Didn't They Learn Anything from 'Poltergeist'?

By Shannon in News on Jul 25, 2007 9:25PM

Remember growing up, there was that one graveyard you just didn’t go into? You weren’t sure why, but something about the place just gave you the creeps at any time of day. Chicagoist recalls wistfully (maybe not wistfully; more like hysterically) one dare-fuelled drive into Barrington's famed White Cemetery, where two of our friends wouldn’t even breathe the open air, opting instead to cover their mouths with their shirts. And when the car became mysteriously stuck in the boneyard’s driveway … well, it wasn’t a feel-good situation. (Later reflection points to the winter weather rather than impish ghosties.)

2007_07_oakforest.jpgThat creepy feeling might soon extend to whomever snaps up land next to Oak Forest Hospital on the Southwest Side. Cook County, in the midst of its many budget crises, is considering selling the land as an attempt to garner some quick cash. What’s the catch? For several decades, that land was used as a “potter’s field” to house the bodies of the poor and the homeless. You know the county budget’s bad when the government’s trying to sell off corpses. Despite being situated next to a hospital, we’re not sure if any patients or specimens were buried there as a rule.

Not all of the land was plotted for cemetery use, but the boundaries are ill-formed and unmarked graves are likely scattered all over. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, champion of the dead, wants to be sure no grave land is sold to unscrupulous developers. That may be tough, for visitors to Graveyards of Chicago describe the acrage as having “no signs, no stones … just a large grassy area with a few deer roaming.” Quigley’s hoping the CC Forest Preserve District will step up to the plate, but wouldn’t that be like money passing from one county department to the other? If the burial-pocked land does get dug up, it wouldn’t be the first time in Chicagoland. In Elgin in 1998, ground broken for an addition to Channing Memorial Elementary School revealed a plethora of bones and gravesites. The school’s location? A former city cemetery, from which it was believed all the bodies had been moved. Channing is now reputed to be haunted. Coincedence? We think not. Good luck with those desecrated spirits, guys!

Image via Cook County Bureau of Health Services.