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Mysterious America

America’s Haunted Houses

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.

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Mysterious America

Twin Haunted Mansions of Marian University

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”. 

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Photography

Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana

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.

Brig. Gen. Abel D. Streight (1828-1892)

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.

Corliss Randle Ruckle (1877-1889) II

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.

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Photography Roadside America

Diplomat Motel

Glorious old sign for the Diplomat Motel, 3300 Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, Indiana. The neon still illuminates!

Diplomat Motel
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Mysterious America Reviews

Haunted Hoosier Trails Sets a Standard for Folklore

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.

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Historic America Reviews

An American Crime

A talented cast delivers a boilerplate recitation of horrific events in this movie of the week focusing on the 1965 Sylvia Likens case.

Written and directed by Tommy O’Haver, An American Crime (2007) was based on a case of horrific abuse inflicted on a teenage girl at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski in her Indiana home during the 1960s. Though released on Showtime and given an R rating by the MPAA, and despite a talented cast, An American Crime never rose above the level of a made-for-TV drama.

Sylvia (Ellen Page) and Jenny (Hayley McFarland) Likens are daughters of carney folk who must go on the road. They leave Sylvia and Jenny in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener), a single mother with six children of her own. Baniszewski agrees to care for the girls for $20 a week. She becomes abusive when the payment arrives late, but by then the girls have nowhere to turn. Their attempt to contact their parents backfires when Gertrude finds out and punishes them further.

The abuse escalates when Gertrude’s eldest daughter, Paula (Ari Graynor), becomes pregnant and Sylvia tells the man with whom Paula’s been having an affair, to shield her from his abuse. Paula complains that Sylvia is spreading rumors about her, and Gertrude beats and locks Sylvia in the basement as punishment. In the basement, Gertrude invites her own children to participate in Sylvia’s torture. Can Sylvia and Jenny escape before it’s too late?

When faced with a crime of this magnitude, it’s natural to ask why it happened. What kind of person would do such a thing, and why? Why were the children complicit in the abuse, and what does this say about the nature of evil? Like many true crime dramas, An American Crime takes viewers through a succession of events without getting inside the minds of its characters to address these deeper questions.

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Mysterious America

Tippecanoe Place’s Mysterious Woman in White

The majestic Tippecanoe Place Restaurant sits on a small bluff at the southwest corner of West Washington and South Taylor streets in South Bend, Indiana, but it was not always a destination for high class dining. Architect Henry Ives Cobb originally designed this Richardson Romanesque mansion for wagon manufacturer Clement Studebaker for use as a family home.

Cobb also designed the former Historical Society Building in Chicago, which later became the Excalibur Night Club (another famously haunted building).

Shortly after the mansion was completed in February 1889, a fire gutted the interior and it had to be rebuilt. The Studebaker family finally moved in nearly a year later. The 26,000 square-foot mansion had forty rooms and twenty fireplaces. It cost $450,000, including furnishings and the cost to rebuild after the fire. It had no rival in Indiana at the time.

Clement Studebaker named his new home in honor of William Henry Harrison, who won the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. William Henry was grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison, a close friend of Clem’s.