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The almost forgotten story of Timber Ridge Road, Illinois and its murders~

3 min read

If many people have heard the stories of the ghost at the curve in Timber Ridge Road, most are unaware of the details about what happened there. As usual, every time the tale has been told, the details were altered until the fact that a woman murdered her children became the only piece of truth. However, this horrible story is all too real.
Less than 2 kilometers outside of Cambridge, Illinois sits Timber Ridge Road. As motorists travel west along Timber Ridge, they drive through a sharp curve marked by a Mulberry tree and an old, rustic fence that divides two cornfields, a bucolic scene that hides a terrible story, a fact that few would remember if it were not for its relating ghost stories.


In all started in 1896, when Julia Johnson married a man named Clarence B. Markham, and the young couple settled on a farm in Andover Township outside of Cambridge. In nine years of marriage, Julia Markham gave birth to seven children, four girls and three boys, aged from between five months to eight and a half years.
On the morning of Saturday September 30, 1905, while her husband labored in a neighboring field, Julia Markham, according to the Cambridge Chronicle, “committed one of the most dastardly deeds that has ever occurred in Henry County.” At around 11 o’clock, she sent her two eldest children to a nearby spring to take water. While they were gone, she took an ax and swung it at the heads of her five youngest, killing them instantly, and when the two returned, she dealt with them the same way. Julia had carefully planned the massacre and intended to commit suicide afterward, but the knife that she used to cut her throat was too dull. Wounded, she laid her children out on a bed, side by side, and doused them with coal oil. Then, she lit the oil on fire, burning the entire house.
Meanwhile, the Markham’s neighbors saw smoke billowing from the house and rushed over, intending to save the children. However, they instead stumbled upon a terrible scene. “Mrs. Markham stayed in the burning house until practically all her clothing was burned off, and then crawled out doors,” the Chronicle reported.
A Doctor on the scene informed the woman that she did not have long to live. Seeing her end was near, she confessed and died at 3 o’clock that afternoon.


Decades later the ruins of the Markham’s home was wiped out even if their aging red barn remained, becoming a focal point for local teens who grew up hearing stories about the murders. Over the years facts blurred, people began to report seeing the ghost of Julia Markham along the roadside and they blamed accidents at the curve in Timber Ridge Road on her ghost.
On May 19, 2007, the Moline Dispatch reported one eyewitness account of the haunting from 18 years earlier. The Markham’s barn was still standing at the time, and two young women drove out there looking for a place to hang out. As they neared the curve, they caught sight of something strange.
On the fence, there was something white floating off into the cornfield, one of the women told the newspaper. It was white with long flowing hair. But a translucent phantom was not the only thing spotted along the road. Paranormal researchers Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk spoke with one woman who told them that she had seen a spook light floating near the old fence.

Today, there is nothing out of place on the curve in Timber Ridge Road, even less so now that the barn is gone. Aside from a few old articles on dusty newspapees, nothing tangible remains that would remind passersby of the unspeakable acts committed outside the village of Cambridge that fateful day in 1905.


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