About halfway between Brazil and Terre Haute on US 40, about a half mile south of Cloverland, lies the (supposedly) most haunted cemetery in all of Indiana. Interested in more spooky spots in the Hoosier State? Check out this our Stranger Things in Indiana Scavenger Hunt.
Known variously as the 100 Steps Cemetery, Carpenter Cemetery, or Cloverland Cemetery, this Clay County resting place is a magnet for local folklore enthusiasts, ghost hunters, and history buffs.
100 Steps Cemetery faces west on a hill overlooking North County Road 675 West. The cemetery was established around the time of the American Civil War and is still an active cemetery. It is called ‘100 Steps’ because, as you’ve probably guessed, visitors must ascend 100 steps to reach the summit. County officials have installed a new staircase in recent years. Given the age of the old, half-buried staircase and the popularity of the cemetery, the new stairs allow for easier navigation to the top of the hill.
Two different ghostly legends exist for the cemetery. The first is fairly simple: at midnight, under a moonless sky, a visitor must ascend the steps counting as s/he goes. One should count 100 total steps by the time the summit is reached. Then, the visitor should walk back down and count the number of steps a second time. At the bottom, the visitor should have a different number. The mismatch, supposedly, is caused by a supernatural sleight-of-hand, or, perhaps, the fact that visitors are counting stairs in the middle of the night. But whom am I to judge the validity of such a tale?
The second legend is far more sinister. In this account, visitors again should climb to the top of the stairs, counting as s/he goes, arriving at 100 steps at the top. On the summit, the visitor should turn around and look down the hill. A ghost of the first caretaker will appear and reveal the manner in which the visitor will die in a spectral vision. With the ghostly fortune finished, the visitor will descend the steps, counting again as s/he goes. At the bottom, if the number of steps is the same as the way up, then the vision was wrong. If there is a mismatch, the visitor will die in the manner revealed by the phantom caretaker. During the process, if the visitor leaves the path, or doesn’t count the steps, a devilish hand will force the person to the ground, leaving a deep red handprint for several days.
These ghostly stories are just that, fun, yet fictional tales we tell ourselves to help us make sense of the unknown. I should note that there are many versions of this legend, several of which are preserved at Indiana State University’s Folklore archives. They are worth exploring as much as the cemetery
100 Steps did suffer at the hands of at least one body snatcher in 1892. Body snatching, if you are unfamiliar, was an illegal, but common practice in the 19th century. In the days before cadavers were donated on a regular basis to medical schools, ‘resurrectionists’ would scour cemeteries for the recently deceased. Working in the cover of darkness, they would exhume the bodies and sell them surreptitiously to any number of medical establishments in central Indiana, the closest of which was Asbury College (now Depauw).
On November 20, 1892, the following story was reported in The Indianapolis Journal:
“Brazil, Ind., Nov. 19. – The citizens of Posey Township, of this county, are greatly stirred up over a ghastly discovery made at the Carpenter Cemetery, one-half mile south of Cloverdale, yesterday afternoon. About two years ago George West, a wealthy farmer of that place, buried his daughter, Miss Emma. She died or an ordinary disease and nothing to cause any fear of her grave being molested was apprehended. Recently Mr. West bought a lot in the cemetery and yesterday engaged assistance to help him remove his daughter’s remains to the new grounds. When the coffin was reached all present were startled to find it upside-down in the bod and the corpse missing.”
Be mindful that the cemetery is only open from sunrise to sunset. I visited about 4:00 PM and, (un)fortunately, didn’t see any ghostly caretakers. I only counted 98 steps up and, oddly, 96 steps down…but maybe I did it wrong. Above all, be respectful and courteous when visiting the cemetery.
Want to see more spooky places in Indiana? Check out this list of 70 “Stranger Things” in Indiana.