Does ‘Tillie The Ghost’ Really Haunt Oak Hill Cemetery In Cedar Rapids? [PHOTOS]
With Halloween coming up later this month, there is nothing better than a ghost story. It gets even better when that ghost story hits close to home. If you search for haunted places in eastern Iowa, and specifically in Cedar Rapids, there is one story that appears on nearly every website… Tillie the Ghost at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Never heard of Tillie the Ghost? Well, she supposedly is the ghost of a small Czech girl who is said to wander Oak Hill Cemetery carrying a candle. She has even been known to try and pull visitors into a nearby mausoleum. What a terrifying sight it would be to see little Tillie wandering around in the dead of night at Oak Hill. It would be even more terrifying if the story was real. A little bit of simple research thanks to some help from Oak Hill Cemetery and you’ll realize what Tillie really is. A made-up ghost story.
So let’s dissect the legend of Tillie. First, Tillie’s grave is said to lie in the Potter’s Field section of the cemetery. Here is our first problem. That section is NOT part of Oak Hill Cemetery. That area is controlled and maintained by the City Parks Department. The only connection it has to Oak Hill is that you have to drive through it to get there. Strike one.
Tillie’s grave is said to be the resting place of two Czechoslovakian girls who died when their parents passed through the area in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. First of all, Oak Hill Cemetery wasn’t established until 1853. Secondly, there are 11 known Tillies and Matildas buried at Oak Hill. NONE of them are children and the earliest date of death is 1893. Strike two.
The final part of Tillie’s ghost story says that she wandered the graveyard carrying a candle and tries to pull people into nearby mausoleums. There are NO mausoleums near the City Parks section of the cemetery. Also, the oldest mausoleum at Oak Hill dates back only to the 1890’s. Tillie would have already been a ghost by then.
There is no real way to know when and how the story of Tillie got started. Some believe it may have been a groundskeeper on the grounds in the 1960’s who made up the legend to scare a co-worker. The legend survived and remains to this day. Mention Tillie at Oak Hill to a friend or relative and chances are they’ve heard the story. But that’s all it is. Another ghost story made up to scare us. Sorry, Tillie. Not this time.