When I was a child, I grew up between two very different worlds. My parents were divorced, and my mom lived in northern Illinois near the Wisconsin border. While my dad resided in the various neighborhoods in the north side of Chicago. So, as you can imagine, I loved both equally.
Whenever we went to stay with him in his Uptown neighborhood apartment, we would pass through the busy intersection of Clark and Irving Park Road. I was awestruck by the imposing brick walls and black iron fencing that ran along the road. Of course, it wouldn’t be long before I learned that the stone wall belonged to Graceland Cemetery, one of Chicago’s most iconic haunts.
Although Graceland Cemetery is in a very urban area, it’s considered a perfect example of a rural cemetery. A style of burial ground with landscaped grounds that originated in the overcrowded cities of Europe; and overcrowding was a serious problem the Windy City of the nineteenth century faced.
When the cemetery was established in 1860, it wasn’t considered a part of the booming metropolis Chicago was becoming. This changed in the aftermath of the devastating fire that almost wiped Chicago off the map in 1871. Lincoln Park’s city cemetery was severely damaged by the fire and shut down. Due to this, dozens of bodies were sent to Graceland for reburial. A move that prompted city officials to incorporate Graceland and its surrounding neighborhood into the city proper.
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Among the many graves in Graceland, several notable figures from Chicago’s history are laid there in eternal rest. Their gravestones and mausoleums reflect the wealth and privilege they knew in life. We’ll start our tour with a peculiar pyramid shaped tomb known as the Schoenhofen mausoleum.
If there ever was a beer king of Chicago, Prussian immigrant, Peter Schoenhofen was it. His claim to fame was building an empire of the finest suds in the Chicagoland area. When he passed from this world in 1893, his family contracted Richard E Schmidt to design a Mausoleum that would reflect their dearly departed’s greatness. The pyramid shaped structure incorporated both Egyptian and Christian symbols. Standing to the right of the door, a sphinx and to the left, an angel. The unique design of the mausoleum has attracted visitors from all over the world to study it.
George Pullman, the wealthy industrialist who revolutionized rail travel with the Pullman sleeping car has an unusual grave and burial. Pullman, like many of his contemporaries, had a deep abiding fear of labor unrest. A common political and social issue of the day. Pullman feared, disgruntled workers might rob his grave or even steal his body. To ensure this never happened, Pullman was interred in a lead lined casket sealed in a steel and concrete vault. Pullman went to further extraordinary lengths by being buried under cover of dark. Forever ensuring no disgruntled worker would ever disturb his rest.
Our last two unusual graves in this north side city of the dead, are two of its most unusual. And not just for being strange, but for possibly being haunted as well.
Silently keeping watch over Graceland is an ominous monument that looks like the grim reaper coming to collect souls. This dark and sinister monument has a name almost as off-putting as its appearance, Eternal Silence.
This bronze monument backdropped by black granite is a grave marker for the appropriately named, Dexter Graves. Graves was a pioneer who successfully guided a party of thirteen families across the Midwest prairies from Ohio to Chicago in 1831. The sinister monument is considered eerie by some and nightmare inducing to others. Perhaps this is why so many unnerving legends have popped up over the years about this grim statue.
The most popular urban legend is the statue’s ability to foretell someone’s death. It’s said, if you lock your gaze on its cold, lifeless eyes you will see your own demise. Many have taken up that challenge, me included, and thankfully we lived to tell the tale.
Deep within Graceland Cemetery can be found another of its iconic haunted grave markers. Sitting atop a stone pedestal, encased in a glass box is the haunting statue of a little girl, Inez Clarke. According to the many stories surrounding this statue, little Inez, was struck and killed by lightening while her and her family were having a picnic. Inez’s parents watched in horror as the bright flash descended from the sky and ended their little girl’s life.
After burying their beloved daughter, the Clarkes had the lifelike statue placed over her grave. The box was later added to protect it from the elements. Even though she was dead, Inez’s fear of thunderstorms followed her to the grave.
The statue of Inez Clarke is rumored to come to life when a thunderstorm rolls over the skyscrapers of the Windy City. One popular tale is of a night watchman who discovered the case empty during a storm. The next day, when the sun was shining and the storm was gone, the statue of Inez Clarke was back in its case, covered in water.
The statue taking on a life of its own isn’t the only supernatural phenomena surrounding the grave of Inez Clarke. Visitors have reported seeing a small girl unaccompanied by adults playing around the grave. When they ask the little girl where her parents are, she giggles and vanishes, leaving a very stunned witness to ponder what they had just experienced.
Graceland Cemetery at the intersection of Clark and Irving Park Road is open daily to the public. Both historical and ghost tours are offered to teach people the history of Chicago and about the ghosts who haunt this beautifully manicured necropolis.
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