Readers recall that in the summer of 2007, GeneaBlogie’s research trip took us to the St Louis area and southern Illinois. We visited the Micheau family ancestral homeland of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, a village founded by the French in 1722. I didn’t know then what I know now: that in 1889, a phantom funeral was first seen near Prairie du Rocher, and that the spooky procession re-appears every year that the Fourth of July falls on a Friday.
On Friday, July 4, 1889, in Prairie du Rocher, two women were holding a vigil for one of the women’s dead baby. Late in the night, a dog began barking loudly. Looking up the road, the women observed a procession of forty wagons and twenty-six horsemen approaching the cemetery in Prairie du Rocher. One of the wagons held a casket. The procession moved slowly, and despite the number of horses and wagons, it made no sound at all. The dog’s owner was also awakened by the barking, and he, too saw thsi phantom funeral.
The procession entered the Prairie du Rocher, but never came back out. The three eyewitnesses (as well as the dog, presumably) were stunned and at a loss to explain what they had seen. A few days later, one of the women related the story to a visitor from another Illinois village. The visitor explained that it was indeed a funeral that they had seen, but the actual funeral had taken place in 1756!
Apparently, there had been a killing at the French compound at Fort De Chartres a few miles from Prairie du Rocher. The deceased was a man of some prominence and the French soldiers were uncertain as to how to handle the matter. They sent a delegation to their regional headquarters at Kaskaskia. The commanders there directed that the matter be kept secret and that the body should be buried at night under a full moon, in a cemetery it was likely not to be found. Prairie du Rocher was selected as the burial place.
Thereafter, whenever the Fourth of July falls on a Friday and there is a full moon, the Fort de Chartres Phantom Funeral Procession can be seen just before midnight, making its way toward the Prairie du Rocher cemetery.
Note: Fort de Chartres is a National Historic Landmark and an Illinois state park. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced earlier this month that he would close Fort de Chartres and Fort Kaskaskia to help resolve the state’s $2 billion budget deficit. So next time, the Phantom Funeral will becoming from a Phantom Fort!
October 15, 2008 Wednesday at 3:12 pm