I often put books for the season in our family room. During December, there are books about Advent and Christmas. During Lent, books about the Passion. This year, I put out a book about ghosts. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
No one read it, of course, except me.
I stumbled across a great entry about “phantom monks”: “Ghosts of monks and other ecclesiastical persons that haunt various religious sites: abbey ruins, modern-day cathedrals and churches.”
Freaky stuff, especially the story about phantom monks at St. James Sag, near Chicago, which apparently are the subject of a Cook County police report. The following is from an online ghost site, but it matches the account in the Encyclopedia:
A very interesting encounter came from a Cook County Police Officer and a two-page report submitted by him. The event occurred on the Friday before Thanksgiving in 1977. The officer was on patrol about 2:30 a.m. when he drove past the cemetery. As he looked through the opened gates, he observed eight or nine hooded figures dressed in monk-like habits walking slowly up the hill towards the church and rectory.
Knowing there should be no one in there at that hour of the morning, he called out to them to come out and be arrested for trespass. The figures just continued to walk to the top of the hill. He then grabbed his shotgun from the car, called for back up and began to pursue these individuals himself. The figures quickly entered into the pitch-black cemetery and all the while being chased by the police officer that was stumbling over tombstones and unleveled terrain. The group of strange figures however was not having any difficulty at all. In fact they appeared to be silently gliding up the hill in unison!
The police officer arrived near the top of the hill within seconds of the others, but no figures could be seen or heard anywhere. He immediately ran down the other side of the ridge towards 107th Street but still found no one. After a thorough search of the region with canines, no clues as to the identities of whereabouts could be ascertained. He later believed that what he pursued that evening were not human beings but some form of ghostly monks or phantom manifestations. He based his conclusions on the lack of effort used to climb the hill in almost total darkness, his inability to hear a footstep or even a rustle of leaves blanketing the cemetery grounds, their complete and total disappearance and the inability of trained tracker dogs to pick up even the slightest essence of a trail. He filed these and other findings in his now famous, two-page report.
Like I said, freaky stuff. I’ve never believed in ghost, but I don’t disbelieve in them, either. Quite frankly, I’ve never given them much thought one way or the other, except when I was writing my biographical essay about Russell Kirk (who did believe in them, very much so).