Stepp Cemetery located in Martinsville, Indiana, is a historic cemetery rumored to be haunted. Cemeteries across the country that date back to settlement days have rumors of ghosts and hauntings, and it isn’t surprising that Stepp has the same rumors. What is surprising is that the majority of legends and hauntings surrounding the cemetery date back decades.
The Stepp Cemetery is five miles inside the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Finding the cemetery today is nearly impossible if you don’t know what you are looking for, and its easy to imagine that the conditions were even worse when it was settled in the 1800s, and there were no roads through the area. Due to its location, the majority of people buried in the Cemetery were locals who passed away.
One of those locals was a mother who watched her son die a slow and painful death in the 1930s. The Great Depression hit Indiana as hard as it did other parts of the country, and a lack of food and poor nutrition led to numerous diseases that could have taken the little boy’s life. The mother blamed herself for his death, and after the burial, she refused to leave the cemetery. She sat in Stepp Cemetery, singing to her son and unable to move on with her life.
Visitors to the cemetery have spotted a woman in black sitting and sometimes singing in a soft voice. Most fail to realize she isn’t there until they try to speak with her, or turn around and discover she’s gone. Park workers have also been called in to investigate reports of a woman crying in the woods outside the cemetery, but have never found anything there. The same thing happened when visitors reported seeing a woman in black moving through the woods alone. A ghostly black dog has also been seen laying on her son’s grave, resting his head on the ground.
No historic cemetery would be complete with only one ghost story, and Stepp, like most, have several stories. Two brothers quarreled frequently after the death of their father; the old brother thought he was entitled to all the family’s property, while the younger brother felt he deserved his fair share. The two men fought in the woods just passed the cemetery, and the younger brother killed the older. People have claimed to see two men fighting in the woods, sometimes even calling rangers out of concern. The brothers are also blamed for engines suddenly dying and re-firing on their own. Glowing red eyes have also been spotted in the woods outside the cemetery, though its uncertain as to their origin.
Local legend claims that Stepp Cemetery is prone to hauntings because of a former cult-like Church that once practiced in the area. The Crabbites were an offshoot of the Pentecostal religion, and its members were banned from the Church for their practices and beliefs. They settled in the area because of its isolation and lack of outside intrusions. The Crabbites were rumored to practice snack handling, and engaged in deviant sexual acts. At some point the local police stopped the sect from practicing, and their Church was burned to the ground. Most members moved on, but its rumored that some of the members stayed, and still live in the woods outside Stepp Cemetery. Its worth noting that there is no evidence that the Crabbites existed, only stories and legends.
A more modern ghost story attached to the Stepp Cemetery involves a couple who used the isolated location to enjoy a little “necking” and alone time. They were so involved with each other that they didn’t realize how late it was, and the boy drove home quickly, to get his girlfriend back before curfew. The car crashed, decapitating the girl, and also killing the boy. The girl’s devastated mother vowed that she would never let something like that happen again. According to local legend, couples who now venture into the area are treated with the image of a woman in black sitting on a concrete bench, cradling her daughter’s head in her hands.
A variation on that legend is a woman who lost her husband in a work related accident, and raised their daughter herself. The daughter was killed in a car accident with her boyfriend, and the mother had her buried next to her daughter. The woman began staying in the cemetery from sun up to sun down, sitting on a hollowed out tree stump, and talking to her family as if they were still alive. When anyone tried to speak to her, she ran away and hid until certain they were gone. Eventually visitors stopped traveling to the cemetery to avoid the crazy woman there. After her death, her spirit began appearing, sitting in the same spot still dressed in black.
There are also other versions of the lady in black sitting on the tree stump. One claims that a man died during a construction job, and the ghost is his wife, still trying to find her way to him. Another legend centers around another mother watching over her daughter’s grave, and blaming herself for the accident that took her life. They mother had the little girl’s grave removed, and spent a night rocking the body in her arms. She committed suicide, with her daughter’s body next to her.
An odd variation of the legend claims that a woman and her son were in a car accident; the boy died, and the mother had a surgical steel hook implanted on her hand to replace the hand severed in the accident. She now watches over his grave, threatening anyone who comes close. Another version involves a couple who fought in the cemetery; the boy drove off and left his girlfriend there alone. The girl was never seen again, and her mother began appearing in the woods to search for her. She now appears to couples in the area, warning them of what could happen.
Is the Stepp Cemetery actually haunted? I couldn’t even begin to guess. I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of country cemeteries in the last few years, and never experienced anything except for unease at being alone in the middle of nowhere. That’s the probably with Stepp; its located in a deserted area, and of the 20+ headstones remaining, most are broken or damaged. Maybe the cemetery is haunted, but maybe it’s the result of a bad location, and bad preservation efforts. More likely, the stories told about Stepp Cemetery were warnings issued to teenagers about the dangers of driving in a desolate area in the middle of the night.