Tag Archives: Indiana cemetery

Creeping In and Out of Cemeteries

by Anne Born


Cedar Grove Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana. Photo provided by the author.

I’ve finally convinced my children that it can be both informative and restorative to visit cemeteries. Is this a major accomplishment and testimony to my superlative parenting skills? Yes, most definitely.

My daughter and I paid a brief visit to Michiana over the weekend. Michiana is that difficult area that is part Michigan and part Indiana and completely difficult to explain to New Yorkers. You fly through Chicago or Detroit and change planes to South Bend, but my family didn’t live in Indiana even though I went to high school there and my dad worked there. So, sometimes I say I’m going to Chicago: lots of people have heard of Chicago. Other times, I say I’m just going home and then try to field the questions about where exactly that is. But if you grow up in this no man’s land, you get really used to moving back and forth over the state line so often, it tends to blur. It’s Michiana and it’s where my family is.

This trip we decided — yes, we — to visit as many cemeteries as we had time. We started out at Notre Dame (pictured above) to visit the graves of my twice-great grandparents who came to South Bend in 1880 to help build the first Catholic university in America. They are both buried here in a cemetery on campus that used to be the parish graveyard.

I stepped out of the car to visit their graves, leaving the window on the driver’s side open. When I got back, there were two leaves on my seat. I took that as a sign.

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The next day, we left early to find a cemetery farther south near Culver, Indiana where my 4th great grandfather and his wife are buried. This was a beautiful, very old cemetery, but it was in wonderful condition and their stones were quite beautiful. I took some photos and got back into the car and saw the trunk light “open” light was on. My daughter assured me I had somehow pushed the trunk button.She got out to close it and we drove on.

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The next graveyard was in Argos, where my great grandparents and their siblings are buried. I have a twice-great grandfather who was a Union soldier; his gravestone was donated to his family by the US government. There’s a metal marker identifying him as a veteran, too. While I was standing there, a ladybug landed on the back of my jacket.

I took that as a sign, too.

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Our next stop was at a nearby cemetery in Plymouth where the pioneers of my father’s family are buried. The stones are broken and very difficult to read, but I have the cemetery records and can identify the occupants of each of the plots in the farthest and oldest section. When I visited this site a few years ago, the cemetery officer who took my phone call was kind enough to post bike flags on the graves, so we could know which were our family’s graves. He also took and sent me photos, which was a tremendous kindness.

When I got back in the car, again the trunk light came on again and again my daughter closed it, reminding me not to hit the trunk button. We went into town to shop a bit and get lunch. We found ourselves in the midst of the annual Halloween parade, with kids and grownups alike in costume. It was wonderful –- not at all scary. Just wonderful.

The next day, we stopped at the cemetery where my mother is buried and laid small stones on her grave to let people know someone had been there, someone cared. I found the grave of one of my best friends, who died in the 8th grade, and placed a stone there as well. It seemed the thing to do.

It was only on our way out of town, back to the airport, that I needed actually to open the trunk to put something inside. To get into the trunk -– and trigger that warning light -– I had to pull up hard on a lever near the bottom of the driver’s side door. This action released the lid so you could get things in and out. It’s not a button you could graze with your jacket. It’s a handle. You pull it back until you hear the trunk lid pop open.

I think I have to take that as a sign too. Creepy? Oh yeah. But wonderful? Most definitely. The spirits are with us these days.

Originally published on The Backpack Press: Writing about New York and Everywhere Else on October 29, 2014.

Anne’s previous Death’s Garden contribution was called Toasting a Ghost in Northern Ireland.


401113_352887774743767_1246657870_nAnne Born: Pilgrim, writer, photographer, mom. Look for her books A Marshmallow on the Bus: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA (June 2014) and Prayer Beads on the Train: Another Collection of Stories Written on the MTA (March 2015) at the NY Transit Museum Store, Word Up Community Bookstore, CreateSpace, Q.E.D. Astoria, and Amazon.

Anne’s bookstore: http://astore.amazon.com/thebacpre-20

Contact info: http://about.me/anneborn

Anne’s websites: http://thebackpackpress.com and http://tumbleweedpilgrim.com/

Check out her podcast on Our Salon Radio: Born in the Bronx.



Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next year, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation. The submissions guidelines are here.

Solitude and Specters at Highland Lawn Cemetery


All Highland Lawn photos by Joy Neighbors.

by Joy Neighbors

Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana, has provided me with many great afternoons. Located on 139 acres of “hills and hollows,” the rural-style cemetery offers seclusion and peace as you stroll along meandering paths that lead to several lakes. It is a cemetery designed to focus on the beauty of the grounds, not belabor itself as a place of death. It does the job admirably.

