More Haunted Cemetery Statues in the United States

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I recently shared two haunted cemetery statues on my Instagram during my weekly #humpdayhaunts post. This took me down a spooky rabbit hole on the internet.

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I know, I'm very late with #humpdayhaunts. SImply put: I've been tired! But I'm here now with two haunted cemetery statues from Texas (see my Stories for images). Flora Charlotte Kemp (1890-1910) is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls, Texas. Her grave is marked with a beautiful monument of a woman walking down a short set of stairs. Local lore says Flora died on her wedding day when she tripped, fell down the stairs, and broke her neck. Local records say she died of typhoid fever. Regardless, the statue is called "The Crying Bride" and it is rumored to cry. 👻 In Forest Lawn Cemetery of Beaumont, Texas stands a life-size statue of a couple hold each other's arms and looking towards the sky. If you are brave enough, take your car to the drive behind the cemetery at night. Then, shine your brights on the statue and wait. According to Weird Texas: "Witnesses have reported seeing the girl's face turning sideways toward her lover as his white marbled arms reach around to caress her back and the two share a long, spectral kiss." According to one internet comment: after the statues kissed, the man turned and looked at the witnesses. Sweet and spooky! 📖: Find a Grave, Weird Texas (online) 👻 I added a link in my Stories to a blog post on haunted cemetery statues if you’re interested! 👻 . . . . . #halloween #halloweeneveryday #halloween365 #ghost #ghosts #haunted #spooky #halloweencollector #autumn #fall #october #hauntedplaces #october31st #halloweencountdown #trickortreat #pumpkin #halloweenobsessed #autumnnights #autumnvibes🍁 #bookworm #booknerd #ghoststories #texas #cemetery_lovers #cemetery #taphophile #graveyard #paranormal #supernatural

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I have covered this topic before on the blog, but I thought I might quickly share some more haunted cemetery statues. I got a lot of these statues from one of my favorite websites: www.hauntedplaces.org. This website allows users to submit haunted locations and other users can share their experiences, ask questions, and/or share their perspective. My favorite feature of the website? The Random button. Click it and you will get a random haunted location. Mindless spooky fun.

With that said, I always try to find other sources to verify the legend (making sure it was not pull out of nowhere, that it has been established as lore). Regardless, it is a fun and interactive archive of ghost stories.

Some (More) Cemetery Statues

  • A statue of a woman comes to life and drowns herself in the nearby lake at La Belle Cemetery (Oconomowoc, Wisconsin). Legend says she died the same way. Some say the statue’s hands drip blood.
  • In Logan Cemetery (Logan, Utah) a statue of a woman weeps for her eight children. Legend says they passed after their father cursed them. Others say she lost her children to illness.
  • If you stand under a certain angel statue in Evergreen Cemetery (Judsonia, Arkansa) and stare into her eyes, they might turn red.
  • In Brunswick, New York’s Forest Park Cemetery (Pinewoods Cemetery), a decapitated statue bleeds from the neck.
  • A mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery (Muscatine, Iowa) holds a statue of kneeling woman with her right arm stretched forward. The statue is called the Blue Angel because a cobalt blue window behind her sometimes gives her a blue glow. Some say if you see the blue light hit the statue, you will receive good luck. If she comes alive, you might die. Some say she comes alive to chase away vandals. Her right hand is missing and it once held a rose. It was believed that if you witnessed her drop the rose at midnight on Halloween, you will die. Allegedly, someone took matters into their own hands and cut off the hand holding the rose. Although, visitors report still seeing the hand holding a rose.
  • A statue moves around at night in the back of Memory Gardens (Rensselaer, Indiana). The statue’s head, arms, or entire body will move to keep watch on people walking by. Maybe the statue is protecting the graves. Be on your best behavior!

For fun, here’s another cemetery statue from an old #humpdayhaunts.

Stay safe my friends!

Related Post: Haunted Cemetery Statues in the United States

 

Photo by Haley Owens on Unsplash

In My Commonplace Book: Grave Bombs

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When visiting any cemetery, I like to do my research. My research on Mount Hope Cemetery of Logansport, Indiana revealed an interesting bit of history. Yes, I have heard about the various methods used to protect graves from graverobbers, but I never knew graves were sometimes protected with bombs. Yes, bombs.

