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Bachelors Grove Cemetery | Chicago’s Graveyard with Ghosts

Ghost Guide Daniel – – Bachelors Grove Cemetery in Chicago is a rare, haunted hotspot.  Visited by countless ghost enthusiasts since the 1940s.  A historic area with deep roots in the settling of one of the United States largest cities.

Oh, and don’t forget the countless ghosts.  And location to one of the Top 10 most known Ghost Photos in the entire world! 

These are the stories of Bachelors Grove Cemetery.

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Ghost Stories | Ghost Photo | Origin History | Vandalism

Ghost Guide Daniel Reads the Article
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Bachelor's Grove Cemetery
Looking into the Main Graveyard

Ghost Stories

Does it sound real?

I asked myself this question all the time while researching ghost stories for the podcast.  Wanting to be logical as I read through experiences.

And it’s true!  Many stories give me “cringe chills”.  Crazy accounts and claims, lacking detail and realism. 

Here are the solid ones from Bachelors Grove.  Not claiming any are fully true.  But, in my experience, they sound honest and memorable.

The Caretaker of Bachelors Grove Cemetery

Legend states a house once existed near the cemetery.  Short distance from the roped off main entrance of Bachelors Grove. 

The father of the house felt an obligation to the land.  Unofficially watching over it.  Ensuring respect for the memorials. 

Vandalism started getting worse at the same time the Caretaker was seen. 

Common description… a man seen walking the night-time path outside the graveyard.  Some see his shadow.  Others, an older man sometimes holding a lantern. 

The most vivid experience happened to two male students from a nearby College in 1971. 

Looking for the Caretaker House

The two guys walked the path at night.  Like many, they heard the ghost stories. Were told it’s a “spooky fun time” sneaking in at night.

Heading down the path, they saw someone walking towards them.  First a shadow.  Then light glowed over a man as he rose over the horizon. 

Seemed to a globe lantern.  The light shone a dim yellow-orange.

Bachelor's Grove Cemetery pathway - Caretaker sighting
Path to Cemetery, where students saw man

The stranger was upset.  Ready to say something, but the guys cut him off. 

They were used to older folk lecturing them.  Always ready to cut in and turn on the charm.

“Oh man, are we lost.  We’d heard about the graveyard, and some stories of a caretaker who watches the grounds.  Is that you?” 

They laughed.  The old man said nothing.

“Anyway, maybe you know about the house?  We’re only here out of interest.  Would never think of vandalizing anything.”

The old man stood still.  Eventually raising one hand, his index finger out, pointing down the path.

The guys thanked him and started walking.  Anxious to get out of the awkward interaction.

Walked a bit.  One of the boys got the feeling to turn around.  Spun, the other boy seeing his friend turned too.

Both watched the shadow.  A yellow-orange globe swung at its side.  Until it stopped, and the glow fading into darkness. 

Too dark to see if the man was still there. Both boys ran back.  The path was empty.  The man gone.

Bachelors Grove Cemetery Legend

This was one of the more popular ghost legends of the area for decades.  And as what happens… stories fade.  Only the truly energetic stories can last generations.

This is one of them.  Coming back to pop-culture after the release of Creepy Chicago in 2003. 

Creepy Chicago reminded us of the other part of the legend… a disappearing house.  Said it was once on the land along the same path, just beyond Bachelors Grove Cemetery.  Later demolished.

This was the house of a local caretaker.  Maybe not an official employee set to watch the area.  But instead, a dedicated steward of history brought forth by the cowardly act of vandalism done on the monuments of those passed.

The house appears to some who visit.  Then disappears back to an empty lot.

A rumor said it was the Blue House beside a cell tower near the entrance to Rubio Woods. 

Rubio woods house by parking lot - Caretaker House
Blue House by Rubio Woods

This is false.  That house is not original to the area.  Once moved from a nearby settlement.

Famous Ghost Photo

Not many Ghost Photos achieve the level of fame that the Top 10 Ghost Photos in History have done.  Photos said to have gone through skeptical scrutiny. 

Being hard to disprove is akin to proving them as something beyond-normal, or para-normal.

The majority of the top 10 photos are in Europe.  Makes sense considering the histories in those countries are longer, more violent and palpable. 

Bachelor's Grove Cemetery - Ghost Photo of the Madonna, Mrs Rogers or the Woman in White.
Ghost Photo of the Madonna

So, to have a photo or two featured in North America, namely the United States.  Well, this is special.

