As I pursue my history research for various programs I stumble upon interesting, and odd, tidbits that are (at least to me) too interesting not to share. So I have decided that monthly, and maybe even more often if I find something I can't wait to share, I will add these tidbits to the blog.
The first tale comes from John W. Allen's Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois. In his chapter on, "Folklore," he has an entry on, "A Phantom Funeral," which he collected from some of the older inhabitants at Prairie de Rocher.
One of the elderly ladies went onto tell of an occurrence that happened to her on July 4th, 1889. She was helping a friend keep a vigil over the friend's dead baby, and they were sitting out on the porch trying to catch a little cool air when the informant saw a funeral coming down the road, which was unusual since it was near to midnight. They counted 40 little, matching wagons, which were followed by twenty-six horsemen. None of which made a sound. Nor did anyone come back down the road later. The only other person to see the strange procession was the informant's father was awake - due to the howling of his dog.
The elderly lady went onto to tell the author that a friend from DuQuoin later came visiting, and after hearing the strange tale said that her daughter had told her of a story about Fort Chartres. The story that a man, "who was most important of all," was murdered in an ambush to stop him from continuing his work. And after he was killed that his men went to Kaskaskia to learn what to do with the body.
They were told that he must be buried at midnight in an obscure cemetary, without any lights. They were to go on a full moon since that was to be their only light. And that it can only be seen by 3 people on a July Friday night, with a full moon, and only between 11 pm and 12.
On the most basic level this story reminded me of the many tales of phantom funerals that are in Great Britian, which would not be surprising as beliefs traveled as well as people. And it also echoed in my mind some f the elaborate precautions found in dying wizard stories.
I tried to find out more about the story.
Here are some of the sites I found:
On Troy Taylor's site (http://www.prairieghosts.com/fort.html) he mentions the theories that it was either an officer killed by a merchant, or that a young British officer was killed by a French officer. And that the secrecy was due the need to keep hostilities from breaking out.
Yet, to me, neither of these quite fit. Or at least don't fit with the story given to the informant by the friend from Du Quoin. This is not mentioned on Troy Taylor's site.
Some other sites are Military ghosts - http://www.militaryghosts.com/chartres.html, and The Odd Midwest - http://dailyabuse.typepad.com/odd_midwest/ghost_stories/ (this one does mention the secondary story).
One of these days I would like to research this story further, and maybe take a trip to Fort Chartres - though not necessarily on a July 4th, with a full moon.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.