Tag Archives: Wanda Lou Willis

Trombone Tommy – Sounds from the Afterlife

Trombone Tommy continues playing, even after death

MoreHauntedHoosierTrailsA haunted railroad tunnel near Medora, between Medora and Fort Ritner, has a ghost not believed to be frightening but, instead, rather sad.

During the 1920s and 1930s, jobs were hard to find; often, a man would have to travel miles from home just to earn a meager living. In many instances, the unwitting vagrants were forced to become knights of the rails – hobos. Along the rails, these itinerants would set up camps where all of the knights were welcome to stay, bunk under the stars, and share cans of beans for as long as they wished.

One of these knights must have been a musician at one time, for he always traveled with his trombone. His companions dubbed him Trombone Tommy. People who lived in the area often talked about hearing him playing his trombone as he walked through the nearby railroad tunnel. One night, intent on playing, he evidently didn’t hear a freight train enter the tunnel, and he was killed.

On summer evenings, the town’s residents had heard Trombone Tommy’s music coming from the tunnel as they sat on their front porches cooling off from the hot summer’s sun. Though no one in the community knew him or had met him, they soon realized they missed him. His trombone was silent.

However, shortly after the accident, people began to hear the echoes of music coming from the direction of the tunnel. At first they were frightened, but then they accepted and enjoyed the music for what it was. Trombone Tommy was continuing to play for them, even after death.

Trombone TommyTrombone Tommy is one of the many stories told by Wanda Lou Willis in her book Haunted Hoosier Trails.

About the author: Wanda Lou Willis is a folklore historian who specializes in Hoosier folktales and historic research. She is a feature writer for the Indianapolis Star “Seniority Counts” section and regularly appears on WXIN-TV’s early-morning show. For more information check out her website.

 

The Ghost of Justus Cemetery

Is there Ghost at Justus Cemetery?

MoreHauntedHoosierTrailsThe clouds scurried across the night sky, at times hiding the pale moonlight. It was a windy, chilly, rainy night, not a good night for man or best to venture out – a perfect night for ghosts.

It was the era of the steam engine, and a train traveling on the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad stopped at the Oxford, Indiana, water tower located within view of the Justus Cemetery. As the crew members began taking on water above the whine of the wind, they heard distinctly a mournful moaning. Passengers hearing the sound strained their eyes into the darkness trying to learn from where and what this sound was coming.

Suddenly a figure in white was seen floating from the cemetery through the air toward the idle train. Its moans could be heard above the wind. The crewmembers and passengers watched, frozen from fright. Women began screaming. The crewmembers worked frantically to complete the task of taking on water. Suddenly without warning the specter retreated back to the cemetery, plunging headlong into an open grave.

The crewmembers were understandably frightened. Some even asked to transfer to daylight trains or better still, to any other train that did not have to pass through Oxford – and the Justus Cemetery.

Once again, a few nights later, the train made its customary and needed stop at the Oxford water tower. The crew had completed the task when the ghost appeared. The train began to get up a head of steam but was unable to move for several minutes, its wheels spinning on the track. The crewmembers became nearly hysterical when suddenly with a jerk the train began to roll free from whatever horror had held it tight in its grasp. Fear and panic consumed the crew, and with open defiance, the train’s crew refused to take the train into Oxford on its next run. Railroad officials were at a loss to know what to do and finally hired a detective.

Justus Cemetery Ghost a prank?

After visiting Oxford and talking to some of the citizens, he was able to persuade a few to accompany him one night as he visited the cemetery. This was scary business he was proposing. As the small group waited and watched, they observed some of the young men of the community creep into the area just before the train arrived to take on water. One of them carried something white – a sheet. The detective left his hiding place, and the others followed as he approached the young men. The youthful pranksters admitted they were responsible for the ghost. They had attached a wire from the top of the water tower to the cemetery and were pulling a sheet, draped over a coat hanger, along this “track.” They also confessed that they had rubbed soap on the railroad tracks to make it difficult for the train to get traction once it had stopped. The pranksters were set free with a stern warning that if this ever happened again they would be arrested.

That ended the life of the ghost of Justus Cemetery – or did it? There were some among the train’s crew – those who had been frightened into near hysterics – who didn’t believe that it was a prank.

In More Haunted Hoosier Trails the author Wanda Lou Willis has many more chilling Hoosier tales waiting for you!

Wanda and Joy AboutAbout the author: Wanda Lou Willis is a folklore historian who specializes in Hoosier folktales and historic research. She is a feature writer for the Indianapolis Star’s “Seniority Counts” Section and regularly appears on WXIN-TV’s early-morning show.

