Friday, October 28, 2016

Spooky Stories Just in Time for Halloween

By Joy Neighbors

Just in time for Halloween, here are just a few ghostly tales to make your weekend "spirited."

The Chesterville Witch
Chesterville, Illinois was a quiet Amish community once located near Rockome Gardens. Buried in the former town cemetery is a marker that bears no name. What’s left of an iron fence tries to enclose the block-type stone, which many say marks the grave of a woman who was killed for being a witch.

Back at the turn of the last century, it was rumored that the Amish woman challenged her church about their views being too conservative. She believed that women should have a more active role than simply serving men. The Amish elders did not take kindly to such heresy and accused her of working with the devil. A short time later, the woman simply disappeared. Her body was later found in a nearby field.

The woman was buried in the town cemetery where an oak tree was planted on top of her grave in order to trap her spirit. Legend has it that when the tree dies, she will be free to return and take revenge on the area. For now, her ghost can be seen at times, standing near her grave.

Pere Cheney- A Ghost Town
What was once a thriving lumber town known as Pere Cheney in Michigan is now a ghost town – literally. Pere Cheney was established in 1874 after the railway placed a stop there. George Cheney built a sawmill, and lumberjacks and their families began to arrive. Three years later, the village was large enough to support two sawmills, a general store and a doctor. Pere Cheney was booming, but that was before the “bad luck” began.

In 1893, residents were hit with outbreaks of diphtheria, scarlet fever, and small pox. Next, several fires raged through the town, probably due to sparks from the mills. Others said it was the work of the witch. In 1897, another outbreak of diphtheria took a toll on the town. By 1901, the population was down to about two-dozen people. By 1917, the village land was sold at a public auction, and the last 18 residents moved away. Pere Cheney was a ghost town.

But some believed the town was cursed from the start because it was built on Native American land. Others said a local witch had placed a curse on Pere Cheney after she was banished for practicing witchcraft. Legend has it that she was hunted down in the woods, taken to the cemetery and hanged from a tree that she was then buried under. Visitors to the cemetery report they have seen her ghost standing under a tree ...

While there’s nothing to support the witch legend, no one denies that strange happenings do occur in the cemetery, where out of 90 burials only a few gravestones remain. Handprints have been discovered on vehicles after leaving the graveyard. Others have heard the sounds of children laughing and playing in the vacant cemetery. And ghostly figures, voices and floating orbs have been reported there and in the nearby woods.

The remains of the town are located a couple of miles away – the ruins of what’s left of the hopes and dreams of the townsfolk of Pere Cheney.

The Grey Lady
This is the most famous ghost story in the Hoosier State, thanks to several ghost-hunter television programs, the Willard Library “ghost-cams,” and the Willard Library Ghost Chatters, a dedicated group who keeps an eye out for this specter all year along.

Willard Library was established in 1885 by Willard Carpenter, a well-to-do Evansville businessman. The three-story Victorian Gothic-style building is the oldest public library in Indiana.

The first report of the library being haunted occurred in the winter of 1937. As the janitor was stoking the basement furnace in the early morning hours, he came face-to-face with a woman dressed in grey. When he asked what she wanted, she simply faded away. (The janitor quit the next morning.)

The Grey Lady is known to move furniture, push books off shelves, and occasionally touch patrons. Footsteps can be heard when no one is on the floor in question, and the scent of lilac or lavender perfume sometimes wafts through the air. She has been seen numerous times on the main staircase, and appears to enjoy working in the children’s section.

Who is the Grey Lady? Some claim it is Carpenter’s daughter, Louise who is unhappy that her father left his money (her inheritance) to the library. But the majority of ghost hunters claim that this is the spirit of one of the librarians who worked here years ago.

Although it’s too late to catch an evening tour this year, check out the Library Ghost Cams  and the Willard Library Ghost Cams , you might be surprised by what you see …

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mausoleums - Haunted "Homes" of the Dead

By Joy Neighbors

Haunted cemeteries are especially in vogue this time of year, but haunted mausoleums seem to be a major attraction any time. There’s something about this “house-type" structure that intrigues us, and then throw in a ghost or two, and we're hooked.

