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  • Writer's pictureMike Smith

Bluff City Cemetery Investigation

Bluff City Cemetery Investigation Date: June 18, 2019

Address: 945 Bluff City Blvd, Elgin, IL 60120

Phone: 847- 931-6135


GRS members present: Dale Kaczmarek

Other investigators present: Mike Smith and John Klimek from Afterlife Tours, Inc.

This was a public evening event. History: The cemetery was consecrated in 1889 and encompasses 108 acres of burial plots. The name of the cemetery refers to a nickname for the surrounding town of Elgin and the bluffs that overlook the Fox River. When Bluff City Cemetery was built in the late 1800s, the plan was to move the bodies from the old Channing Cemetery over to Bluff City.

Channing Memorial

The problem was that Channing Cemetery was already so old that many of the headstones had been lost and many burials from the local mental asylum were made without headstones at all. Many of these bodies were inadvertently left at Channing and when they were discovered, they were moved to Bluff City Cemetery without ceremony and proper respect or care. The Gifford graves, founder of Elgin, are interred here in Section 13. The Gifford House formerly at 363 Prairie originally was a simple stone house. It reflected a construction technique native to New York State. The mansard roof and classical detailing (added later) show a Second Empire influence. This was one of the few remaining works of builder Edwin R. Reeves. Gifford Park and Gifford Street are also named for the original owner of this home.

Hauntings: The most commonly reported ghostly activity at the cemetery is little more than a feeling that visitors often experience upon entering the cemetery grounds. Visitors are said to get a very strong and distinctive feeling that they are being watched. This feeling is rarely ominous or scary, but is more often calming and peaceful. It is almost as if the spirits of the loved ones who have passed are watching the mourners and somehow letting them know that everything will be all right. People have captured evidence of other strange phenomena within the cemetery gates. Paranormal researchers have captured orbs, strange lights and shadowy figures on camera.

Equipment setup: No equipment was set up as this was a public ghost hunt, so only hand-held equipment was employed. Experiments performed: Participants used Dowsing Rods under the instruction of Klimek. I used my digital recorder along with my Ovilus X in dictionary mode, digital camera and Nightshot camcorder and the X-Cam SLS device. We stopped at multiple locations including a grouping of three side-by-side mausoleums, a holding crypt, a military section of the cemetery and a children’s section.

Personal experiences: While being walked through and just after passing the grouping of three side-by-side mausoleums, I heard a disembodied voice say, “Don’t _______ me.” I think it actually said, “Don’t leave me” which would have been interesting as the group was moving away from those crypts. A had a number of freshly-charged or brand-new batteries die multiple times in multiple devices including my Ovilus X, supplemental IR light for my Nightshot camcorder and several batteries for my Nightshot unit. These were all fully charged the night before and the IR unit had lithium batteries which are quite expensive and last 20% longer than conventional batteries. Also near the intersection of Cherry and Dell Avenue, I heard another disembodied female voice that very clearly said, “What you’re doing?” It sounded like it came from my left side possibly no more than 30-40 feet away. (Note: there was some minor contamination coming from some nearby homes that border the cemetery but I do not believe that this voice traveled that far away. Evidence collected: No audible evidence was collected and nothing on the X-Cam SLS device. Words spoken by the Ovilus X in dictionary mode: tide, question, decided, freeze, add and freeze. (Then the lithium battery died)

Conclusions: It is always a unique experience to investigate a cemetery legally at night. Bluff City Cemetery is quite a large location and was a great experience despite the weather. It did drizzle a little bit but no major downpours so we were able to complete the entire cemetery route planned for that evening. There was some extensive walking involved to reach each location and some of the hills did get the ol’ blood racing a bit. Klimek did claim to hear the sound of children giggling when we arrived at the children’s section. The Holding Crypt was unique and After-Life Tours, Inc. actually had a key to allow us access to this massive crypt which was used primarily for holding bodies until the ground was soft enough after the winter freeze to allow for those bodies to be interred. It could hold 60 bodies and was a little creepy to say the least. Nothing out of the ordinary was perceived here and we moved on to James Gifford’s grave, the founder of the city of Elgin. Born January 1, 1800 and died August 10, 1850. He founded the town of Elgin in 1835. His marker is a large one with a figure pointing west. It can be found in Section 13. Originally he was buried in the old Channing Cemetery where the Channing Elementary School is now located. He donated the land and was buried in Block 2, Lot 5. In 1929 the Gifford graves were moved to Bluff City Cemetery. His grave was never disturbed by the later construction of the school as it was very close to Channing Street.

I would recommend After-Life Tours, Inc. to anyone as they provide a great experience and also give something back to the cemetery from the proceeds of their tours which is something that I have not found any other tour company doing.

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