning about them all is an ongoing one. These have been shared to give readers and visitors a general idea of the community whose burial ground this was. 

If you know the whereabouts of any of the missing stones of Bachelors Grove, please contact me at We are working with the Midlothian Historical Society to recover as many of these stones as possible and house them in the Society headquarters for enjoyment and education by future generations. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's in a Name? Searching for the Origins of "Bachelors Grove."

 Generations of historians have sought to uncover the origins of Bachelors Grove's intriguing christening. The cemetery and the settlement have been known by a dizzying array of names: Berzel’s Grove and Petzel’s Grove; Old Smith’s and Old Schmidt’s; Old Bachelors and English Bachel ors; and Bachelder’s, Batchelors, Batchellor’s or Bacheldes Grove. It’s even been called Crestwood Grove in some genealogical resources. The favorite I’ve found is “Everdense”—fitting, I think, for such a genealogically confounding site.

   Bachelors Grove, however, is the name that has endured, and Stephen Rexford would always claim that the land was named for he and the other single men who settled the area in the early 1830s, coming first to Fort Dearborn and then on to the prairies beyond.

   In fact, other settlements of single men known as “Bachelors Grove” existed in the United States by the nineteenth century, as well as buildings and organizations known as “Bachelors Hall.” “To keep bachelor’s hall” was an old phrase in common usage by at least the 1790s, when the first known version of the English folk song “Batchelors Hall” (with the “t” in the spelling) was composed. To “keep bachelor’s hall” meant to maintain the life of a single man, and in various parts of the English-speaking world, the naming of settlements or gatherings of bachelors was already seen by colonial American times. Today, a Bachelors Grove still exists in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Footville, Wisconsin, was originally called Bachelor’s Grove (as was its cemetery). An item in the Grand Forks local paper in mid-nineteenth-century North Dakota suggested that the name of their Bachelor’s Grove was given purposely, to try to attract unwed women to meet the lonely single men of the area. The reporter observed that in South Dakota, “marriageable females are as rare as male angels in Washington. There have been several efforts to induce the migration of some of the female surplus in other sections, but the results…have been entirely inadequate.”
Stephn Rexford, the original "bachelor" of the Grove?

   In a history of Blue Island commemorating the city’s first century, John H. Volp writes:

Some of the names given to sections of this early settlement were neither as pleasantly descriptive nor, fortunately, as lasting as that of Blue Island. For instance, there were Bachelors’ Grove, the “black” or “Robbers Woods” and, worst of all, Horse Thief Hollow. Much to the disgust of the eligible young ladies, many of the young men coming to the settlement in the early days preferred to take up quarters in a section somewhat removed from the Hill, hence the name “Bachelors’ Grove.”

   Support of the idea that these bachelors deliberately distanced themselves from women had come upon the death of Stephen Rexford’s daughter, when the author of her obituary claimed that the men of our Bachelors Grove had actually “taken a vow to remain single”—which most of them abandoned. No other mention of such a vow has been found, however.

   What we do know is that Bachelors Grove was already known as such when Rexford came, before he even arrived in Chicago in June 1833. That name, though, came at the time with many alternate spellings, suggesting that the place may have been christened with a surname and not named for a gathering of single men. At the Methodist conference held in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1832, a Reverend Stephen Beggs of Walker’s Grove was put in charge of the Des Plaines Mission—for the area around the Des Plaines River, presumably, which included a place called “Batchelor Grove.” An 1834 Gazetteer of Illinois reported that “Bachelder’s Grove, in Cook County, eighteen miles southwest of Chicago, contains about two sections of timber and a large settlement,” demonstrating yet another variation of the name attached to the Grove—and supporting the idea that the Grove was named for a person and not for a single man or group of them. It must be noted that by the spring of 1833, Stephen Rexford, Thomas McClintock, Alva Crandall and Samuel Everden were recorded by the United States Agricultural Survey as having planted a grove of peach and other fruit trees at “Batchellor’s Grove”; mysterious, since Rexford did not arrive until that summer. Again, this spelling suggests a surname rather than a gathering of bachelors.

