Last weekend I decided to call off work and visit my favorite person in the world – my Gramma. What was supposed to be a normal day filled with our usual platter of tasty conversation, in which we can (and often do!) discuss everything from current affairs to history, turned into a day brimming with unexpected mystery!
The day started with coffee and eggs at this very quaint little restaurant cleverly named, The Egg Beater Cafe. We gobbled up the most delicious eggs that I have ever had while discussing the troubles of the world. Our conversation seemingly was directed by the televisions hanging on the wall that softly spewed the news. Conversating this way is always a fun exercise. My Grandma and I are both chatty-cathy’s; so keeping whatever topic is at hand
Conversating this way is always a fun exercise. My Grandma and I are both chatty-cathy’s; so keeping whatever topic is at hand short is near impossible. Anyways, our bellies were full and the coffee was drunk in abundance. It was time for us to move on.
Somehow we both knew that the day was going to be one of exploration. Perhaps it was something in the cool September air that started an awakening in our bones. Whatever it was wanted us to find and experience the mystery that we stumbled upon.
Before our adventure began I needed to go to the library to attend to some personal affairs that required a printer. As we drove I asked Grams about a library she took me to when I was ten. I couldn’t remember what library it had been but I remember it was where she rented the Lord of the Rings audio tapes for me. We both scratched our heads in an attempt to wipe away the fog of the past. It was a lost cause. But at the last minute, she suggested two libraries. And at the last possible minute, we both agreed to set course for the Riverside Public Library. Unbeknownst to us, our choice would bring us to the mystery of Stanley Avenue.
We both scratched our heads in an attempt to wipe away the fog of the past. It was a lost cause. But at the last minute, she suggested two libraries. And at the last possible minute, we both agreed to set course for the Riverside Public Library. Unbeknownst to us, our choice would bring us to the mystery of Stanley Avenue.
Standing in front of the Riverside Public Library, I discovered that Grams and I shared an affinity for historic architecture. As I write this I wonder if our trip to ancient England popped into her mind. I know it did for me as my eyes gasped at the enchanting library that lay before us.
Hogwarts much? Why can’t all libraries be this awesome? The modern library, though good for the community, suck when it comes to design. I would have totally lived in a library as a kid if it looked like it could be a place for wizards and witches!
The unknown ghost of exploration was at play. For when we looked at the stone block that contained the date the building was erected, it had ties to Grams! Construction of the library started in 1930. That’s the same year Grams was born!
After the library, we explored the little town of Riverside. The town itself is a picture perfect town that belongs in a Ray Bradbury book. It’s seriously so tidy and American it started to feel weird. We loved it! Grams wanted to take me to this swinging bridge that passed over the Des Plaines River. I have never been on an actual swinging bridge! I was pumped!
Grams wanted to take me to this swinging bridge that passed over the near by Des Plaines River. I have never been on an actual swinging bridge! Grams hyped the hell out of the bridge. I was pumped!
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the Temple of Doom bridge
H. Wallace Caldwell Memorial Bridge in Riverside, IL
I guess a guy and his Grandmother can’t get everything in one single adventure! However, this bridge is not insignificant to this tale. It is rather crucial to this story. It was this bridge that led to our very most unexpected discovery!
After crossing the bridge and surviving the insane amount of weirdo bugs, we entered an isolated section of the Cermak Woods. A single paved road was our only path. The road was Stanley Avenue.
As we walked further down Stanley Ave. something caught my eye. Now, keep in mind that we thought we were entering a forest preserve path. We did not expect to encounter what I am about to mention. It was simply beyond the realm of reason to think beyond the usual sights of a Forest Preserve path. So, dear reader, what my Grams and I encountered was an entire community of houses left abandoned. It was as if the people of Stanely Avenue simply just vanished.
So, dear reader, what my Grams and I encountered was an entire community of houses left abandoned. Windows smashed or boarded up. Clothing, garbage, and other items strewn about. It was as if the people of Stanely Avenue simply just vanished.
The following pictures will reveal these homes to you as we found them. In some pictures, you will see toys, bikes, and other signs of life. These items were strangely left behind as if the owners fled over night. I can’t stress that enough. It was so freaking eerie.
A little research revealed that every single home pictured was built in 1899. The only other bit of information I found was a newspaper article from 1969. The article calls attention to a major flood crisis that the community was forced to endure.
The town was edged by the always flooding Des Plaines river. However, modern life has lived on Stanley Avenue since. What happened to these people? Why did they up and leave? It could simply be the effects of the 07’/08′ housing bubble. Or did they leave out of fear? Fear of something evil within the Cermak woods.
Before you wave that away let me tell you this: Grams and I found the remnants of an actual Ouija board! I shit you not. Don’t believe me? Take a look!
But as the great Billy May’s once said, “But wait! That’s not all!”
I decided to look further into the town of Riverside and the Cermak Woods. What I discovered was absolutely freaking eerie. I discovered that the town roots consisted of 8% Czech. Yeah? So? Let me tell you why this is so creepy.
What’s creepy is that the word ‘CERMAK’ is a Czech word used as a nickname for the Devil. Yup.
With that in mind, I will let you peruse through the photos I took. I tried my best to capture what I saw. However, my phone did die faster than expected while taking the pictures. I shit you not. The battery somehow went from 70% to 0% in a matter of 30 minutes.
Shall we begin?
The First House We Found
When Grams and I explored the ruination of the first house we were completely in awe! The experience and discovery will be something that I will never forget. It was the total synchronicity of our emotions. We were both in a state of wonder of what lay before us. Sharing such an experience with my favorite person is simply special. But let’s get back to the creepy stuff!
Grams raises her arms to push past the brush!
This was the house where we found the Ouija board box!
We almost missed this because of the brush. A staircase that led to a secret garden and pond!
This sign was nailed to the garage. WTF?
Found at a dead end road.
Halloween deco found in the woods that surrounded the home.
A monster of a house hiding at the end of the road.
Garbage was littered everywhere.
Grass took over the brick pavers.
Smashed window. What secrets lay within?
Inside we heard a shrill beep, beep. We deduced it was a dead smoke alarm.
It was as if the kids simply…vanished.
The Devil in yellow. Do you see it?
What my Grams and I found on Stanely Avenue will be one of those stories that we will talk about every time we see each other. It was a day that was meant to be. So many little things fell together for us to have this adventure. I am so damn lucky to have a Grams that loves to explore and go on adventures such as this one. One thing is for sure, we will always wonder what happened to the people of Stanely Avenue.