SPRING VALLEY — Located among the twists and turns just outside of Spring Valley, the old Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery lays hidden among the trees lining the road.
Established in 1914, the cemetery is the resting place for many Eastern European immigrants who settled in the area long ago.
Less than 20 tombstones stand within the grounds — many written in the Polish, Lithuanian and Slavic languages.
Off to the corner of the cemetery, the distinguishing Massock Mausoleum stands as a resting place for two brothers who were once businessmen in the area before passing away sometime around 1920.
For years, speculation has circulated as to whether or not the mausoleum is haunted.
Many have talked about the infamous "hatchet man" ghost who guards the mausoleum and scares those who enter the cemetery grounds at night.
The widespread notion the cemetery is haunted has attracted vandals to the area.
In the 1960s, a local boy broke into the mausoleum and stole a skull from one of the bodies. He mounted the skull on the dashboard of his vehicle. When word got out that it was indeed a real skull, police investigated the matter and confirmed the skull belonged to one of the bodies within the mausoleum. Once the skull was returned, the Massock family had the door to the mausoleum cemented shut.
The desecration didn’t stop there. Within the last 12 years, police were called to the cemetery when a dog’s head was found on the steps of the mausoleum. The animal has been sacrificed and burned.
Because of these instances, police keep a close watch on the cemetery today.
Debunking the rumors
The location has been visited by many paranormal investigators interested in locating what might be lurking among the grounds.
The cemetery has been rated as a top 10 creepiest cemetery by Michael Kleens, who wrote “Haunting Illinois: A tourist guide to the weird and wild places of the prairie state.”
Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley published the book, “The Complete Vampire Companion,” and related her story about the cemetery involving several men who encountered a “haunted, pale figure” there.
Richard Crowe, the famed Chicago ghost hunter, also paid a visit to the cemetery and broadcast his experience on WGN Radio. It’s been said during an attempt to spend the night in the cemetery next to the mausoleum, Crowe and his recording team cut the night short because of unnerving feelings they experienced upon the grounds.
Bureau County paranormal investigator David Youngquist has investigated many of the alleged paranormal sites in the Illinois Valley, using his experiences and findings to write books about the places.
Although he has his doubts about other reported haunted locations in the Illinois Valley, he feels the Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery is one local site that has a lot of paranormal activity.
After researching the cemetery’s history, and listening to local tales and legends surroundings the grounds, Youngquist conducted his own investigation of the site on a cold February day. He said a winter storm had just moved through the area, and left snow blown every which way on all the tombstones and trees within the cemetery.
To address the stories he heard, he set out to look for a glowing orange orb, listen for voices coming from within the mausoleum, and see whether something would tap back at him if he rapped upon the mausoleum walls.
“I didn’t get the voices from the crypt, didn’t get anybody to tap back and didn’t get the orange orb,” he explained.
Youngquist said he did notice a red substance dripping from the mausoleum door, which many had said was blood. Youngquist was quick to confirm the red substance was nothing more than red paint.
The next item to investigate was finding what had been disturbing the graves. Youngquist said people had reported seeing the dirt and leaves among the tombstones moved about as if something had been clawing at the ground.
On the day of Youngquist’s visit he noticed the snow around some of the graves had indeed been disturbed.
Upon further investigation, however, he noticed deer and rabbit tracks all along the snow among the tombstones. He realized deer and rabbits were the ones to disturb the ground as they were digging beneath the snow to get at the evergreen vine growing underneath.
Finding the unexplainable
Among the many tales debunked on that cold February day, there was one without a plausible explanation, according to Youngquist.
When investigating the mausoleum, Youngquist noticed the eastern side of the structure felt warmer to the touch, compared to the opposite side of the structure. Stepping back to further investigate, he realized there was no snow on the eastern wall of the structure, despite heavy snow on the opposite side of the structure. He looked around the cemetery and noticed snow was blown on all sides of the tombstones throughout the grounds. To him, this did not make sense. Taking a step back, he also noticed there was no snow on the eastern half of the roof of the structure, despite the fact snow was piled on the opposite half.
Youngquist also noticed the eastern side of the structure was warm to the touch. On the opposite side the stones were so cold to the touch he could barely keep his hand on the surface.
As a paranormal investigator, Youngquist has a theory.
“The theory I would put forth, if it is true, is that there could be a spirit that prefers this area and likes this area. It is peaceful and it could be it has made its home here and it could be it has attached itself to its last earthly remains,” he said.
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