I recently visited the grave of James A. Moon, a “fighting quaker’ in the Civil War, a farmer, a blacksmith, and an inventor. Yet, his legacy is attached to his final deadly invention.
On June 10, 1876, Moon drove a wagon away from his two-story house he shared with his wife and two children and headed towards downtown Lafayette, Indiana. Loaded in a trunk were the following, which he eventually carried (with help) into his room at the Lahr House: “Five 30-inch lengths of 1-by-6 lumber, a wooden soapbox, assorted screws, leather straps, a dowel, a brace and three bits, a wrench, a screwdriver, a candle, a few yards of lightweight cord, matches and a pencil” (Bob Kriebel, Journal & Courier). Such contents would be used to create a deadly device.
The next day, June 11th, a beheaded James Moon was found in his room by hosterly staff. It seems he had ended his own life by constructing and using a guillotine, which was activated by a cord and candle:
One end of the jointed wooden arm — fashioned out of the 1-by-6 lumber — swung on a hinge screwed into the floor. The two-inch thick iron bars bolted to the broadax weighted the far end. Moon had measured things precisely then strapped himself so that the ax would fall upon his throat. (Bob Kriebel, Journal & Courier)
The coroner’s jury ruled he died by his own hand. To learn more about the event, I recommend reading Bob Kriebel’s article. To read a collection of newspaper articles that describe the aftermath (patent issues and prior behavior), I suggest you check out Chris Woodyard’s Haunted Ohio.
James Aaron Moon is buried in Farmers Institute Cemetery in Shadeland, IN. I suggest visiting the cemetery and the historic Farmers Institute up the road.
This past weekend, I visited Mount Hope Cemetery in Logansport, Indiana. The city is named for James Renick-Logan (“Captain Logan”), a scout (of debated background) who served under William Henry Harrison in the War of 1812. When it was incorporated in 1838, they chose the name Logan’s Port as the city was a port on the Wabash Erie Canal. The city’s slogan, “Where two rivers meet” speaks to the junction of the Eel and Wabash Rivers. Along with river transportation, the historic Michigan Road and several freight train routes run through Logansport
Logansport is home to a Dentzel Carousel, a national historic landmark. I remember riding the carousel as a young child, lifting my arm high to grab a brass ring. During this visit, I would not be grabbing brass rings, but visiting a (supposedly) haunted cemetery.
About the Cemetery
Mount Hope Cemetery is reportedly the third largest cemetery in Indiana with 200 acres. The cemetery came into existence in 1854, but also includes the 9th Street Cemetery which started in 1828.
I learned something very cool about this cemetery, but I’ll talk about that more in my next post!
About The Haunting
According to very casual internet research, this cemetery may be haunted. Paranormal activity includes:
the sound of galloping horses
the sound of cannon fire (there are canons next to the war memorial, see above)
the sound of whistles (especially in response to your own whistling)
inscriptions in/on the mausoleums which read “Knock three times and they shall come.”
I did not witness anything (whomp whomp).
I wrap up this post with some photographic highlights from my visit. First, I was intrigued by this gate memorial. “In Christian funerary symbolism,” Douglas Keister writes in Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, “gates represent the passage from one realm to the next” (116). I love how the gate appears to be opening, welcoming William B. Lanchester to heaven.
There were a number of treestones (see bottom right of picture below), but I unfortunately was enjoying them too much to get photos. I guess I will have to make another visit (no complaints here). Popular to the Midwest, treestones (or tree stumps) were very popular from the 1880s to about 1905 (Kiester 65). According to Kiester:
Where one treestone is seen, often many will be found, suggesting that their popularity may have been tied to particularly aggressive monument dealer in the area or a ready local supply of limestone, which was the carving material of choice. Treestones could also be ordered from Sears and Roebuck. (65)
While I’m not sure the reasoning for the treestones of Mount Hope, I did find that piece of history very interesting!
I couldn’t help but notice this large and deep columbarium.