Here are four mausoleums that house more "spirit" than most.

Spring Grove Cemetery – Cincinnati, OH
Dexter Mausoleum
Edmund Dexter
This mausoleum was built in 1869 for whiskey baron, Edmund Dexter, one of Cincinnati’s wealthiest residents in the mid-1800s. When Dexter died, he was laid to rest in this Gothic Revival mausoleum, which contains 12 marble crypts where four generations of the Dexter family are buried. Besides it’s claim of being haunted, it also boasts the only two flying buttresses in Cincinnati.

It has been rumored that two large white dogs protect the mausoleum, although it isn’t known if they were once pets of the Dexter’s. Legend has it that if you sit on the steps of the mausoleum, the dogs will appear. If they believe you to be good, they will run past. If they are not sure of your intentions, they will stop and watch you. If they sense you are up to no-good, they will growl and advance. (Best to be up to only good when you visit.)

Greenwood Cemetery – Decatur, IL
Public Mausoleum
The Public Mausoleum was built in 1908 but soon ran into trouble when leaks developed due to shoddy construction. The cemetery association soon ran out of money and ghost stories began to circulate as the grounds fell into disrepair. By the 1950’s, what had once been a beautiful, rural garden-style cemetery became a magnet for negativity. People reported hearing disembodied voices, crying and screaming coming from the mausoleum. By 1957, the building was declared unsafe and was closed. Family members were notified to relocate their loved ones. One hundred bodies were never claimed – some were never identified. Eventually the cemetery association buried them in common graves across from where the mausoleum had been.

Former Location of Mausoleum
It was 1967 when the mausoleum was finally razed. Today that site is still vacant. No burials have ever been made here, and there are still reports of voices along with lights seen wandering near the common graves – perhaps a lost soul searching for their remains?

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Sheets Mausoleum

Martin Sheets was born in 1853 and lived into his early 70s. He saw many technological changes during that time, and one of the new-fangled inventions he found an odd use for was the telephone. Martin had one installed in the family mausoleum, just in case he was buried unconscious, but alive, and needed to summon help. It was stipulated in his will that a phone line be run from his crypt to the cemetery office. He then set up an account with Indiana Bell Telephone that kept the line paid for and active, just in case he ever needed it.

When Martin died, he was placed in the family mausoleum with his infant daughter. Several years later his wife Susan passed away. When family members found her, she was in the kitchen with the phone in her hand. They assumed she had been attempting to summon help.  But according to legend, when the mausoleum was unlocked to place Susan’s casket next to her husband, cemetery workers discovered the phone in the crypt was off the hook! Coincidence … or a call to "come home?"

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Heinl Mausoleum

John Heinl
And then there’s my favorite haunted mausoleum tale - that of Stiffy Green.

Terre Haute businessman John Heinl and his dog, Stiffy Green would stroll through town, visiting with the folks. Stiffy had received his name because of his stiff walking gait and green eyes, and everyone knew the pair.

On December 31, 1920, John Heinl passed away. Stiffy was inconsolable. He sat be the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors, and there he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life. Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors.

Stiffy Green
Stiffy slowly mourned himself to death. Heinl’s wife was so touched that she paid tribute to his unwavering love and devotion by having him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so long on those cold mausoleum steps.  Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master.

But it wasn’t long before cemetery workers noticed that Stiffy mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back. Sightseers began to visit after dark and vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. Then, in 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye. The family decided it was time for Stiffy be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him. There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum so that Stiffy could still be “on guard.” 

But rumors spread that just at twilight on autumn evenings, you can see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke wafts though the air, and a low voice can be heard talking to his devoted companion who answers him with a happy bark as they take another stroll together.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ferdinand Cross – Bedford Indiana Limestone Carver

By Joy Neighbors
Ferdinand Cross
Ferdinand Cross was born in Flemingville, New York to John and Sophronia Cross, a stone-carver and his wife, in December 1838.  Cross followed in his father’s footsteps and became a stone carver. Ferdinand spent several years in New York State before moving to Chicago. He moved to Bedford, Indiana “Limestone Capital of the World” in the 1880s where he started his own monument business.

