Things that go ‘bump’ in the night
Several area businesses
‘haunted,’ their owners say
Noises and strange happenings occur frequently
(October 2014) – Toys moving on their own, ghostly footsteps, lights flickering on and off, fleeting shadows – these are the standard ingredients of a typical ghost story. We’ve heard them all. However, when these details are heard from someone who has experienced them first-hand, gooseflesh breaks out, hairs raise and spines begin to tingle.
• Oct. 17: Costumed spirits telling ghost stories in dimly lit rooms of the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site. 7-9 p.m. Refreshments served in the basement. Reservations recommended. Tickets $10 per person. (812) 273-0556.
• Oct. 25: Child’s Halloween program at Lanier Mansion State Historic Site. 6-8 p.m. Trick or treating, ghost stories, crafts, and a basement tour. Tickets $3 per child. (812) 273-0556.
• Oct. 17-18: Madison Trolley Haunted Tour. 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Meet at gazebo on the riverfront. Tickets $15 per person. Ride is a little over an hour and ends in Springdale Cemetery.
La Grange, Ky.
• Sept. 6 - Oct. 31: Ghost walking tours in downtown La Grange. Tours are held every Friday and Saturday. Tickets $18 per person. Reservations required. (502) 291-1766.
• Oct. 11: Sleepy Hollow Fall Festival. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arts and crafts, headless horseman, horse drawn wagon rides, pie baking contest, straw bale throwing contest, live entertainment. 1-800-HELLO-VV.
• Oct. 10-11: Mysterious Dinner. 6 p.m. on Oct. 10. 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on Oct. 11. Ticket $15 per person for the dinner or $16 for dinner and ghost walk. Reservations required by Oct. 1. Ghost walk is Friday and Saturday at 6:30-9:30 p.m. with groups leaving Jennings County Historical Society every 20 minutes. Tickets $3 (ages 11 and up) for tour only. Tickets $2 ages 4-10. Tours start on corner of Brown and Pike.
• Oct 11: Hector’s Haunted Dance Hall and Costume Party. Featuring a DJ and cash bar. 8-11 p.m. at the Vernon gym. Come dressed as favorite movie star or television character for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Tickets should be purchased at Jennings County Historical Society. Tickets $15 single or $25 per couple.
The Jennings County Historical Society in Vernon, Ind., is abundant with reports of mysterious happenings from visitors and workers alike. The first thing that anyone visiting the building will notice is the absence of sound. When the front door closes, the noises from the street can no longer be heard. This makes it hard to explain how Historical Society Executive Director Wanda Wright has heard furniture move on many occasions. A no-nonsense sort of person, Wright admits that she will sometimes speak of the ghostly events in the building as if there may be some rational explanation for them.
Following one such conversation, Wright had returned to her daily duties. Suddenly, she heard a clear voice say, “Wanda.” She immediately began to search the premises for the source and found the building to be empty. She returned to her tasks and heard the voice call her name once again. “It was as if they just wanted to let me know they were really there,” she said.
Built in 1838 as a stage coach stop and Inn, the building was once teeming with activity. Home to the family of Thomas and Jane Storey, whose 6-year-old son, David, tragically drowned in a well on the property. This heartbreaking event may explain some of the otherwise unexplainable occurrences. A child claiming to have been playing with a little boy when no other child was present, a ball rolling down the stairway, motion detectors being activated, small appliances being turned on and off – all seem like attempts of a ghostly child to gain attention.
Another spirit that seems to enjoy involvement with the activities of the living is one that resides in the Historic Hoosier Theatre in Vevay, Ind. Vice president and treasurer of the theatre board, Adele Snook, says the ghost seems to become more active during rehearsals and plays. She adds that she is also most definitely a woman. Members of the boards believe that the phantom was alive when the building was a movie theatre in the late 1920s. Some speculate that she may have been the piano player that theatres of that age employed.