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From the 1939 article in the Pharos-Tribune (From Newspapers.com)

According to an 1939 article in Logansport’s Pharos-Tribune, gravediggers found a bomb  in Mount Hope Cemetery that had been buried with Catherine Grabel Huntley in 1885. The article explains this mechanism:

It is understood that metal were placed beneath the surface the burial lots and wires, attached to the mechanism, were stretched across the grave so that when “grave ghouls” attempted to dig into the freshly made mound to procure a body, their shovel or spade would come in contact with one of the wires, causing the to explode.

During the “reign” of the “grave ghouls” many such devices were placed in cemeteries of the county by relatives of deceased persons as a protection against possible loss of the newly buried body.

The bomb found in Mount Hope was turned over to the family, then eventually handed over to police to “tap” the device so to avoid any dangerous explosions. A hole was drilled into the bomb, exposing a black powder. The powder, having lost some of its effectiveness, still would have burned. The bomb eventually ended up with Cass County Historical Society in Logansport.

Sources

“Grave Bomb is Located in Cemetery.” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 15 Dec 1939, LINK.

Kirk, Mitchell. “Blasts from the past: Bombs once necessary to protect area’s graves.” Kokomo Tribune, 1 May 2105, LINK.

 

Indiana Cemeteries: Mount Hope

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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!

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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).

Cemetery Highlights

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.

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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!

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I couldn’t help but notice this large and deep columbarium.

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The cemetery also had a number of beautiful mausoleums. I loved the beautiful gates!

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Thanks for coming along on my tour. Cannot wait to share more after my second visit.

Sources

City of Logansport Cemetery website

Johnston, Courtney. “These 8 Haunted Cemeteries in Indiana Are Not For the Faint of Heart.” Only in Your State, 20 July 2016. 

Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Gibbs Smith, 2004.

Logansport – Cass County Chamber of Commerce website 

“Logansport, Indiana.” Wikipedia 

“Mount Hope Cemetery.” Hauntedplaces.org

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day: Breakup Via Séance

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In February of 1956, newspapers across the United States—from New York to California—told the story of a relationship between a British girl and a ghost ending after a séance.

A three-week “out of this world” romance between a pretty cockney bobby-soxer and her poltergeist boyfriend was over yesterday—or at least her family hoped it was.

Three weeks before the séance, 15-year-old Shirley Hitchings of London met her ghost sweetheart through tappings on her bedroom wall. Shirley first felt his presence, then the tappings began. She had set up an alphabet card and was able to decipher his messages. His name was Donald and he was from New Zealand. Shirley was scared at first but, as she told reporters, “[…] I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. It was a feeling of love, and not fear that surrounded Donald.”

The tapping communication worked like so. One tap meant “yes.” Two taps meant “no.” Three taps meant “I don’t know.” Then, using the alphabet card, Shirley and Donald were able to talk using more complex messages. She would point at letters and he would tap when she reached the next letter to spell out words, as if her finger where a sort of planchette.

So things started off pretty sweet, but teenage love can get complicated. “It was great fun having a ghost for a boyfriend after I got used to it,” Shirley said, “But it got kind of complicated when he started throwing furniture around.” The noise woke up her father and alerted the family to the paranormal romance. Her grandmother put up a crucifix in her bedroom, but things just got worse. Donald threw more objects, including a clock.

The family, fed up with this violent boyfriend, decided to throw a séance.  It was quite the event. Three mediums, including spiritualist Harry Hanks, a crowd of newsmen, and “angry” police were all in attendance.  The one-hour seance, though, was pretty anti-climatic as no objects were thrown (the rowdy newsmen were making more of a racket than Donald). Rather, Shirley felt a sudden feeling of being free. She was reluctant to end things with Donald, but decided it was for the best after the séance. She felt happy.

Shirley’s father was relieved to have his quiet nights back (as he told reporters through a yawn). What was next for Donald? Well, Shirley’s father told reporters he would probably have to get a job.

Source: “Seance Ends Romance With Ghost,” The Troy Record, February 24, 1956, page 34.

More Valentine’s Day Reading

Mourners Find Love in a Cemetery

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Since Valentine’s Day is this Friday, I thought I might share some romantic content. During my research in the newspaper archives, I found two stories about mourners falling in love with cemetery employees.

