Jo-Ann Boepple: My trip to purgatory

Published 11:46 am Friday, October 14, 2011

Last week my husband and I went to purgatory. In the Roman Catholic Church purgatory is defined as any place or state of temporary banishment, suffering or punishment. This was not the place we visited — not yet, anyway. Yes, we did go to purgatory.
It is unknown exactly how this area got its name and many have heard all the stories and urban legends that surround this area. It is a place where people go hunting, and a favorite spot for mushroom hunters. We have friends who have hunted there for many years.  I was curious to see it and in the Elkhart newspaper last week, in describing a color tour of the area, purgatory was mentioned.
So with a copy of the newspaper in hand we set off to find purgatory. There are many strange outrageous stories about the area and there is a little bit of truth within them all. Here are a few:
Goat Man lives in an isolated part of the woods known as the Purgatory Limits. It is said that whoever comes across the Goat Mans’ place will never be seen again. Another twist is that you cannot find the Goat Man’s place on purpose. You kind of just stumble upon it.
There are cemeteries both inside purgatory and on the outskirts. Purgatory actually is in two counties: Cass County and St. Joseph County. The actual name of purgatory is Three Rivers State Game Area.
Brick Chapel Church is on the outskirts of purgatory and is an abandoned church that was at one time Methodist. It has a cemetery that sits across the street. The large backdoor of the church was placed there so that the previous owner could park his tractor inside.
Shavehead Lake Cemetery is located in St. Joseph County; however, it is about five to 10 minutes from Brick Chapel. This cemetery has about the same layout of Brick Chapel except that it is much larger.
Blood Rock is located somewhere within the heart of purgatory. Blood Rock is supposedly the place where Al Capone murdered a number of people. It is said that when walking on the top of this rock you can see the blood stains from his victims.
Al Capone had a mansion there. How he ever found such a place amazes me. Only a few things remain of Al Capone’s mansion — mostly one side of the foundation and a whole lot of bricks. Arsonists have burned most of the building.
There is also another building that has been discovered in this same area. It appears to be a factory. More than half of this building has sunk into a swamp.
Driving down the scenic dirt roads that leads to such a place makes its history unbelievable. If you want to find purgatory, it is not on any map, but if you are brave and want to celebrate the coming holiday in a haunting fashion, I’ll tell you how to get there next week.