Mark Crandall and his brothers
walked or canoed to Illiois from New York.
   But if this was the case, who was this mysterious “Batchelor,” “Batchellor” or “Batchelder,” and where did he go? No Batchelders or Bachelors or Batchelors show up on the earliest property or settlement records of the area. Some Batchelors and Batchelders from New England did settle in Illinois, but in LaSalle County, Macon County and Winnebago Country. Batchelders found in Cook County’s Rich Township in the latter half of the century were from another, later migration line. Some Batchelders and Foots who came to the Illinois lands went on to found Batchelors Grove (today called Footville) over the Wisconsin border—which also had a Bachelors Grove Cemetery, now Footville Cemetery. Other Bachelors went famously to the Dakotas, where that Bachelors Grove still exists today in Grand Forks, where those unfortunate men couldn’t catch a break.

  I thought I’d hit pay dirt when I found a man named Edward Batchelder, a Vermont teenager who went to Boston to apprentice to a jeweler but ended up going on “to the wilds of Illinois” with his wife and infant daughter. He settled about thirty miles south of Chicago in Thorn Grove, an area about ten miles from Bachelors Grove Cemetery. Working off a timber stand, the family only stayed four years before going to Chicago to live. Batchelder lost everything, including his home, wife and three of his four children, in the Great Fire of 1871. Born in 1811, I figured that, if he left Boston at eighteen and stayed in Thorn Grove for four years, this would have put him in the Bachelors Grove area in 1828 or 1829 and leaving for Chicago by 1832. Batchelder would have moved into Chicago by the time Stephen Rexford arrived at Fort Dearborn. They likely would have met in one of the taverns of the day. Surely this had to be the Batchelder I’d been looking for. Alas, upon further research I discovered that Batchelder hadn’t left New England until after 1835, at least two years after Rexford had already gotten to Bachelors Grove, and more than three years after the famed Reverend Beggs was sent to the Illinois settlement of “Batchelors Grove” as a missionary.

   But it is Beggs who takes us down another road to look for our mysterious namesake. Other timber stands, both in Illinois and around the nation, bore the names of preachers of the time, such as Walker’s Grove, present-day Plainfield, a bit farther south of Bachelors Grove. Reverend Jesse Walker, “The Daniel Boone of Methodism,” was a circuit rider who traveled throughout Missouri and Illinois on horseback, spreading the gospel message. As a missionary to the Indians, Reverend Walker followed the Illinois River on horseback. In 1829, his son James Walker and ten settlers formed the first Methodist Class in “Walker’s Grove,” now Plainfield.

   Beggs, who was sent to convert the Indians and settlers at Bachelors Grove in 1832 and ended up in a battle of the Black Hawk War, was an associate of one of the more active preachers of the early northwest wilderness, a man named Wesley Batchelor. Batchelor went on to be the first pastor of the church at Ottawa, in LaSalle County. These two men, along with numerous other preachers, would have been well known and well traveled between Chicago and LaSalle Country. But was Batchelor already working in 1830 or 1831, before Beggs was sent to the settlement that bore the Batchelor name? Quite possibly, as he was listed as one of the “superannuated or worn out preachers” in the minutes of the meetings of the Methodist Conference of 1852–1855.

(from Haunted Bachelors Grove by Ursula Bielski, History Press, 2016. Available on Amazon and at History Press)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Confirmation Found for 1913 Bachelors Grove Incident

One of the strangest events in Bachelors Grove's known history was the 1913 discovery of a woman's body lashed to a fence on the property of Christ Abbe.  Authorities wondered if the woman had committed suicide, and if she had come into area by way of the train through Blue Island.  The tragic story of delusion and death is told in this article from the Chicago Tribune. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sneak Peak Tonight! A Look Inside the New Exhibit

Come out--and peek in--to the new Bachelors Grove exhibit....