“Aged Couple Married in Cemetery Romance,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, July 19, 1945

Mrs. Thoresca Cartisser (age 72) married Louis Schafer (age 74) in a simple ceremony on July 18, 1945. The bride wore lavender with matching posies in her straw hat. The two met at St. George’s Cemetery in Pittsburgh. Cartisser was visiting her second husband’s grave (“dressed in mourning black”) and Schafer was the cemetery caretaker. The romance began with walks and then led into phone calls from Schafer to Cartissser’s residence. Along with their age, the article explains, they both had the German language in common (she was from Austria and he was from Germany). In addition, they were both married twice before.

“Romance In Cemetery: Gravedigger Wins Widow at Grave of Husband,” East Oregonian, August 16, 1909

Charles Kramer, the oldest gravedigger of the Evergreen Cemetery in New York, “has probably dug more graves than any other man living in this city.” He fell in love and “wooed” Mrs. Theresa Furman, having spotted her during her daily visits to her late husband’s grave.

Every time Mrs. Furman appeared at her husband’s grave, Kramer, somehow or other, always succeeded in being ahead of her. He carried water for her. helped her plant flowers and did other little things, all of which aided him later when the time to propose to the Widow Furman arrived.

A few weeks later they were married and the gravedigger moved in with Mrs. Furman and her stepson James Weigand and son William Furman. One night, Kramer got into a quarrel with the sons over a “trifling matter.” The next night he received a blow when entering the home: “biff! something struck me over the head. It appeared to me as is some one was intent upon slipping me into one of the holes I had dug that day.”

The gravedigger left the matter alone, only to be hit again:

Last night I was going into the house when something fell on my head again. I heard some one say, ‘We hit him square that time,’ and disappear. I thought at first the house had fallen on me. but later discovered that it was nothing more than a good sized baseball bat.

Well, as you’ve probably figured out, it was the two sons. They were held on $100 bail. Kramer just went back to doing what he does best: “Evergreen’s champion grave digger then hurried to his place of employment, announcing that he had a ‘little job of digging a few graves’ waiting for him.”

I am not sure of the effect this incident had on the marriage of the mourner and gravedigger as the article just ends with no mention of Mrs. Theresa Furman.

Sorry to end on a depressing note. If you can handle it, check out my past Valentine’s Day post on ghost stories of tragic love. 

 

Photo by Jill Dimond on Unsplash

The Haunted Hollow Tree of Indianapolis

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It’s me, coming up for air from the spooky newspaper archives with a story for my fellow Hoosiers.

Today we are taking a float down Pogue’s Run, an urban creek in Indianapolis that starts at the intersection of Elizabeth Street and Lennington Drive and empties into the White River south of the Kentucky Avenue Bridge (Wikipedia). Running two-and-a-half miles, the creek is named after George Pogue, a settler who mysteriously disappeared. “Every few decades,” according to Atlas Obscura, “when unclaimed human bones turn up, there’s speculation that they might be Pogue’s.” But, I’m not here to talk about that mystery.

In March 1889, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (page 3) shares the peculiar legend of a haunted hollow tree in Pogue’s Run Bottom (near the creek). There’s a tree nicknamed “Gallows Tree” and neighborhood children believe it is the home of a ghost. Legend tells of a body that was found hanging from the tree during the war:

“Soldiers who climbed the tree to cut down the body found a curiously concealed opening into the tree. It was instantly concluded that the hollow interior of the elm should be the place of sepulchure. The body was lowered into the hollow tree, but apparently it struck no bottom. Certainly it gave forth no sound in falling. It may have been that the dust and accumulation of rotted particles of the tree’s heart had made a soft, deep bed within so that no sound of the falling body came forth. Or was it possible that the spreading roots of the elm walled in a deep ‘cave of the winds’ or well? At any rate, nothing was heard when the body tumbled to its uncertain grave.” 

Over time, city development began to surround the tree, but the sounds of history could still be heard. Citizens could hear “mournful sounds of distress” when they walked by the tree. One day, a group of boys were playing with a ball when it knocked into the tree. The ball disappeared! To retrieve the ball, the boy hit the tree with a bat causing “horrible moans of pain.” The boys scattered.

One of the boys later returned to investigate, climbing high up the tree: “He was about to call out his discovery when a terrific blast from the cavern smote him and took away bis breath. There was mingled with the roar of the wind the rattle of voices and the moans of despair.” The boy barely escaped getting sucked into the tree, losing his hat in the process.