The cemetery also had a number of beautiful mausoleums. I loved the beautiful gates!
Thanks for coming along on my tour. Cannot wait to share more after my second visit.
I was recently invited to a friend’s home on a Wine Wednesday to share some ghost stories . She thought a live version of my #humpdayhaunts series (on Instagram) would pair well with wine.
This was my first time being a “guest speaker” on a paranormal subject, so I was very anxious! I decided to narrow down my subject to Indiana ghost stories. I also used the opportunity to find new material. For a few nights, I put aside time to fill my commonplace book with Hoosier folklore.
The night of the event, I came equipped with homemade bookmarks, zines on Haunted Indiana bridges, my commonplace book, and pictures for my “presentation.” I thought if I bored them to death, I could at least send them home with some goods.
I shared about five ghost stories with two focused on mausoleums (because I love a haunted mausoleum). Funny enough, both haunted mausoleums are located in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, IN (which I’ve added to my cemetery bucket list).
Well, I’ll get to it…
So, there was a wealthy businessman named Martin Sheets who lived in Terre Haute in the 1900s. Martin had an intense fear of being buried alive. He had a reoccurring dream that he was unable to move or scream when the doctor pronounced him dead, and he then regained consciousness in a coffin deep in the dirt. Luckily, Martin had some money to insure this did not happen.
Martin first had a coffin custom made with latches on the inside, so he could easily open his coffin. To make sure he didn’t have the pressure of dirt on his coffin lid, he had a mausoleum built. Lastly, he had a phone installed in the mausoleum that could make calls to the cemetery’s main office. Imagine getting that call: “Hi, y’all. It’s Martin. Can you come get me? I seem to have been buried alive.”
In 1910, Marin died and was placed in his mausoleum. The phone connected to the cemetery office until they got a new phone system, but they did keep the phone connected and active (it was in his will and paid for after all).
Several years later, Martin’s wife passed. She was found dead in her home, clutching her telephone tightly. Family members assumed she was calling for help. They held a funeral and prepared her to join her deceased husband in the mausoleum.
When cemetery workers went to place her coffin in the mausoleum, nothing seemed unusual or out of place…except that the phone was off the hook and hanging from the wall…
Did Martin call his wife from beyond the grave?
Heinl Mausoleum and Stiffy Green
In 1920, an elderly man named John Heinl passed away. The citizens of Terre Haute liked him very much, but his dog loved him the most. Wherever John went, so did the dog. Everyone in town called the bulldog “Stiffy Green,” because he had green eyes and walked with a stiff leg.
When John died, he was placed in a mausoleum and Stiffy Green was placed with a friend. The mournful dog would run away often and was always found on the steps of his deceased owner’s mausoleum. Eventually, everyone decided it would be best if Stiffy Green just became a cemetery dog.
Stiffy spent the end of his days in the cemetery. When he passed away, he was stuffed and placed next to the tomb of his owner.
Several months after Stiffy Green’s death, the cemetery caretaker heard a dog barking on the way to his car. He instantly recognized it as Stiffy Green’s bark coming from the direction of John’s mausoleum. Along with the phantom barks, people also reported seeing the figure of an elderly man strolling the cemetery with a small ghost bulldog following along.
Both stories are some fun Indiana folklore. Please note there are multiple versions of each story and some details have been proven false over time. But, I’m not here to ruin a perfectly good story.
I went “camping” over Labor Day weekend, which required a long trek down country roads. When I am driving down country roads, I always have my eyes open for small cemeteries tucked away in forested areas and in between corn fields.
I found the Old Turkey Run Cemetery (south of Wingate, IN) before crossing Turkey Run Creek on the way to the cabin. It was at the end of a very long grassy road off the main road. I wasn’t sure if I could drive my car down it and my dogs were anxious, so I decided to make a stop on the way home. I wasn’t disappointed.