I've been hard at work assembling a totally revamped, streamlined, beautiful new exhibit to promote the history of Bachelors Grove Cemetery and Settlement--and to encourage still more locals, fans and family members to come forward with their stories, memories, photos and documents for inclusion in the forthcoming book, "Lost in the Woods: The Real--and Unreal--Story of Bachelors Grove."  Tonight I'll be sharing a very small portion of the new exhibit at a lecture on the "Graveyards of Chicago" at the Worth Historical Museum in Worth, Illinois--just a few minutes away from Bachelors Grove.

The full exhibit will be shown this summer at a big event coming to the south suburbs. I'll have more news on this in the weeks to come, but for tonight you can get a look at some family photos of those interred at Bachelors Grove cemetery, early maps of the area, rare and exclusive photos of the cemetery through the years, and photos of some of the old home sites.

Abandoned graves in the woods--but it's not Bachelors Grove. 
I'm delighted to have been invited to share Matt Hucke and my new book at this wonderful venue for history research, and I'm anxious to share with you some of my photos from a number of my very favorite Chicago-area cemeteries, including some you probably didn't know existed.

The event begins at 7pm.  I'll be speaking until 8, and then I'll have copies of the new book for sale and signing while guests have a chance to look at the images and maps from the new exhibit.  Books are $15 and the lecture is completely free!  Hope to see you tonight.

The Worth Historical Museum is located at the Worth Park District, 11500 South Beloit, Worth, Illinois.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sharing the Hard Work of History at Bachelors Grove

One of the most talked about phenomena surrounding Bachelors Grove has to be the strange way it has of overcoming people with obsession.  Over the years, there have been numerous people who have been charged with "wanting to possess" the cemetery and the knowledge of it, to be "in charge" of it, to be the be all, end all fountainhead of information on it.  Sometimes this charge has been well-placed; most times not.  But I have found that it is a common charge made whenever someone takes a marked interest in the place. 

After observing first hand, however, this phenomenon--and more than once--and being charged with it myself, I want to go on record with how I really feel about Bachelors Grove history.

I was trained in Cultural and Intellectual United States History. I attained a Masters Degree in this pretty specific area of study, and I wrote a lot of papers on the subject matter having to do with tiny nuances of how people lived and thought in the United States a hundred years ago or more.

I've been blessed--though financially cursed (that's a little joke)--with being able to practice history as my job.  But I'm not a professor of Intellectual History, and I don't write academic papers anymore or survey people in that social science way that we always studied.  I write books that draw people into an interest in local history, and I create lectures, tours and events that keep people wanting to know more.  My joy comes from bringing people together in enjoying history, and my delight comes from finding bits of history that haven't been known since the players actually created the history.  I love to sort of bring people and events back around that have been forgotten about for whatever reason. I like to help people be known again.

This kind of history is called public history, and so I'm really a public historian.  I don't protect or hide my research like academics do, to avoid being scooped by rivals.  The whole point is to share information as much as possible.

Nonetheless, history is hard work no matter what you do with it.  And so I have a lot of fans who marvel at the work I do--and that's really nice to be appreciated--I've also gotten riled sometimes, even recently, when other researchers haven't commonly acknowledged the work that goes into what I do.  True, and as I've just said, the information I find is for everyone. But that it IS "public information" does not mean that it WAS "public information" before I dug it out, fleshed it out, or put the pieces together from dusty, old ones that no one has looked at in a long time.  It's like a pile of car parts that you inherited from your dead uncle.  If you don't know how to put it together, or even what garage it's sitting in, what use is it to anyone?

My point is a simple one.  I don't own Bachelors Grove history or the people interred there.  You can go back to my first post and see that I do Bachelors Grove research for the same reason I do research at a hundred other sites.  Bachelors Grove is no different, really.  I want to tell its story as best as I can.

