Friday, October 26, 2012

One of America's Most Haunted Cemeteries...

Halloween is fast approaching.  This month, A Grave Interest has taken a look at several haunted cemeteries.  Get ready as we explore one of America's most haunted cemeteries.....

Greenwood Sign
Greenwood Cemetery
What is now Greenwood Cemetery, in Decatur, Illinois, was first used as sacred burial grounds by Native Americans, hundreds of years ago. Settlers to the area in the early 1800's continued burying their dead here, and in 1857, the cemetery was incorporated as Greenwood Cemetery.

Broken Window
Security Fence Cut
Greenwood is supposedly one of the ten most haunted cemeteries in the U.S.  Ghost stories began to circulate during the 1920’s when the cemetery fell into disrepair.  The cemetery association was financially broke; upkeep and repairs could no longer be made.  By the 1950’s, what had once been a beautiful, rural garden-style cemetery became a magnet for negativity.  Gangs roamed the cemetery at night, cults used the grounds, and paranormal activity surged. While some cemeteries have spook lights, others have devils chairs, still others have apparitions; Greenwood seems to have them all.

The legends of ghosts and mysterious occurrences are numerous for Greenwood Cemetery.  Here are just a few –

Barrackman Steps
Barrackman Graves
Barrackman Steps
Greenwood is made up of hills and valleys.  On a slight hill is a set of five stone steps, which leads up to four gravestones for the Barrackman family.  Many have reported seeing a woman standing at the top of the steps with her head bowed, crying.  But the phantom only appears in the evening, near sunset. Once the sun has disappeared, so does she.

Greenwood Bride
Local lore has it that in the early 1930’s, a young couple decided to elope because their families did not approve of their marrying.  The couple planned to leave at night after the man, who made his living as a bootlegger, dropped off his last order.  The girl waited for him, as planned, but he never arrived. 

The next day she was told that a rival bootlegger had killed her fiancé and tossed his body into the Sangamon River, near the cemetery. His body was later found and buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Unable to bear the news, the young woman plunged into the river and drowned.

The Bride's Grave
Her parents buried her in her wedding gown.  It has been reported that a young woman in a white wedding gown walks through the cemetery, weeping and peering at headstones, searching for her lost love.

Devil’s Chair
Devil's Chair?
The legend of the Devil’s Chair, or haunted chair, as it is some times known, has been handed down through folklore. The chair is actually a mourning chair.  It was placed by a grave, so that family and friends would have a place to sit when they visited the deceased. Mourning chairs are considered to be funerary sculpture.  

According to various superstitions, when someone sits on the chair, they will incur bad luck, or die within a year. Other legends promise good luck, or riches. 

Greenwood's Devil's Chair
Seat of the Chair
According to the legend of the Devil's Chair in Greenwood Cemetery, if you sit on the chair at a certain time, you can make a pact with the Devil.  You will get anything you want for seven years.  At the end of the seven years, the devil comes to claim your soul.  Many cemeteries have removed their mourning chairs because of vandalism. Greenwood’s chair remains...

Greenwood Public Mausoleum
The Public Mausoleum was built in Greenwood Cemetery in 1908 and  problems developed soon after.  According to reports, the construction was shoddy, and the mausoleum leaked. Repairs were not made and the mausoleum began sliding into disrepair. Reports began to surface of voices, crying, and screams heard coming from the building.

Inside Mausoleum
Graves Related to Mausoleum
In 1957, the mausoleum was declared to be unsafe and was closed.  Families were notified and asked to relocate their loved ones.  Over one hundred bodies were never claimed; some were never identified.  The cemetery buried these remains in several common graves, located across the road from the mausoleum.  The building was demolished in 1967.  But, it seems, many do not rest in peace.