She has taught folklore for thirteen years through the continuing-education division of Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis and OASIS. A popular folklore presenter at schools, universities, libraries and historical societies, Willis has received recognition from National Geographic Magazine and the Smithsonian Institution. Wanda Loui Willis lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Sleepy Hollow Indiana

MoreHauntedHoosierTrailsThe Ghost of Sleepy Hollow – Clinton County, Indiana

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a permanent part of our literary history. The town of Sleepy Hollow along with the headless horseman have become part of our national folklore.

The spirit that haunts Irving’s Sleepy Hollow is the ghost of a Hessian trooper who has been decapitated by a cannonball during a Revolutionary War scrimmage. He rides wildly through the countryside at night seeking his head, but must return to his burial site before daybreak.

Indiana has its own Sleepy Hollow located just outside of Frankfort, and it, too, has a haunting tale. You won’t encounter a headless horseman, but what they say you’ll find there is much more frightening. Clinton County’s Sleepy Hollow is located on a lonely road near a bridge spanning the South Fork of the Wildcat Creek.

The story has its origin sometime in the 1800s. A farmer’s wife had just prepared and served the evening meal. No one knows why it happened or how it happened, but the seemingly docile wife had killed her husband. Had she taken all she could from a domineering, demanding man? Or had she simply gone mad? Did she use her iron skillet to end his life?

To cover up the crime and dispose of the evidence – the body – she decided to cut him up into manageable pieces. Once this was achieved, she waited until it was dark. Then she loaded him onto the wagon and proceeded to Wildcat Creek bridge. Once there she began to toss him, piece by piece, over the bridge and into the creek.

Later, she became fearful that someone would find the pieces. Night after night she went to the bridge to make sure there was nothing to be found. Even if she wasn’t out of her mind when she killer her husband, her guilt most certainly drove her insane. In fact, even after her death, she still protects her secret.

Many have said that on this lonely road as you approach the bridge, she’ll appear as a light floating toward you in an attempt to scare you away. But if you’re really “lucky,” according to some stories you might encounter her husband rising from the creek – piece by piece.

To find Sleepy Hollow, follow these directions – if you dare. Take State Route 28 west out of Frankfort until you reach West Mulberry – Jefferson Road. Turn right and follow the road until you come to 600-West. Continue on 600-West until you see the bridge – and perhaps something else.

In More Haunted Hoosier Trails the author Wanda Lou Willis has many more chilling Hoosier tales waiting for you!

Sleepy Hollow Indiana
Wanda Lou Willis and Joy

About the author: Wanda Lou Willis is a folklore historian who specializes in Hoosier folktales and historic research. She is a feature writer for the Indianapolis Star’s “Seniority Counts” Section and regularly appears on WXIN-TV’s early-morning show.

She has taught folklore for thirteen years through the continuing-education division of Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis and OASIS. A popular folklore presenter at schools, universities, libraries and historical societies, Willis has received recognition from National Geographic Magazine and the Smithsonian Institution. Wanda Loui Willis lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Azalia Bridge

Haunted Azalia Bridge scene of crime

Azalia Bridge
Haunted Azalia Bridge

The village of Azalia, platted in 1931 and believed to be named for the flower, is a short distance south of Columbus on US31. According to local lore the founders had hoped the community would be pure and undefiled, a model of temperance in all aspects.

Unfortunately a young unmarried girl in the community did not live up to the dreams of the founders. She became pregnant, but was able to conceal her sin until spring when the baby was born.  Shunned by both her family and the community, she and the baby left the village.

No one knows where she and the baby stayed. Some farmers said they saw them around decaying, abandoned barns. Afraid to enter the town or seek aid from her family, she would scavenge and even steal food to survive.

She must have gone insane. What else could explain what she did with her tiny baby? Not too far from town is the Azalia bridge spanning Sand Creek. Normally, the water should be little more than ankle deep. However, with the melting snow and spring freshets, the creek was running fast and deep with icy cold water. The crazed young mother, holding her baby wrapped in a thin white blanket, stood on the bridge watching the wild currents rushing past. Leaning over the edge, she opened her arms and let the baby fall; she watched as the current carried the bundle away until it was out of sight.

Sometime later a fisherman found the remains of the baby still wrapped securely in its blanket. The haggard mother, wild-eyed, ranting, moaning and crying, was left alone, as was the custom of early-nineteenth-century villages, to wander the countryside and repent.  She continue to forage and steal food and found shelter wherever she could, This was a far worse sentence than any court of law could have given.

