“Bachelor’s Grove” is the most historically appropriate name for the Cemetery and former nearby settlement according to publically published works by Brad L. Bettenhausen, President of the Tinley Park Historical Society. It is this variation that is used on the cemetery plat map in the collections of the Tinley Park Historical society, and the original plat for the Village of Bremen from 1853. Numerous other variations of the name exist, such as “Bachelor’s,” “Bachelor’s,” and “Batchellor.” The name is commonly understood to have come from corruptions of the family name of Batchelder, a locally prominent family when the area was first settled in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s.
Prior to World War II, the cemetery was a typical small township cemetery. In the days when picnicking in cemeteries was fashionable, family members would picnic on the grounds. Some would also fish or swim in the former rock quarry located to the northwest of the cemetery. After World War II however, things changed, and not for the better. Many family members of those buried in the cemetery moved out of the area and no longer visited.
When the Midlothian Turnpike was realigned onto 143rd Street, the former routing became a “lover’s lane,” and a place frequented by teenagers drinking under-age, and otherwise misbehaving. The trustees of the cemetery tried to get a new entrance onto 143rd Street in the 1960s, after the old alignment of the Midlothian Turnpike was closed to vehicular traffic. However, they were unable to gain the required easement from the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
It is also at this time that reports of paranormal activity surrounding the cemetery and nearby Midlothian Turnpike area began to truly spike, peaking in the 1970s and 1980s. This combination of isolated rural location not routinely patrolled by the Sheriff’s Police and reputation as a “haunted” area drew in many people whose interests were demonstrably not in the interests of the cemetery.
Vandalism of graves became almost routine. Almost all of the headstones were vandalized and broken. Some headstones were partially or entirely thrown in to the nearby flooded quarry. Others were removed from the property; some being recovered by police departments as far away as Maywood, Evergreen Park, and Chicago. Evidence of the performance of Satanic Rituals has been found in the cemetery, along with evidence of attempts to open and rob graves. This undesirable conduct was not performed by, caused directly by, or condoned by legitimate paranormal researchers. However, the same rumors and reports that attracted legitimate paranormal researchers also attracted those whose behavior was not up to any common standards of decency.
Just beyond the rear barrier of the cemetery is a small, stagnant pond. This pond, while outside of the graveyard, is still not untouched by the horror connected to the place. One night in the late 1970s, two Cook County Forest Preserve officers were on night patrol near here and claimed to see the apparition of a horse emerge from the waters of the pond. The animal appeared to be pulling a plow behind it that was steered by the ghost of an old man. The vision crossed the road in front of the ranger's vehicle, was framed for a moment in the glare of their headlights, and then vanished into the forest. The men simply stared in shock for a moment and then looked at one another to be sure that had both seen the same thing. They later reported the incident and since that time, have not been the last to see the old man and the horse.
Little did the rangers know, but this apparition was actually a part of an old legend connected to the pond. It seems that in the 1870s, a farmer was plowing a nearby field when something startled his horse. The farmer was caught by surprise and became tangled in the reins. He was dragged behind the horse and it plunged into the small pond. Unable to free himself, he was pulled down into the murky water by the weight of the horse and the plow and he drowned.
It was discovered at that time that the plot sales had not been correctly documented with the county and that the title to the land probably still rested in the hands of the descendants of Edward M. Everden. Cook County obtained clear title to the cemetery by condemnation. The cemetery is now under the supervision and responsibility of the Cemetery Trustees under the Real Estate Management Office of the Cook County Board. Through intergovernmental agreements, responsibility for the maintenance is shared with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, whose land entirely surrounds the cemetery.
By Neil Gale, Ph.D.