This is an extended version of our interview with Pete Crapia that we featured in the June 2010 issue of the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Download the entire issue by clicking here.
Pete Crapia is an electronics specialist and founder of the Grove Restoration Project. As web master for the Bachelor’s Grove Research Center (www.bachelorsgrove.com), his background also consists of studying physics, psi phenomenon and local history while residing in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
When did you first become interested in Bachelor’s Grove? What sparked this fascination?
I first became interested in the cemetery back in 1996 when someone I knew was parked on the old 143rd Street pull-off near the pond. Late one night, before the popular use of email and instant messaging via the Internet, I was listening to a specific CB radio channel that was used by some of the locals. A call went out asking where their “20″ was and a response came back stating that they were out at Bachelors Grove.
Curious, I asked the person next to me where that was and moments later I was on my way to the pull-off. I couldn’t see anything once we parked and all I could hear were the sounds of frogs. It was very peaceful just listening to the frogs in pitch darkness and luckily enough there were no other cars that came by during our time there which made it all the more special. We never did leave the area of the pull-off to go inside of the cemetery itself so I never did get a chance to see any of it. But I made plans with someone there to visit the next day during daylight hours and the rest is history.
The same night I made plans to visit during the day I was told that the cemetery was known for a ghost light. Otherwise I didn’t know anything else as far as the paranormal is concerned, not even specifics as to the color of the light. Having experienced some extreme paranormal events growing up the rumors of paranormal activity occurring out in the forest preserves caught my attention. Upon my first visit to the cemetery I was hooked. My love of local history, forest preserves and the paranormal all directed me toward looking into the history of the area and spending many hours out there. While pursuing documents I became even more fascinated by the many newspaper articles and books out there that told of the various tales of paranormal activity that most of us associate with the area.
My average visit to the area lasts about four to eight hours but I also stop by for the casual one hour hike. Over the years I have easily made more than two-thousand visits to the area and in that time I have been fortunate enough to have more than a fair share of paranormal encounters. Some of the encounters I freely speak about with visitors to the area while others I hold back due to various research purposes. For the most part I suppose you can say I am a believer in that something “strange” goes on out there from time to time. I have even become a believer in the disappearing ghost cars out there since I was able to experience one myself and that was long before I even read that such a thing was ever reported.
What has been your strangest experience at the grove?
The strangest experience I have had so far during my visits would probably center around the voice of a young woman. In the end the experience left me with a little bit of validating information as well. It was an average day and out of nowhere I felt compelled to visit the cemetery for no apparent reason. Upon walking through the main entrance to the cemetery I felt something that I never experienced before, and haven’t experienced since.
It was a feeling of total peace and I felt no temperature, it was as if that part of my senses was turned off. As I looked around the feeling became more relaxing and at times I felt as if I was somehow a part of the ground, trees and air. Overall, trying to put the experience into words doesn’t seem to come close to giving it justice. Not much longer after this wave of peacefulness began I felt compelled to walk back out of the cemetery and head west down the path which is a part of the old Midlothian Turnpike. It is from this point forward that the story strains credibility but there is a twist at the end that made me feel much more sane. While walking the path I suddenly became aware of myself looking out for traps, the kind of traps with strings or wires strung across. I told myself it was crazy to be looking for this sort of thing and my peaceful feeling was now starting to fade. It was a bit annoying to keep thinking about the traps and for a moment I felt like leaving but I also felt compelled to keep walking so I continued. No more that a dozen feet after wanting to leave I clearly heard the voice of a woman state “do you still see him?” and I turned to face the direction of the voice. I was expecting the woman to be standing next to me because the voice was loud and clear as if she was less than ten feet away. But nobody was there and it was very obvious that nobody was hiding considering the surroundings at the time and the lack of leaves. At this point I was convinced that I was losing my mind and I wasn’t exactly feeling very peaceful anymore. I never felt scared but it was certainly the shortest visit I ever made.
The following day I received an email through the web site from a concerned visitor and they simply wanted to let me know that they found some sort of traps set on the path outside of the cemetery. They described the traps as strings strung across the path attached to small logs and branches in order for them to fall on people. They stated that they removed the traps and that they looked to be created by kids but I never told them about my experience from the previous day. If it wasn’t for the email I would still be inclined to think I was losing my mind. Today, I have my own thoughts on what may have happened that day from a paranormal perspective but I am always open to what other people have to say about it.
Why do you think Bachelor’s Grove has caught the eye of so many people?
An experience like the one I just recalled is not exactly a daily event out at Bachelors Grove cemetery. It can take way too many visits to experience something so a lot of people tend to lump all the stories into simple hype if nothing happens to them. In fact, almost every single time something strange has happened to me it was when I wasn’t even thinking about anything relating to the topic of the paranormal. The events can come upon you out of nowhere and all you may be doing is looking around for deer or watching a bunch of squirrels jump around.
It may be nice to have a camera or audio recorder with you just in case of a paranormal event but I know from personal experience that it may not do you any good. During one event I was in such awe that after the experience was over I looked down in disgust at the powered-up camera in my hand. Although I was originally just taking nature photographs I still had a few choice words with myself for missing that opportunity. A photograph may have the potential to say a thousand words but I tend to be more interested in the first-hand personal encounters due to the nature of the human experience.
Tell us about the work you have been doing to restore the cemetery and preserve its history.
Personal experience is what draws most people to the area too. Some of the true encounters, and even some of the not-so-true events, have made their way into books, newspapers and onto television. People love a mystery and it doesn’t seem to matter if they believe in paranormal activity or if they are die-hard skeptics, they will still show up out of curiosity. Since the cemetery is surrounded by a forest preserve it also draws in people looking to enjoy the outdoors. That is what has makes the Grove Restoration Project so enjoyable.
You don’t have to be interested in the paranormal to enjoy the outdoors and take pride in helping to restore the cemetery to a more peaceful park-like setting. In fact, there are so many facets to visiting Bachelors Grove cemetery that is draws in people of all ages and interest. Many years ago, and even today, teachers from various schools bring children there to learn about nature. Of course they even throw in a legend or two to make their visits even more fascinating. The Grove Restoration Project is also a great way for high school students to earn community service credit hours. When a clean-up isn’t taking place over at Bachelors Grove cemetery they can also find a lot of fun over at Bachelors Grove Prairie with a good old fashion brush-pile burn which is very much like a bonfire. All of the activities are coordinated by trained stewards for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and we truly appreciate their support in helping to make such wonderful changes!
How can people get in contact with you if they want to learn more about Bachelor’s Grove or help with its restoration?
If you would like to find out more about Bachelors Grove cemetery you can always visit the Bachelors Grove Research Center over at bachelorsgrove.com as well as the Bachelors Grove Recreation Center over at bachelorsgrove.net and the Grove Restoration Project over at bachelorsgrove.org
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