Corresponding with this theory is one of the most memorable stories about the spirit of the Hoosier Theatre. During a break in the rehearsal of a play, one participant was standing at the front windows looking out at Ferry Street when he heard the swinging doors to the stairs open and close. Entering the stairwell, the man saw a pair of female legs ascending the top steps. Thinking it was Snook and that she may need some help, the man followed up the stairs and onto the balcony where he quickly learned that Snook was still on the stage below. Snook says that the man had the hardest time believing that she had not just gone up the stairs, but all others in attendance confirmed that Snook had not left the stage.
Photos by Jenny Straub Youngblood
Becky Kimbler (above) invited ghost hunters to investigate the strange occurrences at Serendipity Cafe, Gifts & Sweet Shoppe in La Grange, Ky. Michael Totten (below top) reports ghostly happenings at The Red Dog Arms in Madison, Ind. Adele Snook (below bottom), vice president and treasurer at Vevay, Ind.’s Hoosier Theatre, says their ghost
is a woman.
Shadowy figures around the stage curtains, doors opening to let people through them, and items moving when no one is looking have also been reported.
Halloween lovers can’t let the season pass without a visit to Serendipity Café, Gifts and Sweet Shoppe, located at 116 E. Main St. in La Grange, Ky. The festivity of the holiday is celebrated to the fullest when the business plays host to its own zombie walk for a cause. Owner Lillian Bayer and her daughter, Becky Kimbler, plan to raise money for Traumatic Brain Injuries with the event, which will also include a zombie costume contest, jack o lantern judging and a bonfire.
“Our motto is ‘Expect the Unexpected,’ ” says Kimbler. This is a direct reference to the ever-present guests in the café.
Kimbler first felt that she and fellow workers were not alone in the building when she was decorating for the holidays with her father. After running up the stairs, she heard someone behind her. As she entered the next room, she heard the distinctive squeak of the top steps. She called to her father only to discover that he was still downstairs. Bayer has also had feelings that someone was standing on the stairs behind her. Customers have reported being poked, feeling areas of extreme cold and hearing a child giggling throughout the building.
With so much activity, Kimbler decided to invite a group of ghost hunters to investigate. On her own, Kimbler had discovered that the café had once been the office of a doctor named John Walsh whose son had died in the building after ingesting some medicine intended for a patient. Among the tools set up by the ghost hunters was a “ghost box,” a modified radio that enables two-way communications with a spirit. Kimbler recalls the chills she felt as she listened to the ghost hunters ask the spirit what his name was, and she heard a deep voice say, “Walsh.” She believes that Walsh’s spirit remains in the building because his son is also present. “This is their home,” she says with compassion.
The Red Dog Arms at 322 W. Main St. in Madison, Ind., was also home to other beings before it was inhabited by current owner, Michael Totten, who has always felt a strong tie to the past. He displays his handmade 19th century rifles and sells other items from the 1900s in his shop.
Photo by Jenny Straub Youngblood
Wanda Wright of the Jennings County Historical Society says she has heard furniture mysteriously move on many occasions.
During renovations to the building, he reports occasionally feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. One occasion found him feeling especially agitated, and he sat down in a chair with his head in his hands. He was suddenly engulfed in a warm presence that he found very soothing. He says there was also a distinct smell of laundry soap in the air. Imagine his surprise when a group of visitors later told him that they had been raised by a woman named Mrs. Jones in Totten’s building. Mrs. Jones made her living by taking in laundry, and her home always smelled of laundry soap.
Totten says that there is another spirit in his building who was not always so friendly. This ghost seemed to be upset by the renovations and would frequently rush cold air through the building, sometimes slamming doors and knocking things over. As the renovations slowed, the activity from this spirit has calmed.
Kentuckiana is the perfect area to celebrate Halloween. Ghost stories are abundant and more often than not the original building is still standing – enabling the curious to go see and experience the actual setting of their favorite spooky tale. The numerous historic buildings in the region seem to encourage a fair number of ghost tours and walks. The biggest challenge is choosing which one to attend.
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