In the spirit of what writers and artists call "copy left"--a  humorous twist of the obvious "copyright"--I say: this information I've put together is public information, gleaned from public archives that other really great researchers have taken the time to create and keep for many years.  You won't find watermarks on any of these photos or documents, and please do not watermark them when you use them.  If I've thanked a historical society or archive or library for them, please do so as well.  Many archives charge for a one-time use of photos or document images, so it's really nice that they have these for our free use.  On the other hand, I've actually paid a lot of fees for many, many years for membership in archives and databases, and so there is not only a lot of work but a lot of money that goes into this.  If I've actually gone out of the way to say, "I worked really hard to find this piece of information or to make this connection," then you know it was an especially lot of work and a big deal to me that I did, so if you want to mention that, that would be great, but  I'm not going to sue you if you don't. You get the idea.

Again, I've been personally and professionally disappointed when colleagues or other professionals haven't acknowledged my work when they've used it.  All of us researchers have this happen at one time or another, or even often.  But in the end, as a public historian I want the information and my ideas about it and the connections I make to be shared.  So please share the information on this site.  It's very important to the legacy of Bachelors Grove and a thousand other forgotten communities to be known again by us.  In particular, in the case of early cemeteries, the work that goes into actually attempting to document burials is sometimes tedious to the point of painful.  But it is totally worth it if it helps families and, sometimes, restorationists who want to make sure these cemeteries are not lost forever. 

-Ursula Bielski

Friday, February 14, 2014

Who's that Lady?

In 1998, after the publication of my first book, Chicago Haunts, I received in the mail a handwritten letter that turned out to be one of the most precious I've ever received. It was written on loose leaf notebook paper by a woman and concerned a photograph she had taken during a research trip to Bachelors Grove Cemetery with Dale Kaczmarek's Ghost Research Society. As I read, I realized that she was the photographer who had captured an image which had rocked the then-small world of hobby ghost hunters: the photo of a lithe figure, robed in a 1930s-style gown, perched on the edge of a monument base with a quilted-look to the stone. This image has since appeared without fail on every list of the Greatest Ghost Photos of All Time (and other titles) and continues to garner passionate support and opposition from those who believe it is authentic and those who label it as fraud. People often ask me about this photo, and my comment is always the same: "I know the photographer, and the photo is real. . . "
On August 10, 1991, Judy Huff-Felz was visiting Bachelors Grove Cemetery with the Ghost Research Society, one of the oldest local ghost hunting groups in the nation.  During that visit, she took one of the most controversial and infamous “ghost” photos of all time, first published in the Chicago Sun-Times and the National Examiner: the incredible capture of the so-called “Madonna of Bachelors Grove.”

The image of the “White Lady” or the “Woman on the Stone” has been circulated in all corners of the globe, and regularly appears on lists of the top paranormal photographs of all time.  It is a ritual for visitors to Bachelors Grove to re-enact that renowned scene, as you can see me doing at right. 
Below, Judy Huff-Felz tells about the day she took the photo, and of the fame that erupted around it—and continues to this day.

"Clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship and the ability to heal run in my family for many, many generations. It is traceable to my European ancestors. My great grandmother was a faith healer, my great step grandmother was a medium, my grandma, aunt and mother were all readers. My sister and I are both clairvoyant and clairaudient.

In the late 80's my sister and I convinced our mom to start a group which gave lessons on how to teach people how to find, enhance and safely use their abilities. After all of the sessions were over with each group my sister (Mari Abba) and I organized and ran an interactive ghost tour. This was for our mom's students to experiment and practice their abilities at several known haunted locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

My sister and I met Dale Kaczmarek, founder of the Ghost Research Society. He invited us to his meetings and we then became members of his group.

