Devil_10-9_cm, Death by a Broken Heart

By Gus Bode

Ghost of young woman continues to wait for long lost love at Devil’s Bake Oven for more than 100 years

Editor’s Note:(please print in poem form)

October brings the most macabre


And we would like to share

A phantom parade, a headless horseman,

So join us if you dare.

Each week we’ll have a cryptic tale

Of gruesome ghouls and fatal desire

Harness your fears, grab your friends

And gather ’round the ol’ campfire


Moonlight rarely penetrates the thick foliage of Devil’s Bake Oven.

Along a steep, dirt path, the remains of a two-story house sits eerily quiet under the canopy of trees and thorn bushes that have grown over the floor.

A young woman sits atop the peak of the hill, looking up the Mississippi River, hoping to see the lights of a boat that might bring her lover back to her home in Grand Tower, Ill.

A light is seen coming from the south. It is a mighty riverboat, but it does not stop to let anyone off. It just slowly moves past, heading to St. Louis. Tonight, once again, she is heartbroken.

Tears roll down her face as the woman starts her short walk down the Bake Oven to her home. She begins to cry out loud, loud enough that any passers-by can hear her sobs.

As she nears the six-foot stone walls, she stops and wipes her eyes. She does not want her father to know that she had been waiting for her lover again. The young man had not been back since the woman’s father made him leave town more than 100 years ago.

She steps forward, walks through the wall, and disappears.

The woman had died of a broken heart in the late 1800s when Grand Tower was still a busy river port.

The town began to grow larger and larger when the iron industry arrived. Ore was shipped from Missouri and coal for the furnaces came from nearby Murphysboro.

An iron foundry was built on top of the Bake Oven, along with a beautiful two-story home for the family of the superintendent.

One of the foundry superintendents had a beautiful young daughter who had many suitors from the factory.

Her father did not approve of any of them, until one day the girl fell in love with a particularly handsome, but morally lacking young man.

The woman’s father prohibited his daughter from seeing him, but that did not stop the two lovers.

She would often sneak out a window for a late-night rendezvous. One night, she was caught and confined to the house.

The father went looking for the young man and convinced him to leave town.

The woman remained in her room, looking out her window, watching for the man to return, but he never did. The strain of her broken heart caused her death.

Soon after her death, the people of Grand Tower began seeing a misty female form on the paths of Devil’s Bake Oven. Those that saw her up close said that it was the ghost of the superintendent’s daughter.

The apparition would float along and vanish into the brush, moaning the whole time.

It is said that the cries become worse when a thunderstorm rolls across the Mississippi toward Illinois.

Years later, the house was demolished and brought to its current condition.

Another Devil’s Bake Oven story involves a young Indian girl who climbed into one of the caves and committed suicide. The legend says that every night at midnight, the screams of the dying girl can be heard.

Grand Tower has also received national publicity from one of America’s greatest authors.

Mark Twain mentioned Devil’s Back Bone, Devil’s Bake Oven and the town of Grand Tower in chapter 25 of “Life on the Mississippi.”

Twain wrote that the Bake Oven got its name “…perhaps, because it does not powerfully resemble anybody else’s bake oven…”

Today, stories grow fewer among those who have seen anything, but several people have heard strange noises and had creepy things happen to them.

While taking photos for the story, Daily Egyptian photographer Ronda Yeager was walking the trails and taking photos from the peak of the Bake Oven when her camera started refusing to take pictures. After a few minutes, it started working again.

When she had her film developed, strange discolorations appeared on the negatives. She said she does not know what caused the strange colors, but she said they are very creepy.

Perhaps the photos are just the love-lorn woman returning once again to the peak of the Bake Oven, so that she can watch for signs of her lover’s return.

She sits down, dangling her feet over the edge and looks at the beautiful scenery below her.

Down the river, another boat approaches.

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at [email protected]

Facts, events and background gathered from the books, “Ghosts of Illinois” and “Haunted Illinois,” local citizens of Grand Tower, including Charles Burdick, and website.