The Blog of Michael T. Murphy and his lifelong obsession with "little army men" and their imaginary glory, miniature wargaming, and other things...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Haunted Tavern, (a diversion from toy soldiers)...

On this bright sunny wonderful Indiana weekend, the lady and I decided that it was too nice a weekend to spend "all of the time", cooped up in the house, painting on troops and scenery, and besides my mind needed a break, from trying to cope with USMC MARPAT...
"Let's go for a ride!" is our standard cry.
Our "rides" are nothing more than meandering wanderings across the highways, roads, routes, etc, of Indiana, (and occassionally Kentucky, Tennessee, Illionois and Ohio). Nine times out of ten we have no "real destination" other than "That way." Sometimes we make it back home in the evening, while other times we just decide to find a hotel room and relax for the evening and to prepare for another day of adventure.
Today though we decided to have a destination.
A little over 90 miles from Indianapolis is the small town of Laurel, Indiana. Laurel was very busy in it's heydey of the late 1830's to early 1860's when the White River Canal was active upon the White River and the Ohio.
Upon the streets of Laurel was the White Hall Tavern.
(The White Hall Tavern. The nearest corner in the picture was the boatside where the canal boats would tie up.)

It was a large building which housed a tavern and an inn for weary travellers on the canal boats. It was actually built around 1838. The Canal boats would tie up at the lower level, (the nearest corenr in the picture), and the weary travellers would take the stone steps up to the tavern for food, drink, or a room for the evening.
And it is here that the legend begins...
The tale goes that on one of these boats was a passenger - a lady pregnant with child. She was on her way to meet her husband. She was given a room for the night, and the boat went on the next day without her. It was in the early morning hours that she went into labor. The innkeepers wife, (Mrs. Clements), assisted in the delivery of the baby. Both mother and infant were very, very weak.
While the innkeepers wife was helping in delivery, her husband, (Mr. Clements), has sent a message to boat captain that he was to find the wifes husband at their destination and inform him of his wifes condition and that they were too weak to travel on.
Over the course of the next few days, the baby seemed to cry constantly, and the mother tried her best to soothe the poor infant. At night the innkeeper and his wife could hear the poor baby crying and the mother doing her best to try to calm her child.
One night they listened to the sad sounds, and over the course of the evening, the cries of the child and the soothing words of the woman grew fainter and weaker, and then went silent all together. Believing them to have both fallen asleep, Mrs. Clements was shocked the next morning to discover mother and child both dead, the infant gently cradled in her arms.
Mr. Clements saw to it that both mother and child were buried. (Perhaps in the Laurel Cemetery), and the mothers name was on her stone. Since she had insisted on waiting until her husband came to her, she had never named the child, and thus the name "Baby" was on the stone of the child.
As the years passed, and the canal was overtaken by the railroad, and people came and went to the White Hall Tavern, people would tell of hearing a baby crying from the upstairs rooms at night, and hearing the words of a lady trying to soothe it.
Urban legend or not? It sounded like an interesting idea to check out.
So off we went...
We took US Highway 40 (the old national road), down to the junction of HWY 3 and turned right. We stopped for lunch at Rushville and the lady hit a couple of antique shops.
Then it was back on the road...52 took us to the 121 turnoff and to Laurel.
The very first time we went through the town, we missed it completely. Turning around we came back and found the street and at the end of two lonely blocks was the White Hall Tavern...or what remained of it.
It seems that a fire had SEVERLY damaged the upper (haunted) section of the building, in 2006 and someone was either in the very very slow process of rebuilding, or salvaging the building.
We pulled off to take a look and explored.
The front of the tavern, (the damage is evident on the second floor, and there is a half -hearted attempt to fence off the entrance, I merely went around the side of it)...

The lady on the steps, enjoying the shade...
( A close up of some of the 2006 fire damage)...
(Myself at the top of the passenger steps...)

(Up these stairs the passengers would go, to the tavern for a meal, or drink, or a room for the night...)
We stayed for a bit, but found no ghosts, no crying infants, nobody even around to talk to about the local legends...The only inhabitant I saw was the back end of a fat grey cat crawling into a hole opening into the basement of the building...Ah well...
And so we left, marking one local Indiana Ghost Lore Legend off in our little travel book of things to see and do and driving back home to rest and tomorrow to begin anew on painting little toy soldiers!!!!

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