Turning right on Oakland Avenue where it intersects with West Main Street and heading north will soon bring you to Oakland Cemetary. While Oakland Cemetery is older and has the mystery sarcophagus which visitors can see at any time, Oakland Cemetery has far more incidents of ghosts and just downright strange incidents. Both J. C. and Luella Hundley, whom you might remember from the earlier article on Hundley House, as is Hundley’s son (and prime suspect in their murder) Virgil. There is at least one zinc tombstone in the cemetery. Zinc proved a popular material for tombstones for a period in the 1870s as it was cheaper and easier to form than granite and did not oxidize like bronze. However, stones made from it are hollow and thus more susceptible to damage than granite or bronze work is. With some searching, oblong depressions can be found along the north edge of the cemetery in blocks 80, 81 and 82. This marks the area of a Potter’s Field where transients and those too poor to afford a funeral and stone were buried, generally in a cheap wooden coffin. As the coffin decayed, the ground above it collapsed forming the depression. During the late 1800s, when the ICRR ran along the north side of the cemetery, if a hobo or transient was found dead on the train, workers would wrap them up and, when the train passed by a local cemetery like Oakland, pitch the body off the train into the cemetery, where it would receive a pauper’s burial the next day. Those unfortunate souls may account for the ghostly lights that passersby at night on North Oakland have reported seeing floating along the north edge of the cemetery and over the abandoned ICRR railbed (tracks were removed in the 1990s). In case you fancy a short road trip, similar lights have been spotted along the railroad tracks near Boskydell and Makanda.
There have also been reports of a young woman dressed in white seen walking among the stones on the eastern side of the cemetery. This may related to the stone of Thelma Wise, age 26 at the time of her death. Her stone, also in the eastern part of Oakland, reads “Murdered by Unknown Hands”, though official records indicate she died a suicide in Chicago and returned by her family to Carbondale for burial.
There is also the Schwartz Mausoleum, also located in the eastern section of the cemetery. People have reported it illuminated from inside after dark as well as finding the doors unlocked on occasion. One story tells of a young man who, while in the cemetery after dark (don’t do this, it is a violation of Carbondale city ordinances), saw the lighted mausoleum and found the door open. Bravely, or foolhardily, he entered only to see the image of a young woman in a stained glass panel at the other end of the crypt turn and look at him. Naturally, he passed out, only to wake the next morning on the cemetery grass outside the mausoleum . Up until about a decade ago, a visitor to the mausoleum early in the morning (after 6 a.m. , remember those ordinances), a visitor would often find holy candles and cards on the low steps leading to the door. However, in recent years, either those who left them have stopped or the city has been much more diligent about removing them.
So take your pick: glowing lights, ghostly woman or spooky mausoleum. Just be sure to visit Oakland Cemetery during daylight hours and content yourself with watching from the road after dark.