WORMWOOD FILES “A Visit to Bachelor’s Grove” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

Over the last 20 years, your paranormal pal Dr. Mality has brought you to many strange destinations all across the world as part of the never-ending quest for the inexplicable. But of all the places we’ve visited, both actually and metaphorically, none can match the eerie reputation of tiny Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in suburban Chicago. This small, almost forgotten collection of aged and broken tombstones has produced so many ghostly events that it has become known as America’s most haunted location.

Here at Wormwood, that can mean only one thing: ROAD TRIP!

On a sunny August day, I looked up with fellow Wormwood scribe and seeker of the strange Dark Starr to travel by car to Bremen Township in Chicago’s southwest suburbs and pay a visit to the spooky enigma that is Bachelor’s Grove. I would have preferred to visit in the dead of night but logistics made that impossible and besides, local police are said to keep a close eye on the place during evening hours.

The photos you see in this article were all taken by Dark Starr that day. I’ll tell more about our personal experiences there in a bit, but first let’s examine the strange history of the place and some of the many supernatural phenomena said to take place there.

The original name of the cemetery was the Everdon Cemetery, named after one of the Scotch-English settlers who arrived in the area in the 1830’s.  The first known burial took place in the small plot occurred in 1840; among the early internments were some German workers  who were tragically killed while working on the nearby  Illinois-Michigan canal. Perhaps the first ghosts to haunt the cemetery were those same workers, starting the graveyard’s lengthy history.

Eventually, the nearby settlement was named Batchelder’s Grove after a prominent local family. Over the years, the name became distorted to its current form of Bachelor’s Grove and that name attached itself to the small graveyard. The cemetery was only intermittently the site of burials over the years, with the last known one being in 1989. Bachelor’s Grove is in very close proximity to a pond and it’s likely the excessive wetness of the ground made burials there problematic.

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery did not really acquire its haunted reputation until the 1960’s. By that time, it had fallen into disuse and decay. Vandalism was frequent and many of the old monuments and headstones had been knocked down. The location had become lonely and isolated, attracting thrill-seekers, amorous teenagers and occultists. Rumors circulated that the Chicago Mob dumped the bodies of rival mobsters in the pond. Maybe the dead were unhappy with the callous neglect and reacted with all manner of hauntings and inexplicable events.

And boy, have there been a lot of those. Many of the great graveyards of Europe would be shamed into insignificance by the amount of weirdness and ghostly happenings at Bachelor’s Grove. That stagnant, scum-covered pond which is right next to the burial ground is the source of much of the haunting. The ghosts of a 19th century farmer and his plow horse have been seen rising from the depths of the pond. The horse had gone out of control and dragged the farmer to a watery grave back in the day.

If the phantom farmer and his steed weren’t bad enough, a ghost with two heads has been seen lurking near the pond. Who or what this could be, people have no clue. I wouldn’t be inclined to ask this specter about his condition, either.

Leading up to the cemetery, one can see the traces of the old Midlothian Turnpike, a once busy road which has long since been abandoned. Along the remains of the road and extending into the cemetery itself a huge phantom black dog with blazing eyes has been spotted. This is interesting because the British Isles are full of hundreds of tales of such ghostly canines and the Bachelor’s Grove area was settled by many immigrants from England and Scotland. The black dog maybe followed them across the sea…or at least the stories of one did. You can read my Wormwood Files story on the Black Dog phenomenon here.

Of all the supernatural phenomena in the area, none is more baffling than the Phantom Farmhouse. Can houses themselves be ghosts? Many in the vicinity of Bachelor’s Grove would say yes. Witnesses have seen a 19th century style farmhouse just beyond the thick trees near the cemetery. If they turned their attention elsewhere for a second, they saw that the house was gone when they looked that way again. Some witnesses actually saw the house slowly fade from view like a mirage. Others claimed that the house would appear and disappear in different locations. Nobody has been able to figure out which former house might actually be the phantom farmhouse.

No graveyard is complete without a “white lady” or “grey lady”. These feminine spirits stalk many old cemeteries and Bachelor’s Grove is no exception. On nights of a full moon, a “white lady” is said to prowl the area, mournfully carrying the body of what appears to be an infant.  During one of her moonlight sojourns, she may run into one of the phantom monks who have also been seen at Bachelor’s Grove. At one time, the ghostly monks were the #1 form of manifestation at the graveyard, but they have been little seen in recent years. It is entirely possible that the “monks” were flesh and blood occultists using the cemetery for their own sinister purposes.

