It is a legend so obscure that its only press has been the first half of a sentence in an article published in 1977, and a cemetery so little known that it only appears on a county cemetery map dating back to 1980. It is a place that might have been forgotten entirely had it not been an ideal proving ground for fraternity and sorority pledges. Lafler-Ennis Cemetery is surrounded by woods and the Charleston Stone Quarry, near the banks of the Embarras River, and accessible by way of a gravel path announced by a hand-painted sign. It even contains the grave of a Mary Hawkins, only this Mary Hawkins died in 1851 in infancy, and was therefore not the Mary Hawkins of Pemberton Hall fame.
“Aside from the alledged [sic] werewolf who roams the Charleston Quarry…” began an October 28, 1977 Eastern News article entitled “Ghosts Roam Local Haunts.” The reporter went on to describe the ghost of Pemberton Hall and a haunted house in Charleston, but never elaborated on the werewolf story, as though it was already well known to her readers. Such a cursory mention could be easily dismissed, but then so could the reports in the 1950s of a ghost in Old Main, an obscure story that has all but vanished from the minds of students and local residents alike.
In fact, a ‘hidden’ cemetery near an old bridge over the Embarras River, an isolated place where freshmen fraternity pledges could be easily scared, lends itself to this kind of story, and there are no shortage of similar examples. Near Chicago’s famous Archer Avenue, a secluded cemetery named Sacred Heart, tucked into the forest preserve, is the focus of a werewolf legend dating back to the 1950s. In his 16th Century book Des Monstres et Prodiges, Ambroise Paré (1510 – 1590) wrote about demons that inhabited quarries, and every German mine had its Kobolds. Perhaps the proximity of this particular stone quarry to a cemetery gave birth to its own legend in the minds of Coles County residents who have visited there in the midnight hour.
Lafler-Ennis Cemetery is located down a long trail that runs alongside the Charleston Stone Quarry. A layer of white dust covers the plants and trees, and an enormous oak tree that fell across the trail blocks the entrance to the cemetery [it has since been removed –ed.]. Many of the graves in the long, rectangular burial ground are simply indicated by upturned rocks or cement markers, but three identical granite stones stand out.
The three headstones are located beneath a couple of trees toward the middle of the cemetery, and mark the graves of three sisters: Mary, Jane, and Laura, daughters of Oliver D. and Mary Hawkins. Mary and Jane both died in 1851 at the ages of a little more than a year, and Laura died in 1846 when she was only a year and seven months old.
Oliver D. Hawkins was born in Kentucky and moved to Coles County with his family in 1841. There he married Mary Lafler, a progeny of the family for whom the cemetery is named, and the two lived in Ashmore, where Oliver served as a judge for 25 years. Oddly enough, he was also the chairman of the finance committee at the time Coles County bought the land on which the poor farm was built.
He then became the superintendent of the poor farm (the predecessor of Ashmore Estates) for three years. According to county records, Oliver owned the land around Lafler-Ennis Cemetery in 1893. His three deceased daughters (three out of fifteen children) will always be remembered at their final resting place thanks to the efforts of preservationists who diligently repaired their headstones an unknown number of years ago.
As for the alleged werewolf, perhaps one day he will be able to roam the woods in peace…