Today I wanted to share another piece of Indiana folklore: the chain on the tombstone.
In Bonds Chapel Cemetery (Orange County, Indiana) sits a gravestone that reads “Floyd E. Pruett, 1894-1920.” On the side of the stone is the ghostly appearance of a chain. Many argue the chain developed over time and the number of links continue to grow in number. The chain has been the topic of speculation for quite some time.
Folklore scholar William M. Clements interviewed Terry, an “expert” on this tombstone, in 1968. Terry explained the tombstone’s unusual appearance.
Well, the tombstone itself isn’t unusual. I mean, it’s a small tombstone; but when you get up close, you can see what appears to be a chain. And small links of a chain look maybe engraved in the tombstone to form a cross […] sometimes there’ll be seven or eight; sometimes there’ll be up to fifteen or sixteen. And, well nobody knows why it changes. Some people think maybe it’s the weather and something in the stone itself; and other people just think it’s psy…(whistle) supernatural. (from Indiana Folklore: A Reader, 1980)
A chain, huh? According to S.E. Schlosser (Spooky Indiana, 2012), legend says Pruett died by a cursed chain. He had killed his wife with a logger chain (he was a logger) and, before her dying breathe, she put a curse on her husband. A few days later, a chain broke loose from a timber wagon, whipped in the air, and snapped the man’s neck. Some legends say it was the same chain he used to kills his wife. If you touch the chain today, you will be killed by a chain. This is just one of many versions of the story, though.
For example, a more romantic version has been posted on hauntedplaces.org. A user writes:
He was killed in battle, and his girlfriend stood across the road, watching his burial from afar. Some say her ghost to this day still awaits his return. The chain is said to grow [edited from groe] one link longer every year, symbolizing her growing love for him, and it is said to glow at night. An apparition in a black dress can be seen standing on the other side of the road.
But, Clements interviewed a grocer who remembered Pruett died from tuberculosis, and that the mysterious chain was probably the result of a rusty chain that had come in contact with the stone in the quarry. Another informant gave a similar explanation for the chain mark and Pruett’s death.
Clements concluded that “a legend has been created among the youth of several southern Indiana counties in order to explain a physical phenomenon as well as to provide a supernatural ‘thrill’ as an escape from boredom” (264).
Pruett most definitely died of usual circumstances and was unfortunately given an unusual gravestone. How did the story start? I don’t know. It is interesting to see the various explanations for the chain, from the believable to the wild. But, let us remember to see past the legend and acknowledge he is a person.
Want to hear more locals (of the past) tell their version of the story? Read more here.
In elementary school, our music teacher played a 1980s PBS cartoon set to Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre” on Halloween. The cartoon began with a statue of a cloaked skeleton coming to life after sunset, using his instrument to summon skeletons from their graves. Since then, I have always imagined the statues I see in cemeteries becoming animated at nightfall.
In an article about haunted objects in Collectors Weekly. Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society said, “[…] anytime you have a human figure, people are likely to think it holds some kind of invisible force, because of our propensity to believe in the afterlife and that humans carry a soul.” What better place than a cemetery, then, for stories about statues coming to life? They are so close to death, bodies, and souls.
The following are cemetery statues believed to exhibit characteristics of the living: moving, bleeding, crying. Some of these statues are also a gateway to the afterlife, having the power to predict or even cause death.
Inez Clarke and Eternal Silence (Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL)
Image Credit: Find A Grave
Image Credit: Pinterest
In Graceland Cemetery stands a memorial with the statue of a young girl behind protective glass. Legend says this young girl, Inez Clarke, was struck by lightening in the 1800s. On stormy nights in the cemetery, the statue is said to disappear (hiding from fear?), leaving an empty glass case. She then reappears in the morning. There’s an excellent detailed description on Find A Grave (also to be credited for the image).
The Eternal Silence statue (aka “The Statue of Death”) in Graceland Cemetery is, on its very own, very eerie and spooky. The statue memorializes Dexter Graves, who in 1831 led 13 families from Ohio to, what would become, Chicago. The hooded bronze statue, a version of the Grim Reaper, was designed by Lorado Taft.
