Autumn brings out local legends

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Autumn. The days are shorter, the nights are cooler and sunset comes sooner. And, here in Putnam County the legends and folklore of spirits that haunt abound.

While the Edna Collings covered bridge, Boone Hutcheson cemetery and some old buildings on the DePauw campus are the usual haunt routes for scare seeking tourists, there are other lesser-known sites, which hold as much appeal. They include a home on the National Register of Historic Homes, a haunted railroad bridge, a site explored in 2000 by paranormal investigators that aired on national television as well as several local homes and businesses that have invisible visitors.

The historic Locust Hill house is north of Greencastle on U.S. 231. It was built in the early 1800's with clay stones fired on the site and yellow poplar trees cut down on the land. Until recently, it was an antique store whose owners happily entertained patrons with stories of three unearthly beings who inhabited the building.

The most well known specter is that of William Marsh, a confederate soldier who died in the house. In the vein of the romantic civil war era the story is that Marsh was captured and held at Fort Morton in Indianapolis. He became ill and was transferred to the POW hospital in Lafayette. He escaped and was heading home still desperately ill. He happened on the O'Hair home.

The O'Hairs had 11 children, two of whom were both soldiers. One was a confederate and one was a Yankee. Thinking of their own sons they took Marsh in and attempted to nurse him back to health. He was too ill to recover. But, before he died he fell in love with one of the O'Hair daughters. He has never left the home.

Past owners of the O'Hair house describe him as, "benevolent and very mischievous." He has been known to throw candlesticks in the air and across the room in front of people. A rocking chair in his old room rocks when no one is sitting in it. And, folks who have visited the bedroom upstairs where he died find it hard to catch their breath or breath deep. Marsh died from either TB or pneumonia.

Visitors have also spotted a mother/daughter apparition in the house. The two women are dressed in long white dresses and seen in several places in the home. The antique store is closed now. But, on a moonlight night the shadow of people past may flit by a window.

Located west of Greencastle not far from Fern Cliff stands a huge four-arched railroad bridge. It is one of four similar bridges built in Putnam and Hendricks counties during the heyday of trains.

It is a hangout for teens, a place to explore with large tunnels that are easily accessible. As with so many old railroad trestles, stories abound about ghostly appearances. It is probably best known for the appearance of the "Goatman," a reputed half-man, half-goat creature who stands inside the tunnels easily visible from the road. His presence has not stopped parties and visits by carloads of kids, even though the perpetrator of the hoax had his illuminated animal skull confiscated by police several years ago..

One of the best-kept ghostly secrets is a piece of property behind Brick Chapel north of Greencastle where an old brick house stood until recently. This site received national attention in 2000 on an ABC special, "World's Scariest Ghosts."

Two well-known paranormal investigators named Guy Winters and Terry Lambert who worked for ABC Television; shot still photographs and videotaped footage of the old brick home. Several photos showed a woman in pink glowing in an upstairs window of the empty room.

The old brick house has since been torn down and has given way to a cornfield.

However, there are some who claim to have parked along the side of the field and seen pink balls of light dance across the field. The driveway is currently gated, locked and posted with no trespassing signs.

Even the BannerGraphic has a friendly ghost who appears at his old desk and has been known to stroll through the newsroom from time to time. Late one evening a couple of staff members heard one of their names being called by someone they couldn't see. The hair on their arms rose up, they looked at one another and shivered. And, then returned to writing their stories. I guess its true that old reporters never die, they just fade away. . . and reappear and fade away again.

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