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Haunted Legends in and around the
Wabash Valley

There are many legends of hauntings and ghosts that have survived the test of time. As time goes by I will try to document as many as I can; hoping you get as much out of this as I do.
Also MANY THANKS to Roxe Anne Kesner at Highland Lawn Cemetery and Ms Pat Meyer for her personal attention at The Vigo County Historical Society and The Force for much of the information

The 100 Steps or Carpenter's Cemetery

One version of this story is:
"I have heard of the One-Hundred Steps Cemetery. It is located near Brazil Indiana on CR 675. One of the stories I have heard states that at midnight, if you walk up the stairs on the grassy side of the cemetery, there are graves dating back to the 1860s all around. On one's way up you count the steps. When you reach the top, you must turn toward the open field and the ghost of the cemetery's first undertaker will appear. Without saying anything he will reveal the climbers own death to them in a vision. The hiker MUST proceed down the steps, counting them again. If they do not get the same number as they counted before then they will die the way they saw but if they do the vision was wrong. If anyone dares to try to reach the top or level ground by not using the steps, they will be pushed to the ground by a phantom hand which will leave a red imprint on the persons back for several days so those who see it can see the mark of the Devil."

Another is:
"Carpenter's Cemetery lies just west of 340 and US 40 on CR 675. Locally it is better known as 100 Steps. Legend as it that on the darkest nights when you can't see your hand in front of you, you can walk up the broken steps of this cemetery and count 100 steps. As you walk down you can only county 99. Its a hard trick to do when there are only 60 or so steps there any other time. The night must be total and you must not be able to see where you step. Legend tells of those trying to walk beside the steps on te ground and of people being knocked down hard to the ground with handprints appearing on their chests. The legend continues that if you are able to safely navigate the steps in the pitch of darkness and make the magical count, then that night before the rise of the sun, the spirit of the original caretaker will make known to you the manner of your death."

We could only count 58 steps as there is a big void of steps in several places.

The Mausoleum Phone

The Sheets Mausoleum at Highland Lawn

Here is one story:
"The fear of dying can be torturous to many. For some, being buried alive is an even bigger fear.
Before the turn of the century, when it was hard to distinguish between coma and death, some hapless people went into the ground only to suffocate upon awakening.
Martin Sheets, a Terre Haute resident, wanted to make sure that mishap never befell him.
Sheets lived on Ohio Street, near the present location of the Goodie Shop. Many of his neighbors thought him a bit eccentric, but, otherwise, he was left alone to do things in the manner he saw fit.
This included planning his funeral. Martin Sheets wanted to make sure be would not be buried alive so he erected a large mausoleum in Highland Lawn Cemetery. Inside it was a coffin with special latches so the coffin to be opened from the inside. As a final precaution, Sheets had a telephone installed in the tomb so that should he find himself in the situation he most wanted to avoid, he could call someone to come and get him out. Just to make sure he wouldn't be uncomfortable while he waited to be released he also had a rocking chair and bottle of whiskey left in the mausoleum.
It was said that at the old Indiana Bell Telephone Co., operators were in constant fear that someday the line would begin flashing from Sheetsí resting place.
Years passed and Mrs. Sheets passed away due to a heart attack. She supposedly was found lying in bed with her telephone gripped so tightly that the attendants had a hard time breaking her grip. When her body was interned in the mausoleum, its phone was off the hook."

Another story:
"Martin Sheets was a man who lived a long time ago, when we did not know quite as much about knowing whether a person was really dead or not. Martin Sheets was not so much afraid of death as he was afraid someone thinking he was dead. He was afraid of being buried alive.
This became an obsession. He imagined he could hear the doctor saying "I'm sorry" as he pulled the sheet over Martin's head. He imagined he could feel himself lying in his coffin as the screws of the lid were slowly turned tight. He also imagined he could hear the sound of dirt thudding on the lid of his coffin; the last sound he would ever hear.
Martin Sheets became so obsessed he decided to make sure it would never happen. First he had a special coffin built, one that had interior latches that could be unlocked from inside. He had a massive mausoleum built for his coffin, so dirt would never be thrown on his lid. And to make sure he could get out of his tomb, he paid the telephone company a lot of money to install and maintain a phone inside the tomb. His burial instructions even provided for food to be left in the tomb on his burial day. Then if he was buried alive, all he had to do was snap the special release latches, call someone to get him out, and enjoy a snack while he waited.
Martin Sheets did die and was buried, according to his instructions, in his mausoleum. The phone company operators were a little nervous at first, waiting for Martin to ring. But he never did.
Many years later Martin's wife died. She was found lying on her bed with the phone gripped so tightly in her hand that the attendants had a hard time removing it from her hands. The funeral people went to the tomb to prepare it for her burial. Inside it was exactly as it had been left after Martin Sheet's funeral, the last time it was opened. Except for one thing -- the phone was off the hook."