Former Mausoleum Location
Overlooking Where Mausoleum Was
The site of the former mausoleum is still vacant, almost 45 years later.  No burials have taken place on this stretch of empty, unclaimed ground. Across the road, several common graves hold the remains of over 100 unclaimed bodies.  Reports of voices and screams continue to be heard in this area, along with lights seen moving at night among the common graves, searching for.........

Civil War Burials
Civil War Burial Area
Civil War Train
This is said to be the most haunted area of the cemetery.  During the Civil War, troop trains, on their way to confederate prison camps near Chicago, would stop in Decatur.  One such train stopped to unload most of its cargo; the bodies of southern prisoners who had died of yellow fever on the way north.

Union War Memorial
Union Gravestones
Wagons carried the Confederate bodies to the cemetery for a mass burial in a huge unmarked grave, located on the side of a hill. It was rumored that not all of those buried had yet died. After the war, a memorial in honor of Illinois’ Union Troops was built on the top of the hill.

Unknown U.S. Soldiers Graves
Retaining Wall in Place After Flood
Several years later, the Sangamon River, located next to the hill, flooded. When the flood receded, it was apparent that many of the Confederate remains had been washed away.  Those that were found were reburied and marked as “Unknown U.S. Soldier.”

Hill Where Confederates Had Been Buried
It was soon after the flood that reports of ghostly soldiers began. Cries and wails of some very tormented spirits could be heard in this area. Unexplained lights have also been seen roaming the hill.  Many claim the lights belong to those lost Confederate soldiers, still searching for their missing remains.

Hill Where Phantoms Were Seen
And, along with phantom lights, comes phantom mourners.  Greenwood has been the site of many spectral funerals and mourners.  Staff, and those visiting, have witnessed phantom funerals occurring throughout the cemetery.

Greenwood Cemetery
Greenwood Cemetery certainly has a vibe all it's own, and stories continue to surface about the grounds being haunted.  The cemetery is well cared for now and definitely worth a visit any time of year.  Greenwood Cemetery is located at the end of South Church Street in Decatur.  The cemetery is open from daylight to dusk, and a caretaker lives on-site.  For more information, visit

~ Joy


  1. Superb bit of history there certainly never heard of any thing like that in the UK. Thanks for that

  2. Thank you for the interesting tour. Wonderful as always.

  3. I would really like to investigate the civil war section of the cemetery. I have been interested in paranormal, and have visited greenwood cemetery in the day time. I would like to call myself a paranormal investigator. I have been searching and learning about the cemetery and the civil war at that time, and I can't stop. I have to find out more about this at night time and maybe help the wondering spirits find their way back to their first resting grave. If you have any information that would help me, please call me 217-848-1955

  4. Here is a list of paranormal groups in Illinois. New Age Paranormal Research is a group in Decatur. Boo Hunters and Mesa: Multifrequency Energy Sensor Array are both located in Springfield. I'd contact them and see which group you're most comfortable with.

  5. Hey, I was born and raised in Decatur. This is a lovely cemetery to visit and the caretaker may let you in after dark to do some paranormal research but if you get caught, he knows nothing. Decatur cops are rude, be careful. If you go on a regular basis, you'll see something. Its amazing .

  6. It's pretty spooky on a rainy day,too.

  7. What is the story of the man that is buried inside his tombstone standing upright towards the east, because he believes that when god comes he wants to be facing the lord. He's in the really tall, square tombstone.. I can't remember the name. I'll have to get back to you on it though. I just think that is really interesting to see every time I drive by it. You can ser it from the road. It's right next to the tomb that was broken into, and the kids got so scared, they left their stuff and everything behind because the top of the casket was glass, and they weren't expecting that.

    1. I've heard the story but don't know the man's name. If you find out, please let me know.

  8. My friends family is native American and the stories that have been passed down in his family is that the Native Americans cursed the land of the cemetery that all the dead buried there should never rest and that they cursed Decatur too

    1. I have heard about a Native American curse. Regardless of the cause, Greenwood Cemetery has its own special spectral vibe.