The M family lives in Lemont, Illinois. An old industrial town south of Chicago, Lemont is proud – almost deliberate – about their town’s culture and influence in Chicago. The town is fundamental to Chicago, one of the world’s largest economic metropolises. Lemont is the convergence of several key waterways – including the canal that reversed the flow of the Illinois River, sending waste south, instead of north, towards the city’s water supply. Lemont is also home to the oldest parish in Chicago – St. James at Sag Bridge. The same hilltop used by French explorers, is home to the 1825 chapel and one of the most haunted areas of Chicagoland.
Mrs. M is the organist at St. James. Around 10 years ago, after finishing playing music for Christmas Eve Mass, Mrs. M locked up the church, went down the hill, locked the campus gate and went home – but forgetting her phone. When she got home and realized her mistake she had her oldest two daughters call the phone to check it wasn’t lost in the car. Instead, a male voice answered the call and said, “Hello, this is Alex.” Now the odd thing is that the phone was found the next morning, where it was left – in the organ loft of the church. Mrs. M was the last person in the church and the one who locked the gate. No ushers, volunteers, clergymen, or anyone with any considerable amount of access to the church and campus is named Alex. What are the odds an outsider broke into the church, was up in the organ loft and answered the phone – while committing a crime – much less leave the phone where it usually lies. The afterlife isn’t as far away as people believe.
The informant, MK, is one of my close friends from highschool who had heard this story from his wife’s family and their encounter with local ghosts in their neighborhood, Mrs. M being his mother-in-law and the M family being his in-laws. While he has undoubtedly heard this story from them before, he took the liberty of interviewing his in-laws again in-depth to provide this story. Being Catholic, the realm of spirits, souls, and ghosts would not stray too far from his world views.
Looking to expand my collection’s scope, I contacted my friends from highschool through Facebook and asked if he had any he could share with me. By coincidence I contacted him in the middle of his trip to visit some of his in-laws and he promised to deliver some of the ghost stories he had previously heard from his in-laws.
It’s a memorate like this that usually freaks me out the most. Doing some more research on the area explains the myriad of ghost stories originating from a fictional published story involving a ghost haunting the church, as well as the amount of cemeteries around the area, providing that liminal space between life and death for these stories to flourish. Apparently the published stories on the ghosts of Lemont have become a community-wide belief so the ghosts, fictional or real as Mrs. M’s story suggests, only adds to the collective identity of the town and their local ghosts. While the name of the ghost in the published story is not known to me, the fact that this one actually has a name and supposedly spoke on the phone only adds to the level of personal investment that can go a long way into a believable tale. The prospect that it was instead a random person staking out in the middle of the night at church on that particular occasion feels even creepier than a ghost.