Still another story:
"Martin Sheets was a wealthy businessman who lived in Terra Haute, Indiana in the early 1900ís. One of his greatest fears was that of a premature burial. He often dreamt of being awake, but unable to move, at the moment the doctor pronounced him dead and then regaining consciousness while trapped in a coffin below the ground. Sheets decided to fight his fears by investing some of his resources in the prevention of his being buried alive.
First of all, he had a casket custom-designed with latches fitted on the inside. In this way, should he be placed inside prematurely, he would be able to open the coffin and escape. He also began construction on a mausoleum so that when he died, or was thought to have died, he would not be imprisoned under six feet of dirt. The mausoleum was well built and attractive but Sheets realized that even if he did manage to escape from his casket, he would still be trapped inside of a stone prison.
He came up with another clever idea. He installed a telephone inside of the tomb with a direct line to the main office of the cemetery. In this way, he could summon help by simply lifting the receiver. The line was fitted with an automatic indicator light so that even if no words were spoken, the light would come on in the office and help would soon be on the way.
Death came for Martin Sheets in 1910 and he was entombed in the mausoleum. I would imagine that for several days afterward, cemetery staff workers kept a close eye on the telephone indicator light in the office. After more time passed though, it was probably forgotten. Years went by and the telephone system in the area changed. Eventually, the direct line to the cemetery office was removed but thanks to very specific instructions in Sheetsí will, and the money to pay for it, the telephone in the mausoleum remained connected and active.
A number of years later, Sheetsí widow also passed away. She was discovered one day lying on her bed with the telephone clutched in her hand. In fact, she held the receiver so tightly that it had to be pried from her fingers. It was soon learned that she had experienced a severe stroke and family members assumed that she had been trying to call an ambulance when she finally died. A service was held and after a quiet memorial service, she was taken to the family mausoleum, where she would be interred next to her husband.
When cemetery workers entered the mausoleum, they received the shock of their lives. Nothing there was disturbed, they saw, except for one, very chilling item. Martin Sheetsí telephone, locked away for all of these years, was hanging from the wall.... its receiver inexplicably off the hook!"

Another story goes:
Martin Alonzo Sheets was born September 11, 1853 and died in 1926. He built his mausoleum in 1910. Buried in the mausoleum are Sheets, his wife, Susan, and their only child, Ethel, who died at thirteen months.
According to many sources, Sheets had a telephone installed in the mausoleum, along with a bottle of whiskey. His theory was that if he ever woke up, he could call for a taxi and have a drink while waiting for it to arrive.
There were many complaints about the telephone poles and lines strung up to the building. Therefore, with a court order, the Board of Cemetery Regents was ordered to remove the telephone poles and lines. Because the phone installation was included in Sheetsí will, the Bank Trustee had to go to court in order to remove the phone from the mausoleum.
Other rumors indicate that Sheets was something of eccentric and was addicted to making wills. Numerous signed wills complete with codicils were later found in his safe.

Stiffy Green

The Heinl Mausoleum at Highland Lawn

Recreated Mausoleum and the real Stiffy Green in the Vigo County Historical Society's collection.

"According to brochure from Highland Lawn, ledgendary dog of John G. Heinl, some say still seen walking around the grounds with his master."