For many years she lurked around the creek bed and sat at the foot of the Azalia bridge, rocking and wailing. Those who saw her, though frightened, believed she was truly sorry and mourned for the child she had killed.

One day she was seen sitting on the bank, but unlike other times she was not rocking and was silent. She was dead. No one knows who buried her or where.  There are those who say if you go to the Azalia Bridge and dare to look over you  might see the baby, wrapped tightly in a white blanket, lying at the edge of the water crying for its mother.  Wait long enough and you’ll get a glimpse of the desperate, insane mother and her her mournful crying.

Also in Southern Indiana is Story (on State Road 135), read all about the Haunting of Story by Wanda Lou Willis, author of Haunted Hoosier Trails.

 

Blue Lady haunts the Story Inn

Spectral Blue Lady haunts Story Inn

Blue Lady
Blue Lady Inn in Story, Southern Indiana

Employees and several guests at the Story Inn on State Road 135 know the room at the top of the stairs as the “Blue Lady” room, so named for a spectral visitor who evidently has made it her permanent residence.  She’s been seen standing at the edge of the bed, reflected in the window or in the mirror.

One worker who has been employed by the inn for more than ten years saw a metal coffeepot fall off of a cabinet with no one near. She has also seen another ghost in the inn. On her way downstairs to take a call she saw a cream-colored skirt swoosh around a corner. When she reached the bottom of the stairs no one was in sight. There was no other way out.

A picture of an old lady dressed in dark, nineteenth-century clothing hangs on the wall behind the service desk.  It seems to have a “life” of it’s own. One of the owners commented to an employee, “She sure wasn’t very pretty.” Suddenly the picture crashed to the floor.  The nail was firmly in the wall and the wire was intact!

Encounters of the Blue Lady continue to be reported

The aroma of cherry tobacco often accompanies sightings of the Blue Lady dressed in a floor length gown.  Though no one know who the Blue Lady is, the employees have decided she must be one of Dr. Story’s wives, though there is no reason to believe this.

The inn isn’t the only haunted building in Story. Dr. George Story, the town’s founder, built his home on the highest point in the town. Visitors and employees believe his house is haunted. On more than one occasion the housekeeper has been pinched as she cleans the house. She’s also reported lights in the rooms after she’s turned them off and doors opening and closing without anyone being bear them.

This is one of the many stories Wanda Lou Willis shares in her book Haunted Hoosier Trails. If you enjoyed this story visit us again next week as Wanda tells us about the haunting going on at The Azalia Bridge in Southern Indiana.

Pekin Farmhouse Ghost keeps trick-or-treaters away

Pekin Farmhouse Ghost keeps trick-or-treaters away on Halloween

Pekin Farmhouse Ghost
The Pekin Farmhouse picture courtesy Pam French

In 1977 Robert and Pam French purchased the 1863 farmhouse located at 8178 S. State Road 335 in Pekin, Indiana. The first Halloween they lived in the house they decorated with jack-o-lanterns and purchased candy in anticipation of trick-or-treaters. None came, though they could see children going to houses near them. When they mentioned this to some of their neighbors, they were told the children were afraid to go to their house because it was haunted.

The Frenches had been in the house for about a year when Pam was dusting and realized that when she turned her back, small items such as pictures or figurines would mysteriously be moved from one spot to another.

Owner finally meet Pekin Farmhouse Ghost

The following year Pam finally saw the Pekin farmhouse ghost, a slim, barefooted young boy, about seven or eight years old. His dark hair was cut in the bowl style and he whore bib overhauls and a shirt. He didn’t say anything, just stared at her. When Pam said “Hello, there,” the boy ran into another room and disappeared.

The Frenches haven’t seen their friendly, mischievous, young ghost for sometime, though they feel his presence in the house. Pam believes that once the boy had met them and found out that they were nice people to live with, he was content to stay in the shadows and from time to time play little jokes by moving small items when she wasn’t looking.

They have lived in the house for twenty-five years and each Halloween they purchase candy in anticipation – and still no trick-or-treaters have come to their door.

The Pekin Farmhouse is in Washington County, Southern Indiana. Washington County was formed from Harrison and Clark Counties in 1813 and named for George Washington.

The French farmhouse is located at 8178 S. State Road in Pekin, Indiana.

For more haunted places and ghostly stories in Indiana check out Haunted Hoosier Trails by Wanda Lou Willis.