The one from Tombstone, Arizona is great.  But, in my opinion, doesn’t meet the same standard as the Madonna of Bachelors Grove Cemetery.

In Chicago, we have a legendarily haunted hotspot with more mysterious history.  A place off of a major city obsessed over by many ghost hunters, both professional and amateur, over multiple generations.

That’s rare.  But how valid is this ghost photo?

The Madonna

In 1991, a former member of a local paranormal group (Ghost Research Society) named Judy Felz walked into the graveyard. 

She was familiar with Bachelors Grove Cemetery, having researched it many times in the past.  Much while working under the GRS’s president, Dale Kaczmarek.

Kaczmarek was the pioneer who made the graveyard famous.  The well-spoken advocate of the area’s ghosts.  Bring it to amazing heights of fame from the mid-1980’s-on. 

YouTube of Dale Kaczmarek

One day, Judy Felz was there taking photos of the grounds.  Snapped away without seeing or hearing anything. 

As is common, the anomaly was seen after developing the photos.  Looking to see something on top of a gravestone far into a shot of the entire yard.

Magnifying it; the figure was unmistakable.

A woman sitting on the gravestone.  Relaxed.  Slightly leaned forward, as almost in a rocking motion.  Like if the woman was comforting herself, an act befitting of the legend.

Who is the Madonna?

Stories of the “White Lady” date back almost a decade before Felz snapped the ghost photo.  Seemingly spawned from a 1979 experience with a Monk-Like Figure seen near the main fence.  Said to be holding a baby.

Three years later, reports of the figure were clarified as a woman in a white dress.

The mistaking of the figure only adds to its validity.  To have disagreement over how the apparition looked.  Means there was experience!  Not just a bunch of people wanting fame and making up encounters.

The Woman in White is seen all around the graveyard.  Sometimes alone.  Other times, holding something many believe is a baby.

Dale Kaczmarek, President of the GRS, brought the account to the public in a 1989 book, “True Tales of the Unknown” by Sharon Jarvis. 

Claiming the Woman has been seen by Police Officers.  Men tasked with checking the area many times throughout the night, looking for vandals. 

“They’ve seen the Woman in White.  Told me about it but were afraid to report.  Fear of ridicule or being thought crazy.”

Mrs. Rogers

They call the Madonna, Mrs. Rogers.  The reason is awesome!  Rarely do paranormal enthusiasts capture the minds of local historians.  But the Madonna accomplished it (or maybe the Yellow Man – see below)! 

Maybe because of the world-famous ghost photo.  Or the history of the ghost itself. 

Either way, they dug into history, looking for any graveyard resident who fit the description.  Then finding a woman named Luella Rogers.

Rogers was revealed in the 1991 book, “More Haunted Houses” by Dolores Riccio.  With more details about the ghost…

  • “There’s an urgency in her manner as she wanders about, searching through the tombstones for a lost treasure.”
  • Followed by saying it’s a mother buried in the cemetery away from her baby daughter. 

Then revealing the small, mysterious gravestone only marked with the words… “Infant Daughter”.

The “Daughter” is believed to be the baby held by the Madonna.

Not Mrs. Rogers

Historians found a problem with the legend of Mrs. Rogers and the “Infant Daughter”.  The baby’s gravestone is in the wrong spot.

It’s a placement mistake.  This is not the daughter of Luella Rogers, but a replacement stone for one stolen during vandalism. 

The replacement stone was incorrectly placed!  It’s the stone of Emma Fulton, part of the Fulton family plot.  Which should be on the opposite side of the graveyard.

Does this reveal the Madonna to be the mother of Emma Fulton?  Not sure.

Yellow Man

In 1984, a man named Norman Basile wrote something in the newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times.  Quote…

“A month and a half ago, I saw an apparition standing by a tree. It was a yellow figure, a man with a hat, probably in his 40s,” Adding, “I took a picture on 1000-speed film.”

Sadly, I couldn’t find the photograph.

It happened during a camping trip in the area.  They explored Bachelors Grove Cemetery, walking about and taking photos. 

As a way to get the entire area all at once, Basile stood back-to-back with his friend.  Looking over, he saw the yellow figure standing beside a tree. 

It vanished, followed by some red streaks.  The friend saw nothing.

Heather Saw Him Too

12 years later, a woman named Heather went out with her family and a friend to explore for ghosts. 

Said she was getting bored.  Not that into the paranormal.  But that changed when she saw a man standing on the opposite side of the field.

At first assuming it was another ghost explorer.  Except, the person was oddly “dressed in yellow”. Maybe mistaking the yellow glow as clothes. 

