Archival Research: Haunted in a Prison Cell

jingda-chen-364070-unsplashI have a hobby of searching old newspapers for state history on hauntings. So often do stories of ghosts slip trough the cracks of time, while others are documented in books and lore. So, I thought I would share interesting stories I come across in my newspaper research.

“Cole Was Haunted Day and Night – Daviess County Man Confesses Murder of Cousin” (The Elwood Daily Record, 20 December 1909)

Stephen Cole was in jail for the murder of his cousin, George Cole, and claimed to be innocent. His son Charles had written to his mother, pleading for her to say anything she might know to exonerate him. When Cole got wind of the communication, he called his lawyer and finally admitted his guilt. He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. While this could pass as another episode of Law and Order, the article ends with a supernatural twist. It seems he was haunted day and night by his murdered cousin in Daviess County jail.

During his confinement in the jail Cole has told the attaches that he has nightly been haunted by ghosts of the murdered man, and many times in the night would call to them that he was being haunted and that on two occasions when he called that he had in mind to make a clean breast of the affair, and when they would enter the cell he would again gain courage to stave it off.

“A Ghost Story: How a Citizens’ Committee Investigated the Mystery of a Haunted Church” (Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, 29 December 1885) 

This article was a reprint from the Cincinnati Enquirer. This story was in “Our Five Cent Column” among advertisements for medical cures (Salvation Oil and Ely’s Cream Balm) and local businesses. 

There was an old and empty church for sale at the entrance of a cemetery in New Bremen, Ohio. Rumors began to spread throughout the village about strange noises and lights appearing in the church at midnight, even though it had not held a service in many years. Some believed the rumors were started by interested buyers trying to lower the cost. Others truly believed it was haunted, briskly walking past the church at night. The town was so excited by the supposed haunting that they appointed a committee to investigate.

One dark night, a committee led by the village Marshal approached the haunted church. Before even entering the church, lights were seen and clatter was heard in the attic (“like some’ one beating on a lot of tin pans”). They continued into the church and up the stairs towards the attic. Suddenly, the lights turned off.

The Marshal tried to convince the committee to continue the investigation in the morning, but was met with jeers. He finally agreed to go upstairs alone, with just his butcher knife, while the committee stayed at the bottom of the stairs.

He heard groans as he turned the door knob. When he opened the door, a white object came flying towards him. Frightened, he stabbed it with his knife, which caused a noise “as if a thousand hailstones had fallen.” The Marshal, having already been deserted by the rest of the committee, ran straight out of the church. So emotionally scarred, it took him several weeks to even leave his house.

Well, this is what really happened.

The Marshal’s son and friends caught wind of the committee’s investigation and decided to have a little fun. The boys lit some candles (the mysterious lights) and waited for the Marshal to arrive. When they heard him coming, they put out the candles and hid in the attic. They had hung a bag of nuts so when the door at the entrance of the stairs opened, the bag moved aside. When the attic door opened, the bag would swing across the entrance. When the Marshal stabbed the bag, nuts rolled out of the bag and down the stairs (the hailstorm).

Well, the story leaked and the Marshal became a village joke. So much, in fact, he had to resign.