Monument to poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) and family at Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. Riley was born in Indiana and spent the first part of his life as a ne’er-do-well, working odd jobs until finally settling in as a newspaper editor. His children’s poems “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man” inspired the popular characters Little Orphan Annie and Raggedy Ann. He later founded the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
These majestic rural cemeteries are a who’s-who of the Midwest’s historic and influential personalities.
From captains of industry, to former presidents, storied military figures, inventors, and artists, Midwestern cemeteries are filled with former residents who made outsized contributions to American history. Many of these cemeteries are considered historic in their own right, owing to their art and architecture.
Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois
Bohemian National Cemetery, at 5255 N. Pulaski Road in Chicago, Illinois, was created in 1877 by Chicago’s ethnic Czech community, and has since expanded to 126 acres. Approximately 120,000 of the city’s former residents are buried here, including victims of the SS Eastland shipwreck. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
These storied homes are valued for their architecture or their role in historical events, but many visitors and residents report that something otherworldly lingers…
Lizzie Borden House
The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts was the scene of a gruesome unsolved double murder, perhaps among the most infamous in the U.S. Thirty-two-year-old Lizzy Borden became the chief suspect, but she was acquitted at trial. Today it’s open for tours and overnight stays.
The Franklin Castle
Built between 1881-1883, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true? Only a few people have been allowed inside its wrought iron gates to know for sure.
Since acquiring the Allison and Wheeler-Stokely mansions, rumors persist at this Catholic university that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.
Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana was established in 1851 by the Sisters of St. Francis as St. Francis Normal in Oldenburg, Indiana. In 1936, it merged with Immaculate Conception Junior College to become Marian College. The Sisters of St. Francis purchased Riverdale, the former James A. Allison estate in Indianapolis, and moved in. Marian College officially opened on September 15, 1937. Its name changed to Marian University in 2009. Since occupying the Allison Mansion, and in 1963, the Wheeler-Stokely Mansion, rumors persist that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.
Built for automotive mogul James Asbury Allison (1872-1928) between 1911 and 1914, this Art & Crafts Country-style mansion quickly gained a reputation as a “house of wonders”. It was revolutionary at the time for integrating the latest advancements, including intercoms, automatic lighted closets, an indoor swimming pool, and even an electric elevator. Allison co-founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, co-founded the Prest-O-Lite Company, and founded the Allison Engineering Company.
Architect Herbert Bass designed the mansion’s exterior, but Allison fired him before completion and hired Philadelphia architect William Price (1861-1916) to design the interior.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenberg purchased Allison’s estate at 3200 Cold Spring Road in 1936 and moved their school there, renaming it Marian College. It served as their main administration building, library, and living quarters for decades. Allison had previously worked with the Sisters of St. Francis to open a hospital in Miami Beach, Florida. After his death in 1928, rumors spread that his ethereal form remained at his beloved Indianapolis estate, which he called “Riverdale”.
Established in 1863, Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery at 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, sprawls across 555 acres, making it the third largest private cemetery in the United States. Indianapolis architect Adolph Scherrer designed its triple-arch Gothic gatehouse at 34th Street and Boulevard Place in 1885. Crown Hill is the final resting place for one U.S. president, three vice presidents, and several governors, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, industrialists, military generals, and over 190,000 other former residents. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Monument to Brig. Gen. Abel Delos Streight (1828-1892) and family. Streight grew up in New York and moved to Indianapolis to open a publishing business just before the Civil War. He became colonel of the 51st Indiana Infantry Regiment and conducted Streight’s Raid in 1863, when he was captured and later released. He was brevetted Brigadier General after the war and served as a state senator.
Monument to Corliss Randle Ruckle (1877-1889). Corliss was the son of Nicholas and Jane Charlotte Ruckle. He died of diphtheria at 12 years of age.
Glorious old sign for the Diplomat Motel, 3300 Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, Indiana. The neon still illuminates!
First published by Guild Press Emmis Publishing in 2002, Haunted Hoosier Trails: A Guide to Indiana’s Famous Folklore Spooky Sites by Wanda Lou Willis has quickly become a genre classic. Everything, from the paper it’s printed on, to its layout, maps, and illustrations, is of the highest quality. It is (to put it bluntly) a beautiful book, but it is the stories within that are most important.
Willis does a wonderful job retelling ghost stories and legends from all over the Hoosier State. Like the rest of the book, the quality of writing is superb—clean, and polished. The only things this book lacks are proper citations and an index. Otherwise, it should be the standard that authors in this genre seek to emulate.
The tales in Haunted Hoosier Trails are organized by region and county. Willis divides Indiana into three regions: North, Central, and South. A short history introduces each county, and each location or story is given one or two pages—just enough to explain the background and strange happenings without losing the reader’s interest. In fact, an incredible 78 tales are featured in this 180 page book, but none of them feel rushed or incomplete.
A map pinpointing their exact location accompanies many of the tales. Unlike the poor quality maps featured in other books in this genre, the maps included in Haunted Hoosier Trails are clean and easy to read. They were created by the book’s illustrator, Steven D. Armour. Armour’s ink sketches are a wonderful addition to the book and come at the beginning of each section. They illustrate a handful of that region’s most notable stories.