Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Devil's Backbone

At first it seemed like a waste of time; the Devil's Backbone, perched alongside the Mississippi River on the outskirts of Grand Tower, Illinois, was on the verge of a thunderstorm. The clouds were rolling in, it had drizzled a bit on the way there, and we were quickly losing daylight. If we did manage to find the place, it didn't look like we were going to get much time there for any kind of real investigation.

Information about the Devil's Backbone was pretty scarce: Most of the info we knew about the place came from Troy Taylor's Prairie Ghosts website ( it was pretty slim. Once we got into Grand Tower, though, finding the place was as easy as following the Devil's Backbone Park/Campsite signs. What?! PG/Troy didn't say anything about any campground! Fortunately, in this respect anyway, the threat of rain worked in our favor and there was only a couple of campers there. The only people we saw were a father and small boy doing some fishing, so we didn't expect any difficulties with people getting curious and interrupting the investigation.

After passing the campground, we followed the levee looking for the only landmark mentioned in the description of the Backbone: A natural gas bridge crossing the Mississippi. We found the bridge, then moved a bit farther North, and we found the remains of the house that is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a young woman.

The story of the haunting there goes like this: A young woman, distraught by the loss of her boyfriend who moved away, died in a state of depression (either because of the loss, or by illness) in the home. Since then, there have been sightings of the girl (in the form of a mist) following the path outside the ruins of the home and the sounds of moans, wails, and screams of the girl in the area--especially during thunderstorms (this is specifically mentioned by Taylor on PG). At least this made the rain work in our favor! There was also a gang of river pirates that had reputedly hijacked and killed many a person at the Backbone as well. All of this added up to a great place to check out (at least on paper anyway).

With our daylight waning, we managed to get to the site and set up a Hi8 camera with nightvision on the ruins to possibly capture any 'mists' or apparitions. We also left a digital recorder at the ruins, and with three investigators present (myself, Mike, and Brandon), we roamed the area with camcorders, digital recorders (for EVP work), and the usual tools of the trade (infrared thermometer, EMF detector, etc.).

We were maybe an hour into the investigation when the storm decided to move in a bit closer. It started sprinkling, and soon, the sprinkling turned into rain. We packed up the gear with barely over an hour's worth of data and made for the car. As we drove home, we went over the details of what we had just covered. None of us had really 'felt' anything haunted about the place; there were no feelings of being watched and we had seen/heard nothing that would indicate any kind of ghostly presence.

Upon review of our data, however, we did manage to find a few things. There was a mysterious, small ball of light that appeared out of nowhere for about two seconds (photo above), then disappeared (and this was right at the ruins). We also had 4-5 EVP's that included a female mumbling, heavy breathing, and a strange female moan (originating from the digital recorder that was left at the ruins). But best of all, we actually captured some audio from the video camera that included a female scream, a moan, then a strange sound that resembled (but was not) a cat!

After analyzing the video (and audio) we were left scratching our heads. None of us had felt any kind of presence at Devil's Backbone but here was clearly some audio of a girl in distress. To make matters even more complicated, none of us had either seen or heard any females at the site or surrounding area (no females were with us and we had seen no females at the small camp--which was a distance away, too). The light at the ruins was a bit odd as well since it did not 'move into view' but simply appeared and then disappeared.

Should we go back to Devil's Backbone? Maybe. More time at the site might give us more data; or maybe we were there at the right time--during a thunderstorm. Either way, it was a great, short trip.

Posted by: Rich Newman