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Hoosier Ghost Stories

Indiana has its share of ghost stories, and maybe even more than its fair share of ghost-tracking clubs.

Indiana has its share of ghost stories, and maybe even more than its fair share of ghost-tracking clubs. Some local legends intersect with significant chapters in the history of the state–there are tales of the restless spirits of Irish workers who perished while building the canals in the 1840s, or slaves fleeing along the Underground Railroad who met their untimely end along the way.

The usual suspects show up too–other apparitions are said to be unwed mothers who flung themselves off bridges and teenagers who met with trouble while necking in a parked car. The Central State Hospital site in Indianapolis, Evansville ‘s Willard Library, and the Stepp Cemetery in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest have all been investigated for paranormal activity.

Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute is the setting for two of the state’s most enduring ghost stories. One is the tale of Stiffy Green, the faithful canine companion of local resident John Heinl. After Heinl’s death, the bulldog kept a vigil outside his master’s tomb, refusing to eat or drink. When the dog finally perished, the family took his body to a taxidermist, then reunited the stuffed dog with his master in the mausoleum.

Visitors to the cemetery have reported hearing a dog’s bark coming from the Heinl tomb; others still have seen the misty figure of an elderly man walking a stiff-legged bulldog in the vicinity. Until Stiffy was transferred to the Vigo County Historical Society in 1985, visitors claimed the dog would shift positions within the crypt, and shine its green eyes at snoopers.

Legend surrounds another tomb at Highland Lawn. Terrified of being buried alive, Martin Sheets had his coffin outfitted with latches on the inside, and a telephone installed in the mausoleum, with a meal and a bottle of whiskey arranged nearby. Years after Sheets’ death and interment, his widow was found dead at home, clutching her bedside telephone. Cemetery workers preparing the family mausoleum for her burial were said to have found the site undisturbed except for one detail–the phone was dangling from its hook.

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