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 Amazon.com. 
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