According to Waymarking.com,
This peaceful cemetery, set back from the road, was established in 1828. The first person buried there was Mary Westfall, her remains moved there, from their original place of interment, when the new Turkey Run church and cemetery was established there. The church was replaced by a new building, close to the town of Wingate, then called Pleasant Hill, in 1852. The church was renamed to Pleasant Hill Christian Church, at that time. The original location of the church, on the cemetery grounds, is marked by a stone plaque, in the ground, and four boulders.
Kira Butler from The Midnight Society recently posted her cemetery bucket list, which inspired me to create my own list in my commonplace book. My list is strictly American cemeteries (for now), because mama is broke.
Below is my list, which is always growing. Many were chosen because they are reportedly haunted (of course). Am I missing any must-see cemeteries? Let me know in the comments.
On Halloween this year, I decided to take the day off from work. I drove to Attica, IN in hopes of acquiring a black long-haired cat from a shelter. I found out the cat was very afraid of dogs (I have two), so I decided to drive to the nearby town of Williamsport, IN and see some graves.
Turning onto Cemetery Road (Oh, to have that address!), I found two cemeteries: the older Hillside Cemetery and the more modern Highland Cemetery (located on the other side the railroad tracks). I walked towards the oldest graves possible, of course.
This cemetery is surrounded by woods and some memorials along the edge sit on a ravine. The Hartz family plot is one of them.
When I was told I had to drive to Schererville, IN for work, I began looking for cemeteries along US 52 and 41. I chose two cemeteries based on two specific memorials I wanted to see. Two memorials with tragic stories. Though, I was also surprised to find a third memorial that brought me to tears.
Buswell Cemetery (Kentland, Newton County, IN)
Buswell Cemtery is surrounded by corn fields, and corn cobs cover the dirt road going up to the cemetery. While there was the usual damage seen in old cemeteries, it was in great condition.
He is surrounded by his wife, children, siblings, and parents in Buswell. I thought about the loss of James and also those affected by his death…those who are now buried next to him.
When walking back to the cemetery entrance, a distant memorial caught my eye. It was in the back of the cemetery and was separated from the rest of the interments. The grave was for a newborn named Debroah Kay Axsom. The marker looked homemade and was more human than any memorial I had ever seen before. Admittedly, I stood in the back of the cemetery fighting back tears.
Justus Cemetery (Oxford, Benton County, IN)
Justus Cemetery is next to a golf course in Oxford, IN. When driving through Oxford, you cannot miss their love for their award-winning race horse, Dan Patch. There are streets named after him. His name is written in large letters on a barn roof. He is even buried there. But another day, Dan Patch.
When I was on my Find A Grave app, I came across another obituary. Two young boys drowned trying to save a young girl in a gravel pit in Benton County. While I was unable to find the grave for Marvin Mounce, I was able to find Carol Albertson’s (1924-1938). I was moved by these young boys who attempted to save a young girl (she survived), not knowing how to swim themselves. I wanted to pay my respects to these small town heroes.
When possible, I try to find information on the people behind these stone memorials. People are more than the stones that mark their burial plots.
Update – December 3, 2017
According to the following site, Justus Cemetery has some local lore attached to it. The following italicized text is from the site.
In the tiny town of Oxford, Indiana, not far from Indianapolis, lays one of the most notorious cemeteries in the Hoosier state, known as Justus Cemetery. This ominous burial ground is home to its very own ghost, making it one of the most widely visited haunted places in Indiana.
This spine-tingling tale begins with the Oxford water tower. One dark, stormy evening many years ago a train chugged its normal path along the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad. The pale, fat moon was obscured by full gray clouds, and not a soul dared to venture out on such a windy, wet night.
Crew members reluctantly emerged from the warmth of the train to gather water from the tower. One by one, they stopped, horrified to hear a deep, echoing moan rising from the tower. The train’s passengers heard the mournful sound as well, and were frozen in their seats in fear.
