In My Commonplace Book: Two Mausoleums and a Bottle of Wine

IMG-8001I 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.

IMG-7985

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…

Sheets Mausoleum

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. 

Indiana Ghosts: The Biting Poltergeist

For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana. 

pvecnabag9o-jilbert-ebrahimi

In Indianapolis during the 1960s, the Beck family was allegedly terrorized by a poltergeist that threw glass, knocked on the walls, and left “mysterious bat-like bites.” The family living on North Delaware Street included Renate Beck (in her 30s), her daughter Linda (in her teens), and her mother Lina Gemmecke (in her 60s).

The start date of the activity differs from source to source, but it began in March 1962 when a glass was thrown by an invisible source.  In a later incident, the grandmother (Gemmecke) got up from a chair and a glass was mysteriously thrown across the room, hitting the wall right above the chair she had just been sitting in. Members of the family also reported bite marks appearing on their skin, a rarity for poltergeists. Damage to the house included feathers torn out of pillows, pictures ripped from frames, broken glass, and dents in the walls from thrown objects.

Dr. William Roll, a researcher of poltergeist phenomena, stayed with the family from March 16-22 and documented the case in a chapter of his 1972 book, The Poltergeist. He was also accompanied by clinical psychologist, Dr. David Blumenthal. Below are some interesting passages about his experience.

Concerning the bites… 

screenshot-2016-12-27-at-4-42-39-pm

screenshot-2016-12-27-at-4-42-53-pm
pages 57-58

Concerning the knocks…

screenshot-2016-12-27-at-4-24-02-pm
page 61
screenshot-2016-12-27-at-4-19-57-pm
page 62

A poltergeist’s origins can be attributed to various factors. The unseen spirits receive power from human drama and/or children entering their teens. In this case, we have a 13-year-old daughter. We also have reported tension (by neighbors) between Renate and her mother. Poltergeists can also be hoaxes and many thought Gemmecke was behind this one.

On March 26th, the police were called to the Becks’ by neighbors. There, they found Gemmecke lying  on the floor semiconscious. When she regained consciousness, she threw an ashtray across the room and flipped over a piano bench. The cops witnessed the whole thing. She was taken to the hospital for diabetic shock and then taken to jail overnight for disorderly conduct. Gemmecke returned to her home in Germany to avoid punishment. This incident made many question the validity of the Becks’ stories.

What really happened during March of 1962? Did high emotions create a noisy spirit with a biting problem? Was it a prank or cry for attention? We’ll never know. The activity, like a glass thrown across the room, came and went.

Bonus! Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Indianapolis Star (March 14, 1962) about the poltergeist on North Delaware Street and his new friend, a Scottish Terrier. 

the_indianapolis_star_wed__mar_14__1962_

Sources

Marimen, Mark and James Willis. Weird Indiana: Your Travel Guide to Indiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2008.

Roll, William G. The Poltergeist. Paraview, 2004.

Black Dogs and Death (Ongoing)

alsatian-344065_960_720

One of my majors in undergrad was Greek Mythology, so I’ve always been aware of Cerberus or the Hound of Hades. This multi-headed dog guarded the gates of the Underworld, making sure the dead remained. I, a fan of the show Supernatural, was also introduced to Hellhounds, dogs that drag their victims to hell. I thought, “Dogs and death…I got this!” But, shortly after beginning my research, I realized I bit off more MilkBone than I could chew.

Spectral black dogs in folklore (often called Hellhounds) are most common in the British Isles, but appear in various forms and are seen in other cultures. They are often described as being rather large (the size of a calf) and having bright, shining eyes (sometimes red). They are also commonly noted for their sly quietness: you cannot hear their footsteps and they leave no footprints. They may be seen in graveyards, at crossroads, places of execution, or during electrical storms. Black dogs serve as guardians of the supernatural, colleagues of the devil, and/or omens of death.

The following are interesting examples of the black dog’s relationship to death, though the list is much longer. I’ll update this post when I come along other interesting versions of the black dog. I’ll keep you updated.


The Black Dog of Hanging Hills (Connecticut, USA): This small dog is friendly, but one you’d only want to meet once. Seeing this dog once results in joy. Twice, is a warning. And third, is a death omen. According to Wikipedia, this phantom dog has been around for quite some time:

One of the earliest accounts of the dog was published in the Connecticut Quarterly, (April–June, 1898), by New York geologist W.H.C. Pynchon. According to Pynchon, in February 1891 he and geologist Herbert Marshall of the USGS were conducting geologic research in the Hanging Hills when they saw the dog. Pynchon had seen the dog once before. Marshall, who had seen the dog twice, scoffed at the legend. Shortly after the two of them saw the dog, Marshall slipped on the ice atop one of the cliffs and plunged to his death. His body was recovered by authorities. Reports of the Black Dog continue to circulate today.

