Tuesday, September 6, 2011
A change of pace (Old Union Cemetery)
Normally with me, it's all birds, all the time--after all, my personal motto is, "Bird to Live, Live to Bird." But I do have a few other interests; for example, I love old cemeteries, an interest which long pre-dates the birding thing, and which I attribute to a childhood in Newport, Rhode Island, which has some really nifty old graveyards.
There are several interesting ones I've seen in central Illinois, such as the cemetery at Funk's Grove in McLean county, which includes an Irish monument; the old poor farm cemetery along route 66 in Livingston County, which is just a sad little postage stamp sized thing surrounded by fields (strangely, one time when Sunwiggy and I stopped to check it out someone had left a "Tickle Me Elmo" doll by one of the graves -- I say "strangely," for those are pauper's graves and very old ones at that); and Woodlawn Cemetery here in Clinton, which has some Civil War graves.
So when I was in Barnes and Noble the other day, flipping through a book called Weird Illinois, I was excited to learn that there is an allegedly haunted graveyard here in DeWitt county: Old Union Cemetery.
According to the local lore, this place has really creeped out a lot of people; spooky phenomena include seeing lights whizzing by, capturing said lights in photographs, and feeling a sudden extreme drop in temperature. A grave surrounded by a rusty fence decorated with a willow tree motif is supposed to be the epicenter of the bad vibes; according to Weird Illinois, one theory is that the cemetery is actually some sort of portal. So obviously, after reading all that, I had to go!
To really build the up the atmosphere, Sunwiggy's response to my e-mail that I was going to find an old supposedly haunted graveyard, complete with the link provided above, was met with considerable alarm. Just seeing the photos kind of freaked Sunwiggy out, and she admonished me to be careful. I would have taken this more to heart if it weren't for the fact that all kinds of innocuous things creep Sunwiggy out, among them, her basement (I think she just wants an excuse not to do the laundry!) and bur oak trees.
As far as I'm concerned, I have a pretty open mind when it comes to the supernatural. I (very briefly) lived in an apartment that seemed to be haunted; I have had my share of weird "what was that?" moments and even a couple of dreams that came true. Greenturtle, on the other hand, is a complete skeptic, the Scully to my Mulder, so I figured we would make a good pair. Also, I needed his help in finding the dang place, because he has a GPS and a smart phone and the directions I could find on the internet were pretty sketchy. I also brought along a pair of completely impartial witnesses, my two dogs, Trevor and Raven.
The first day we looked for it was completely anti-climatic. Though criss-crossing back and forth along innumerable country roads, we couldn't find it. After a couple of hours, we gave up, and I decided to spend more time on the Internet pinning down the location.
Today, we tried again, and met success! It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with the first traces of fall in the air. The graves were very old, most from the 1800s. (Nobody get excited about the specks in the top of the photo; the camera needs cleaned.)
I'm afraid to say that the place didn't live up to its reputation. It didn't give me the heebie-jeebies. Not even a heebie. The dogs acted normal, too.
I strolled around with the dogs while Greenturtle took photos -- none of which picked up any weird lights, by the way. This is the area that is supposed to be the scariest.
With my ghost-hunting team:
Raven says, "I am not going near that one!"
Trevor says, "I've checked everything out. Can I have my Scooby snack now?"
For those of you who wish I'd go back to blogging about birds, I did see a phoebe in the cemetery. It's perched on the pointy headstone--you know, that tiny speck you can sorta see if you click on the photo to enlarge it.
Right before we left, I noticed a small headstone against the trees all by itself.
So, could it be haunted? Based on my trip today, I don't want to say one way or the other. Nothing remotely weird or unusual happened while we were there; but, every once in a while, I felt a little flicker, not even like the place was haunted. It just felt uneasy. However, after reading that it was haunted, and being warned by Sunwiggy, I could obviously be under the influence of the power of suggestion!
The only other thing, again inconclusive, was that the dogs didn't want to go by the willow fenced area. They didn't act scared, or whine or yelp or anything like that, but I had to literally pull them -- in Trevor's case, almost drag him -- to get him over there. Still, I have stubborn dogs that frequently don't want to go the direction I'm taking them, so I can't use that as proof of anything. Just something interesting.
Well, I'll have to go back someday and try it again, preferably with Sunwiggy!