The passengers’ horror, as well as that of the crew members, reached new heights when the sound was suddenly accompanied by a horrifying sight-that of a glowing white figure. The ghastly apparition appeared through the sheets of rain to drift toward the train and its stunned occupants. Still moaning, the figure was headed straight for them.
Amid panicked screams from their passengers, the crew began working at a frantic pace to finish their task at the water tower. And then, as abruptly as it had appeared, the spirit vanished. It dove into an open grave, to the intense relief of all who watched it go.
That fateful night wasn’t the only time the Justus Cemetery ghost made a surprise appearance. Just a few nights later, the same crew-minus a few who refused to return to the water tower ever again-felt the wrath the restless spirit once more. The duties at the water tower had been completed, and the train was ready to head to its next destination. As the engine roared to life and the train should have began to chug along the tracks, the crew made a horrifying realization-the train wasn’t going anywhere.
The wheels spun desperately, but the train appeared to be gripped in some sort of deathly hold. Finally, the panicked crew felt the train break free and begin to move along the tracks. However, the men banded together and vowed to never return to the town of Oxford on their nightly trips.
Is it really a ghost, or just a long-running youthful prank?
A detective was hired by the Railroad to investigate the ghost of Justus Cemetery.
The detective observed a group of high-school age boys tiptoeing into the area, carrying a billowing white sheet. Within seconds, their secret was discovered-they had attached the sheet to a wire and dangled it from the water tower, and had even coated the train tracks with soap to make the train stick when it tried to move. However, most of the crew who witnessed the power of the Justus Cemetery ghost swore it wasn’t a prank. To this day, many in the town of Oxford believe the water tower is haunted.
It was the first weekend of October. The air was cold and the sky was overcast. Obviously, it was time to visit a cemetery.
I drove to the small town of Pine Village, which was a very solitary drive down country roads. I was surrounded by livestock, corn fields, and farm houses. I even saw a goat standing on top of a sitting cow. A perfect Sunday drive and the ideal scenery for this taphophile.
I was looking for Mound Cemetery, which is indeed…a mound. A friend was kind enough to share a screen shot via Google Maps. As you can see, it has a very unique layout.
Mound Cemetery has some very interesting Indiana history as described by Genealogy Trails:
Mound (Round) Cemetery is a unique landmark in Adams Township with much speculation that the large perfectly shaped mound which rises about 30 feet was an Indian mound. It is encircled by a road about one-fourth mile in length, forming a circle at a crossroads. The larger portion, three-fourths, of the mound was donated for a cemetery by the Martindale family; the remaining one-fourth was purchased from the Little family. Many of the early settlers of Adams Township are buried there.
When I arrived to Mound Cemetery I was very taken aback. It was eerily quiet. I could only hear distant birds and the wind blowing through the corn. I was very alone. I’ll admit to looking back a few times to make sure I was actually alone. I blame it on the weather.
The cemetery, along with its interesting layout, was beautiful. At its highest point you get great views of the surrounding countryside. I loved this cemetery. I wish it had seating, because I would have sat there for hours.
Here’s a short video of my drive around the cemetery.
It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a cemetery, and I forgot how much I enjoy quietly moving from memorial to memorial. I visited Fink Cemetery in Lafayette. The weather was perfect and the area was lively with the sounds of a nearby church’s Fall Fest. I saw a tractor pulling a covered wagon on the walk over.
A friend had recommended the site, because of its interesting history:
Under the minimal light of the moon, people were dumping cholera victims into mass graves. While there was no markings for the mass graves, I walked around the south and east sides where they are located. I wondered how many people were buried in piles, what their names were, and the holes left in their family histories. It is upsetting to think how epidemics not only wipe out populations, but individuality. They are no longer people with stories in these mass graves, but a representation of sickness.
When I’m walking around, I usually have my Find A Grave app pulled up on my iPhone. I love when memorials are accompanied with images and/or a eulogy of the deceased. I came across one grave that had an unique story.
According to a user on Find a Grave, James (Jim) Jones (Dec. 9 1852 – Dec 16 1917) was an interesting character. As it appears on the site:
Jim Jones 09 Dec 1852 and his sister Mary Frances Jones.
