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Axeman’s Bridge in Crete, Illinois

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Legends & Lore of Illinois CD-ROMThere is nothing peculiar about the concrete bridge along Old Post Road two miles east of Crete. If a motorist were to drive past, over the trickling waters of Plum Creek on a pleasant summer day, not much would alert this passerby to the Axeman’s gruesome story. In the woods a few yards to the northeast, however, sits a rickety steel bridge, currently collapsed into the water. It is tagged with graffiti. For years, local teens imagined that this was the scene of a gruesome axe murder. The remains of a home hidden in the trees and the closure of the road leading to the steel bridge have only fueled the legend.

Although landmarks set the stage for this story, the exact history of the area is difficult to determine. According to John Drury’s photographic history, This is Will County, Illinois (1955), David Harner was the first white settler of Crete Township, and a large contingent of ethnic Germans followed. Early on in the history of Will County, the thick timberland along Plum Creek was called Beebe’s Grove. It was named after Minoris Beebe, who arrived in 1834 along with David Harner. According to an old county plat map, a man named William Vocke owned the property around Axeman’s Bridge in 1909. I have been unable to determine when this bridge closed.

To my knowledge, there are two books that mention the legend of Axeman’s Bridge: Windy City Ghosts by Dale Kaczmarek and Weird Illinois by Troy Taylor. Both have competing accounts of the story, but neither is necessarily incorrect. In folklore, there is no “correct story,” since the details change with every retelling.

In one version, told by Dale Kaczmarek, the Axeman (or Ax-Man) was a lonely old hermit who killed a pair of kids he caught trespassing on his property. Their friends, waiting safely on the road, had dared the two boys to run from one side of his bridge to the other. The version found on the Internet and related by Troy Taylor tied the Axeman’s tale to the abandoned house in the woods. The man, who had a history of abusive behavior, chopped up his family and then set his house on fire. Online, others have added that the Axeman then murdered two sheriff’s deputies who came to investigate the fire. When backup arrived, the police chased the murderer to the old steel bridge, where they shot him dead.

Since that time, some visitors have reported that their car has stalled on the bridge along Old Post Road, or that they have spotted the soft yellow lights of a house in the woods. Others have heard screams and the sharp ping of an axe hitting iron supports.

Old bridges and axe murders are staples of folklore, but rarely are the two combined. The legend of Axeman’s Bridge is an interesting mixture of tropes that makes this location in particular so unique, and there is no doubt that people will continue to visit for years to come.

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Legends and Lore of Illinois Vol. 3 Digital Edition

Order all 12 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois from 2009 in a special digital edition for your favorite e-readers. Places covered in Vol. 3 include Lebanon Road’s 7 Gates to Hell, Ramsey Cemetery, Elmwood Cemetery’s Violin Annie, Manteno State Hospital, the Hatchet Lady of Moon Point Cemetery, Chanute Air Force Base, Ashmore Estates, Aux Sable Cemetery, Ax Man’s Bridge, and more. Plus, read letters from our readers, adventurer’s logs, Paranormal 101, and put your knowledge of these locations to the test with challenging trivia questions. Don’t miss these classic issues.

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Comments

  1. Joshus Blankenship says:

    My new clutch exploded 2 days after replacing it, while I was driving over the nearby bridge. The transmission shop said it looking like I was racing…the 1981 2.3L Ford motor.
    I’ve always assumed it was a coincidence, as I never heard of any stalled vehicles. Creepy!

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  2. Farmerdell says:

    Actually the steel bridge was removed about 5 years ago. The county assessor office in Crete, has the platt & photos of the small white home with pillars & photos of the fire damage ..I live on the other side the the woods & ravine from this home, and have been on the site, and I can say for a fact, you will get a very odd feeling of being watched, and some markers I placed were gone 40 mins after placing them. Currently, there are some orange tape markers that will lead you into the site off old post road, just south of the new bridge. Best time to view the site tho, is around st Patrick’s day, the snow will have flattened the grasses & weeds, and you can see all the ruins…forget about seeing anything like the ruins in the summer.

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  3. There is not an ounce of truth to this story. There would be newspaper articles and police reports if it were true. The road was straightened and rerouted when the new bridge was built, leaving the old road and bridge abandoned. Kids would park on the old road and make up stories about the abandoned bridge and house. I wouldn’t doubt the kids burned the abandoned house down while out there partying. It makes for a good scary story though. The woods are beautiful around that area, not creepy at all. BTW, the much more interesting(and true) story of Beebe’s Grove is the well documented underground railroad stations at the members of the Beebe’s Grove Congregational Church.

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  4. Reblogged this on Life of The American Me.

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  5. I don’t know much other than it’s not far from my house I’ve lived in the area all of my life which is over 40yrs now it may be a legend an urban myth however that place is eerie and my dog did freak out when we were walking through in fact we never made it to the actual bridge that time.. dogs can sense things. years later i went again and the air was cooler than any other area round me it was a hot afternoon… so if its a legend or false something eerie is going on there.

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