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Somewhere near you is a craggy, moldering cemetery, a forgotten boneyard whose sepulchral denizens have been sleeping the long, dark nights away beneath the earth; some for over a hundred years.
These eerie, forlorn, forgotten places are a natural setting wherein to project our hopes and fears, our trepidation about loneliness, time, the afterlife (if such a place exists), and the knowledge we try to put off that, eventually, we too shall rest with the dead, in everlasting sleep.
It seems only natural that a necropolis should be inhabited by those who refuse, either through fear, ignorance, or refusal to accept their situation; to "go beyond," into "the Light." These unhappy souls may be drawn, like death-driven insects before the fire of such black energy, to the place their earthly remains have been deposited. Thus we have such tales of haunted cemeteries as those that follow.
Just off of old Indiana Highway 37, in the Morgan-Monroe National Forest, you find a dirt track that leads back into an abandoned boneyard with the rather unremarkable moniker of "Stepp Cemetery." The graveyard has twenty ancient plots; no one has been buried out here for time out of mind. No matter, those that rest in earthly peace still have the spectral denizens of the other side to keep them company.
One grave attracts the most ghostly attention--one presided over by a weeping "Woman in White." No one knows who she is, or why she is here, eternally mourning at the grave that some say belongs to her workman husband who was killed tragically long, long ago. The inscription is unreadable, the body beneath forgotten.
At the far end of the cemetery, a tree stump, said to be the "Witches' Seat," looks, for all the world, like a convenient chair. Here a "Woman in Black" mourns her daughter, who was killed in an auto accident. Or, who was left to fend for herself by an irate boyfriend. The story goes she was breaking up with him, and he forced her from the car. Alone, frightened, lost in the Morgan-Monroe National Forest, we can assume she met with a sorry fate.
It is said by parking teens that, if you park (rather follows them being "parking teens," does it not?) and begin to make love, the "Woman in Black" will come peeping in the window of your car, to see if her daughter is inside.
The Woman in Black has, in some apocryphal tales, a hook hand, like a certain urban legend killer. In this tale the woman and her young son were in an auto accident, one in which he was killed. The woman lost her hand, which was replaced by a sinister metal hook.
Mourning the fate of her unfortunate boy, and knowing how he was afraid of the dark, she went to Stepp Cemetery, night after night, to mourn and "keep him company."
Now, interlopers are wont to see her shade, terrifying hook hand at the ready, warning those who would defile the grave of her young son that they had better reconsider.
No one locally knows who began Stepp Cemetery, but the legend is that an obscure religious cult, the "Crabbites," were the originators of the burial spot. The Crabbites were rumored to perform strange rituals, and even sexual orgies. (Considering the time period, this is not, on the whole, a mental image we want to overly indulge.)
One Hundred Steps Cemetery
High on a grassy hill near Brazil (We couldn't resist the rhyme, but know we're talking about Indiana here, still) is "One Hundred Steps" Cemetery. It has a swirl of similar legends attached to it as the similarly-named "STEPP" Cemetery, but, here the legend has a ring of urban folklore as well.
One hundred steps lead up the side of the hill. The visitor is entreated to count them as he goes:...one...two...three...forty-six...fifty-nine...seventy-two...
(Whew! Makes us tired just THINKING about it!)
Once at the top, if he turns to his left, it is said that he will see the ghost of the original undertaker of One Hundred Steps Cemetery. The man will appear, though long dead, and show him a vision of...how he will die.
(Yes, sounds like a pleasant afternoon diversion. I know I'm game!)
Coming back down those stairs, he must make sure that he counts exactly ONE HUNDRED. Because, if he doesn't?
Well, SOMETHING happens to him.
Something grabs him.
Something with claws.
And IT won't let go.
Alternately, the ghostly undertaker shoves you down the hill, if you refuse the count. Or the death vision comes true.
But, we're certain you don't believe THAT, do you?