Jim’s mother Miranda Johnson (1833) died on ” MAR 18th 1859 ” soon after Jim & Mary were born.
His father William Marion Jones was killed on AUG 14th 1859, while trying to stop a runaway horses.
Jim and Mary Frances were then to be raised by their fathers brother Thomas Bybee Jones, Tipton County Court of Common Pleas, October 17, 1859 Page: 348.
Jim was a Trapper while married to Mary Cooper Jones.
Jim Jones was frequently in a tavern talking with the famous James Whitcomb Riley in Indianapolis, IN.
This was most likely between 1883 and 1893. Jims daughter Clara would go to the bar and say Jim Jones, Mary Jones says it’s time to come home.
While I could not verify this data, I like to imagine it is real. Although, I am not trying to create some Indiana lore here, so just take it with a grain of salt.
You know you are odd when a foggy Saturday morning excites you, because it’s the perfect atmosphere for exploring a cemetery. Lucky for me, I had planned a trip to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN. This cemetery is 555 acres of beautiful memorials (200,000 graves) and interesting history. Notable persons buried in this cemetery include James Whitcomb Riley (poet) and Benjamin Harrison (23rd US president). On this visit, I wanted to focus on those forgotten.
The Pioneer Cemetery (part of Crown Hill) is appropriately surrounded by a black metal fence and is located away from the main cemetery. This cemetery is home to three cemeteries that were relocated after their closure. According to a handout provided by Crown Hill:
The first pioneers buried at Crown Hill were originally buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, also known as the City Cemetery, following its establishment in 1821. After Greenlawn Cemetery became full city leaders responded to the need for another cemetery and established Crown Hill in the fall of 1863. Greenlawn was later forced to relocate due to land development and 1,160 pioneers were relocated to Crown Hill from October 1912 until February 1913. Only 35 of this number were identified at the time they were brought to Crown Hill. In addition to the pioneers buried within this lot, several thousand additional burials were moved from Greenlawn to area cemeteries. Among these were 1,616 Confederate soldiers who were reburied in 1933 at the Confederate Mound, which is a National Cemetery located in Section 32 of Crown Hill. Many of those who were instrumental in the acquisition and development of Greenlawn Cemetery became the original developers of Crown Hill decades later.
In the summer of 1999 the Rhoads Cemetery, originally established in 1844 on the Westside of Indianapolis, was relocated to the Pioneer Cemetery at Crown Hill. This cemetery represents five pioneer families, comprised of twelve adults and thirty-four children, and was dedicated late October 1999.
The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery was relocated to the Pioneer Cemetery at Crown Hill in June 2008 and was dedicated on June 11. Originally located just feet from the Interstate 69 (I-69) / Interstate 465 (I-465) interchange on the northeast side of Indianapolis, the cemetery relocation was required to allow for a highway project to increase capacity. The relocation of the Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery was conducted by experienced archaeologists and forensic anthropologists. The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery is comprised of thirty-three adults and children representing the three pioneer families. Their graves and marble markers were positioned in the exact same configuration as the original cemetery. The stones date from the 1830s to the 1880s.
Each cemetery has a large stone marker with the history on the front, and burial plot information on the back. The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry cemetery has individual memorials with names and dates, but the other two have less information about their pioneers (as you can see in the picture below). I appreciated how this space honored not only the deceased, but the original cemeteries.
In Section 37 of Crown Hill Cemetery is a memorial for children that died while at the Indianapolis Children’s Asylum, the Children’s Guardians Home and the Asylum for Friendless Colored Children (from 1892 and 1980). This memorial sits on a mass grave of 699 children who died from disease, starvation, and neglect. These children were neglected by their parents, the community, and social services.
My visit to Crown Hill Cemetery was somber reminder that not all human bodies are respected and memorialized. That people are dismissed in life, and dismissed in death.