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Terre Haute - A history and a guide

This is my history and guide to my adopted home - Terre Haute, Indiana.

Ghost Stories

Like many places Terre Haute has its own ghost stories, here's some of them...

The Face in the Wall

On Fruitridge Avenue in Terre Haute south of US 40 sits a house that is surrounded by a rock wall. An in that wall it is said there appears the face of a young man who met his death there.

Years ago, as the story goes, a man named Blumberg built a wall of various stones he had gathered from buildings being demolished in town.

His house was situated along a stretch of road popular with young drag racers. One night, two boys with new cars began bragging as to who had the fastest car and before long, they were roaring down Fruitridge at a high rate of speed.

As they neared the rock wall, one of the cars blew a tire and slammed into the rock wall with such velocity that the driver was thrown head first through the windshield. The impact killed the young driver instantly.

Shortly after the funeral, the face of the young man appeared in the wall, as if the force of the collision had imprinted his face in the very rock it hit. Attempts were made to cover up the image, but it still appeared. Finally, the image was scraped off the rock, but a ghostly face is said to be seen in the same spot from time to time. Some claim that if you place your finger in the eye of the face, you will die soon.

Faceless Nun of St. Maryís

Many years ago, in the mid 1800s, there lived a nun at St. Mary-of-the-Woods college.

The nun was renowned for being a great painter and everyone who sat for a portrait would marvel upon its completion at the detail of the work.

ďThat really looks like me,Ē was the common retort.

The nun would fill in the background, then paint the arms, body and hair of the subject before commencing with work upon the face. The face, she felt, was the most important part of the picture and she would spend many hours painting it.

One day the nun decided to paint her own portrait. She labored over it until the time she was to paint her own face onto the canvas. But before a stroke of paint could be added to the face, the nun became ill and soon died.

A short time later, another nun was praying in the chapel in Foley Hall, where the artistís studio was located. Hearing someone weeping in the studio, she entered to find a nun crying. Asking what was wrong, the sobbing nun turned toward the other nun, revealing a head with no face. Terrified and realizing what she was encountering could only be a spirit, the frightened nun fled to tell others. By the time she returned with other sisters, the spirit had vanished.

Over the years, the faceless nun was seen from time to time in Foley Hall and other buildings as well. Students have reported seeing a nun in an odd costume, only to find that it was the style of habit worn more than 100 years ago.

In the spring of 1989, Foley Hall was demolished. It is said that spirits are tied to the ground upon which a building stands and not the building itself. Therefore, it is quite possible the Faceless Nun will continue her haunting ways at the college.

The Headless Trainman

North of Terre Haute is a stretch of railroad tracks that many say is haunted.

One day, following years of safe travel, a freight train was speeding its way south toward Evansville. Hitting a loose rail the train went careening wildly off the track, killing the trainís conductor and its brakeman.

When the twisted wreckage was cleared, the conductor was found whole but the brakemanís body was found badly twisted and missing its head.

Now, if you walk that stretch of track late at night, itís said you will see a figure walking south along those tracks. The figure is said to hold an old railroad lantern, which it moves back and forth across the tracks. People in the area say it is the brakeman, still looking in vain for his missing head.

The Phone in the Tomb

The fear of dying can be torturous to many. For some, being buried alive is an even bigger fear.

Before the turn of the century, when it was hard to distinguish between coma and death, some hapless people went into the ground only to suffocate upon awakening.

Martin Sheets, a Terre Haute resident, wanted to make sure that mishap never befell him.

Sheets lived on Ohio Street, near the present location of the Goodie Shop. Many of his neighbors thought him a bit eccentric, but, otherwise, he was left alone to do things in the manner he saw fit.

This included planning his funeral. Martin Sheets wanted to make sure be would not be buried alive so he erected a large mausoleum in Highland Lawn Cemetery. Inside it was a coffin with special latches so the coffin to be opened from the inside.

As a final precaution, Sheets had a telephone installed in the tomb so that should he find himself in the situation he most wanted to avoid, he could call someone to come and get him out. Just to make sure he wouldn't be uncomfortable while he waited to be released he also had a rocking chair and bottle of whiskey left in the mausoleum.

It was said that at the old Indiana Bell Telephone Co., operators were in constant fear that someday the line would begin flashing from Sheetsí resting place.

Years passed and Mrs. Sheets passed away due to a heart attack. She supposedly was found lying in bed with her telephone gripped so tightly that the attendants had a hard time breaking her grip. When her body was interned in the mausoleum, its phone was off the hook.

The Preston House

The old Preston House at the corner of Poplar and 13 1/2 streets in Terre Haute (1824 or 1832 to 1987) was surrounded by many tales, one of which is that it was haunted.

The builder of the house was named Major George Dewees, who came to Terre Haute from New Orleans. He was known as a man with a violent temper. He didnít like people visiting him and let everyone know it. His wife, Matilda, was just the opposite. She loved to have her friends visit, as her husband didnít like her to leave the house. Matilda eventually filed for divorce, but disappeared before it became final.

