When I was a young child, 7 or 8 years old and many years ago, my family didn’t have a car and our recreational activities were pretty much confined to where we could walk. But then, one weekend, the couple who lived across the street from us invited my younger brother and I to go on a Sunday afternoon automobile ride with them and their daughter, who was my age. As I remember, it was a pleasant trip except for a part of the ride where the Lady wanted us to see what she perceived to be a mysterious, ghostly activity. Last week, I wrote a column describing this trip and I am including that effort here so I can later explain the title to this post.
A Supernatural Phenomenon
This past week, my wife, Susie, was on an outing with her girlfriends so I decided to spend the day on a trip to my hometown of Loogootee in Southern Indiana. My purpose was to conduct a little business and maybe have a beer with some friends to catch up on the town gossip. I completed the former but was unable to do the latter, not running across anyone who was available to drink a beer in the middle of a work day afternoon. But no matter. I still had a good day. Part of the reason is that the journey down there was almost as interesting as the destination.
Even though I have driven each of the 3 or 4 routes that take me there hundreds of times over the past 50 or so years, I almost always find something to see along the way. The most recent trip took me 60 miles south on Highway 37 to Bedford and from there, Highway 50 West, lined with blooming Dogwood trees, carried me the remaining 30 scenic miles into Loogootee.
There are a lot of personal memories packed into that Highway 50 portion of this trip. The earliest of these dates back to when I was 7 or 8 years old and a neighboring couple – let’s just call them Earl and Earlene -, took their daughter, along with my brother and I, on a Sunday drive to the very small town of Huron. Calling it a town is sort of a misnomer, it’s really no more than a wide spot in the road but it wasn’t the town we were going to see, anyway. We were going to a cemetery somewhere in the area -I say somewhere because, being very young, I had no idea where we were. –
“Why are we going to a cemetery?” I asked.
“You’ll see.” Earlene replied. “You’ll see.”
When Earl pulled into the cemetery, Earlene began to tell us this story she had heard – she couldn’t recall where. – It was about a very unusual tombstone in this very cemetery. As Earl slowly drove on the narrow, gravel lanes that wound around the cemetery looking for this particular monument, Earlene told us the tale that she had heard. Unfortunately, the details disappeared from my memory long ago. However, the crux of the story was that a chain played a part in the death of the person whose name was on the Tombstone. The chain part of the story was important because the tombstone had a dozen or so crudely carved chain-links etched into the stone in a haphazard manner.
“There it is.” Earl announced, pointing toward a normal looking stone one row back from the road.
As we got out of the car and walked to the stone, I remember wondering what the big deal was. And then Earlene spoke up as I drug my fingers over the rough indentations..
“For some mysterious reason”, she said, “a new link appears each year on the stone on this person’s birthday and nobody knows how but most folks think that no human is doing it.”
I jerked my fingers away and headed for the car. That was the first of many times in my life that I have felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Earl and Earlene passed away many years ago. Still, the memory of that etched chain came roaring back as I drove west and saw a roadside sign just outside of the town of Huron proclaiming that a ‘Cemetery Entrance’ was just ahead.
“Ah, what the heck?” I thought and lifted my foot from the accelerator. The narrow, grassy lane looked vaguely familiar as I left the highway. Girding my loins, so to speak, I locked the car doors and drove though the place looking for that haunted Tombstone. It shouldn’t be that hard to find; if Earlene’s story was true, that thing would have 75 or more chain-links carved into it by now.
I won’t keep you in suspense. I didn’t find it but that doesn’t mean the Tombstone doesn’t exist. It’s possible that I was not even in the right graveyard. Who’s to say the town of Huron doesn’t have 2 cemeteries?
Also, it was difficult to look for a haunted tombstone while trying to negotiate the grassy lane in the car. I could have gotten out and walked, I suppose, but that would have meant unlocking the car doors. I probably should have brought Susie along to help in the search although I’m not sure how much help she would have been. She’s not real fond of supernatural phenomena.
One other possibility; I may not have looked too hard. When you get right down to it, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to find that thing.
* * * * * *
Note from Susie: If he thinks I’m going with him to that cemetery…, In a pig’s eye, Buster.
Earl and Earlene’s real names were Lloyd and Maggie. Their daughter’s name was Pauline. All 3 of them have passed away over the years. I hesitated to put their names in the newspapers and I can’t really explain why other than to say it’s always been my practice to not use real names in my columns. Afraid of lawyers, I suppose.
I was sweet on Pauline for a time beginning in the first grade but never got up the nerve to tell her. Now that I have the nerve, I can’t tell her because she isn’t with us anymore. I should have spoke up when I had the chance.
Now, to the title of this post. I had a good time looking for that headstone and it brought back a lot of accompanying memories, some good and some, a little bit melancholy. I was looking forward to my next outing to search for this headstone but that was cut short when the column prompted a few replies identifying the headstone and it’s location. The readers had Googled the chain headstone and discovered the facts surrounding my story. I was pleased to find that I hadn’t dreamed all this but I was disappointed in that I won’t ever feel the thrill of finding this thing.
For your own edification, here is some of what they found: