Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Miles Mausoleum

This interesting spot I just happened to notice on the way home from my day of exploring at the quarry in Valmeyer, Illinois. For many miles, bluffs had risen to my right side far above the flood planes that I was driving on. Always one to admire my surroundings, I noticed something strange high atop one of the bluffs. I was tired from walking many miles through many tunnels and caverns, but I didn't know when I would be back in this area, and I hate feeling like I missed out on something. I parked my car and set off on my own to find a way up the bluff to this "thing."

As I began my trip, I wasn't sure what exactly I was looking at up there, and I definately didn't know of its history. What I had accidentally stumbled upon is known as the Miles Mausoleum, and is one of the most infamously haunted and eerie spots in southwestern Illinois. Stephen Miles was a veteran of the War of 1812, and used the land given to him in return for his military service to begin running his very own farm. Legend has it that many other soldiers would claim land in the surrounding countryside for their military service as well, but all soon disappeared after strangely signing over their claims to Mr. Miles. In a few short years, he owned and operated several thousand acres of the fertile farmland of the region.

The family mausoleum was built in 1858 by Stephen W. Miles, son of the elder Miles. Despite his grand plans for the upkeep of the tomb, he later went bankrupt and only 11 of the 56 vaults were ever used. Local lore says that it once housed the bodies of Miles himself, along with his two wives, a few mistresses and a number of servants. Unfortunately, they would not be allowed to rest in peace.


In the early 1960s, the mausoleum was apparently rediscovered where it was hidden in the enveloping woods. It was broken into, and later visitor said that caskets and bones with dried flesh still clinging to them could be seen everywhere. It was rumoured that the tomb had been desecrated in search of the valuable jewels that had been buried with its occupants. A few years later, things continued to get worse. A cult group removed the remaining bodies from their vaults onto the grounds outside, and burned them in their attempt to "raise the dead." As you could probably imagine, stories of ghostly encounters at this site have been numerous and continue to the present.

As interesting as that would have been, I had no ghostly enounters during my visit. The site is covered with graffiti and other teenage vandalism, and the floor is littered with empty beer cans and bottles. During my brief visit (on a Sunday afternoon, mind you), I saw at least two different goups of teens with intoxicating beverages in hand examining the site. It is apparent that area teens don't find the idea of getting drunk in an old desecrated tomb unnerving at all. Well, thumbs up to them! Even in the daylight, the mausoleum is eerily beautiful, and from its perch atop Eagle Cliff, one can see miles of the surrounding Illinois countryside.

Much of the information I found about the mausoleum didn't seem to know exactly where it was, only the stories about it. I find that very strange, since I don't understand how one driving down the adjacent road with his or her eyes open could miss it. Many accounts said that there are no longer roads that lead to the cemetary, but I found out later (after hiking up the side of the cliff, which was quite difficult in my out of shape state) that the local roads do still take you to the cemetary entrace. If I decide to return, I'll probably opt to use those roads as opposed to sucking wind for a half mile up the side of a cliff.

I would be very interested to know how much of the legends of the Miles Mausoleum are actually true, and how many have been passed down over the years just because the idea of an empty tomb is kind of creepy. I would enjoy visiting this site again, but probably at night so that I can scare the pants out of the poor soul that I drag along with me.

12 Comments:

Blogger Archaic Mementos said...

Very interesting. I found a few things, not sure if you've already seen them or not, but I thought I'd pass them along.
http://newshound.de.siu.edu/fall02/stories/storyReader$793

http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilmonroe/newsarticles/historic_cemetery.txt

http://www.riverdesperes.com/miles/photos/photo_3.html

http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilmonroe/cemeteries/miles_cemetery.html

Ann Marie

9:49 AM  
Blogger Michael Allen said...

I grew up in Monroe County, and have countless childhood memories of seeing the mausoleum on the bluff from the flood plain and getting terrified at the sight. I credit my early glimpses of Miles Mausoleum with my ongoing fascination with abandoned places. I have photographs and information that I have meant to post to EOA for years. Someday...

2:04 PM  
Blogger froggiegirl said...

God that's so disturbing...

3:42 PM  
Blogger JerryW said...

Hi,

I was just reading bout the Mausoleum in John W. Allen's 1953 book titled Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois. I ride my bicycle on Bluff Road frequently and always wondered about it. Thanks for the info!

7:07 AM  
Blogger martinjbaczynski said...

In early 80's spent many weekend nights sleeping in the mausoleum.Vandals already did the damage, long before me and some friends started going there.Never no ghosts, or strange happenings.Just good times and beautiful sunsets.

1:54 PM  
Blogger martinjbaczynski said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:55 PM  
Blogger martinjbaczynski said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:55 PM  
Blogger slick1 said...

I finally got around to searching the internet about this place, I first was introduced to this place in 1984,first heard about it from word of mouth amongst a small group of friends. as a teenager ,friends and I would respectfully go up there and hang out,back then it was over grown and damaged, we would restore some of the gravestones to there original positions and clean up the beercans etc.the only way we would access the place was a long and ardous walk up the side on the hill its on, now there is a gravel road leading up to it in the rear. i remember it before the grafitti!, somewhere i have pictures of it in that condition. the story i always heard was that slaves were buried there with the miles family and locals found out about it and extracted all coffins and threw them over the hill.Seeing so many informative links about this place for me was a double edged sword for me. I have enjoyed the fact that very few people know of this place, but it was great to get a brief history lesson about this place!over the last 24 years it has been a place that I have brought only special people in my life to see and enjoy its beauty,in a strange way its one of my favorite places on earth! In the late 90's it was cleaned up and has been cared for regulary since.

7:02 PM  
Blogger DarwinCallen said...

i had been wondering the name of this mausoleum for some time i had ventured there once or twice before but couldnt remember untill i heard two girls say miles and it clicked so i jumped on to search. im sure you already may know however to get to the cemetary you travel south down bluff road and probaly right where you stopped to climb up you would turn left and drive up the windy road untill you come to "D" road not to far from the top. turn right and only about 1/4 mile down or so youll find the entrance it is shared with another residential drive way but youll find the cemetary and then the crypt. Darwin

8:21 AM  
Blogger LizardRichards said...

Hello,

My wife and I just visited the Mausoleum today and the site was horrific. What kind of person would deface something so very interesting. you can see pictures of what we saw on my wifes website at http://lizardrichards.com/Eagle_Bluff_Cemetery.html

10:06 PM  
Blogger LizardRichards said...

Hello, Me and my wife went out to the cemetery today and the site was disturbing. How could people do such a thing. to see pics of what we saw please check out our website at http://lizardrichards.com/Eagle_Bluff_Cemetery.html. Thanks hope we can get this back in it's original state again someday.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Myles Baczynski said...

Marty, who was your friend who fell?

8:08 PM  

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