There are few places in the state of Indiana reputed to be more haunted than the Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute. This historic cemetery has several legends associated with it.
Stiffy Green is the most popular ghost story associated with this Terre Haute Landmark. Stiffy was one the most popular residents of the city, and he just happened to be a dog. Stiffy was a friendly and loyal dog, with bright green eyes, and a tendency to protect his owner John Heinl against anyone he perceived to be a threat. Every day Heinl took a long walk around the city, and every day Stiffy was right by his side. Neighbors often stopped to talk to the duo, and shop owners kept treats for the sweet little dog. When Heinl died in 1920, no one was affected more than his faithful companion. Stiffy was found curled up next to his master’s body, and remained as close to the man as possibly throughout the funeral services.
A local couple adopted the dog, taking him into their home, but only a few days later he slipped out their backdoor, and headed right back to Highland Law Cemetery. The couple tried taking him back home, but again and again the ran back to the cemetery. Eventually they decided to leave him be, bringing him food and water several times a day. Despite their best efforts, no one could make the small dog care for himself; he sat in one spot, directly in front of his master’s mausoleum, growling at anyone who tried to gain access, and seldom slept. Before long the lack of food, and cold temperatures took their tole on Stiffy, and he too passed away.
Following the dog’s death, the issue became what to do with his body. Some felt it wasn’t proper to bury the dog in a cemetery with people, while others felt it was disrespectful to destroy the body, as was common at the time. They finally decided to take up a collection in town. The money was used to have Stiffy stuffed by a local taxidermist, and his body placed in the mausoleum beside his master.
Not long after the dog was placed in the mausoleum, people began reporting the sound of a dog barking; even the caretakers were known to hear the sounds of a barking dog, coming directly from the Heinl mausoleum. After a few years, visitors to Highland began lodging complaints of a small dog wandering through the cemetery, or the old man walking through the headstones with his dog beside him. They had no way of knowing that it was just Mr. Heinl and his dog Stiffy.
According to local legend, a visit to the cemetery during dusk, or the morning hours might reveal an old man walking, smoking a pipe, and smiling at the small dog beside him. Others claim that Stiffy has been known to move inside the locked mausoleum, and if you peer through the window, you might be rewarded with a quick wag of his tail, or a tilt of his head. Unfortunately, the real Stiffy was moved in 1985 due to vandalism; he is now on display in a replica of the Heinl mausoleum at the Vigo County Historical Society Museum.
Highland Lawn is also unique in that it contains the grave of Martin Sheets. Sheets was a businessman, who by all accounts had more money than any one man needed, and a deep fear of being buried alive. He frequently suffered horrendous dreams of the event happening, which led to him investing a significant portion of his fortune to ensure it would never happen. He spent thousands of dollars designing a casket with scape latches, before deciding that he didn’t want to risk being underground. He then designed, and had built an elaborate above ground crypt, before realizing that if he was still alive, he’d be trapped inside. As a solution, he had a telephone installed inside the crypt, that would cause a light to turn on outside the crypt when lifted.
Before long, Sheets passed away, and was laid to rest in his specially designed crypt. Due to stipulations in his will, the telephone line inside was kept active and running, even long after the cemetery itself changed numbers, and telephone lines in the area were rerun. Sheets’ wife was found dead years later, a telephone in one hand. The official cause of death was a severe stroke, and the doctor assured her family that she had time to reach for the phone, and attempt to call for help before dying. The day her body was laid to rest in the elaborate mausoleum next to her husband, they discovered that while Sheets still laid in the spot he had been placed in years before, the telephone was hanging off the hook.
According to local legend, if you visit Highland after dark, you just may see the small light outside the Sheets mausoleum lighting up, and voices coming from inside.