With spring in full-swing the days are growing longer, the nights are warmer and sunset comes later. It’s the perfect time to explore the legends and folklore of Putnam County. Within an easy drive less than an hour outside of Indianapolis, this place known for it’s covered bridges, rolling hills and ghostly spectors promises visitors a delightful afternoon, evening or weekend.
The usual haunt routes for scare seeking tourists include the Edna Collings Covered Bridge, early 1800’s Boone Hutcheson cemetery and a few old historic buildings on the DePauw University campus, but 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, an area explored in 2000 by paranormal investigators that aired on national television as well as several local homes and businesses that have invisible visitors.
Located on U.S. 231 several miles outside of Greencastle is the historic Locust Hill house. 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 a few years ago, 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 at Locust Hill 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. He became ill and was transferred to the POW hospital in Lafayette. He escaped and was heading home still desperately ill when he happened on the O’Hair home named Locust Hill.
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 the family 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 and even after death, never left her side.
Past owners of the O’Hair house describe William 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.
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 and the home is a private residence. But, on a moonlight night the shadow of people past have been known to flit by a window.
Located west of Greencastle not far from Nature Preserve 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 sood inside the tunnels easily visible from the road. His presence has not stopped parties and visits by carloads of kids from visiting the spot even though the perpetrator of the hoax had his illuminated animal skull confiscated by police several years ago. Many a passer-by still claims to have seen the Goatman perched high on the trestle.
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.
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.
Also on the DePauw Campus is the ghostly spector of a former President’s daughter who hung herself in the bell tower of Medherry Hall in the center of campus. Her footsteps are often heard on the staircase leading up to the tower.
Probably the best known ghost in Putnam County is that of a little girl who died near the Edna Collings Covered Bridge located just outside Clinton. Once a week, a little gir’s parents would drop her and her dog off at the covered bridge to swim while they shopped in town. When they came back to get her they would park in the center of the bridge and honk the horn. The little girl and her dog would come and climb into the back seat of the car. Once day, she didn’t come when they honked. The parents found her dog barking excitedly and found their little girl drown.
Today, if you park on the bridge after dark and honk your horn, the little girl will climb into your back seat and ride home with you.
Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the drive to the Edna Collings bridge is one of the prettiest ones around.
If you still have time, head to Cataract Falls State Park where you will find another covered bridge that has been known to have the ghostly image of the man who hanged himself inside during the depression. And, spring is the best time to see the Cataract Falls just feet from the covered bridge.