Another story is:
"My friends and I had always heard about this bulldog sitting in a tomb in Highland Lawn Cemetery. His name was Stiffy Green. He had been the family dog, one that really loved his master. He would always be on the front porch, just outside the door, waiting for his master to come home form work. One day his master died and the bulldog began to grieve. He kept running away and the family always found him sitting outside the door of the tomb, guarding it, and waiting for his master.
Eventually the family found Stiffy lying, dead, in front of the door to the tomb. They decided to have Stiffy stuffed and placed inside the tomb, next to the master that he had loved so much. Now, if you go out there at night and shine a light in the door of the tomb, Stiffy opens his cold green eyes and glares at you because he is still guarding his master's tomb.
Stiffy stayed in the Heinl Tomb until 1983. Unfortunately vandals began damaging the tomb, including wrecking the bronze doors and shooting at the dog. The Heinl family decided to have Stiffy removed. Realizing how popular the legend of Stiffy Green was in Vigo County, Heinl family descendants agreed to give the dog to the Historical Society as the centerpiece of the "Haunted Legends" display."

Another story is:
"They say that there is nothing unusual about hearing a dog barking in a cemetery at night, unless you happened to be in Terre Haute, Indiana. If you are anywhere in the area around Highland Lawn Cemetery at night, and hear a dog bark, you may just be hearing the legendary voice of Stiffy Green, Indianaís favorite graveyard ghost.
In the early 1900ís, Stiffy Green was a familiar character around Terre Haute. He was the constant companion of a man named John Heinl, an elderly gentleman who was well-liked in town. He too was familiar figure as he strolled about the city each day in the company of his little bulldog. Stiffy Green was so named thanks to his unusual, stiff-legged walk and the fact that he had startling, green-colored eyes. The little dog was friendly, yet fiercely protective of his master, never allowing strangers to get too close.
In 1920, John Heinl passed away. While his death was a cause for sadness in the community, no one was hit harder by it than Stiffy Green. The poor creature was heartbroken and he refused to leave his masterís side, even during the funeral services and after Heinl was entombed at Highland Lawn. Eventually though, two of Heinlís friends decided to take in the dog and care for him. They took him to their house in Terre Haute and introduced him to his new home.
Within a few days, Stiffy Green had gone missing. He was found a few hours later lying in front of the door to the Heinl mausoleum, silently watching over his masterís burial place. Johnís friend placed a leash on the dog and took him back home again but less than a week later, the dog was missing once more. He was always discovered again, several miles away, in the cemetery. Over the next month or so, this became a standard routine. If the dog could not be found around the house anywhere, his new owners always knew where he was. Eventually, they just gave up and let Stiffy Green take up residence in the graveyard. They brought him food and water and allowed him to stay there.
Not long after this, they began to realize that the dog was not eating. He paid little attention to the bowl of water either, preferring to sit nearly motionless at the entrance to the tomb, barring anyone from entering it. He stayed there in the rain and cold and never shirked what he seemed to feel was his duty. And it was there, on the cold stone step, that the body of Stiffy Green was eventually found.
As word of the loyal dogís death spread, Heinlís friend pondered what to do with the animalís body. They certainly didnít want to simply dispose of their friendís constant companion but they werenít certain he should be entombed as a human would be either. Finally, they reached a compromise. A fund was established and the dogís body was taken to a local taxidermist. The dog was then stuffed and mounted into the sitting position that he had maintained outside of the tomb for so many months. His eyes were left open and his bright green eyes were replaced with glass ones that managed to capture the gleam of the originals. When the task was completed, Stiffy Green was placed inside of the Heinl tomb, right next to the crypt that held the remains of his beloved companion. And seemingly, this would be where our story ends... but itís not.
Several months after Stiffy Greenís death, a caretaker was leaving the cemetery on a warm evening. Just as he was opening the door to his car, he heard the bark of a dog from the direction of the Heinl mausoleum. Thinking that something about this seemed odd, he decided to go and have a look. As he neared the tomb, the sound got louder and then he suddenly realized why the bark seemed so strange, and so eerily familiar. He had heard this dog barking before. It was the bark of Stiffy Green! But that was impossible, he realized, the poor animal had died many months ago. The bark must have been his imagination, he decided and walked back to his car. He would think no more about this until other people started to report the same barking from the area around the tomb.... and they would report something else too.
According to the legends, many people have heard the barking of a small dog in Highland Lawn Cemetery in the evening hours. It always seems to come from the direction of the Heinl mausoleum. A few of them have also reported that Stiffy Green does not wander the cemetery alone. They also claim to have seen the figure of an elderly man strolling along between the tombstones, sometimes smoking a pipe and sometimes just smiling as he looks away into the distance. While the old manís description sometimes varies, the witnesses never disagree about the fact that he is always accompanied by a small stiff-legged bulldog... with piercing green eyes."

