Train Wreck at Oakland Cemetery

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisFrom History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.

Lisa, one of our lead investigators, found some interesting information while conducting research at the Carbondale Public Library. On March 31, 1888 there was a horrific train wreck near Oakland Cemetery in Carbondale, Illinois. Further research revealed that the ICRR was cited for unsafe conditions less than 2 weeks prior to the train wreck.

John Chapman, the engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad train, was killed in the wreck on Sunday morning, March 31, 1888. He was born in Lincolnshire, England, October 9, 1854 and was aged 33 years, 5 months and 22 days.

This grave is the one belonging to the train engineer, John Chapman, who was killed in the wreck and still haunts the cemetery to this day.

Funeral Services where held at his residence, Sunday, April 1, at 2 o’clock p.m. by Rev. F. Stolz, and his interment at Oakland Cemetery was conducted under the auspices of the Masonic Fraternity. The undertaker charged forty dollars for casket and other expenses.

Until the 1990’s, railroad tracks ran along the northern boundary of Oakland Cemetery. On many occasions, earth lights have been seen along the tracks. Photographs taken near the north boundary of the cemetery show various wispy vapors among the gravestones.

We wonder if the train wreck of March 31st, 1888 has anything to do with paranormal sightings at Oakland Cemetery.

Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.



  1. I rushed through Oakland in a hurry, to get to Woodlawn (where Memorial Day started). Now I have a reason to revisit.


  2. Bruce Cline, Director - LITTLE EGYPT GHOST SOCIETY says:

    We have photos of the actual train wreck as well as a photo of John Chapman.

    Oakland Cemetery is also the gravesite of Thelma Wise whose gravestone states that she was “MURDERED BY UNKNOWN HANDS”. Our research revealed that she was actually a suicide.

    The Schwartz Mausoleum is known to be haunted by a lady in white and from time to time emits “corpse gas”.


  3. Bruce Cline says:

    Be sure to look for this story and more in the new book by the LITTLE EGYPT GHOST SOCIETY, “HISTORY, MYSTERY and HAUNTINGS of SOUTHERN ILLINOIS”. The book is published by Black Oak Media and will be available soon.


  4. Brett says:

    Spooky! I stumbled onto this site while doing some family research. Mr. Chapman is a great uncle of mine. Is there any way I could acquire those pictures? Thanks!


  5. In 1888, the Illinois Central did not own the tracks bordering Oakland Cemetery, and in fact there were two different railroads there.

    One of these was the Grand Tower & Carbondale, which ran between its two namesake cities and would soon be continued south to reach McClure and East Cape Girardeau and be renamed the Chicago & Texas (Texas being a point south of Murphysboro on the Big Muddy River). The other was the St. Louis, Alton & Terra Haute, which ran from East St. Louis to Carbondale via Pinckneyville and Murphysboro.

    Approaching Carbondale at Little Crab Orchard Creek and Oakland Cemetery, there were two parallel tracks a stone’s throw apart; the abandoned roadbeds of which are still visible when viewed from Google Maps. My research has yet to find if the two railroads built side by side all the way to Murphysboro, but the fact that there were two lines at that location would suggest they were.

    It wouldn’t be until the mid 1890’s that these lines would come under the control of the Illinois Central. Eventually one of the two tracks would be removed and all trains would be run over the single remaining track, but just when that was done is unclear. As of 1909, photos show both were still in place.

    I have been unable to find any accounts that indicate what railroad’s train was involved in the 1888 wreck.

    Interestingly, Illinois Central train #205 from St. Louis derailed at nearly this same exact spot in February, 1909, killing three and injuring around 30. The 1909 wreck was found to have been caused by a broken rail.



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