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“The Gate,” Libertyville Enter the North suburban town of Libertyville. Traveling down the four-lane highway of Route 137 an exit is made onto the desolate River Road. River Road can often be an experience of its own, especially at night. The road is long and narrow. The left side is bordered by the Independence Grove Forest Preserve while the right side is dotted with houses. The car's headlights provide the only illumination, as there are no streetlights to speak of along this thoroughfare. Often the experience is even more heightened as ponds to the left of the street mix with summer air and massive banks of fog occupy the many low points of this hilly street. After a journey of about two miles down this road, it makes an abrupt 90-degree right turn. Directly ahead sits a horse ranch; to the left of that, set back further from the road, sits a menacing vision. This is what local residents commonly refer to as "The Gate." According to the widely known legend, the gate marked the entrance to an all-girls school in the 1950s. All was well in the area until the fateful day when the principal snapped and killed four of his students. As the legend goes, it was at this very gate, on the posts, that the heads of four young students were placed after they were removed from their bodies. The stories vary depending on where the story is being told. According to some, instead of a school, it was once a sleep-away camp, or even an asylum. The killer isn't always the same either. Some versions of the story claim that a madman who escaped from an institution stumbled across this location and went to work. Others talk of an escaped convict who caused the mayhem, and those who believe it was an asylum state that it was a counselor who ended up losing his own sanity. As would be expected from a sensationalized story, the final death toll is often inflated. The sheer predictability of the tale is the first clue that this is an urban legend. More than one location covered in this guide of the haunted Northeastern corner of Illinois also share this or a strikingly similar story. The type of residue left behind also differs depending on the story. Libertyville and Vernon Hills versions often contain people visiting the gate at night only to find blood still running down the wrought iron supports of the gate. Other versions state that on the anniversary of the slaying and on Halloween, at the bewitching hour of midnight, the phantom heads of the fallen girls reappear on the fence posts. The legend about the fence, when told by a resident of Wauconda, claims that a small boy has been seen on numerous occasions walking or staring out from behind the fence. Sorting out the truth from the speculation is frequently a difficult challenge when forced to rely on eyewitness accounts rather than printed documents. Most towns across the country have their fair share of skeletons in their respective closets. It is customary for a verbal history of a neighborhood to get edited in order to preserve a peaceful illusion of reality. Libertyville is already the home of the "Murder Mansion." In 1980, Bruce and Darlene Rouse were brutally murdered by their son. By the mid 1980s the same home was purchased by the Ferriola street crew, which operated a casino in the house for the Chicago Mafia. Modern era gangsters like Salvatore DeLaurentis, Rocco Infelise, BJ Jahoda, and Harry Ferriola brought in a reported $800,000 every month just from gambling at this location. In September of 1984, the Murder Mansion was also the location of another slaying. Independent bookmaker, and competition, Bobby Plummer was killed on the second floor. In 2003 the house was demolished. This being said, in recent years Libertyville has shown its resiliency in being able to bounce back from negative press. Though a number of very famous murders have happened, catching wind of it is often a difficult task. Usually the only time these events are mentioned anymore in the press is on an MSNBC look back in time, but hardly ever in a local newspaper. Libertyville has been mostly successful in hiding unnatural deaths from just twenty years ago. If alleged events happened in 1950, then there's more than half a century for people to forget. It is also possible that a horrific event did in fact happen at "The Gate," but over the years it simply grew out of proportion due to overactive imaginations. If this were the case, then there could very well be a legitimate haunting at this location. What can be said for sure, however, is that a trip to "The Gate" can be quite a harrowing experience. On humid summer nights a fog actually forms in the distant fields, rolls in, and hovers just beyond the entrance. The mere presence of the structure leaves some to keep the door of possibility open. Obviously there is some reason for such a massive structure to stand. What can be said of the legend that is true is that at one point in time the land behind the gate did serve as a camp. The St. Francis Boys Camp opened for operation sometime after the year 1950. Before that it was used as the Kathrine Dodridge Kreigh Budd Memorial Home for Children. This orphanage for over 100 children opened in 1925. What caused this orphanage to close may be the answer to why this gate has such a famous reputation. Unfortunately, it is also this answer that is lost in the past. One thing that is for sure though is that for years to come it will lure area high schoolers, curiosity-seekers, and hikers alike to ponder the possibilities. Currently the Des Plaines River Trail, which is part of the forest preserve, passes through the opening. The stories don't end there either. There are additional stories regarding the houses that stand across the street from this north side landmark. An easily dismissible, but strangely well-known fallacy, is that the neighborhood is full of devil worshipers. However wild and random these claims are, several more reputable stories have been told about the area. Several people in the area have made the statement that they are sharing their homes with past residents who move about in shadowy forms. Hunters in the area have come across nearby farms only to see the phantoms of long deceased gangsters from the 1930s. It seems that Lake County has gotten rid of a Mafia presence today, but there are several other made men who have yet to find out they are no longer welcome.
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