Architects of a New Dawn

We’d like to show the side of the world you don’t normally see on television.

Maple Lake
By Barek Halfhand

Maple Lake is a man made body of water just off of the famous haunted Archer Avenue back roads ...the immediate proximity of St James, The Willow Brook Ballroom, Fairmount and Red Gate Woods to Maple/Bullfrog lakes and the long standing albeit less famous legend associated with that placid place in the woods prompted me to add this site to my ongoing coverage of this remote corner of Cook County...

A well stocked lake with a maximum depth of 21 feet and a tidy one mile of shoreline hosts a generous compliment of Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, White Crappie, Yellow Bass, Yellow Bullhead... my 3 recent visits revealed that this is still a popular local fishing destination and picnic grove where you can rent boats, buy bait and tackle or just take in the serenity of this forest vestibule ...

If you venture farther down the tree lined tunnel due south you will find the Pulaski Woods grove where this as one highest measured elevations in the County provides a panoramic view overlooking Bullfrog Lake below and a great sledding hill in the winter ...the inter connecting network of mountain bike and jogging path jaunts that can be staged from here are seemingly endless and the stone pavilions and picnic tables provide an idyllic setting for family barbeques reunions or even larger scale outdoor company gatherings...

The haunted lore surrounding Maple Lake is somewhat ambiguous and what you will typically find on those Shadow-Prairie/Spooky Illinois websites involves the recurring appearance of a phantom light that sort of hovers above the surface as a red luminescent red ball... spirit lights/bog lights/earth lights have been conjectured to be attributed to everything from ball lightning, sparks created by the friction of the colliding tectonic plates, an elusive species of uber-lightening bugs to some weird phosphorescent swamp gas phenomena and even the work of pranksters with colored flashlights ...personally I prefer the more logical explanation over all of the aforementioned posited, to that of the glowing red beacons in reality being the lanterns of decapitated, discarnate souls searching for their heads...

Looking back 20 plus years I remember when Maple Lake was un-gated and the sunset curfew seldom enforced...all night snowmobiling on those chilled, starlit nights around Bullfrog’s bowl shaped field and the heavily wooded trails beyond were an irresistible attraction that anyone with a sled, a hitch, a trailer and a penchant for excitement that a perilous, high performance winter death race gauntlet ...An average evening would find many like minded death-sled enthusiasts cross crossing the whitened landscape atop their arctic speed machines with unbridled reckless abandon...

Often these renegade revelers would make fireside pit stops to warm up with the expeditious assistance of blackberry brandy, peppermint schnapps, “Good Ol’ Uncle Jack” or a chilled can of Old Style from a case cleverly concealed in the snow nearby...hardly surprising that more than one of these motorized inebriates would find themselves kissing the broadest bark of a tree or rounding a narrow path corner where there is no predetermined or regulated flow of traffic to meet head on at 70 plus mph with another unwitting sledder and exploding on impact into a maelstrom of fiberglass, skies, engine parts and broken bodies...

My own supernatural experience at Maple Lake also revisits the mid 80's but transpired in the summer when the quarter mile clay track of Sante Fe Speedway would roar with the open header machismo late into the weekend evenings...one of the rookie class drivers there would often organize post race parties where he would imperiously preside over a seemingly endless supply of cold kegs he would deliver in a station wagon that bore an uncanny resemblance to the “Metallic P” from National Lampoon’s “Vacation”...Racetrack hierarchical etiquette dictated that track veterans or high ranking drivers would drink for free unless of course certain nefarious members of one of the Machiavellian “team demolition” crews showed up and all of the nuances and unwritten draconian codes of driver conduct went out the window...One such party I attended as a peripheral acquaintance of this social circle was held at Maple Lake...

The unchained Forest Preserve entrances of yesteryear created a myriad of liberating opportunities such as romantic rendezvous, camping, underage drinking and of course the aforementioned post racetrack fishing/ keg party combos ...these rotating outdoor summer soirées seemed to generally attract a core group of colorful characters and regular attendees, but one particular couple had a penchant for lurid exhibitionistic libidinal performances as the evening progressed and alcohol consumption relieved them of their inhibitions as well as their better judgement...it was a bizarre ritual that perplexed budding armchair psychologists and aspiring voyeurs alike, it was also inevitable aspect of the evening that you could set your watch to...They would engage this odd role playing charade that would often entail the girl flirting with someone else to raise his ire or perhaps they would act out meeting for the first time and take turns initiating flirtatious first contact scenarios...

That evening at Maple Lake it appeared that the gal elected to reprise her role a the precocious provocateur which seemed to be her bailiwick while her bow looked on with a stoic nonchalance and feigned indifference ...she would sit next to him engaged in some kind of coquettish seeming conversation then she would abruptly jump up from the picnic table and sashay up to the beer keg when a certain guy was getting a refill and sort of sidle up next to him with a greeting or quipped remark that I was too far away to hear ...generally most were aware of this pattern of behavior from these two that excessive alcohol consumption often precipitated and took her with a grain of salt and mild bemusement... “You two are at it early tonight I see” the guy chuckled as he pumped the keg for her while she filled her cup...she would simply smirk then saunter her way back to the picnic table with where her complicit consort would react on queue with a non verbal stare down, a brief hushed but heated verbal exchange or an exaggerated act of repentance by the female that would usually end up with them feverishly groping each other on top of the table or run off just beyond the glow of the fire where they weren’t as visible but would compensate by ridiculously audible moans and guttural exaltation of unbridled carnal lust they would really have to ratchet up to compete with the ever present boom box or car stereo music...

