Illinois November 13, 2016
The Story Behind This Seemingly Normal Place In Illinois Will Give You Nightmares
Cemeteries quite often get a bad rep for being overall creepy. However, surprisingly, a good many people find cemeteries calming and peaceful. There can be a great deal of beauty in the many headstones and statues that are lovingly placed by family members to honor the departed. And so is the case with a rather large cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois known as Woodlawn Cemetery.
Forest Park, a suburb of Chicago, is a village of approximately 14,000 residents.
At one point, this community was nicknamed the "Village of Cemeteries," because there were more people below the ground than on top.
It's true. Forest Park does have a lot of cemeteries.
In fact, the Wikipedia entry for this Illinois village places the ratio of dead citizens to live ones in Forest Park at 30-to-1. It's not a stretch to say that departed citizens and their final resting places are pretty normal in Forest Park.
Such is the case at this seemingly innocuous spot along West Cermack Road.
Upon first glance, this large cemetery would seem like many of the others here in Forest Park: peaceful, beautiful, calming and even spiritual.
But this graveyard has a hauntingly dark history that involves misfortune, tragedy and much more.
On June 22, 1918 the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train was en route to Indiana for a performance when they had a mechanical issue and had to stop near Hessville, Indiana to check out the problem.
While stopped on the tracks, the train was hit by another train that ignored the warning lights.
A fire erupted.
And what didn't burn was reduced to nothing but a pile of rubble.
When all was said and done, 85 of the circus performers were killed.
Many animals lost their lives in this horrific accident too.
Forest Park was at least 30 miles from the site of the accident.
But as coincidence would have it, the Showman's League of America had recently purchased 750 acres in the Woodlawn Cemetery in 1913 so that show men and women could have a final resting place.
And that's where the unfortunate souls aboard the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train ended up.
54 of the 85 casualties couldn't be identified. They're now buried in this mass grave in a special section of the Woodlawn Cemetery that's called "Showman's Rest."
The mass gravesite has unidentified markers atop the giant plot that just say "Unknown Male" or "Unknown Female."
Eerily, each marker is numbered, creating a haunting body count for the accident, a count that's etched in stone for eternity.
The wreck and the fire were terribly bad, mangling or burning most things beyond recognition.
Some of the bodies could be identified but only by their stage names. Their markers are merely labeled by the performer's showbiz name, like the one above that says "Baldy."
Showman's Rest is adorned with several large elephant statues, each with one foot resting on a ball and trunk hanging low.
It's said that the elephants and the other animals weren't given the same burials as the other "performers." It's said they weren't buried at all.
And for that reason the spirits of the elephants killed in this tragic accident roam the cemetery.
It's reported that late at night, when the air is still and there's not a soul in sight, the elephants can be heard wandering this plot of land and that you can often hear their loud cries.
Sad. Haunting. Creepy.
You can see more of Showmen's Rest in this short video from YouTube user Ghost Asylum. VIDEO
Showman’s Rest at Woodlawn is still an active burial ground for circus performers. You can find this graveyard at
7750 W Cermak Rd, Forest Park, IL 60130. It’s open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Have you heard of or ever visited Showman’s Rest in Forest Park? In our comments, we’d love to hear about your experiences here. Do you like exploring haunted places?
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