Supposedly, if you stare into the eyes of Eternal Silence, you will see a vision of your own death. There have also been many reports of the statue raising and lowering its uplifted arm. Further, the statue (up until the 1970s) could not be photographed, “stemming from amateur photographers reporting malfunctioning of normally cooperative cameras, or inexplicable destruction of camera film” (Atlas Obscura).
The Haserot Angel (Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, OH)
This statue, named “The Angel of Death Victorious,” is a life-sized bronze statue of a seated angel. She holds a extinguished torch upside down, which represents a finished life. Some visitors believe that the statue is crying black tears, but could it just be the effects of aged bronze?
The Bleeding Statue (Forest Park Cemetery, Brunswick, NY)
I discussed a haunted mausoleum in this very cemetery in an earlier post. According to urban legend, this cemetery is a gateway to hell. One day when the mausoleum/receiving tomb was opened, it was revealed that the bodies were missing. So, already a creepy place.
The cemetery also has a headless angel statue with a bleeding neck. One popular theory is that the blood is just moss. Moss is boring though. Let’s go with blood.
Black Aggie (Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, MD)
The Black Aggie is a name given to a statue that once resided on the memorial of General Felix Agnus in Druid Ridge Cemetery. The statue was moved because of damage caused by visitors, and eventually ended up in a courtyard behind the Dolley Madison House in Washington, D.C.
When Black Aggie lived in Druid Ridge Cemetery, there were many scary stories attached to it. According to legend, the dead of Druid Ridge would gather around the statue at night. The statue was also believed to cause blindness and miscarriages (Source).
The statue too became an attraction for local teens seeking a thrill. One story about Black Aggie describes a fraternity ritual where initiates have to spend the night at the foot of the statue. For one pledge, this method of hazing led to his death. From Spooky Maryland:
What had been a funny initiation rite suddenly took on an air of danger. One of the fraternity brothers stepped forward in alarm to call out to the initiate. As he did, the statue above the boy stirred ominously. The two fraternity brothers froze in shock as the shrouded head turned toward the new candidate. They saw the gleam of glowing red eyes beneath the concealing hood as the statue’s arms reached out toward the cowering boy.
With shouts of alarm, the fraternity brothers leapt forward to rescue the new initiate. But it was too late. The initiate gave one horrified yell, and then his body disappeared into the embrace of the dark angel. The fraternity brothers skidded to a halt as the statue thoughtfully rested its glowing eyes upon them. With gasps of terror, the boys fled from the cemetery before the statue could grab them too.
Hearing the screams, a night watchman hurried to the Agnus plot. To his chagrin, he discovered the body of a young man lying at the foot of the statue. The young man had apparently died of fright.
The Black Angel (Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City, IA)
In Oakland Cemetery stands a 8.5-foot bronze statue of the Angel of Death, which was erected in 1913 and marks the grave of Teresa Feldevert. Like the Black Aggie, there are many thrill-seeking games involving the eerie statue. On Halloween, young people dare their friends to touch or kiss the statue. Touching or kissing the statue, rumor has it, will strike you dead (unless you are a virgin). And, like Black Aggie, this statue allegedly causes miscarriages.
Little Gracie (Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA)
Behind a private iron fence sits the grave of Gracie Watson marked by a statue of Gracie sitting on a tree stump. In 1889, Gracie (age 6) died of pneumonia, leaving behind her grief-stricken parents. Her spirit still lingers in her parents’ hotel. Hotel staff have reported Gracie’s disembodied voice in the back stairwell, a place she once hid in during her parents’ parties.
Many visitors to Gracie’s memorial leave small toys and gifts. It is said that if you remove gifts from the site, she will cry tears of blood. Visitors to the cemetery have also reported seeing a young girl in a white dress skipping through the property, only to vanish into thin air.
My current obsession is looking up photographs of cats in cemeteries, a marriage of my two obsessions. I am not sure what happens after death, but I like the idea of cats hanging out near my grave (maybe even howe sitting on it). As I have explored in a past post, cats are associated with death and the supernatural, so cats and cemeteries are not an unlikely pair. Why are there so many photographs of cats in cemeteries? Are they trying to steal corpses? Comfort mourners? Sun bathe and chill?
