The Ghosts of Stepp Cemetery
Stepp Cemetery in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest of Indiana is a popular stop for ghost hunters, paranormal investigators and curiosity seekers. But, if it wasn’t for the eerie tales told about the place, it would be virtually unknown today. No one has been buried in the cemetery for decades, leaving the 20 or so crumbling grave stones there in abstract isolation. The cemetery is located off an old dirt road and would be missed entirely if one didn’t know it was there.
The land the cemetery sits on, originally owned by Reuben Stepp who purchased it in 1856, is located in Martinsville, Indiana and has been said to have been haunted for many years. However, he sold it in 1884 when he moved to Texas. The State purchased it in 1929.
The cemetery’s origin isn’t exactly clear, but most believe it was originally a pioneer cemetery that opened in the early 1800s. Visitors to the state forest are told some area families founded it. But there are widely circulated rumors a religious cult called the “Crabbites” once used the site to practice snake handling and engage in sexual orgies. They were said to have a church close by in the early 1800s which was torn down by local law enforcement in the latter part of the century. But, regardless of when it became a cemetery or who established it, there are several versions of a ghostly legend attached to it.
Most center on a woman in the 1930s that lost a young child and is interred there. Some say the child was a boy, others say a girl. In either case the grieving woman is said to have spent her nights watching over the grave singing and talking to her child.
After she passed away in the 1950s people began reporting the ghostly apparition of a woman sitting on a tree stump close by a baby’s grave. Forest rangers have reported hearing sobs of a woman crying in the cemetery as well as footsteps. Many visitors have also claimed seeing a black ghost dog watching over the grave. Ghostly black dogs are frequently reported at haunted sites and are thought to be spiritual guardians of the deceased.
One version of the legend tells of a young woman whose husband went to work in one of the local quarries and was killed in an explosion. He was buried in Stepp Cemetery leaving behind his wife and a young daughter who became the focus of her life. The daughter later met a young man, but unfortunately both were killed in an auto accident one rainy night returning from a date. The daughter was also buried in Stepp Cemetery. The widow never recovered from her daughter’s death. Left alone in the world, the saddened woman made nightly treks to the cemetery and talked with her dead husband and daughter while she sat on the old tree stump mentioned before.
Soon locals passing by began noticing the weeping woman clad in black mourning clothes during the early evening hours. Those who tried to approach and give comfort said she would run and hide in the forest until they left. Many believe the woman had gone insane.
She too was buried in Stepp Cemetery following her death and it’s said her ghost has been seen watching over her family. Visitors have reportedly fled the cemetery after seeing a black clad figure with long white hair stand up and turn menacingly toward them in the darkness. Law enforcement and park rangers have investigated reports of a woman crying and other strange sounds coming from the cemetery. However, when they arrive the area is deserted.
Descriptions of the ghostly woman have remained basically the same over the years, it’s just the variations of the story which differ. Following are a few variations:
· A young girl was murdered in the 1950s and her body was dumped at Stepp Cemetery. The grieving girl’s mother searched for her daughter’s killer until the day she died. It’s said her ghost returns nightly to watch over the girl’s grave.
· A man was killed during construction of the Morgan-Monroe County Forest and was buried in Stepp Cemetery. His wife’s ghostly apparition returns to watch over his grave.
· In the 1920s a young girl was killed in an auto accident. The girl’s mother would come and mourn at her grave. Out of her mind with sorrow, she dug her daughter’s body up to hold it one last time. The next day, she committed suicide. Her ghost still haunts the cemetery today.
· A young couple goes for a drive in the state forest late one night. The girl breaks the news to her boyfriend she no longer loves him and wants to breakup. Enraged, the boy forces her out of the car and drives off, leaving her abandoned in the darkness. The girl is never heard from again. Panic stricken her mother endlessly searches the forest day and night. She too disappears. It’s said her ghost appears at the cemetery and prowls about still looking for her daughter. Teenagers parking in the area have reported seeing the face of a woman which suddenly appears at their window…perhaps looking to see if her daughter is in the car.