So what the heck? The article concludes with some theories: “Is it not possible that buried treasures lie under the tree, vainly seeking all these years to testify by these mysterious methods to its rich presence? Or is is the tortured spirit of the murdered man seeking rest and finding none?”

What do you think?

#HumpDayHaunts: A Deathbed Confession

For those who don’t know, I post haunted history every Wednesday on my Instagram. I wanted to share this week’s post, which is another find from the newspapers archives. Make sure to give me a follow for future posts.

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If you've been reading my blog, you know I've been diving into those newspaper archives. Today’s #humpdayhaunts is a recent discovery from Indiana. Please note: this involves the murder of a child. ▪️I came across an article titled "BLUE EYES OF POISONED CHILD HAUNTED THE DYING MOTHER." Below the title reads: "And Tortured the Soul Into a Worldly Confession. The Prattling Lips And Tiny Fingers Beckoned Her Across the Dark River." ▪️ The Bedford Daily Mail (1905) reported that a former resident of Bedford, IN admitted to murdering her three-year-old daughter 20 years ago. While on her deathbed in Bloomington, Indiana, Mrs. John Lynch confessed to her awful crime twice. In her first confession, she pulled her sister aside and between gasps of breath said, "You know once,—a long time ago—I had a sweet little baby girl named Maude. I bought for me a dimes worth of morphine in Bedford, saying that I wanted it to cure the headache for myself. I did not use it—I gave it to my dear little girl baby." She had placed morphine in a cup of water when her daughter requested a drink. Mrs. Lynch (then MIss Cline) told the doctor and everyone her daughter died from eating acorns from the yard. Mrs. Lynch, because she had the child out of wedlock, wanted to remove the sweet child from her life. She would later marry a man, a man clueless of her crime. ▪️ The confession was brought on by repeated visits from her daughter’s ghost. The newspaper reports: "For years the very smiles and twinkling eyes of the little girl have haunted the mother day and night […] until she could see the child enter the door and approach her as she lay on her dying bed." ▪️ The former house of the mother and daughter was also reported by neighbors to be haunted. Activity included: “noises and spiritual forms seen lurking at night within its shadows." 📸: Unsplash / 📖: The Bedford Daily Mail, 21 August 1905 . . . . . #history #hauntedhistory #folklore #indiana #ghost #ghosts #haunted #hauntedplaces #truecrime #mfm #supernatural #paranormalinvestigating

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Short & Spooky Book Review: Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia by Nancy Roberts (USC Press)

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Nancy Roberts, known as the “First Lady of American Folklore,” wrote more than 20 books on Southern hauntings and folklore. Her stories weave archival research, firsthand accounts, and detailed descriptions of haunted locations, locations which she visited and soaked in. The University of South Carolina Press provided me a copy of Roberts’s Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia (originally published in 1978, 2019 reprint) to review. I was thrilled as I love local folklore and short stories (as you all know).

Nancy Roberts (1924–2008) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and returned to North Carolina, where her parents were originally from, in the 1950s. And, thank goodness for it. Roberts was an extremely prolific writer of Southern folklore, selling over one million copies. Impressed by her freelance writing for the Charlotte Observer, she was encouraged by poet and journalist Carl Sandburg to write her first book in 1958 (USC Press). The stories in her books are grounded in historical research, which earned her a certificate of commendation from the American Association of State and Local History. Along with her impressive list of books, Roberts was also known as an excellent oral storyteller and lecturer. Along with the title of “First Lady of American Folklore,” Roberts was also named “Custodian of the Twilight Zone” by Southern Living magazine.

Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia contains 18 short stories running around 5-10 pages with each story attached to a particular location, essentially a folklore tour. The stories are rooted in their historical times, yet the narrative view sometimes pulls back to the modern times Roberts was writing in. The stories make use of direct quotes from actual witnesses and fictionalized dialogue between characters (which was never hokey, a problem I find with some stories written about haunted history). Roberts grounds the stories in human emotions, making the supernatural less unfathomable. The ghosts themselves are not merely mists, but beings tethered to the earth by longing, fear, anger, secrets, love, and utter confusion.

I was given the chance to talk to the author’s daughter, also named Nancy Roberts, on the phone about the legacy of her mother. Her daughter mentioned something that stuck out to me on the phone call, something which was a common theme in the ghost stories written by her mother: “Everyone wants to get home.” Whether it’s a roadside ghost looking for a ride home or a mother ghost trying to get her baby back into her father’s arms, Roberts’s ghosts just want to get back home. Roberts is so good at describing this desperation and inciting emotion. While these stories can bum the reader out, there is something comforting in the way Roberts writes: like a mother wrapping you in a blanket, handing you a hot chocolate, and telling you the secrets of the world.