Ferdinand's Carving Tools
Ferdinand took John A. Rowe on as his business partner and the two established Cross & Rowe Monumental Works. The men specialized in carving gravestones from Bedford stone. The stone was pliable and easy to work with when first quarried. Once the shape was carved, the stone was placed outside to harden in the air. Today many of these monuments can still be found in the cemeteries located throughout Lawrence and Orange counties in Indiana.
Cross Cave
In 1886, Ferdinand traveled to Orange County in search of a place to build his home and studio. He came upon a natural ravine enclosed on three sides with rock formations and a small cave completed the space. Ferdinand was delighted and set about building a home near what he now referred to as Cross’s Cave.
After relocating, Ferdinand tackled the challenge of carving people and animals in situ in the surrounding limestone cliffs. Visitors and locals alike were delighted to come across a carving of owls, eagles, monkeys, snakes and lizards nestled among the rock formations. One of his most remembered carving was a life-sized herd of cattle standing by an old well.
Cross Cave Ready For Visitors
Ferdinand and his wife Everilla welcomed guests from the French Lick Springs Hotel with what became their famous fried chicken dinners. For the price of a meal, guests could meet the artist, visit his studio and explore the cave.
Cross Monument
Ferdinand died in May 1912. As a tribute, fellow stone carvers crafted his ornate tree stone monument complete with chisels and mallet – the tools of this trade – cast aside at the bottom of the stone. Ferdinand was buried in the Sulphur Creek Cemetery.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Red Baron: Remembering a 100 Year Milestone

By Joy Neighbors

Tomorrow, September 17, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Red Baron’s first air combat victories during World War One. An odd milestone to remember, but what makes it newsworthy is that the family members of First World War fighter ace, Manfred von Richthofen, and his first victims, Captain Tom Rees and Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris will be meeting to commemorate the day together.

Manfred von Richthofen
Von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron because of the bright red color of his Fokker aeroplane, transferred from the German cavalry to the air corps in 1915. On September 17, 1916, Manfred von Richthofen was flying with his Jasta 11 squadron near the town of Marcoing when he saw a group of British bombers. He attacked and shot down one of the British planes. Twenty-one year old gunner, Captain Tom Rees died immediately. Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris was wounded and died in a German hospital at the age of 19.

Replica of Schnapps Cup
In honor of his adversaries and to commemorate his first victories, von Richthofen had a silver schnapps cup made which listed the enemy plane involved and the date of the action. He would then drink a toast to his opponents. In all, von Richthofen commissioned over 60 cups before silver became a prime commodity in Germany. Very few of the cups still survive.

The Red Baron was Germany’s most famous fighter pilot during the war. He was credited with a total of 80 kills between September 17, 1916 and April 21, 1918 – the day he was shot down and killed.

Lionel Morris
Tom Rees
Tomorrow, the family members of Morris, Rees and von Richthofen will gather to share a schnapps toast from a replica of the original cup to honor the three airmen, and to mark the centenary of that fateful day.

Friday, September 9, 2016

God's Acre: A Look at a Moravian Graveyard

By Joy Neighbors

When my son-in-spirit Charles Kivlehen, went to a conference this summer, he took time out to visit a unique cemetery – one I hadn’t heard about. After he sent me photos and told me the story, I had to share it here.

God’s Acre is located near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Moravians founded the town of Old Salem in 1766. The cemetery and Salem Congregation Church (also known as Home Moravian Church) are affiliated with the Moravian Church, which dates back to 1771 in the town and represents 13 Moravian churches in the region.

The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant religions in the world. Moravian values included hard work, education, music and a simple lifestyle. Today the Moravian church has around 750,000 members worldwide.

Moravian Choir Loft
Historically, Moravian children were cared for by their parents until they reached 18 months when they were placed in nurseries and raised together until they reached the age of four. At that time they became members of the “Little Girls’ Choir” or “Little Boys’ Choir.” When children became teenagers, they joined the “Older Girls’ Choir” or “Older Boy’ Choir.” From the age of 19 until marriage, women belonged to the “Single Sisters' Choir” and men belonged to the “Single Brethren Choir.” Married adults lived in the “Married Peoples' Choir.”