The entrance features a Romanesque Revival Bell Tower constructed of Indiana limestone. As a Hoosier, born and bred, I know the stories of the Bedford limestone rock queries, the grueling work required to remove the stones, and how Bedford, Indiana was once home to some of the most skilled stone carvers in the world. These limestone monuments hold a special appeal to me, not only for their appearance, but also for the stories about the men who did the work.

ChapelThe cemetery’s chapel can be found by trekking up the highest hill, but it’s well worth the exertion. Built in 1893, the Richardsonian Romanesque-style chapel features gabled roofs, a domed brick casement, and stained glass windows throughout.

Highland Lawn is the second largest cemetery in Indiana, with close to 27,000 graves and numerous mausoleums, each individually owned. Some crypts hold only one body; others hold up to sixteen. Although mausoleums are scattered throughout the grounds, there is one path that makes up a “Mausoleum Row.” It’s interesting to see how much detail certain stones depict along this thoroughfare. Many are covered in funerary art and sculpture: just another way the Victorian’s promoted their social standing. After all, the larger the monument, the more prosperous and well–known the family. (A fact they didn’t want forgotten in death.)
Among those mausoleums in the cemetery, there are two legends that I love to share.

Companionable Souls

John-Hinkl-MausoleumTwo pleasant specters at the cemetery are of Terre Haute businessman John Hienl and his dog, Stiffy Green. Hienl was a former businessman from the early part of the 20th century. With pipe in hand, elderly Heinl would stroll the streets with his faithful dog, Stiffy Green, so named because of his stiff walking gait and startling greenish eyes. Stiffy was friendly, but ferociously protective of Mr. Heinl. He didn’t allow anyone to get too close to his beloved master.

When John Heinl passed away on December 31st, 1920, Stiffy was inconsolable. He sat by the coffin at the funeral, then followed the family to the graveyard, where he took up post at the mausoleum doors. There he remained, guarding his master in death as he had 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 the next day.

Within a couple of months, Stiffy had mourned himself to death. Heinl’s wife was so touched by the little dog’s unwavering love and devotion that she had 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.

Stiffy-GreenIt wasn’t long before visitors began noticing that Stiffy had mysteriously moved from one side of the crypt to the other, and then back. Sightseers and vandals wouldn’t leave the mausoleum alone, damaging doors and windows trying to see inside. In 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye. The family decided it was time for the guard dog to be moved. 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 today, Stiffy Green is still on guard, awaiting his master.

Rumors still spread that at twilight, on cool autumn evenings, you can sometimes see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt. The rich smell of pipe smoke hangs in the air. A low voice can be heard talking to his devoted companion, who answers back with a happy bark. Rest assured, there’s nothing to fear; it’s just John Hinel and Stiffy Green enjoying another evening stroll together through Highland Lawn Cemetery.

One Ringy Dingy

Sheets-MausoleumThe second eerie legend involves the Sheets family mausoleum, where Martin Sheets, his wife Susan, and baby Ethel are interred. Born in 1853, Martin lived into his early 70s, passing in 1926. He saw many technological changes come about during that time. The one newfangled invention he found an odd use for was the telephone.

You see, Martin had a fear of being buried alive, so he had a wall-hanging phone installed in the family mausoleum, just in case he was buried unconscious, woke up, and needed to summon help. His will stipulated that a phone line be run from his crypt to the cemetery office, where it was to be monitored. Martin set up an account in his name with Indiana Bell Telephone that kept the line paid for and active, just in case.

Now, the story could end here as a very odd, interesting bit of cemetery lore, but it doesn’t. When Sheets’ wife, Susan died years later of a stroke, she was found in the kitchen of their home with the phone in her hand. Many assumed she had been attempting to summon help. According to legend, when the mausoleum was unlocked to place Susan’s casket next to her husband’s, cemetery workers discovered the phone in the crypt was off the hook …

Eighty years after Martin Sheets was placed in the family mausoleum, the phone line was disconnected from the cemetery office – never known to have been physically used.

If you crave a day away in a fascinating cemetery, Highland Lawn is an excellent choice. Located at 4420 Wabash Avenue, it is just east of Terre Haute. I usually picnic on the grounds during a day of cemetery shooting, but fast food restaurants are located nearby. Remember: once you leave the cemetery, you’ll break the spell of tranquility that prevails here.

With its legacies, lore, and legends, this is one cemetery is well worth any Tombstone Tourist’s time.

Joy in cemeteryJoy Neighbors is an avowed “Tombstone Tourist” with an avid interest in cemeteries, history, photography, and travel. She has researched and written her weekly cemetery culture blog, A Grave Interest, for over five years, and speaks throughout the Midwest and South on cemetery topics for genealogy, history, library, and education conferences. Visit her web page for a listing of presentations, or message her through A Grave Interest’s Facebook page or on Google+.

Editor’s note:  I interviewed Joy a couple of years ago about A Grave Interest.


Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next year, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married or did anything else unusual in one. The submissions guidelines are here.