Those that weren’t familiar with the recurrent nature of this couple’s beer buttressed theatrics laughing heartily at the evening’s avant garde performance while most shrugged with resignation at what had become all too cliche...a sudden shrill scream from the woman managed to elicit the attention of even the regulars as this was a new and innovative improvisation to what was usually a tightly choreographed repertoire...this divergence from the usual fare drew even more attention as the panic stricken woman ran back into perimeter the bonfire illumination followed by her disheveled counterpart (yes she was dressed )...

”There’s something standing by the trees ”...the look of shock and terror in her eyes immediately dismissed any speculation that this was merely an additional new component meant to infuse new life into an increasingly stale storyline ...”it was just standing there watching us, it’s a demon ” ...her boyfriend casually tucking in his shirt behind her shook his head implying he didn’t see anything ...”Go look, it’s still there ” her eyes widening as her escalating state of hysteria revealed no sign of compunction for sounding a false alarm or partaking in an elaborate prank...The suggestion to go investigate was accepted with alacrity by 4-5 of us with flashlights in hand as this unexpected excitement was certainly an effective antidote to the banality of yet another night of brew swilling and mosquito swatting ...as we approached the small copse of trees 20 or so odd yards away from the shoreline with our lights trained on the area she pointed out, we didn’t see anything and split up to encircle the thicket thus preventing the escape of the alleged “watcher”...as our flashlight beams crossed from opposite sides in our sweeping search grid pattern, they fell on a black, rippling, heat wave sort of distortion towards the center that immediately darted behind the nearest tree when my light fell on it...”did you see that?” I called to the others as I maneuvered to see if I could catch it from another angle, the impenetrable bramble preventing me from moving closer ...”no” they replied in unison...”what did you see?” ... not wanting to be categorize as prone to similar panic attack precipitated hallucinations we just witnessed by the interactive drama queen, I replied in a subdued tone that belied my growing anxiety; “I thought I saw something, it was probably my imagination” ...As we returned to the gathering next the fire I glimpsed back just in time to catch a lithe, dark figure moving at a preternatural pace from the tree patch to the forest border ...I said nothing ...

The couple had already left and I could see the unmistakable round tail lights of his early 70's Chevelle SS at a distance lighting up as he braked for the final turn before exiting...I don’t recollect seeing either one of them again the rest of the summer, or ever for that matter...I did in fact run into someone a few years back that was present that night at Maple Lake but he remembers nothing of the incident...

I made 3 visits to Maple Lake for photos/videos to accompany this article in late May/early June of 2011...the first, just at daybreak, the second on a drizzly, overcast afternoon... the final installment took place at a 4am where the surreal stillness of the forest and black water depths of the lake provoked a sense of instinctual vulnerability in me that seldom fails to be a humbling experience...the concept of elemental spirits is often bandied about in some of the more eclectic circles on the net and oddly the gnomes and nymphs of earth and water seemed determined to interject themselves into my active subconscious this time around...the shrouded quietude of the expiring night was only violated by the period rustling and chattering of woodland creatures the earliest of morning songbirds and one particularly ornery goose claiming his end of the lake...as the somnolent veil of darkness slowly surrendered to the easterly orange glow of the coming sun, the headlights of the periodic morning commuters became more frequent and a couple even stopped at the overlook lot to cast a few worms before work or better yet; to kick of a day of playing hooky...the game fish I’ve seen pulled from these lakes are generally paltry and constitute a “catch and release” but the die hard local sportsmen seem to love it nonetheless and by daybreak the overlook lot was more than half full...

The gate to the south entrance corridor was still locked after sunrise so I parked and walked to the southwest end were the boat rental docks and office/bait shop is located...conspicuous by it’s absence was the old pale blue station wagon that had always been a fixture of this place for years back was conspicuous by it’s absence but I figured that time had finally claimed the old land vessel...as I leaned over the fence for some shots of the sun rising over the lake, I heard a vehicle rolling up behind me and much to my pleasant surprise, the light blue station wagon that I always thought was just an inoperable decoy to detour overnight bait shop burglars passed me...the middle aged gentleman driver waved amicably as he rumbled up the narrow drive and parked by the gated docks to start another summer day by the lake like he has so many in the past ...

The mosquitoes were relentless on each of the three visits and probably the biggest source of panic I encountered...the disembodied spirits and snowmobile suited specter that roams these woods and shores seemed rather innocuous by comparison to the ravenous, winged vampiric creatures that relentlessly swarm in a blood-lust frenzy ...

Bullfrog Lake is just as I remembered it and every bit as tranquil...the bowl shaped topography of the grounds almost form an acoustic shell that insulates the area from nearby expressway traffic and the nonstop sonic roar of air braking overhead courtesy of the flight paths of O’Hare and Midway airports...the view from the Pulaski Woods vantage point is still spacious and airy, the rebuilt pavilion now has gravel deck that is cordoned off by railroad ties facing the woods to the south where a couple of smaller ponds are hidden away...the wet grass and blooming prairie flowers blended pleasantly in it’s rolling aromatic fragrance that culminated at the top of the hill courtesy of a light breeze...an almost synergistic relationship between man and nature may exist on the surface here but there is a very sense of ancient ambivalence and a tangible contempt that gets stronger the farther from the main paths you get once you venture out beyond the perceived safety of the clearings...

I couldn’t seem to pinpoint the copse of trees where 25 plus years ago I witnessed the spacial distortion anomaly and darting shadow apparition...of course they weren’t making much of an effort to conceal themselves earlier that morning when I got out of my car at the overlook alone at 4:15 am...


Here's the Youtube video:

Haunted Maple Lake
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8urgnNMOESk&feature=youtu.be


Here are the (compressed to 1MB) photos...some have been slightly sharpened or color enhanced (06-2011) total....b
http://s1082.photobucket.com/albums/j367/HalfhandFiles3/Maple%20Lake/










































































































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