She yelled for her dad and friend.  They ran over and looked, but didn’t see anyone.  At the same time, Heather still saw him.

“… I realized it wasn’t solid, but more translucent.”

Transfixed.  The moment was broken when Heather felt a cold blast of wind move through her. 

She freaked and ran.  Said, “I had enough and wanted out of there”.

Another Ghost Photo

In 2003, a second ghost photo in this very haunted place may have been captured.  Taken by Pete Crapia, the main organizer of the great website, Grove Restoration Project.

A historian had an experience with the Yellow Man.

After not knowing about the ghost because it was rarely experienced.  Especially when compared with the more famous Caretaker and Madonna. 

He was taking photos of the graveyard when something caught his eye.  Looked over to see…

“… a tall yellow humanoid figure.”

He caught the photo.  Telling his story and later finding out about the Yellow Man.

Yellow Man Ghost Photo?
Another Ghost Photo? Peter Crapia’s Yellow Man photo | Grove Project

Not sure, but this could be one of the reasons this historian has a love for ghosts. 

And great he does! Because the Grove Project is an amazing repository of Bachelors Grove Cemetery ghost stories.

Origins of the Name

The area around Bachelors Grove Cemetery was originally settled before the first land sale in Illinois. 

Stephen Rexford arrived in 1833 at current day 159th & Cicero Streets in Chicago. Right near the Conservation Area now housing the cemetery.

CLICK for a History Deep-Dive

In 1864, the land ended up with Fredrick Schmidt.  This is when we have our first mention of a graveyard. Given as,

“… reserving one acre of land for use as a graveyard…”

Many, and most believe, origin of the name is around Rexford.  Along with three other single men who helped settle the land. 

They were “Bachelors” (aka, unmarried).  Common among early settlements in the United States.

Another origin said a family with the last name, Batchelder, resided in the area as early as 1845. 

Even though this is mentioned on the Cemetery’s Wikipedia page, it seems to have been debunked by a historian (see above History Deep-Dive).

Daniel Boone of Methodism

The history deep-dive adds another, little-known origin.  The most dramatic one around a Reverend named Jesse Walker.  Considered the “Daniel Boone of Methodism”. 

Pushing his religion on settlers and natives along the Illinois River. 

Jesse Walker - Methodist Church in Chicago
Reverend Jesse Walker

In 1829, Walker’s son James settled an area south of Bachelors Grove, named Walker’s Grove (today, Plainfield).  Bringing the Methodist Church to the area.

One of the preachers was Wesley Batchelor.  Listed as, “… superannuated or worn-out preachers” from the Methodist Conference of 1852. 

That’s the only proven connection to that last name around the time. 

But disproven.  As there’s record of the first post office in the area established in 1843. Was called Bachelors Grove. 

Dark Years of Vandalism

Starting in the 1970’s, Bachelors Grove Cemetery gained a popular reputation.  The rise of Ghost Hunters coinciding with people seeking locations they could access. 

Not sure what caused the spike.  Maybe cause the most famous ghost hunting couple ever, Ed and Lorraine Warren.  They rose to fame through events in Amityville, New York, which happened in the 70’s. 

Either way, the cemetery was a perfect location for hunts.  Remote, public and accessible lands. 

The sad part… not all visitors were serious and respectful ghost seekers.

Party Ghost Stories

Older than the ghost hunters were the partiers.  Dating back to the 1940’s!  Young folks going out to a supposed haunted place to drink and tell ghost stories.  Tale as old as time!

Led to out-of-control vandalism.  Gravestones stolen, broken or thrown aside.  Graves dug up.  Disgraceful behavior! 

Makes me angry that people like this exist.

Some historians believe the grandest of the ghostly legends are because of drunken parties. 

Like what Brad Bettenhausen from Tinley Park Historical Society said,

“Kids start going there to drink and party. Leave trash behind, and you get the scary stories told around a little campfire or what have you. This is where the legends start”

Because of disrespectful visitors, sadly, ghost stories are open to skepticism.  Tainting the work of serious ghost hunters and history devotees.

  Highly worth a look.

Final Thoughts

There’s something deeply unique about Bachelors Grove Cemetery. 

  • So haunted even historians take notice.
  • Legendary ghost stories experienced and talked about for over 80 years.
  • Deep roots in founding of Chicago.
  • One of the Top 10 most famous ghost photos in the entire world.

Put these together, and it’s proof this is a rare location in the paranormal.  Something not seen at any other haunted location, anywhere in the world.

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