Excitement coursed through our veins as music poured out of the car’s speakers. The right turn signal blinked slowly as we made the sharp turn into Calvary Cemetery. The late afternoon light peeked through the orange and yellow leaves of the old trees. I pulled Phantom, my baby, over and grabbed my purse before locking the doors behind Emily and I.
We had decided to ring in the start of fall with a walk around the oldest existing burial grounds established by the Archdiocese of Chicago. We had heard that the cemetery was haunted by a spectre of a man, covered in seaweed. This freaky phantom, nicknamed “Seaweed Charlie” has been seen crawling from the lake, crossing Lakeshore Drive, and heading towards the graveyard.
We slowly began our way through the cemetery walking in between the rows of headstones. We talked about death and wondered if the older graves still had living relatives that visited. As we talked something caught the corner of my eye. As I got closer to the object I noticed that it looked like a calcified tree with vines running over it. It’s branches were broken off and what looked like a old school fireman’s helmet sat on top of the tree. I could barely make out the name William inscribed in the parchment.
I turned towards Emily asking her if she had ever seen a tree headstone. She was just as perplexed as I was by the headstone. “Siri, what does a tree headstone mean?” Emily questioned the first smart phone she’s ever had. Siri told us that it marks the grave of a Woodmen of the World member. Intrigued by this information, and thinking it was a secret society, we decided to explore the topic further.
Woodmen of the World is a fraternal benefit society based in Omaha, Nebraska. The tombstones were an early benefit of having a Woodmen of the World membership. However, the program was abandoned in the 1920s because it was too costly. A common inscription on these tombstones is “Here rests a Woodman of the World.” These tombstones can be found throughout the Nation in older cemeteries. Emily read the information to me as we continued to wind our way through the vast number of graves.
The next thing I saw looming tall was a huge mausoleum. I walked towards it, Emily trailing behind me talking excitedly. I didn’t hear what she said as I was too focused on the intricate doors in front of me. I began to walk up the mausoleum steps while conversing with Emily. I was halfway up the steps when I stopped and turned to her. Jokingly I said to her, “What if we look through the door and we see something move on the other side of them?” She just rolled her eyes at me and began to walk up the steps as well. She got to the top step and I began to walk up the steps again when she got startled and began to quickly back down the steps while facing the doors. “I saw something move!” she exclaimed. I tilted my head to the left and moved closer. “OH! It was your hair’s reflection!” she laughed while explaining that my platinum blonde hair looked like a figure moving in the reflection on the glass doors in the dusk light.
I laughed with her and began to walk away from the mausoleum and told her that we should start to make our way back to the car. I faced east and began to walk towards Lake Michigan and the entrance to the cemetery, where the car was parked.
It was time to find our next adventure.