Elmwood Cemetery is located in the Southern Illinois’ town of Centralia off Gragg and Sycamore Streets directly west of the Raccoon Creek Reservoir. Originally called Centralia Cemetery (and sometimes referred to as such today), the graveyard was in use in the 1860s but not officially established until 1877. Its name was changed to Elmwood Cemetery in 1921. According to Centralia’s own website, the cemetery is a resting place for around 17,000 former residents.
Deep inside Elmwood sits a large monument shaped like a tabernacle or an ancient Greek temple with only four columns. At the top of the monument stands a nearly life sized statue of a young girl with flowing locks of hair. In her hands she holds a violin. The statue depicts Harriet Annie, the daughter of Dr. Winfield and Eoline Marshall. Annie died in 1890, a few weeks after her eleventh birthday.
A popular local legend maintains that the sweet strains of a violin can be heard emanating from the cemetery at night. The origin of the ethereal notes is said to be none other than the statue of H. Annie Winfield, or “Violin Annie,” as she has come to be known.
According to a testimonial on the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places for Illinois, Annie died of diphtheria, an upper respiratory tract illness that mainly affects children. The most gruesome version of the story claims that her own father (or mother) killed her with her violin.
This is unlikely, as she was beloved by her family. Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, in their book The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations (2007), cited an obituary that read, in part, “The heart-broken parents have the sympathy of the entire city and community. The floral pieces were numerous and beautiful.” A small companion stone on the left side of the Marshall monument reads, “Each year of your life was a new song more delightful than all before.”
According to Lewis and Fisk, some locals believe that Violin Annie’s statue glows on Halloween night. But that is not the only phenomenon attributed to this location. A group of visitors also claimed to see green tears coming from the statue’s eerily-blue eyes. The “green tears” are most likely streaks of mold that have appeared in the crevices and indentations of the statue.
The violin that Annie used to impress friends and neighbors alike disappeared after her death. Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk were able to confirm that an antique violin case had been purchased from the estate of a relative, but the case was empty.
Alongside the two main entries on Annie and her mysterious statue, the Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places for Illinois also contains an entry erroneously placing her in Central City. Although Elmwood Cemetery borders Central City, which is a village located just north of Centralia, it is technically still part of Centralia.
Despite being a haunting and popular story, the mysterious music of Violin Annie has managed to stay out of most books on Illinois ghostlore. Thankfully, the majority of visitors have been respectful at the grave of Annie, and so her story can be enjoyed for years to come.
- Lewis, Chad and Terry Fisk. The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations. Eau Claire: Unexplained Research Publishing, 2007.