Still another story:
Every cemetery seems to have its myths and legends. Outs takes place at the site of the John G. Heinl mausoleum.
Are you one of those that came in years gone by to visit the eerie tomb of the master and his ever-faithful dog? Was he real, or just a haunted tale of man and best friend?
The tale began in the early 1900ís when John G. Heinl, a prominent businessman in Terre Haute, acquired a bulldog. The two became loyal companions, very seldom seen without the company of one another. In 1921, Mr. Heinl passed away. The dog refused to leave his side, faithful to attend the funeral and on to the mausoleum. He stood guarding the door, snapping and snarling at those who chose to come within range of the mausoleum doors. Many times the family tried to take him away, but he always found his way back.
One day, Mrs. Heinl came to the mausoleum only to find the dog had died. Conscious of the bond between the dog and his master, she decided it was only fitting to have the dog stuffed and entombed with his master.
On occasion it was said that a peek into the mausoleum would reveal the dog moved to a different side of the tomb, but one would always see the glowing green eyes peering at the onlooker. At times, one might see the head tilt or tail wag at the visitors. It was said that in the early hours of the morning you might see the figure of a man and his dog strolling in the area close to the mausoleum.
The dog was removed in 1985 due to vandalism to the mausoleum. It was placed in a replica of the Heinl mausoleum at the Vigo County Historical Society Museum. Who knows what you might see there as you peer into the realm of the unknown?
You decide. Was it real, or just a myth?
(Fact: Stiffy Green was a stone statue of a dog that had sat on the front porch of the family home on North Sixth Street and was placed in the Heinl mausoleum by the family.)

The Face in the Wall

The Wall on Fruitridge

One story is:
"Kids have always liked to drive fast so that they can impress their friends. But there was a kid that drove fast on Fruitridge road who impressed his friends in a different way. Fruitridge is a straight road that is also hilly. It was a favorite spot for drag racing before so many houses were built near it. At one spot, just beyond Hulman Street, the road rises quickly. It is bordered on the east by a rock wall and by trees on the west, so a drag race was a little dangerous. But danger made up half of the fun of the race so the kids still did it.
One night two boys challenged each other to a race. Both had new, fast cars and both were sure their car was the fastest. The only way to find out was to drag.
On that night both car engines revved as they inched up to the starting line. Friends bet who would win; then a great cheer rose as the two cars raced forward into the night. Neck and neck they raced; first one car gaining the advantage, then the other. Small flames jetted from the exhaust pipes and ribbons of smoke curled from tires spinning on the pavement.
Faster and faster they flew along that narrow ribbon of road. And then it happened. Just as they passed Hulman, one of the cars blew a tire. The car spun out of control and crashed. The boy driving was thrown through the windshield and smashed head-first into the unyielding rock on the east side. He died instantly.
But not all of him died. For many, many years (some even say now) as you drive by at night, you could see his face staring out of that rock that killed him."

Another story is:
"On Fruitridge Avenue in Terre Haute south of US 40 sits a house that is surrounded by a rock wall. An in that wall it is said there appears the face of a young man who met his death there.
Years ago, as the story goes, a man named Blumberg built a wall of various stones he had gathered from buildings being demolished in town.
His house was situated along a stretch of road popular with young drag racers. One night, two boys with new cars began bragging as to who had the fastest car and before long, they were roaring down Fruitridge at a high rate of speed.
As they neared the rock wall, one of the cars blew a tire and slammed into the rock wall with such velocity that the driver was thrown head first through the windshield. The impact killed the young driver instantly.
Shortly after the funeral, the face of the young man appeared in the wall, as if the force of the collision had imprinted his face in the very rock it hit. Attempts were made to cover up the image, but it still appeared. Finally, the image was scraped off the rock, but a ghostly face is said to be seen in the same spot from time to time. Some claim that if you place your finger in the eye of the face, you will die soon."