Her daughter spoke of her childhood: bedtime stories about mischievous fairies, adventures to the Bell Witch Cave, and the usual parental embarrassment. For example, her mother would sometimes dress in costume for her readings: “We would tease her about the costumes.” As someone that had a mother dress up as a Care Bear for work, I totally understand these feelings. Everywhere the author went, came recognition as well: “I didn’t like that my mom would be recognized. We couldn’t go places quietly. As I got older, I liked that she was so successful.” Successful writer and storyteller aside, Nancy Roberts also brought a certain energy to every room she entered.”She had a spark about her…” her daughter tells me, “when she came into the room, people could tell how interested she was in them and how trustworthy she was […] She had an honest, open, investigative attitude.”

In many ways, to read Nancy Roberts is to know Nancy Roberts. Her written words carry the very empathetic, comforting, and honest parts of her personality. If you are looking for spooky storytelling that captures human struggle on both sides of the veil, I highly recommend adding Nancy Roberts to your “To Be Read” pile.

About the Book

Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia, revised by Nancy Roberts 

2019 Reprint by University of South Carolina Press

You can purchase the book here: https://www.sc.edu/uscpress/books/2019/6041.html

My favorites stories from the book are: Return of The Bell Witch, Chain Gang Man, The Woman in Black, and A Visitor From the Dead.

“The Spectacle Was Sickening”: The Rotary Jail and the Thrice Hanged Ghost

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I recently had the chance to finally visit the Rotary Jail Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The jail is the first rotating jail built in the United States and the only one that still turns. In the 19th Century, rotary jails popped up across the Midwestern United States. Jail cells shaped like wedges rotated on a platform, like a carousel, using a hand crank. Spinning the jail around allowed you to access single cells at a time through one

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The hand crank (right) that rotates the jail.

opening. The design was initially created by William H. Brown of Indianapolis’s  Haugh, Ketcham & Co., and the intention was “to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer or guard” (Source). Rotary jails eventually closed (the last one remained in use until 1969) as the spinning mechanism caught limbs (and in one case, a head), breaking and crushing them.

The Rotary Jail Museum in Crawfordsville houses a two-story model attached to the once living quarters of the Sheriff and his family. The very informative–and excellent tour–is only $5 and one hour. I was also lucky enough to visit the museum after their Haunted Jail event, which explained the fake blood and skeletons!

This small Midwest museum is definitely worth the stop. Maybe you might see the ghost of John Coffee.

The Execution of John Coffee

In January of 1885, the beaten and burned bodies of James and Elizabeth McMullen were found in their home near Elmdale, Indiana (Montgomery County). John Coffee, 23 years old, was arrested for their murders. He confessed three separate times, went to trial, and was found guilty.* Coffee was sentenced to death by hanging.

This was the first public execution for Crawfordsville, Indiana. A scaffold was constructed and tested several times with a 150-pound sand bag. About 200 people purchased tickets to witness the hanging in the jail’s courtyard. On October 15, 1885, Coffee’s hanging and a horrific scene took placed. It took three attempts to hang Coffee; the rope broke the first two times. An article in the New York Times (October 17, 1885) describes the event (warning: graphic detail).

When the drop fell the rope broke and the body dropped to the ground. The neck was not broken, but blood oozed from the condemned man’s ears. He was carried up on the scaffold, and while the rope was being readjusted he recovered consciousness and begged to have the cap taken off that he might make another speech. This request was refused. When the drop again fell the rope broke a second time, but the body was caught before it fell to the ground. It was lifted up and held in the arms of the Deputy Sheriff while the rope was fixed the third time. When the drop fell again the rope held and Coffee strangled to death for 12 minutes. The spectacle was sickening.

The hanging was an embarrassment for Montgomery County. Prisoners in the jail pleaded to have the scaffold torn down, as they could see the threatening mechanism through the jail windows (Indiana Historical Bureau)†. The people of Crawfordsville would be haunted, both figuratively and literally, by the ghost of John Coffee.

