Legends are by their very nature mysteries that can’t be proven either true or false. They spring from thin air, mostly fictional renditions of some story that one person heard from another person. Most times, everyone who hears it adds their own embellishments to the tale until it scarcely resembles the original story.
Sometimes these legends are based on actual facts that can be proven and other times, they are completely fabricated. One thing that fascinates folks who study legends and lore of a region is how quickly they spread. And how slow they are to fade even when facts disprove their validity.
There is a local legend that is a perfect example of one of these types of stories. It involves a grave located in Rockton Cemetery in Rockton, Illinois. The cemetery itself was officially established in 1857 but contains graves going back to 1847. Find a grave contains quite a bit of information about a lot of the people buried here. This author is always extremely grateful to those who spend their time researching and documenting the burials in these small cemeteries. They have saved a lot of stories that would have been lost a long time ago if not for their dedication to local history.
It is the fact that there has been so much documentation at this cemetery that makes the legend even more mysterious. The legend has been circulating for at least 20 years and it is based on a baby’s grave that is contained within a small fenced area.
The story shared for two decades is that a young woman who lived in Rockton in the 1854-55 time period was deemed a witch by the townsfolk. The young lady became pregnant though she had no boyfriend or husband at the time. The baby died at about 10 months old under very mysterious circumstances. According to some versions of the story, the young mother sacrificed her own baby as an offering to the devil.
Shortly after the baby died, folks started seeing strange lights and shadows moving through that portion of the cemetery. Others claimed to hear wailing and feeling an intense cold near the grave. The fence was allegedly placed to keep the evil that surrounded the grave cordoned off in an attempt to contain the spirits of the young witch or her demon child from wandering. The legend states that the young woman was forced to flee her home on the edge of town in the middle of winter and succumbed to the elements. She was not buried in the cemetery because of her alliance with the devil and her spirit can be seen on the edges of the cemetery trying to get in to be united with her child.
Modern day visitors have written accounts of their visits to the small cemetery and told stories of feeling intense sadness and also anger. They have picked flowers from inside the fenced area and then the flowers wilted and dried right before their eyes. Some have also picked the beautiful flowers as a memento only to notice on the return ride home that those same flowers became infested with insects crawling all over the petals.
There are some who visit here who leave presents for the baby. The grave is covered with stuffed animals, cars, and other child appropriate gifts. But other things are left within the fenced area, too. Macabre skeletons, creepy postcards, and cans of alcoholic beverages line the grave.
The Haunted Rockford Crew has been visiting this grave for a while now and has researched the claims and the actual history of the baby and his family. The crew has had their own experiences and were surprised to learn the real truth of the haunting of this grave.
The child buried here was not born out of wedlock. His name was Charles Wright and his parents were James and Elizabeth. They were married in Winnebago County in 1849 and settled in Rockton Township where James worked as a blacksmith. By the time Charles was born in February 1855, the couple already had a son George and a daughter named Mary. Charles died in December 1855 at the age of 10 months old. According to the Find a Grave website, Charlie’s grave was being dug up by the wild animals in the area and the fence was placed there in 1857 to keep them out.
Child mortality was high in the 1850’s and parents feared the loss of their children just as much then as they do now. Records indicate that the Wright family must have planned to stay in the Rockton area because James bought five additional plots in the cemetery. They must have thought they would be around to visit the grave and to protect it.
The records of who was buried in three of the additional graves have been lost. The other two contain the graves of Mr. Paul Dalee who died in 1868 and his wife Mary whose death date is unknown. They are thought to have been family members of James and Elizabeth.
Neither James or Elizabeth are buried next to their child. They moved from this area and by 1870 were living in California with George, Mary and two twin boys who were born after Charlie.
James and Elizabeth may have been buried a long way from their little baby boy. But the couple does not rest in peace. The Haunted Rockford crew psychics were able to communicate with Charlie’s parents and find out the truth. James and Elizabeth are tormented by the legend that has been told and retold about their family. Elizabeth was never accused of witchcraft and the fact that the family was in the area for at least 5 years after Charlie’s death shows that the legend as it is told is untrue.
The feelings of utter sadness and anger do come from spirits but not for the reasons stated in the legend. They spring from the anguish of a young mother and father who have watched as people visited their baby’s grave. They appreciate the kindness of those who bring appropriate gifts for their beloved little boy. But it is those who bring the inappropriate gifts and talk of Elizabeth being a witch who would sacrifice her own child to the devil that frustrate and enrage James and Elizabeth. It traps them there and causes them to haunt the cemetery. They feel like those kinds of people desecrate their child’s grave and their family’s memory.
The Haunted Rockford Crew made a promise to Elizabeth and James to tell the true story behind the haunting in the Rockton Cemetery. Legends like this one die hard and we know that this one story is not going to stop folks from believing a tale that has been made up and
embellished upon for decades. But we will keep visiting little Charlie and hope that eventually we can set the record straight and bring this family the peace it deserves.
Copyright © 2022 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events