October 27, 2004
It's a dark, starless night and you're driving on Gougar Road in New Lenox.
As you approach U.S. 6, your eyes stray to the side of the road, and you glimpse a man walking, his shoulders swaying with each swaggering step he takes. And then you realize -- the man's head is missing. Instinctively you shut your eyes in disbelief and look again -- and he's not there.
Sound like a ghost story to you? It is, and it's been reported numerous times according to Dan Jungles, founder of the Will County Ghost Hunters Society. As the story goes, the headless Gougar Road ghost is the spirit of a man who long ago hanged himself in a nearby barn. The sighting is only one of many reported cases of paranormal activity in the Lincoln-Way area, Jungles said.
There are dozens of unexplained phenomena in Will County, and more than 500 purported hauntings in the state of Illinois. Now, as a journalist, I tend to be skeptical about claims of the supernatural. In the daytime, at least. I like proof. Irrefutable evidence. But I like a good story, too, and I'm also open-minded to the possibility that things happen that we just can't explain.
So take a look at a few locales the WCGHS lists as haunted.
At the Sanctuary Golf Course in New Lenox, and in homes nearby, people have heard screams and loud knocking noises similar to drumming. Some people have reported a feeling of being watched. Others have seen balls of light floating over the golf course. At least part of the Sanctuary lies on land once used as a Native American burial site.
A little north of New Lenox, in the Messenger Woods Forest Preserve near Parker Road, people have also heard and seen strange things. As Jungles put it, "There have been reports of people walking through the preserve and seeing a shadow other than their own, but when they turn around to see if someone is there, they find themselves to be alone." Did that make a shiver go up your spine? Have the hairs raised on the back of your neck? Wait. There's more.
The Frankfort Township Cemetery off U.S. 30 is said to be haunted. Among the gravestones, some of which date back to the 1800s, people have reported seeing the ghost of a young woman wearing a white dress and carrying a crying infant. They say the woman is humming to comfort the child.
There have also been sightings of glowing balls of light moving around and then disappearing. In homes near the cemetery, people have said their lights go on and off by themselves, and doors open and close with nobody nearby. Some people have heard unexplained footsteps.
Jungles also knows of countless ghost sightings in private homes in the area. Many of them are older homes, sad homes with a history of tragedy or conflict. Others, like his own home in Shorewood, is not particularly old. The house where Jungles lives with his wife and two young children was built in the 1970s. But, as frequently happens, a recent remodeling project disturbed the energy of the house, he said.
Since then the Jungles family has been seeing, hearing and sensing strange phenomena.
That's why Jungles became interested in ghost hunting. He and some friends formed the Will County Ghost Hunters Society in August. The WCGHS aren't "ghostbusters"; they don't claim to be able to get rid of ghosts. What they do is attempt to document evidence of ghosts by using technology such as audio and video recording, digital photography, thermal scanners and electromagnetic field detectors. You can see some ghostly pictures at the WCGHS Web site at www.aghostpage.com.
Jungles said he's not afraid of ghosts, eventhough he's had some weird experiences. The strangest occurrence happened when he was investigating a cemetery in Minooka. His companions, a fellow ghost hunter and a psychic, were waiting in the car while he walked, all alone, around the gravesites. Suddenly a stone came flying through the air and hit him in the head, he said. Later he found out that the psychic had dared the ghosts to do something frightening.
Now do you feel a spooky chill in the air? Or maybe you're shaking your head in disbelief. Even if you're still a skeptic through and through, you have to admit it's a great story.