Hays Cemetery, Anderson
The legend of a secret Satanic coven is the specter haunting Hays Cemetery in Anderson, Indiana. It is said that a devil worshipping cult once exhumed bodies to perform bizarre, blasphemous rituals (and perhaps other lurid acts?) on them. As if to underscore this, and somehow make it even worse (if that's conceivable), something called the "Devil's Child" is also, supposedly, buried out here; and, of course, a devilish, pitch-fork shaped wicked weed is said to grow from the grave, as attested to by generations of young teens (many of whom may have been smoking an entirely different weed).
The Screaming Orphans of Section 37
The turn of the last century was a time when epidemics of cholera, flu and tuberculosis, as well as a poor understanding of the germ nature of disease (and hygiene in general), allowed contagion to spread rapidly, and mass death to ensue. The present writer has been in the first hospital in Muncie, Indiana (at the time I visited it was low-rent apartments, primarily for college students), a place reputedly haunted. Walking the halls and the basement, one could readily believe it. A bronze plaque out front announced it was the first hospital in Muncie, dating from the time of the typhus epidemic (approximately 1914, we think).
At Crown Hill Cemetery, in Indianapolis, "Section 37" is, reputedly, a mass grave. Orphans, many of whom died of what would now be easily preventable disease, some who died simply of abuse or neglect—even hunger, perhaps—are said to rest there; their short, unhappy lives dissolved into the anonymity of being interred, nameless, utterly forgotten, in what amounts to a hideous landfill.
But some, reportedly, refuse to be forgotten. It is said that, on certain nights, one can hear their plaintive wails, even screams, issuing forth from Section 37. Perhaps it is the psychic agony of one that might have been prematurely buried; at a time when such a thing was perfectly possible, and is suspected to have been routine. Or, perhaps, it is the wail of an infant that refuses to go gently "into that good night," that resists being forgotten in death the way they were so unceremoniously discarded while yet walking this bleak, often tragic Earth.
We suppose such grim ruminations should be followed with a little levity. To round off our short perusal of haunted cemeteries, we present to you the ghoulish, cackling little yarn of one eccentric millionaire name MARTIN SHEETS.
Martin had made his money selling armaments to the government—quite a fortune, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately for him, he had a bad, almost crippling secret fear: premature burial.
In a time period such as this, as we have already alluded to, this was always a distinct possibility. So, Mr. Sheets, frequently awakened from sleep by nightmares of having been entombed alive, used some of his great wealth toward the construction of a special mausoleum.
The casket could be opened easily from the inside. Inside the tomb itself were a bottle of wine and supplies of food; of course, so as in the event of premature burial, Mr. Sheets could awaken, break free, and enjoy a bit of a nosh while he was awaiting rescue.
And how was he to alert help? you may well be asking yourself. Well, installed in his tomb was a phone line,. one that reached into the cemetery caretaker's office. All that had to be done was to pick up the receiver, and a light would come on in the caretaker's office. The phone was hooked up, though, as any regular phone would be, and calls out could, of course, be made. (We can assume that, given Mr. Sheets' putative condition at this point, calls IN would be rendered completely unnecessary.)
Well, in 1910, Mr. Sheets did, indeed, pass on into the Infinite; of what cause, we are not sure. Interred in his special mausoleum, he, in point of fact, seemed to be as dead as corned beef, all his special precautions being rendered superfluous.
In time, the phone line was disconnected from the caretaker's office. The phone, though, was still usable as far as calling out in general. So here comes the punch.
A few years later, Mrs. Martin Sheets was found dead, a horrified look on her face. Some claimed she simply had a heart attack, and that she picked up the phone to dial for help, doing so in the midst of her physical distress. Others, remembering certain of the peculiar precautions the late husband had taken with his internment, whispered darker things.
As if to confirm them in their dark surmises, when the tomb was opened a few years later, supposedly to disconnect the now useless, but still operational phone line, it was discovered, to the shock and amazement of the parties involved, that the phone was, indeed—OFF THE HOOK.
Put that in your proverbial pipe, my pretties!
Now the time has come to end our little impromptu tour of the batrachian boneyards, the scary, scary cemetery that waits for YOU, just around the corner from your nice, safe, comfortable home.
Waits for you, my friend. And all inside will greet you with open arms of clacking bones, when finally you arrive.