An Indiana Ghost Story

Was it a local magician, or something paranormal?

It is one thing when a believer in spirits sees a ghost. It is another when a skeptic sees one.

Such was Mrs. Dell Freeman, who lived in a century-old house on First Street in Vincennes, in which a man was once murdered. In the years 1887 and 1888, she was plagued—mostly between the hours of 4:00 and 5:00 a.m.—by guitar music from an unseen musician, weird noises including the sound of “someone in fearful distress,” doors that opened and closed themselves and, worst of all (or best of all, depending on one’s point of view), full-bodied apparitions.

One day, she saw a tall, slender man in her cellar who had no business being there. She sent a man downstairs to remonstrate with the otherworldly stranger. He followed the figure and watched it for some time until it vanished “like a puff of smoke.”

An artist's depiction of the ghostly specters Mrs. Freeman saw.

On another occasion, a ghostly man stepped out from behind a bookcase and glared at people assembled in the room. It disappeared when approached. Once, everyone in the house saw a blue flame sweep down from the ceiling. “The clock there took a spell one night,” said Mrs. Freeman, “and played ‘Home, Sweet Home’ and ‘In the Sweet By and By.’ Others heard it besides myself.”

The most improbable manifestation of all came one night when Mrs. Freeman saw two ghosts with “hideous shapes” carrying a black velvet lidless coffin through a room: “In the coffin could be plainly seen a dark-faced man.”

Mrs. Freeman, who took no stock in spooks, specters or Spiritualists, believed that a magician was somehow entering her house and performing tricks to convince her to move out for some nefarious reason. She took comfort in this explanation.

Forgotten Tales of Indiana book cover.