The Ghost of John Coffee

Shortly after the execution, people began to see the ghost of John Coffee. Firstly, his ghost was seen near Elmdale (location of the murder) “prowling around.” One night, the ghost of John Coffee stopped a farmer as he needed a ride (vehicle not mentioned). He rode with the farmer about three miles, until the reached the ruins of the McMullen household. The ghost “hopped out and bounded away with the speed of a jack rabbit (Newport Hoosier State, October 28, 1885).

Apparently the ghost of John Coffee likes taking rides, because he reportedly hopped on a train, too. As the story goes, a train conductor named Dick Tracy saw the ghost of Coffee with a noose around his bloody neck. Tracy and brakeman were in the caboose, just leaving Crawfordsville. Coffee jumped on the front end and Tracy quickly locked the car’s door. Coffee then jumped on top of the roof and came through the cupola, finally taking a seat on the train. He rode the train for about thirty miles, while Tracy and the brakeman watched in fear. He eventually jumped off the train and quickly disappeared. Tracy decided that was his last ride (Jefferson Daily Evening News, November 11, 1885).

People still believe John Coffee haunts the Rotary Jail as every October the museum’s security systems indicate movement inside the jail and house at night (Indiana Historical Bureau). Allegedly, the Sheriff who decided not to pursue other accomplices in the Coffee case haunts the building.

I visited on the 17th of October; I must have missed Coffee and the Sheriff.

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*The tour guides mentioned that some believed John Coffee was innocent and/or worked with an accomplice(s). No one else was ever punished for the crime.

†The scaffold was used again.  I found one source saying it was used six months later for the hanging of John C. Henning.

A tour guide pointed out some similarities between this John Coffee and the John Coffey from Stephen King’s The Green Mile. The guide said King never heard of Crawfordsville, but The New York Times article (see above) never mentioned the city. So maybe King forgot he was inspired by a real life event? Hmmmmm. 

Sources

Indiana Historical Bureau, “Montgomery County Jail Machine.” The Indiana Historian (pdf). (This source also provides details on how a Rotary Jail works.)

Lighty, Chandler. “Haunted Hoosier History: John Coffee’s Ghost, Montgomery County,” Hoosier State Chronicles: Indiana’s Digital Newspaper Program. 

“Rotary Jail.” Atlas Obscura. 

“Rotary Jail.” Wikipedia.

“‘The Last Vestige of the Gloomy Structure’ Public Displays of Hangings in Indiana.” The History Engine.

Haunted Chairs

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Haunted chairs…

You know when you use a chair after someone and it’s still warm? It’s like that.

OK. I’m guessing, but haunted chairs are a thing. Whether the chair is possessed by something or just a tool for the ghost, sitters should beware. The following are haunted chairs I came across during my research, from established folklore to personal stories.

Grab a seat (no, not that chair) and enjoy!

Thomas Busby’s Stoop Chair

Thomas killed his father-in-law, as legend has it, over a chair.

He beat his father-in-law to death with a hammer after he sat in his favorite chair, and hid his body in the woods. Thomas was found and sentenced to death. He was hanged, tarred, and put in the gallows. He would scream from the gallows: “May sudden death come to anyone who dare sit in my chair.”

The chair was put in the Thirsk Museum in North Yorkshire, England. People who have sat in the cursed chair suffered from brain tumors, car crashes, etc. The museum eventually hung the chair from the ceiling so no one could sit in it again.

Dad’s Chair

A family in Oakland, California bought their father/husband the most expensive lounging chair when he retired from being a high school shop teacher. The leather chair had a lever-operated footrest, built in heaters and massagers, and an armrest that doubled as storage and cup holder. The rule of the house was only Dad could sit in the chair, but the family cat was allowed to keep the seat warm when not in use.

After Dad passed, the family continued to honor the rule…except once.  One of the adult children took a seat, tilting the chair back, and raising the footrest. The chair suddenly returned to the upright position, almost ejecting the occupant. No one ever took a seat again (except for the cat). The family also reported the massagers starting on their own, even when it was unplugged. Late at night, the footrest would pop up. Dad’s favorite books would disappear from the bookshelves, only to be found in the armrest storage later.

Maybe heaven is a lounge chair.

Haunted Rocking Chair

This summer, television personality and paranormal investigator Zak Bagans closed his Devil’s Rocking Chair exhibit after guests and friends suffered extreme emotional reactions. The chair was used during the exorcism of David Glatzel by Lorraine Warren. During this exorcism, the demon allegedly left David and entered Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s body. Johnson later killed his landlord and attempted to plead not guilty due to possession at the trial. Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and ultimately served 5 years in prison.