The Preston House

The photo was taken 10-31-1987, just prior to its razing.
The house was destroyed several years ago and a vacant lot is there now.

One story is:
"The massive stone house was built by George Dewees, a very rich man who had moved to Terre Haute from New Orleans. When he built the house in 1824 it was way out in the country and for people to visit they had to make a special effort.
George Dewees was a nasty man with a violent temper. He did not like people visiting him and made sure people knew it. His wife, Matilda, was different; she liked people and wanted friends. George was possessive and felt his wife should only be interested in his welfare. Matilda finally could not take it anymore and filed for divorce, something that just was not done in the early 1800's. But when it came time for the decree to become final, Matilda disappeared. George Dewees would not say where she had gone.
Stories began that George had murdered his wife and walled her up in a space to the side of the huge fireplace, but no one knew how to prove it. A few years later George Dewees died and another family moved into the home. They could tell that the side of the fireplace where Matilda was buried was different, but they did not want to rip up the walls just because of some old stories. The stories remained unproven. Then people began to swear that Matilda's ghost was still in the old home. Cold spots could be found near the fireplace and unearthly blue lights seeped through the closed and shuttered windows. It was Matilda, lost and alone, in a house where she never knew love. After Major Dewees' death the home was also supposed to have been a resting stop on the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slaves would hide in an old tunnel that led off the basement.
But one part of the tunnel collapsed trapping the slaves. They could not be rescued and they died there in that cold underground tunnel. Some swear on a warm summer night you can still hear spirituals, those songs sung of freedom and better days to be, coming faintly from the ground.
The Preston House, after several fires and years of neglect, collapsed in late 1987 and had to be torn down. Unfortunately the room where the fireplace was located was the portion that collapsed. The structure was too unsafe for a through search, but no body was seen as the home was demolished. There was also no evidence of a tunnel. Much of the stone of the Preston House, and some of the woodwork, was taken to be used in the grist mill at Pioneer Village in Fowler Park. Whether the legend of Matilda follows the stones remains for the future to say."

Another story is:
"The old Preston House at the corner of Poplar and 13 1/2 streets in Terre Haute (1824 or 1832 to 1987) was surrounded by many tales, one of which is that it was haunted.
The builder of the house was named Major George Dewees, who came to Terre Haute from New Orleans. He was known as a man with a violent temper. He didnít like people visiting him and let everyone know it. His wife, Matilda, was just the opposite. She loved to have her friends visit, as her husband didnít like her to leave the house. Matilda eventually filed for divorce, but disappeared before it became final.
The stories at the time were that Dewees killed his wife and bricked her up in a space in the side of the fireplace, but no one could ever prove it. Dewees eventually moved away from the area.
The next owners of the house never tore the fireplace apart to find out if the rumors were true, but reported cold spots near the fireplace and unearthly blue lights seeping through closed windows.
The house was also rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Tunnels were said to lead away from the basement and were a hiding place for slaves.
One night, the tunnels had a cave-in, killing a group of slaves. On warm, summer nights, itís said you can hear the hymns of freedom coming from the ground where the slaves are trapped for eternity.
After several fires and years of neglect, the house collapsed in late 1987 and had to be torn down. Unfortunately the room where the fireplace was located was the portion that collapsed. The structure was too unsafe for a through search, but no body was seen as the home was demolished. There was also no evidence of a tunnel. Much of the stone of the Preston House, and some of the woodwork, was taken to be used in the grist mill at Pioneer Village in Fowler Park."

The Historical Society

6th and Washington

"Witnesses claim to have caught many things on film here. Everything from orbs to a small mist. The orbs seem to center around the old front staircase. The building was used as a halfway house for several years by the 3rd owners of the property. It is now used as a historical museum. Supposedly the old crib in one of the upstairs exhibits moves occasionally even though the area is closed off."

A few more places of note:

Indiana State University - Burford Hall

- "The ghost is Barb, a young woman who died of alcohol poisoning in the residence hall. Students have often reported hearing Barb vomiting and/or crying in bathroom stalls. Also, there have been reports of strange happenings like sounds, whispers, things moving and things of that sort."

Indiana State University - Cromwell Hall

- "A white cross under the window is seen on the 12th floor where the man jumped, on the west side of the building in room 1221. Now you can hear footsteps and strange noises in the hallways."

