Murder Castle – Chicago Illinois

During the 1893 Columbian Exposition there was a doctor who opened his home as a hotel for visitors to the infamous World’s Fair.

Herman Webster Mudgett better known as Dr. Howard Henry Holmes was the first and one of the most sadistic American serial killers. The aforementioned hotel was built and designed by Holmes specifically to facilitate his heinous addiction to torture and murder.

The castle was three stories high and took up an entire block. Located on the ground floor of the Castle was Holmes’ own relocated drugstore and various stores. The upper two floors contained his personal office and a labyrinth of over a hundred dark and closed in rooms with doorways opening to brick walls, oddly-angled hallways, stairways that led to blank walls, doors that could only open from the outside, and a host of other strange and elaborate constructions. Holmes purposefully changed builders during the creation of the Castle, so only he would fully understood the design of the structure.

Most of Holme’s victims were female amongst his employees, as well as lovers and hotel guests. Some of the victims were locked in soundproof bedrooms which had gas lines installed that would allow him to asphyxiate them at any time. There were also victims which were locked in a huge soundproof bank vault near his office, where they were left to suffocate. After torture and death, a lot of the bodies were dropped by secret chute to the basement where they were meticulously dissected, stripped of flesh into skeleton models, and then sold to medical schools. Through the connections he had gained in medical school, he sold skeletons and organs with little difficulty. Now, why wouldn’t this have raise an eyebrow?

Holmes Hotel of Doom

He was also known to have cremated some of the bodies or placed them in lime pits for destruction. The castle included two giant furnaces as well as pits of acid, bottles of various poisons, and even a gruesome stretching rack.

The castle is long gone today, said to have burned to the ground and Holmes was ‘hanged till the death’ as punishment from trial.

The grounds where the castle once stood (63rd and Wallace) are now occupied by a US post office. There are persistent reports of poltergeist activity as the Post Office basement shares an left-over portion of the castle basement including a tunnel and trap-door.

Workers have reported hearing voices and screams, some even refuse to go down into the basement without knowledge of the previous residence.

Site of the Holmes Hotel today


Meet the Ghosts of Chicago’s Bachelor’s Grove

By Michael Kleen

Bachelor’s Grove in the southwest Chicago suburb of Midlothian has been an enigma for over three decades, but like most such locations, it started out with a mundane existence.  Over one hundred years ago, picnickers dressed in their Sunday best lounged under oak trees in the park-like atmosphere of the cemetery.  Two of the grove’s neighbors heated their small homes with coal burning stoves and drew water out of their brick wells, while horse drawn buggies trotted down the dirt road.  It was a much different scene from today.

Much of the origins of Bachelor’s Grove have been obscured by the passage of time.  Even its name is a mystery.  Some say it was named after a group of single men who settled in the area around the 1830s, but a family named Batchelder already owned the land.  According to Ursula Bielski, author of Chicago Haunts, the cemetery itself was originally named Everdon’s.  Its first burial was in 1844, and the cemetery eventually contained eighty-two plots.

In the early half of the twentieth century, the Midlothian Turnpike ran past the cemetery, over the stream, and beyond.  Today, the broken road appears to end at the cemetery gates, but closer inspection of a long ridge across from the stream reveals a roadbed that has been nearly reclaimed by the forest.  The road was closed in the 1960s.  Locals say that was when the trouble started.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Jason George, the body of a teenage girl was found in the woods in 1966, and in 1988 a man, who had been murdered by a former girlfriend, was found in the cemetery.  Aside from those gruesome incidents, grave desecration regularly occurred.  Bodies were dug up, animals were sacrificed, and headstones were moved or stolen.

Then the ghosts came.

One of the most controversial sightings involved a phantom house.  In the 1970s, Richard T. Crowe, a local ghost enthusiast, collected stories from dozens of eyewit-nesses who claimed to have seen a white farmhouse complete with a glowing light in the window at various places in the woods alongside the trail.  However, “there is no house on the property, nor anywhere near the site,” Ursula Bielski wrote.  “No property records exist to suggest that there ever was.” (Haunts, pg. 59)  She does mention that “most anyone familiar with the area will offer to show you the foundations of a house that they claim did exist.” (Haunts, pg. 61)

“Claim” is an interesting choice of words, since there are in fact two separate foundations, one east of the cemetery and one west of it.  Although the two are hidden in plain sight, both of them are very real.  As www.bachelors has well documented, there also exists two wells near these foundations.  Hundreds of visitors have probably seen these and later reported them as “houses.”  Time and imagination took care of the rest.

Another popular ghost is the White Lady, or Madonna, of Bachelor’s Grove.  Cemeteries in the Chicagoland area are overpopulated with these women, who are almost always searching for their lost infants.  Bachelor’s Grove contains a monument to an unnamed ‘infant daughter,’ which has become a shrine for visitors and adds fuel to the story.  This ghost, or one very much like it, was supposedly captured on a now famous photograph taken using infrared film.  Unfortunately, the “ghost” in the picture casts a shadow on the headstone she sits upon, suggesting that she is not very transparent; at least not in the way ghosts tend to be.

Visitors also commonly report seeing orbs or ghost lights, a staple of haunted locations everywhere.  These bright will o’ the wisps are patriotic, appearing in red, white, and blue colors.  Although I have been to the cemetery nearly a dozen times, I have yet to see one.

The pond adjacent to the cemetery has its own share of legends.  Stories say it was one of the hundreds of places scattered around Illinois where mobsters dumped their victims during the roaring ‘20s.  One of these victims apparently grew a second head and has been known to crawl out of the water.  Lastly, a number of years ago a policeman reportedly saw the apparition of a horse, followed by a man and a plow, walk out of the pond and cross 143rd Street.  The ghost is said to belong to a farmer who drowned in the pond when his horse decided to take a swim one day.

Disappearing cars, sometimes sleek, black 1920s and 30s style, or the sounds of car doors slamming, have been reported along that stretch of 143rd Street.  Richard T. Crowe has written that he personally witnessed two of these phantom automobiles.
Although the number of visitors to Bachelor’s Grove has declined, and vandalism has trickled off (there isn’t much left to vandalize), the curious still routinely travel to Midlothian to snap pictures, leave cryptic notes, or place offerings at the stone of the infant daughter.

If you are in the area, check it out. Parking is available at the Forest Preserve across the street, but it is closed after dark – no exceptions. For more information on Bachelor’s Grove, and other haunted locations around Illinois, visit The Legends and Lore of Illinois.

Michael Kleen earned a master’s degree in American history from Eastern Illinois University in 2008. He is the author of several books, including Tales of Coles County, Illinois; Six Tales of Terror; and One Voice. Michael has spoken on local history and folklore at Teapot’s Café in Beecher, Charleston Middle School, and the 2007 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. He has appeared on Joliet Paranormal Radio, AM-1050 WLIP, and has written several articles for Paranormal Underground magazine and KILTER – the journal of Gothic Art Chicago. He is also the publisher of Black Oak Presents, a quarterly digital journal of Middle American art and culture.