In 1991 GRS had planned an investigation for Bachelor's Grove Cemetery. The team members brought their equipment, my mom, sister and I were coming only with our gifts. Someone from the group suggested I bring some infrared film and take pictures of where I sensed activity.
The investigation was done where each member was given a clipboard, a pen and a map of the cemetery. Then everyone except for one person would wait outside of the fenced area.
Then one person at a time we would walk through Bachelor's with our clipboard and whatever equipment they brought with them.

As they walked around, they would note where and what the saw, heard and/or felt. Then would use their equipment to see if they could detect something.

So as I walked through, I'd take pictures where I felt something. My camera was an Olympus automatic 35mm telephoto. As soon as you would take a picture the camera would automatically wind the film to the next frame. The design of this camera made it impossible to double expose film.

After developing my pictures I found a woman or girl sitting on a broken piece of headstone. I did not see her with my naked eye the day of the investigation. Although I believe I may have come across her on a few other occasions later.

The rest is history. There is no way I would ever guess that my photograph from Bachelor's Grove on that fateful day in September of 1991 would have been published in so many books and newspapers throughout the world or have been on so many television programs. Now it's part of a travelling exhibit that I wish I could see or be a part of. Thank you Ursula Bielski and Dale Kaczmarek for keeping up the interest and for everything else.

Yours in spirit,
Judy A. Huff Felz"

Who is the Madonna of Bachelors Grove?  There are many theories surrounding the identity of this mysterious woman in white.

The photograph here shows two possibilities, side by side: sisters-in-law Kathryn Vogt and Luella
Fulton Rogers.  Kathryn, who married Luella’s brother, Burt Fulton, was heartbroken by the loss of her child, little Marcia May—who died in infancy.  The young couple’s baby was buried at the Fulton family lot in Bachelors Grove—under the famous Fulton Stone, identified with the “Infant Daughter” marker.  Years later, the child’s parents were laid to rest in town, at Zion Cemetery, with Kathryn Vogt’s kin. Could an otherworldly Kathryn be searching for her baby, buried so far away?

Luella (or Lulu) Fulton Rogers was buried at the Fulton Stone after her death from a hit and run driver.  Could she be restless due to her violent death?  Some believe that a resemblance seems to exist between Luella and the the “ghost” in Judy Huff-Felz’s famous photo.  Moreover, Luella’s baby sister—Emma—is also buried with her at the Fulton stone, but her marker was stolen long ago.  When it was recovered, it was not returned to the
Grove but, rather, placed into the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society, shown above left.  Could Luella be upset that her sister’s stone is missing? Is that was the ghost is looking for?  Curiously, old references refer to the Madonna as “Mrs. Rogers,” surely pointing to some connection to Luella.   

Luella (or Lulu) Fulton Rogers was buried at the Fulton Stone after her death from a hit and run driver.  Could she be restless due to her violent death?  Some believe that a resemblance seems to exist between Luella and the the “ghost” in Judy Huff-Felz’s famous photo.  Moreover, Luella’s baby sister—Emma—is also buried with her at the Fulton stone, but her marker was stolen long ago.  When it was recovered, it was not returned to the Grove but, rather, placed into the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society, shown above left.  Could Luella be upset that her sister’s stone is missing? Is that was the ghost is looking for?  Curiously, old references refer to the Madonna as “Mrs. Rogers,” surely pointing to some connection to Luella. 

A final candidate for the Madonna is Amelia Patrick—the first wife of Senator John Humphrey.  Another sad infant death, little Llibby May was laid to rest with Amelia’s family at Bachelors Grove, though her mother was interred elsewhere.  Could Amelia, like Kathryn, be making nightly visits to the Grove in search of her baby girl?

Whoever the "Madonna of Bachelors Grove" may be--be she phantom or figment of our amazing psychic creation--there is no doubt that Ms. Huff's photo of her will go down in history as one of the most magical "ghost" photos of all time.  Thank you for sharing it with us, Judy, and for sharing your wonderful photograph... and your story.

Ursula Bielski