Old Mill Dam

"Use to be part of the Under Ground railroad. It is very haunted at night. Certain nights stuff happens, a report of a small girl stands near the creek. They used to have the Underground Tunnels open but they are closed now. If you are in Terre Haute and go to Old Mil be careful. You might get a surprise."

St. Mary of the Woods College
- "Located on Hwy 150 just outside of Terre Haute the historic theatre is home to an apparition best described as a floating nun that on occasion can be seen late at night, as well as hearing footsteps of someone running up and down the stairs when there is no one else in the building. In addition to the theatre, there are tunnels under the campus (sad to say they are closed to the public) where many spirits have been seen or heard. There is also the unusual blood spot located in the main dormitory called O'Shaughnessy Hall. In one of the rooms there is a blood stain that looks like a face in the wall. The stain came from the early days of the school in the 1800's when a nun took her life. Although many attempts to remove the stain have been tried even when it appears to have been cleaned it mysteriously re appears days later to the same form and color which it was before. The name of the town that the school is in is St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana."

Faceless Nun of St. Maryís
**Note:- Foley Hall was razed in 1989**
"Many years ago, in the mid 1800s, there lived a nun at St. Mary-of-the-Woods college.
The nun was renowned for being a great painter and everyone who sat for a portrait would marvel upon its completion at the detail of the work.
ďThat really looks like me,Ē was the common retort.
The nun would fill in the background, then paint the arms, body and hair of the subject before commencing with work upon the face. The face, she felt, was the most important part of the picture and she would spend many hours painting it.
One day the nun decided to paint her own portrait. She labored over it until the time she was to paint her own face onto the canvas. But before a stroke of paint could be added to the face, the nun became ill and soon died.
A short time later, another nun was praying in the chapel in Foley Hall, where the artistís studio was located. Hearing someone weeping in the studio, she entered to find a nun crying. Asking what was wrong, the sobbing nun turned toward the other nun, revealing a head with no face. Terrified and realizing what she was encountering could only be a spirit, the frightened nun fled to tell others. By the time she returned with other sisters, the spirit had vanished.
Over the years, the faceless nun was seen from time to time in Foley Hall and other buildings as well. Students have reported seeing a nun in an odd costume, only to find that it was the style of habit worn more than 100 years ago.
In the spring of 1989, Foley Hall was demolished. It is said that spirits are tied to the ground upon which a building stands and not the building itself. Therefore, it is quite possible the Faceless Nun will continue her haunting ways at the college."

The Headless Trainman
"North of Terre Haute is a stretch of railroad tracks that many say is haunted. One day, following years of safe travel, a freight train was speeding its way south toward Evansville. Hitting a loose rail the train went careening wildly off the track, killing the trainís conductor and its brakeman. When the twisted wreckage was cleared, the conductor was found whole but the brakemanís body was found badly twisted and missing its head. Now, if you walk that stretch of track late at night, itís said you will see a figure walking south along those tracks. The figure is said to hold an old railroad lantern, which it moves back and forth across the tracks. People in the area say it is the brakeman, still looking in vain for his missing head."

ĎTill Death Do Us Part
"In the old Stevens farmhouse in North Terre Haute it is said a girl met her death in a fiery way on the eve of her wedding. It was a cold December afternoon. The young lady was finishing the fitting of her wedding gown when a strong draft sucked the end of it into the fireplace. In seconds the wedding gown was on fire and before the flames could be extinguished, the damage was done. The girl died.
Years later, even up through the 1960s, the image of the young girl roamed the various parts of the house on a regular basis. She banged and stomped to capture attention. It is believed her ghost was looking for a way to exit the home and find her husband to be."

Shadow Beasts
"Here's a tale of something shadowy that seems to run apace with you. Coming from Terre Haute, just off of US 40 make a right turn on 675 W. Follow that road to the end where you'll make a left turn. Down that road nearly half way or a little further just stare off to your right. You'll see what seems to be a couple of bushes, and one obviously is, but the other seems to be fainter in shadow and doesn't pass as the car passes, it appears to run along with you. If you shine a light on the shadow it disappears, but when you start to move off, it's back alongside you again."

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