According to Bagans, “Six people all shared the same disturbing, uncontrollable crying during the short time I opened the exhibit, one of them being a guest who also collapsed directly above the Devil’s Rocking Chair on the stairs [The chair was directly under the stairs].” Bagans himself experienced an intense response to the chair when it was in his home:

Me and a friend felt an evil presence move between us as we were sitting down in my living room, which then caused my dog to growl […] I then became very affected, began speaking strange things about God and Satan with my head down, and then my friend began to cry uncontrollably and literally ran outta my house.

Bagans purchased the chair hours before Lorraine Warren’s death for $67,000. The upcoming Conjuring 3 movie was inspired by the chair.

The Velvet Chair of Wittenberg University

William A. Kinnison, the 11th President of Wittenberg University, wrote a book about the university titled America’s Most Haunted Campus. In his book, he tells the story of a haunted red velvet chair(s). The chairs, “a fancy, carved and upholstered wooden Victorian-style gentleman’s chair of the gay nineties variety,” were used in the literary societies on the third floor of the recitation hall. They eventually scattered throughout campus. Apparently one of these chairs is haunted, but maybe the others are too?

According to legend, if you take time to stare at the haunted chair patiently, a “dustlike image” of a handsome man will appear. He then vanishes, giving off the sound of a faint sigh or muffled sob. He hasn’t appeared long enough for people to ask why he’s there.

Haunted Cemetery Chairs

There is much folklore attached to chairs and benches in cemeteries. Placed to give visitors a seat when visiting deceased friends and family, legend says they actually do not give such respite.

Bairdchair1a
The Baird Chair // Wikimedia, Public Domain

Various legends are attached to a funerary sculpture like the one pictured to the right, often called a “mourning chair.” Popular during the 19th Century, these eventually went out of fashion and their original meaning was replaced with paranormal folklore. Most often they are called “Devil’s Chairs” and it’s believed that sitting on the chair will incite a visit from the devil. There are many other superstitions attached to the act of sitting on such memorials or other benches and chairs in cemeteries. Here are a few examples.

  • Cassadaga, Florida: According to legend, if you place an open beer on this particular graveside bench, it will be empty in the mourning. Cheers!
  • Bristol, Pennsylvania: In the St. James Episcopal Cemetery sits a wrought-iron chair called “The Witch’s Chair.” If you sit in the chair at midnight during October, you will find yourself in the embrace of a ghostly witch. Some witnesses have seen a woman sitting in the chair.
  • Kirksville, Missouri: The Baird Chair (aka The Devi’s Chair, pictured above) is a marble memorial that was commissioned by prominent businessman William Baird for his brother and sister-in-law (William is actually buried elsewhere). According to legend, if you sit on the chair at midnight (usually on Halloween), a hand will emerge from the grave and drag you down to Hell.

The Chair in Pieces

I found this ghost story on a website YourGhostStories.comA user explained that during a home renovation, they found a carved chair back behind a wall. Then, in a boarded-up storage space, they found the seat’s chair and two legs. When pulling weeds in the yard, the user found the other two legs with a bit of damage. The family put the chair together, instantly feeling uneasy by its presence. They took it apart, put the pieces in a trash bag, and left it in the garage for years.

They eventually moved and the chair came with them. The user felt a desire to assemble the chair, but warned everyone not to sit in it. One night, the user’s husband sat in the chair. He seemed to go into a trance and was hospitalized that night due to amnesia-type symptoms (the user does not say, but he seems to be OK now). The chair now sits unbothered in the guest room. Sometimes a mysterious mist appears in photographs of the chair.

Sources

Kinnison, William A. America’S Most Haunted Campus. Xlibris CorporationAug 16, 2018. 

“Kirksville Devil’s Chair.” Atlas Obscura. 

“My Haunted Chair.” YourGhostStories.com.

Stansfield Jr., Charles A. Haunted Northern California: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Golden State. Stackpole Books, Jun 10, 2009.

Wetzel, Charles Wetzel. Haunted U.S.A. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2008,

Wikipedia.

Wynne, Kelly. “Zak Bagans Closes Devil’s Rocking Chair Exhibit After Museum Haunts, Chilling Encounter in His Home.” Newsweek, 3 June 2019.

Photo by Michael Nunes on Unsplash