In the following post, I recreate a entry from my commonplace book on this topic. So, it is a collection of sometimes unrelated pieces (texts and images) rather than a linear narrative.
“In European and American tradition […] it is commonly believed cats must be kept away from corpses, because they will attack them. In fact, according to medical examiners I have spoken to, this is occasionally observed–cats are carnivorous, after all” (27). – Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial, and Death
Montmarte Cemetery in Paris is home to a rather large community of cats. “No one is quite sure where they came form, but dozens and dozens of cats live amongst the mausoleums, quietly sunning themselves on the marble tombstones and keeping watch over their long forgotten inhabitants” (Atlas Obscura)
Kasha: In Japanese folklore, Kasha is a monster cat that steals corpses out of their coffins. “Kasha are occasionally employed as messengers or servants of hell, in which case they are tasked with collecting corpses of wicked humans and spiriting them off to hell for punishment. Other times, they steal corpses for their own uses — either to animate as puppets or to eat” (Yokai.com). They live among humans as average cats, but can grow into sizes larger than humans and are sometimes accompanied by fire.
At St. Sampson’s Parish Cemetery on the island of Guersney (off the coast of England), Barney the Cat roamed the cemetery for 20 years and comforted mourning visitors. When he passed in 2016, he was buried in a special place and memorialized with a plaque and bench in the cemetery. Many took to social media to share their personal stories about Barney. More info (and stories): Buzzfeed.
Recently on Twitter, I was talking with a few of you about Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (1997-2002). For those unfamiliar with this television show: each episode shared supernatural stories, then revealed whether the stories were fact or fiction at the end of the episode.
My favorite story from the show, “The Secret of the Family Tomb,” was about a haunted mausoleum. I included a clip of the story below (8 minutes) and will tell you whether it’s fact or fiction at the end of this post.
With haunted mausoleums on my mind, I wanted to find more. I’ve always found mausoleums interesting: they’re eerily quiet, mysterious, and beautifully made. What goes on behind those doors after dark? The following stories suggest the trapped spirits are trying to get out.
The Legare Mausoleum (Edisto Island, SC)
In the mid-1800s, Julia Legare became sick with Diptheria. Her family watched as she suffocated, closed her eyes, and passed on. They laid her lifeless body on a stone slab in the family crypt, closed the door, and sealed the keyhole with wax. The family mourned and tried their best to move on.
Years later, Julia’s brother was killed in the Civil War and the family crypt was opened once again. The family moved the heavy door, only to watch bones fall out. The doors and floor were covered with claw marks. Julia didn’t die from Diptheria, but spent her last moments alive trying to escape the crypt. Obviously, her family was very distraught with this scene. They quickly placed their son in the mausoleum and left, but decided to visit him soon to make sure he was indeed dead. When they returned to the grave, the crypt door had a large crack down the middle. They replaced it, but it happened again, and again, and again…
The mausoleum has remained doorless ever since. Could Julia’s spirit be protecting her brother from the same fate?
The Hayden Mausoleum (Columbus, OH)
In Green Lawn Cemetery, there is a large mausoleum that holds members of the Hayden family. Legend says that if you knock on the mausoleum doors, a spirit will answer back with a knock. On rainy nights, people have also reported seeing a young boy leaning against its iron gates and crying. Is he buried inside?
In Cleveland, Tennessee stands a beautiful 37-foot high mausoleum made of white Italian marble and stained with (what seems to be) blood. On October 18, 1871, Nina Craigmiles (age 7) died in a tragic buggy accident. Her grandfather, who often took her on buggy rides, was thrown clear of the accident and survived. Her father John Craigmiles was deeply saddened by this loss and constructed a church (St. Luke’s Episcopal Church) and mausoleum in her honor. Soon after her burial, blood stains began to appear.
Shortly after Nina’s death, her brother died (name not documented). In 1899, John died of blood poisoning after a serious fall on an icy street. Nina’s mother, Adelia, died in 1928 after being hit by a car when crossing the street. They were all placed in the mausoleum. With each death, the blood stains got darker and more prominent.
Could the spirits of the Craighmiles family be the cause of the mysterious red stains or is there some chemical reaction in the marble?