The Black Dog of Newgate Prison (London, England): A black dog appeared before executions for over 400 years at this past London prison. According to legend, a scholar was brought to this jail in 1596 on allegations of witchcraft. Before given a fair trial, he was killed and eaten by starving prisoners. Shortly after the dog appeared. Could it be him?

Black Poodle (Germany): According to German superstition, black poodles lurk near the graves of disgraced members of the clergy “as evidence of their failure to live up to their calling during their lifetime.” (David Pickering, Dictionary of Superstitions)

Black Shuck (East Anglia, England): The term “shuck” comes from the Old English word “scucca,” meaning demon. This large black dog haunts graveyards, lonely country roads, misty marshes, or village hills. To run across this dog means death within a year. So, if you hear his loud, bone-chilling howls or feel his ice-cold breath: RUN.

Church Grim (Swedish and Finnish Folklore): The Church (or Kirk) Grim is attached to a particular church and oversees the welfare of the churchyard. They might also appear in forms of other animals, though dog is most common. They are the spirits of those first buried in a church’s cemetery. Oftentimes a dog was sacrificed and buried when building a new church and accompanying cemetery, so that he could serve as a Grim in the afterlife (instead of a human soul).

Wisht Hounds (Dartmoor, Devon, England): This version of the supernatural black dog is attached to Whitman’s Wood and the surrounding vicinity in Dartmoor in Devon, England. This headless dog roams the moors with his master, Odin (who carries a hunting horn or pole). Sometimes the master is said to be the Devil or Sir Francis Drake. This dog chases the souls of unbaptized children or, as other legends say, he is himself the soul of an unbaptized child who has returned to earth to hunt down his parents. Seeing one means you might die within a year. If you happen to see one, immediately lie face down with your arms and legs crossed, and repeat the Lord’s Prayer until he leaves.

Gallytrot/Galley-Trot (Suffolk): This dog is actually described as being shaggy and white. It will silently show up to harass travelers.

Gytrash (Northern England): This dog haunts desolate roads, waiting for travelers. He can either help travelers safely reach their destination or lead them astray.  It sometimes appears as a mule or horse.

Huay Chivo and Huay Pek (Mexico): Associated with the Chupacabra, this mythical creature is half-man and half-beast. A talented sorcerer, he can change into different animals, including a dog. He can also take the shape of a goat so to torment and slaughter other livestock.

Moddey Dhoo (Isle of Man): During the 17th Century, Peel Castle on the Isle of Man was garrisoned by soldiers. Every night, a black shaggy dog would appear from a dark passage and would silently lie near the hearth. Before daybreak, he would get up and disappear down the passage. Even though the dog initially frightened the night guards, they let the dog be. One night, a drunk guard walked into the room and challenged the dog to follow him. He bragged he wasn’t afraid of the dog. The dog stood up and followed the man. Shortly after a deathly moment of silence, the guards heard blood curdling screams. The drunk guard reappeared, pale and shocked. Three days later, that guard died. Although this legend says that the dog was never seen again, there have been modern sightings.

Luison (Paraguay and Argentina):  In Guaraní mythology, Luison is the last child of the evil spirit Tau (who had kidnapped and raped his mother, Kerana). Luison looks horrendous and inhuman, and smells of decay. Said to be the Lord of Death, Luison frequents graveyards and burial grounds. If he passes through your legs, you will become a Luison also. Over the years, Luison was translated into a werewolf. Like traditional werewolf myths, Luison will bite his victims and turn them into werewolves.

Snarly Yow (Maryland): The Snarly Yow is a giant black dog seen on South Mountain. It has been reported that his coat can turn from white to black. Other witnesses say he is a white headless dog, dragging a chain behind him. He is not considered a death omen, luckily. More eyewitness accounts here.

The Black Dog of Valle Crucis (North Carolina): This extremely fast demon dog will chase cars, keeping up with them at fast speeds. If you drive past an old stone cemetery high in the mountains, the black dog will appear from behind a gravestone and chase after you. The dog has yellow teeth and glowing eyes.

Sources:

James B. Barnes, “5 Terrifying Stories And Lore About The Legendary “Black Dogs” To Haunt Your Walks Home,” Thought Catalog

Wikipedia.com

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits 

“The Myth of the Moddey Dhoo,” IsleofMan.com