Exploring Springdale Cemetery

While researching the previous post, I was introduced to Springdale Cemetery. Springdale Cemetery is a very large, very old cemetery about 20 minutes from where we are staying. Jeremy went with John Paul and I to check out it while we were looking for Dr. George Zeller’s grave for the previous post on this blog and we were not ready for this cemetery at all. Even with directions to the gravesite, it took us over 10 minutes to drive to where he was buried. 

When the cemetery was originally planned, it was a part of the Rural Cemetery Movement. The Rural Cemetery Movement was a popular idea of moving over-crowded cemeteries away from cities churches to just outside of the city. Those involved in the movement also wanted cemeteries to have more of a park like feel than previous churchyards allowed. Headstones depicting angels, cherubs, and other decorative statues became more common place in the cemeteries. Ponds and water features were also brought in to help provide a more calming environment for those that visited the new cemeteries. Springdale Cemetery embraced these new changes into its designs. The Springdale Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Illinois. Interments at the cemetery began in the spring of 1857. The first person to be buried there is Ben Frank Powell. Powell was the child of a local judge named Judge Elihu Powell. The Mausoleum was completed in 1929 and was designed by an architectural firm out of Chicago named Lovell & Lovell. There are many sections to Springdale Cemetery including a large section for military members and veterens. There is also a pet cemetry section but thankfully its not a Stephen King styled pet cemerety. In the pet cemetery section there are dogs, cats, horses and even a lion buried there. The lion was a male lion named Boomer who lived at the Peoria Zoo for most of his life. Currently there are over 70,000 people buried at Springdale Cemetery. The cemetery is about 233 acres large. 

One of the sections in the cemetery has a reputation. The area is known as either “Cole’s Circle” or “Witch’s Circle”. A local, very wealthy family is buried in this area. The Cole family was the first to open a distillery in Peoria. The secluded area is arranged in a particular way. The graves are arranged in a circle. By the graves is a sassafras tree that has been named The Devil’s tree because of it’s trident shaped leaves. There have been reports of two people hanging themselves in this tree. One as recent as 2000. People claim that this area is used for witch’s or satanic rituals due to the arrangement of the graves. People visiting the area claim to see shadow figures darting around the area, hear disembodied chanting, random cold spots, or feeling like they are being watched. 

There has been at least one tragedy at the cemetery which spawn reports of paranormal activity within Springdale Cemetery. On June 17, 1935, Mildred Hallmark was making her way home from a date with a gentleman. They had gone to see a movie before going their separate ways. The 19 year old woman was last seen getting off a street car near the cemetery on her way home wearing a white dress and small hat. The next morning her family reported her missing and a search was initiated to find her. Sadly, later that morning, her naked body was found draped over a fallen tree in the cemetery. It was clear that she had been raped and murder. It took a little while but the local police were able to eventually find her killer. Her killer was a local serial rapist named Gerald Thompson. He was found guilty of her murder and was sentenced to death. He died via elecrtic chair on October 1935. Since her death, a woman in white has been seen in Springdale Cemetery. Often reported wearing a dress similar in style to the white dress and hat that Mildred Hallmark was last seen wearing. Many people have reported seeing her near where her body was found. If you are looking for her spirit, I’ve been told that the gazebo area is the best place to wait for her to appear. 

The woman in white isn’t the only spirit reported there. People have been reporting seeing apparitions for decades. Others have said that they have heard people talking but they can’t see anyone talking. People have also reported hearing music floating through the cemetery but the music isn’t recent music (usually descried as being from the 1920’s or 1930’s) and there are no passing cars to explain the source of the music. Visitors have also reported having odd encounters with people at the cemetery. They report they they start talking to another visitor (typically the visitor is described as an older man). They chat for about 10 to 15 minutes before saying goodbye to each other and walking in opposite directions. If people watch the man walk away, he fades from view after walking past a few headstones. No one knows who this gentleman is or why he chooses who he talks to. 

Spirits aren’t the only thing to be reported spotted in the cemetery. In 2013, several reports of what looked like a large pterodactyl flying over the cemetery came in. It was the middle of a workday when the reports came in. Multiple people said that it had a 30 foot wingspan, stood as tall as man, black in color, and that it barked like a dog. People who saw it said it was flying as high as an airplane. They said that it looked prehistoric. Some said it looked like gargoyle and others said it looked like a pterodactyl but with a less bony nose. The pterodactyl hasn’t been seen since. With us being only a couple of hours from Chicago, I can’t help but wonder if what they saw was Mothman since he has been reported up there several times over the past few years…

Whether you are there for the paranormal, visiting the dead, or checking out the history Springdale Cemetery is a gorgeous, peaceful place to explore. I know I will be going back a few more times before we move again. I want to see as much of it as possible. I will be doing a few walking tour videos on my YouTube channel. Please be sure to subscribe to my channel to see those videos. 

Starting next week I will be starting themed weeks again on this blog. With as much as I have driven down to North Carolina and back this year and with our upcoming move to California, I decided I wanted to look more into each state’s paranormal stories. Each week I will be focusing a different state and exploring that state’s urban legends, ghost stories, or cryptid stories. The states will be done in a random order. The first state we will be diving into will be New Jersey! If there stories about New Jersey or another state that you want me to check out, please let me know in the comments below! I look forward to reading your suggestions! 

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