Alter in Old Salem Moravian Church
Those who belonged to the same choir lived, attended school, worked and worshiped together. The Moravian’s saw this communal living as a way to strengthen their society since members relied on choir mates for assistance and support instead of a traditional family. (Housework and childcare are shared women’s activities.)

God's Acre in Old Salem
God’s Acre is the traditional name that each Moravian cemetery is given. Cemeteries are laid out in a simple grid and all of the headstones are recumbent white marble consisting of the same dimensions. This Moravian graveyard is associated with Bethabara Moravians and is the largest in North America with almost 7,000 interments that date back to the 18thcentury. 

Choir System of Graves
Burials occur in the order that members die but they are segregated according to gender with men on one side of the middle pathway and women located on the other. This is known as the “choir system” - separating the congregation according to age, gender, and marital status. Therefore, families are not buried together as a way to reflect the Moravian belief that all members are equal in God’s eyes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Honoring Our Four-Footed Service Workers

By Joy Neighbors

Service dogs change lives! September is National Service Dog Month – a great time to learn more about and celebrate the role that service dogs play in our lives every day.

National Service Dog Month began in 2008 when actor Dick Van Patton launched an event to assist in gathering funds for guide and service dog training schools throughout the country.

What began as one fundraiser transformed into an annual celebration to raise awareness about service animals, their specialized training and the vital role they play in the lives of so many Americans.

Service dogs are specifically trained to assist those who have disabilities such as hearing impairments, vision impairments, seizure disorders, mobility impairments, diabetes and certain mental difficulties such as PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder), Autism and other emotional problems. The role of a service animal is to help a person regain their independence, provide confidence, companionship and protection to their person.

According to the American with Disabilities Act of 2010, “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities... Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability.”

Most service dogs are larger breeds like Labradors, Shepherds and Retrievers, but other dogs of smaller stature and breed are also trained to assist people, depending on the impairment and situation. Rescue animals are also being trained to fill many of these roles. In 2013, more than 380 rescued dogs were trained and placed with individuals whom they now serve.

Service dogs, regardless of their size are invaluable companions for individuals with disabilities and most wear a special harness or vest that identifies them as service, guide or medical alert dogs.

Here are five ADA recognized types of service dogs that are allowed access to any place open to the public. And remember, not all disabilities are apparent in everyone so don't ask questions and don't judge.

1) Guide Dogs
These are the dogs we may be most familiar with. They are trained to assist their owners who are blind or have low vision in navigating in the world. At one time we called them “Seeing Eye Dogs.”

2) Hearing Dogs
These animals assist people who are deaf or hearing impaired. They are trained to alert their owners via a signal to certain sounds like a doorbell, a ringing phone, an alarm or siren.

3) Mobility Assistance Dogs
These larger dogs can pull a wheel chair, help steady an owner with coordination problems or retrieve items that are needed.

4) Medical Alert Dogs
Dogs in this group are trained to monitor their person closely in order to recognize the subtle signs of a life-threatening event such as a seizure, dangerous allergens or toxins, or changes in blood sugar.

5) Psychiatric Service Dogs
These animals are trained to assist owners with situations such as PTSD, Autism or depression. The dogs are trained to help alleviate the clinical signs of the disability.

Although the ADA does not recognize therapy dogs and emotional assistance animals, many businesses, schools and other public places do. These dogs may be required to pass a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and receive a Therapy Dog Certification.

Therapy dogs provide emotional and psychological assistance to people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, mental health facilities, schools and libraries. These dogs are allowed to interact with many different people instead of being handled by only one person. People are encouraged to pet therapy dogs. They're known for boosting confidence, offering support and unconditional love to those they interact with.

An emotional support animal helps those who suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychological disabilities. The animals are not trained to perform specialized tasks and cannot assist in reducing the effects of a disability. Both therapy dogs and emotional assistance animals must have documentation from a mental health professional stating that the animal is necessary to this person.

One rule to always remember, do not distract or try to interact with a service dog while it is working. The services these dogs offer their owners are vital to their everyday well-being. Please allow them to do their jobs without interference – someone’s life depends on them.