The Forest Park Mausoleum (Brunswick, NY)
The Forest Park Cemetery (also known as the Pinewoods Cemetery) is now abandoned and overgrown. According to Wikipedia, the cemetery began with big dreams that were never fully realized:
Forest Park Cemetery was first incorporated in 1897 by a group of wealthy Troy businessmen under the Forest Park Cemetery Corporation,though based on older gravestones, the cemetery had apparently been in use since at least 1856. The original area chosen for the cemetery occupied over 200 acres (81 ha) of farmland in what was then rural Brunswick. Meant to outgrow and even outclass Troy’s Oakwood Cemetery, it was originally designed by Garnet Baltimore,the first African-American graduate ofRensselaer Polytechnic Institute.Baltimore planned on the cemetery to offer visitors a park-like experience, complete with statuary, winding trails, and a large receiving tomb near the entrance.
The Forest Park Cemetery Corporation went bankrupt in 1914 and the cemetery was never completed to the original plans. The only structure that had been built was the receiving tomb, which still stands today, albeit in a dilapidated state. The receiving tomb was built from granite and featured a copper roof with a large skylight and contained 128 marble catacombs used for storing corpses during the winter.
In 1914 the cemetery was re-incorporated by New York City natives under the name Forest Hills Cemetery.Due to financial difficulty, the corporation sold all but 22 acres (8.9 ha) to the neighboring County Club of Troy, for use in the construction of its golf course. Regardless, the corporation also went bankrupt during the 1930s. The cemetery went mostly unattended except for a local man named William Christian who volunteered to be caretaker and did so from 1918 to his death in 1961.Christian kept notes of interments, which indicate that the cemetery served upwards of 1,400 burials.Burials continued in the cemetery until about 1975, when the cemetery went completely unattended.
Until 1987, control of the cemetery was in dispute. During that year, control was vested in the Town of Brunswick, at the decree of New York State. In response, the town created a Forest Park Cemetery Advisory Council in 1991, but it ended up being disbanded in 1994.Based on local obituaries, the cemetery was put back into use in the late 1990sand has been used as recently as 2005for a burial. Employees from the Town of Brunswick made multiple attempts during the 1990s and 2000s to remove the overgrown brush and plants, which had become a major problem.
In 1988, the cemetery was featured in the local Times Record newspaper after two youths discovered a partially exhumed grave. Two shovels, a pick and several beer cans were found at the crime scene. Although police reports were filed, no one was apprehended for the crime.
According to urban legend, this cemetery is a gateway to hell. People have reported that a headless angel statue bleeds from the neck (which many believe is just moss). The mausoleum (or the before mentioned receiving tomb) was opened by residents, revealing that there were no bodies inside. People believe the bodies disappeared or walked off. Others argue it was simply a holding area for bodies to be buried, and that it never served as a final resting place.
The small Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery was established in 1914 and holds less than 20 memorials. In the corner of the cemetery stands a mausoleum with the bodies of two brothers. According to legend, “The Hatchet Man” guards the mausoleum at night and chases off anyone that enters the cemetery.
As with many cemeteries, there has been vandalism. In the 1960s, a local boy allegedly broke into the mausoleum and took a skull. The boy drove around town with the skull on his dashboard. Once word got out that it was indeed real, the skull was returned and the mausoleum doors were cemented shut. In recent years, a burned dog’s head was found on the mausoleum steps and was linked to animal sacrifice.
Another legend tells of a reporter who poured holy water down the vent of the mausoleum, which caused a groaning noise from inside.
People have also reported a pale and thin apparition walking around at night.
So, is the scary story about the family tomb fact or fiction?
A few years ago, I traveled to Scotland for 3 months for my PhD program. As someone that has toured many small town cemeteries in America, the Scottish cemeteries were quite the cultural shock. Before reaching my final destination of Dundee, Scotland, I stayed in Edinburgh for a few days. When not drinking Scotch and reading in pubs, I was in Greyfriars Kirkyard: a graveyard that houses a loyal dog and a violent poltergeist. Burying people since the late 16th century, the graveyard is home to many interesting people and stories.
Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who supposedly guarded his deceased owner’s grave in the kirkyard for 14 years. After Bobby passed on January 14, 1872, he was buried not too far from his owner’s grave. When I saw his grave (below) it was covered with sticks, which I assumed were for a heavenly game of fetch. A fountain (above) was built on the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. While some challenge the validity of the story, I think it’s too sweet to fact-check.
While a sweet dog sleeps near his owner, another resident attacks visitors. Located in the graveyard is an eerie mausoleum (below) with the tomb of Sir George Mackenzie. Nicknamed Bluidy Mackenzie, he is buried among many that he harmed on earth:
In the 17th century, Scotland was going through an intense religious struggle, started by King Charles introducing the Common Book of Prayer and declaring all opposition to the book an act of treason and the draconian lawyer George Mackenzie was the man responsible for putting the opposition down.
George Mackenzie was a lawyer and the Lord Advocate during the rule of Charles II and quickly earned a reputation as one of the most vicious persecutors of the covenanters, the people who rose up and signed the National Covenant in 1638, around. Mackenzie’s brutal and unfeeling treatment of the protesters even earned him the moniker “Bluidy Mackenzie.” Many covenanters were imprisoned in a section of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, where he delighted in their torture; guards were allowed to beat the covenanters at will, and eventually their heads would decorate the spiked gate. (Atlas Obscura)
The violent history related to the kirkyard has left an aggressive residual energy, leaving many visitors with scratch marks and bites:
The earliest story relates to a boy from the adjacent George Heriot’s School fleeing a corporal punishment and hiding within the tomb. He allegedly became trapped inside and went mad as a result. More tangible as a story is the 2004 verified story of teenage Goths who entered the tomb via the ventilation slot to the rear (now sealed). They reached the lower vault (containing the coffins) broke the coffins open and stole a skull. Police arrived as they were playing football with the skull on the grass. The pair narrowly escaped imprisonment on the little-used but still extant charge of violation of the dead.
In 1998 a new phenonenum materialised dubbed The Mackenzie Poltergeist. Between 1990 and 2006 it is alleged that there were 350 reported attacks and 170 reports of people collapsing.Night-time visitors (on the ghost-tours) reported being cut, bruised, bitten, scratched and most commonly blacking out. Some complained later of bruises, scratches and gouge-marks on their bodies. No day-time events were reported. Most attacks and feelings of unease occurred in MacKenzie’s Black Mausoleum and the Covenantors Prison. As a publicity stunt this also led in 2000, to an exorcist exorcising the graveyard. (Wikipedia)
I luckily left his grave unscathed and the doors are locked, which stopped me from doing anything stupid.
If you are brave enough, maybe you can visit and sing the old children’s rhyme: “Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar!” Or not. Probably don’t.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is an interesting representation of the good and evil on earth…and in the afterlife. A place where many are laid to rest, the graveyard is alive in many ways. As the Scottish writer Walter Scott once said, “Death–the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.”
When I was a young girl living in Fishers, IN, my friend and I found a cemetery in the middle of our subdivision. Its location seemed random, but modern development building around (and unfortunately on top of) old grave sites isn’t new (I mean there’s a grave in the middle of the road in Amity, IN). My friend and I, for some very odd reason, thought we were the first to stumble across this graveyard and took ownership of it. We began to clean up, pick up fallen branches and pile them at the edge of the cemetery. We made a list of each gravestone, marking the name, date of birth and death. We then called up everyone in the phone book with corresponding last names to let them know we found their ancestors’ graves. I was an odd child.
I was attached to the cemetery, as are a lot of spirits. The cemetery, dating back to the 19th century, has many members of the Heady family. Many legends surround the graveyard, including a grave-robber that accidentally dug up his son’s own body (yeah, I don’t know) and completely lost it. He now haunts the area.
Near the cemetery is a hollow (126th Street/Allisonville Road) where a schoolhouse ran by the Heady family burned down. Several children were killed and their spirits will appear on foggy nights on that road. Historical records of such a school have not been found. I’m not sure if it is true, but I’ll let you know when I return to my hometown on a foggy night.
These photos are from a recent visit back in November, 2015.