Is there Ghost at Justus Cemetery?
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!
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.