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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Local haunts featured in book

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The O'Hair house in Putnam County is not only a beautiful historic home but has been featured in several books and television specials about paranormal activity. The house is reported to have a confederate soldier from the Civil War still living in it.
Fall is the perfect time to read about scary, creepy things; especially those in our own backyard. The book "Haunted Hoosier Trails: A Guide to Famous Folklore Spooky Sites," by Indianapolis author Wanda Lou Willis, tells about two Putnam County hauntings.

One of the stories deals with the ghost of Gov. James Whitcomb haunting the library at DePauw University in the early 1900s.

Every librarian's dream is to have a dedicated assistant who works whenever necessary. DePauw University has that perfect librarian--a ghost. The first report of a ghostly sighting came in the Old Whitcomb Library in the early 1900s. Governor James Whitcomb left his rare book collection to the school with the stipulation they were never to be taken from the library building.

A student, however, found Whitcomb's favorite book, "The Poems of Ossian," which had been given to the governor as a young boy, so interesting that he took it out of the building intending to read it that night and return it the next day. If was after midnight when he finished the book and turned the lights out.

He woke with the sense he was not alone. When his eyes became adjusted to the darkness he saw a spectral finger pointing accusingly. And then heard, "Who stole Ossian?" the bony hand reached toward the boy, who swore he felt a finger touch his cheek.

The boy returned the book first thing in the morning telling the librarian he'd been visited by the ghost of Governor Whitcomb and promising he'd never take another restricted book out of the library.

Today, the books are housed in a secure area where only librarians can retrieve the rare volumes.

That ghost story however is fairly mild compared to the spooky goings-on that purportedly occurred at the two-story brick O'Hair house on the east side of U.S. 231, six miles north of Greencastle.

Karla Lawless, Director of the Putnam County Convention and Visitor's Bureau often recommends visiting the Putnam County Museum to watch a video made by one of the people living in the O'Hair house that observed and reported paranormal activity.

Known at the time as Locust Hill, it was an antique shop and art gallery operated by David and Dixie Arnold and Barbara and David Lane.

Willis' book details the strange incidents like doors slamming shut by themselves, a water faucet coming on in an upstairs bathroom, the sound of music and the coughing of a deep-voiced man.

According to information from a video presentation Barbara Lane did for the Putnam County Museum a few years ago, visitors to Locust Hill have often commented on sightings of a man dressed in a Confederate Civil War officer's uniform. Mediums who stopped at the house advised the owners, "You have a presence here, don't you ... a Confederate soldier," Lane said.

Thanks to some very strange events, the owners were able to put a name with the ghostly face. Lane explained about a visiting librarian who came to Locust Hill because of her interest in Civil War history.

"She also happened to come dressed in a T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it and that got a big rise out of old William," said Lane. The librarian was so excited that she told the Lanes she was going to check out the details in the Library of Congress. What she learned is that captured Confederate soldiers were shipped to Fort Morton at Indianapolis, and those who were sick or injured were transported on to a hospital at Lafayette.

"The Union nurses were notorious for finding these Southern gentlemen cute and often gave them access to horses and money (to escape)," Lane continued.

Library of Congress records show that three Confederate officers were unaccounted for after being shipped to Lafayette. Further investigation revealed that one of them was shot while escaping, one was buried near Tipton and a third officer -- William March or Marsh -- was unaccounted for.

The belief, Lane related, is that March or Marsh made his way down to Locust Hill, where he was taken in by the O'Hairs and fell in love with one of the daughters. But he died a short time later -- either from tuberculosis or pneumonia -- in the upstairs green room at the home.

Armed with that information, the young librarian returned to the house with her boyfriend and parents. They weren't upstairs long, Lane recalled, before the boyfriend came scurrying back down the stairs unable to catch his breath.

"That's one of the biggest manifestations of this," Lane said. "You can't get your breath in that room."

Wells says in her book that it's difficult not to believe Barbara and David Lane. After all, they are well-respected, down-to-earth longtime local residents who aren't prone to wild exaggeration.

"I really believe it, and I'm not a goofball," Barbara said, reporting that William "is a nice guy, really."

He doesn't do anything malicious. It's more a mischievous haunting in which doors are inexplicably hooked from the inside or the caps on cleaning supplies are randomly switched to spook the cleaning lady.

The Arnolds lived in the house for 17 years before it was converted into the antique store and art gallery.

The Lanes and Arnolds found an unmarked grave on the property, she said, adding that it fits the storyline since Hoosiers were in the North and William was evidently a Southerner.

Locust Hill was featured on several Halloween specials on the PBS television program "Across Indiana a few years back. The house has since been sold and the new owners have not reported any paranormal activity. Willis' book can be purchased online from Amazon.com and in most bookstores.

For information on these two sites plus other haunted places contact the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 765-653-8743.

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I always love to hear about local ghost stories.

-- Posted by purple_heat on Wed, Oct 22, 2008, at 8:00 PM

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