The stories at the time were that Dewees killed his wife and bricked her up in a space in the side of the fireplace, but no one could ever prove it. Dewees eventually moved away from the area.

The next owners of the house never tore the fireplace apart to find out if the rumors were true, but reported cold spots near the fireplace and unearthly blue lights seeping through closed windows.

The house was also rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Tunnels were said to lead away from the basement and were a hiding place for slaves.

One night, the tunnels had a cave-in, killing a group of slaves. On warm, summer nights, itís said you can hear the hymns of freedom coming from the ground where the slaves are trapped for eternity.

After several fires and years of neglect, the house collapsed in late 1987 and had to be torn down. Unfortunately the room where the fireplace was located was the portion that collapsed. The structure was too unsafe for a through search, but no body was seen as the home was demolished. There was also no evidence of a tunnel. Much of the stone of the Preston House, and some of the woodwork, was taken to be used in the grist mill at Pioneer Village in Fowler Park.

ĎTill Death Do Us Part

In the old Stevens farmhouse in North Terre Haute it is said a girl met her death in a fiery way on the eve of her wedding.

It was a cold December afternoon. The young lady was finishing the fitting of her wedding gown when a strong draft sucked the end of it into the fireplace. In seconds the wedding gown was on fire and before the flames could be extinguished, the damage was done. The girl died.

Years later, even up through the 1960s, the image of the young girl roamed the various parts of the house on a regular basis. She banged and stomped to capture attention. It is believed her ghost was looking for a way to exit the home and find her husband to be.

Shadow Beasts

Here's a tale of something shadowy that seems to run apace with you. Coming from Terre Haute, just off of US 40 make a right turn on 675 W. Follow that road to the end where you'll make a left turn. Down that road nearly half way or a little further just stare off to your right. You'll see what seems to be a couple of bushes, and one obviously is, but the other seems to be fainter in shadow and doesn't pass as the car passes, it appears to run along with you. If you shine a light on the shadow it disappears, but when you start to move off, it's back alongside you again.

Stiffy Green

Stiffy Green was an intensely loyal bulldog and was always being found sitting in a tomb in Highland Lawn Cemetery. He had been the family dog, one that really loved his master. He would always be on the front porch, just outside the door, waiting for his master to come home form work. One day his master died and the bulldog began to grieve. He kept running away and the family always found him sitting outside the door of the tomb, guarding it, and waiting for his master. Eventually the family found Stiffy lying, dead, in front of the door to the tomb. They decided to have Stiffy stuffed and placed inside the tomb, next to the master that he had loved so much. Now, if you go out there at night and shine a light in the door of the tomb, Stiffy opens his cold green eyes and glares at you because he was still guarding his master's tomb.

Stiffy stayed in the Heinl Tomb until 1983. Unfortunately vandals began damaging the tomb, including wrecking the bronze doors and shooting at the dog. The Heinl family decided to have Stiffy removed. Don't believe this story? Realizing how popular the legend of Stiffy Green was in Vigo County, the Heinl family descendants agreed to give the dog to the Historical Society as the centerpiece of the "Haunted Legends" display, and he's still there - I've seen him.

The truth is a bit more mundane, but nearly as strange. John G. Heinhl died in 1921, but the dog had been a concrete statue that stood on the front porch of the Heinhl's home until Mr. Heinhl passed away. Over the decades, the Heinhl mausoleum became a favorite rendezvous for dating teenagers, who would shine flashlights through its glass doors to see the dog's glowing eyes. They called him "Stiffy Green," and a legend grew that he had been a noble dog.

Several more decades passed. Teenagers in the 1980s, no longer interested in legends nor satisfied with flashlights, fired bullets into the Heinhl crypt and blew out one of Stiffy's eyes.Stiffy was removed from the mausoleum for safekeeping in mid-1980s.

The Terre Haute Lion's Club, sensing a useful public service opportunity, built a life-size replica of the Heinhl mausoleum inside the County Historical Museum, and Stiffy was moved into it in 1989. He has been there ever since.

Sources :-

All About Ghosts
Haunted Legends of Vigo County
Stiffy Green the Bulldog
Wabash Valley Magazine, September/October 1992 - Ghostly Legends of the Wabash Valley by Joseph Scott Lane

Terre Haute | Prehistory | Indians | Explorers | Postcards (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5), (Page 6) | Union Hospital | Ghosts | 2002 Events (Cars), (Planes), (Hovercraft) | Snow Rollers (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5) | Differences (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4) | Other Stuff | Fowlers | Other Sites

HomePage | Optical Illusions | War Stories | QBasic | Dads Navy Days | Bristol | Bristol, USA | Bristol, Canada | Terre Haute | Miscellany | Web Stuff | About Ray | Site Map | Site Search | Messages | Credits | Links | Web Rings

This page created 7th March 2005, last modified 9th March 2005