Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Highland Lawn Cemetery

I spend my part of my Labor Day weekend in Terre Haute, IN. After wandering around for some time, I passed by the Highland Lawn Cemetery and decided to go in and have a look around. The grounds of the cemetery are vast and gorgeous, featuring a number of ornate headstones and mausoleums. Immediately after entering Highland Lawn Cemetery, one is greeted by a headstone belonging to someone with the ominously appropriate name of H.C. Dies. There's also a large statue of an elk not too far away. The rest of Highland Lawn Cemetery seems to be an exercise in hosting a "who can build the biggest funerary obelisk" contest. Aside from that, there are number of famous burials, such as poet Max Ehrmann (writer of "Desiderata") and silent film star Valeska Suratt.

The Legend Of Stiffy Green

Local folklore has it that Highland Lawn Cemetery is haunted by a dog nicknamed Stiffy Green. According to legend, when John G. Heinhl died in 1921, his loyal pet bulldog refused to leave his side, even after Heinhl was placed in the family mausoleum. The dog growled at anyone who approached, and stood guard by the burial site until his death. The bulldog was then stuffed and had green glass eyes added (real eyes dry out) and placed inside the mausoleum so that he visible through the entrance grate. When curious visitors shined flashlights through the door, the dog's fake green eyes would light up. This earned the dog the nickname of "Stiffy Green". Stories also abound of people who have heard a dog barking in the distance when they approach the Heinhl mausoleum. A little research indicates that the Stiffy Green legend is just that. The truth is that the dog in the mausoleum had merely been a concrete statue that belonged to Mr. Heinhl and had stood on the front porch of his home. Don't bother looking for old Stiffy Green if you happen to visit Highland Lawn Cemetery. He's not there anymore. He was moved to a replica of the Heinhl mausoleum at the County Historical Museum in Terre Haute after teenagers shot bullets into the actual mausoleum in the 1980s and shot out one of the statue's green eyes. Still, if you want to have a look at the Heinhl mausoleum, it's picture #5 in the set below.

Martin Sheets And His Taphophobia

Before he died in 1910, Martin Sheets, a Terre Haute businessman, had a phobia of being buried alive. Thanks to the invention of the telephone, Sheets was able to somewhat alleviate this fear by arranging to have a phone with an active line placed with his mausoleum once he passed away and made arrangements in his will to pay for the line for many years after his death. His tomb was also constructed in such a way that that he could open it from inside if he needed to. The phone was also set up that a light would turn on in the Highland Lawn Cemetery office when the mausoleum phone was lifted, even if no words were spoken. Of course, the light never came on and the direct line to the cemetery office was eventually removed. However, the actual phone line remained live as long as the money from Sheets' will paid the bill. Legend has it that several years later, Sheets' widow was found dead laying on her bed with a telephone receiver clutched in her hand and a look of terror frozen on her face. She was placed in the mausoleum next to her husband and, when the cemetery workers entered the tomb, they noticed that Martin's phone was off the hook. You'll see a picture of the Sheets mausoleum in picture #4 in the set below.

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Highland Lawn Cemetery, a set on Flickr.

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