Secrets of Munger Road
By Emily McFarlan Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com October 31, 2011 11:37AM
A car crosses the tracks at the Munger Road railroad crossing in Bartlett on Oct. 15. The crossing has gotten busy since the release of the locally made film “Munger Road.” | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
On the Web
Urban legends aren’t the only part of “Munger Road” The Courier-News investigated. For more secrets, and the Elgin Paranormal Investigators’ online radio broadcast from the railroad crossing, visit the Between the Bylines blog, tinyurl.com/cnbylines.
Updated: January 23, 2012 4:10AM
The Elgin Paranormal Investigators had been at the railroad crossing on Munger Road no more than a half-hour on a recent Saturday night when they experienced what investigator Krystiena Kurtz called the stuff of “our worst nightmares.”
There were screams from the railroad tracks, all kinds of activity, flashing lights, and then . . . there were the Bartlett police.
“OK, everybody get in the car and leave. This place isn’t haunted. It hasn’t been haunted for 40 years.”
If the railroad crossing is haunted, as urban legend and the recent locally filmed movie “Munger Road” claim, it is haunted by teenagers. They come out at night, taking pictures, trying to park cars on and along the tracks and shrieking as their tires bounce over the rails.
“We’ve seen a huge increase since the movie came out,” Bartlett police Cmdr. Michael McGuigan said. “It was something we anticipated. It was something we expected.”
So did the Elgin Paranormal Investigators.
The group, founded in 2007, started a series investigating local urban legends about two years ago. They had been investigating private homes around the Elgin area by invitation, but co-founder Greg Stout of Elgin said, “It seems like no one wants to know anymore” about their home’s history and possible otherworldly occupants.
Munger Road was one of the first urban legends co-founder Mike Rohr of DeKalb proposed investigating. That’s because, he said, it was the site of “the very first investigation I ever did — 13 years ago now. That’s what got me started in this [paranormal investigation] business.”
A 16-year-old carrying a video camera with a flashlight on the front, Rohr had planned to dust the bumper of his car with baby powder and park it on the Canadian National Railway tracks, he said.
As one urban legend goes, a train had hit a school bus full of children that stalled on the tracks. Those ghost children now will push any stopped car off the tracks, their tiny fingerprints appearing in the baby powder on the car’s bumper.
Rohr never got the chance to test that legend, he said, but claims he experienced another — the one about the ghost train haunting the tracks: Grainy, 13-year-old video on his camera shows the lights flashing and bells ringing at the crossing. It continued about a half-hour without a train before he got out of his car to investigate, he said.
“When we got up to the tracks, we could actually hear like a train passing and a gust of wind like something going by,” he said.
Other urban legends include one of a train that derailed, smashing into a house on Munger Road and killing everyone inside except for an old man and his “demon dog” who still haunt the crossing, according to stories shared on MungerRoad.com.
Then there’s the tale of the devil-worshipping family who lived on the road, which Kurtz, who now lives in DeKalb, said she heard growing up in the area from the pastor of her church.
Another story tells of a patient who escaped from a nearby mental hospital and murdered people along the road. But that’s impossible, Rohr said, because the nearest facility is the Elgin Mental Health Center, more than seven miles away.
And then there’s the legend retold by Jeremy Stephens, 16, of West Chicago: “I heard there was a fake cop out here that would arrest you and then kill you.”
None of those things ever happened on Munger Road, the Bartlett police commander said. Two bodies have been discovered in the Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve along the road, McGuigan said, but neither had been killed there.
“What people want to do is stop on the railroad tracks. That’s the problem. That’s dangerous,” he said.
When the Elgin Paranormal Investigators accompanied a Courier-News writer and photographer earlier this month to Munger Road, a steady stream of cars bounced over the railroad crossing between Stearns and Army Trail roads. It was “like a parade,” Stout said, or “a tourist attraction,” according to Kurtz.
One dark SUV slowed to ask, “Excuse me, is this that spot where the movie was filmed?”
A group of about a dozen teenagers stopped to take pictures on the tracks. They’d come straight from a movie theater, according to 18-year-old Ian Draper of West Chicago, which meant they’d come without baby powder.
“Our plans weren’t that elaborate,” Draper said.
Mitch Stratelak, 17, of Wheaton added, “We wanted to see if it’s real. We saw the movie. We thought we’d check it out.”
Traffic on Munger Road has increased steadily since the Stearns Road extension and nearby subdivisions were completed, McGuigan said.
It’s become even more of a problem since the movie opened on Sept. 30, he said. Bartlett police assigned an officer to the railroad crossing for five straight days after the opening. An officer also will patrol the road Monday, he said, because on Halloween “even before the movie came out, we would have kids down there with the baby powder.”
“We’ll probably just tell you to move on and not stop on the tracks,” he said.
But it wasn’t that long ago when Munger Road was unpaved and lined with overgrown trees and abandoned homes, McGuigan said. It wasn’t that long ago the road actually looked like the setting of an urban legend, he said.
“There’s a lot of stuff happening on Munger Road,” Stout said.
The investigator added, “As far as we know, none of it’s true. Not a bit of it.”