Many glowing orbs have been seen floating amongst the tombstones. Some seem to be linked to specific graves and there have been many photographs of orbs of various hues. The usual explanations of “marsh gas” or “camera malfunctions” get trotted out.

It can be dangerous even driving past the cemetery. The Midlothian Turnpike is only a few yards away and is quite a busy thoroughfare, as I can personally attest. The area near Bachelor’s Grove has been the site of car accidents involving “phantom cars” that come out of nowhere to run people off the road and then disappear when no real car could vanish so quickly. No one has ever been killed by one of these ghost cars…as far as is known.

It seems beyond belief that such a plethora of paranormal manifestations could be linked to such a small part of land. But these are only the most well known of the Bachelor’s Grove hauntings. A much longer article would be needed to cover all the strangeness reported at the site over the years.

Needless to say, your pal the Doctor had to pay a visit to this (un)hallowed ground. So I gathered up my Wormwood associate Dark Starr for an expedition to Bachelor’s Grove…

Fittingly enough, the morning we left was smothered by a thick and eerie fog. But by the time we had made our way to the far south side of the Chicago suburbs, the sun had burned it off. Drats! Anyway, it was a surprisingly easy trip to the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, where the cemetery is located. True to what we had heard, there was no outward sign of where Bachelor’s Grove was located. A helpful jogger took a moment to tell us that if we crossed the road and followed an almost hidden path through the woods, we would soon find the graveyard. I half expected this gent to vanish into thin air after giving us the directions.

Although the Midlothian Turnpike is a very busy roadway, once we took the path into thick woods, we were really in Blair Witch territory. The path itself was the barely discernable remnant of the “old” Turnpike, fallen into decay. The woods and underbrush were thick and deep. After a little more than a quarter mile, we arrived at our quarry.

True to what we had heard, there was no sign announcing Bachelor’s Grove. The small cemetery was the same as many old rural cemeteries forgotten by time. I don’t know whether it was just the anticipation of strangeness you get from visiting a paranormal hotspot, but I started experiencing a curious pressure in my head. Not quite a headache but very noticeable. The graveyard was quiet and peaceful.

There was really no seeming pattern to the way graves were distributed. They were not in neat rows. As small as the cemetery was, it wasn’t close to being full. Always room for one more! The stones ranged from weathered, barely legible remnants of the 19th century to some fairly recent monuments. Some had fresh mementoes and flowers on them. The most recent burial that we could see was 1989.

A wire fence ran around graveyard. On the north end was the infamous pond that was the site of so much ghostly activity. It was a stagnant pool choked with green scum and weeds. A close approach brought a horde of croaks and plops in the water as bullfrogs fled for safety. A flotilla of ducks cruised serenely across the scummy pond, their bills poking the water for bugs. Just a few yards beyond the pond was a thin barrier of brush and the rushing cars on the highway. When cars were not rushing past, the whole cemetery was gripped by an almost supernatural hush.

Certain graves were more notable than others. One headstone seemed to be perfectly normal to both Starr and me during our visit. But once a photo of the grave was examined, we noticed two large dots, one red and the other blue, on the stone. I sure don’t know what could have caused it. In another photo, an almost perfectly vertical shaft of sunlight seemed to play on a tombstone. Certainly the sun is the culprit but at the time the photo was taken, there’s no way a straight beam could have come through the nearby trees to hit the tombstone.

One grave belonged to a child. It was piled high with all sorts of childish trinkets like toy guns, stuffed animals, pinwheels and the like. In an exceedingly tacky display, someone left business cards for a psychic on the grave. Hopefully they will be struck by a curse.  At any rate that was one of the most notable graves there.
As far as sounds go, Starr noticed a kind of scratchy noise emanating from the nearby woods with no discernable source. Cicadas or some similar insect? Who knows? Other than that, the area was very hushed and quiet, with only a occasional bullfrog croak from the pond now and then.

I decided to venture a little past the cemetery to see what was further down the decrepit path. I soon came to a kind of deep gully with a small trickle of water running through it. Following the sight line of the gully into the woods, I was struck by how those woods seemed to stretch into infinity. The forest seemed just as deep as ones I’ve visited in Canada and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, even though it was not that far from a major road. There was definitely that “Blair Witch” feeling of desolation. Speaking of which, we didn’t see any strange bundles of sticks, but some trees were marked with odd symbols. Gang marks, occult sigils or just childish scrawls? Who knows?

We actually did not spend a long time at Bachelor’s Grove. I can tell you now that any overt sign of spooks or weirdness was not found. But there is definitely an odd feeling hovering over the place…a feeling of loneliness and timelessness. A good place for a haunting, some would say.

This is Dr. Abner Mality, turning out the lights.