Looking for Leopold and Loeb’s culvert

One of my childhood heroes was the criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Beside being a notorious agnostic (and writing an autobiography that was the first book I read in the sixth grade when I was admitted into the adult library by special dispensation, having read all the books in the children’s library) he also defended Leopold and Loeb (wiki) who were convicted of murdering a child and stuffing the body in a culvert. Some time ago, when googling the Nike missile site at nearby Wolf Lake (map), where I often walk, I became aware that Wolf Lake was also where Leopold and Loeb disposed of the body in a culvert.

Yesterday I went for a long walk after transferring the new Leonard Cohen London concert album to my new mp3 player, and just for kicks decided to see if I could find this notorious culvert. Here are the clues. The location is described as being in Illinois, near 118th street, near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, and on the north side of Wolf Lake. Also they moved the body with a car. Looking at a map, we see only two railroad tracks on the north side of Wolf Lake, one accessible by 118th street and one by the access road that goes around the west side of the lake (not on the map). I have marked the two possible routes in red.
wolf lake streets map2

So now, to the park.
I have never seen this before. Why does it make me nervous?
wolf lake hunters check in

There is still some fall color, even though most of the leaves have fallen. The sumacs are the most spectacular. I wonder if this is the same sumac the Arabs eat as a seasoning.
wolf lake fall color
wolf lake sumac
I take the road that goes around the west side of the lake (red line),
wolf lake aerial image3
but when I get to the crossroads, hoping to investigate the railroad tracks nearest the Indiana border, I am met with a road closure.
wolf lake road closed
I have no desire to meet up with hunters carrying guns of any kind so I climb the hill to the bike path to the west.
wolf lake entering bike path
The book exchange is still there, but no books today, not after two weeks of rain.
wolf lake book swap
Vanishing point:
wolf lake bike path
Finally I reach the turnoff for 118th street.
wolf lake 118th st crossing

And not wishing to run into duck hunters on the north side of the lake, I head towards the western exit.wolf lake bike west to 118th
This leads out to a supermarket and a few shops.
wolf lake shopping center
Here the frost has not touched anything. Roses are still blooming as I reset my mp3 player for the return trip.
wolf lake mp3 player
Geraniums and hosta are still green here, but at my house they’re yellow from the frost.
wolf lake geraniums
The map showed railroad tracks between the lake and 118th street, but I didn’t see any. On my return trip I see what has happened. The old railroad right-of-way has been used to make the bike trail, and our infamous culvert is no where to be found.
wolf lake upper bike path
But there’s no reason I can’t do a little moss gathering. I having been keeping a lookout for moss, and here I finally find it on the west facing edge of the bike trail. Alas, it’s public land, so I will have to leave it undisturbed and enjoy it right where it is.
wolf lake moss

Posted in Green. 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Looking for Leopold and Loeb’s culvert”

  1. A. J. P. Crown Says:

    The local authority probably rearranged things a bit after the murder. It probably wasn’t good for property values, being known as “the Leopold & Loeb dead-body location”.

  2. Nijma Says:

    They always do that. Whenever you hear about a dead body in my neighborhood, it’s always hedged with qualifiers:”they were killed somewhere else and dumped here”, “they were in a gang altercation that started somewhere else and then they drove here and were followed”, “it was a traffic accident”, “they were involved with drugs/prostitution”… and if there is any hint that it wasn’t people of the same race/ethnicity killing each other over some personal quarrel, why, it’s off the news within the hour, but of course you find out by word of mouth.

    Methinks the Authority doth protest too much.

  3. Bob Hill Says:


    I went looking for the site yesterday. I didn’t have much time because I had a flight I had to make. Also I wasn’t dressed for walking in the hot weather. So you think the bicycle path at the place where 118th St would cross it if 118th St ran to the bike path?
    As to A.J.P. Crown’s point, I have been to the site of the Symbionese Liberation Army site in Los Angeles and Nicole’s condo and O.J.’s house. Apparently LA has a policy of changing the address by a few digits so you can never locate the address as publicized at the time of the crime. You almost ahve to have a map or photos and find it on your own. (Or look in Wikipedia,w hich does an excellent job of giving addresses.)


  4. Nijma Says:

    Bob, I did find it later, but have not had time to put up the pictures. The culvert is actually in the lake, under the railroad tracks that go through the middle of the lake. You can walk to it on the northernmost embankment that divides the north part of the lake from the middle part. It’s not particularly concealed and there are people fishing all over the place, so it doesn’t seem like the smartest place to conceal a body, although who knows what it was like back then.

  5. Margie Black Says:

    Please post the photos of the culvert as it looks today. I don’t mean to rush you, but… please!

  6. Nijma Says:

    Oh my, I had no idea anyone was still interested.

    I took a walk out there yesterday, and to make a long story short, found out the causeway did not exist in 1925. That means Loeb and Leopold could not have used it to drive to the culvert and dump the body. So, wrong culvert. I think I have identified the correct area though, and the culvert is not there any more. Details later. Hopefully I can post the new photos within a day or two.

  7. Margie Black Says:

    Thank you. By the way (you probably know this already), I believe a trainman first saw the body sticking out of the culvert. If that’s true, it would mean that the culvert is near to the tracks. There are published pictures of that spot. I don’t know if it will help you, but if you don’t have them I can upload them for you.


  8. Nijma Says:

    No, I didn’t know that. The accounts I have read say it was the RR tracks on the north side of the lake.

    The new pictures are posted now.

    I haven’t seen pictures, but I hear there is a film or documentary of some kind. Feel free to post a link to pictures, the comment format makes links automatically. Or you can email something to me (my address is in the right sidebar) and I can put it up, if that is easier.

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