This is an interesting location. The Gate, or Devil’s Gate if you want to really draw attention, is a rusted and crumbling part of the Lake County Forest Preserve district. “Why is there a gate at the entrance to a forest preserve path?” I asked myself. Well, The Gate wasn’t always a part of the forest preserve.
The Gate, originally, was the entrance to an all-girl’s school in the late 1920’s. In the 1960’s, the school was closed and the land and its buildings were repurposed for an all-boys summer camp. Soon, that camp closed and a girl’s camp was opened on the land. That camp closed quickly… and mysteriously.
Officially, both the boys and girls camps were closed due to financial difficulties. This would be an acceptable answer if the buildings that stood on the land weren’t immediately demolished after the camps closed. I’m talking every building razed in an effort to erase that they were even there. Of all of the historical documents I’ve read about the land, not one of them has an answer as to why the buildings were demolished. But if the buildings were razed, why wasn’t The Gate torn down as well?
These buildings were still in good condition, and they were being cared for. Why not sell the property to another organization that would utilize the land and it’s buildings? Well, legend has an answer to all of these questions. Legend posits that the camps weren’t closed to financial difficulties at all, and the buildings were razed because of the murder of four young girls late one night. The Gate is a reminder for the town to never build on this land again.
As the story goes, a caretaker of the organization snapped one night. He made his way into the dormitory around midnight, looking for his favorite four girls. Once he found them, he dragged them out of bed and into the woods, where he decapitated them. In the morning, camp councilors arrived for the day to find the heads of the four girls placed on the metal spikes of the gate. To this day, if you visit The Gate late at night, you will see the ghostly images of four heads mounted on the spikes with dripping blood.
So says the legend, at least. The truth… I think something happened here. Something serious and so embarrassing for the town that they attempted to erase the memory of it (Libertyville is known for keeping negative aspects of their little town out of the press as much as possible.*) Based on the lack of explanation as to why the buildings on that land were demolished, I can only assume that the town is attempting to limit the negative press. Libertyville is an affluent suburb of Chicago that prides itself on being a quiet and safe place to live; They want to keep it that way.
In visiting The Gate, I did get a chill approaching it (despite the 90 degree heat.) This was probably more likely due to the sight of The Gate itself, the surprise that it’s actually still standing, and the story behind it than any actual ghosts lurking around. The structure itself is rusted, the stone pillars and walls attached to it crumbling. The path past it winds through trees and brush. If you look hard enough, you can still see foundations of some of the buildings, which nature is quickly reclaiming. Nothing spooky happened, but knowing that this location hides a dark secret is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.