New tales from the grounds: Is Conner Prairie haunted?

Ghostly sightings in the woods, strange sounds in buildings and other odd occurrences have been observed by several Conner Prairie employees through the years at various places on the museum’s historic grounds.

By Ephraim Rudolph
Ghost sightings, eerie noises and other inexplicably spooky phenomena have been woven into the fabric of life at Conner Prairie for decades, particularly during the Halloween season.

Some stories have become legend among employees.

The following tales, which all occurred in the past two years, are in no way part of an ever-growing collection of evidence that Conner Prairie is haunted. Or are they?

From interpreter Kelly Krogmeier: “This summer, I was outside of the Lenape trading post and there was no one else here. I saw someone in my peripheral vision walking up the pathway and out of the woods. I swear they were either in costume or in period dress. It was a man and someone else – I couldn’t make them out but there was definitely a man. When I looked back, there was no one over there. I know people have talked about seeing John Conner and other Conner ghosts around here so it could be one of them. But I saw them as if they were possibly someone coming to visit traders here because they came up the path toward the trading post.”

From interpreter Taylor Coonce: “We have a wooden horse in the North Room of William Conner House that gets moved around a lot and that has mostly started to happen this year. It always stays in that room. When there’s no one in there, it gets moved around. This year specifically, I’ve seen an older woman with long white hair in the mother and children’s room upstairs. She’s only ever been seen through windows. You always hear things throughout this house when there’s no one there.

“In the basement of the Golden Eagle Inn, I’ve seen the same thing twice. There’s a hole in the wall that used to be a crawlspace through the rest of the house and I saw a little boy in there a few seasons ago. Then, earlier this season, the same little boy poked his head out and spooked me as I was coming down the stairs. He’s a younger boy with dark brown or blackish hair and he’s pale. I think he’s mischievous and he’s scared a few other people I know.

“During Follow the North Star, the characters of the Merricks are in the barn that’s just next to the Porter House. One of the lines in the program is, ‘We have to get them inside. Mrs. Johnson’s looking out her window.’ We refer to the Porter House as the Johnson House during Follow the North Star. One time, when I gestured back toward the window after delivering that line, there was actually a lady standing in the one lit window of the house. I couldn’t really make out what she looked like – she was just an older woman.”

From interpreter Mitchell Meggs: “Eli Lilly had a prized horse, which won all kinds of blue ribbons and other awards. When the horse died, Lilly buried it on the property and there was a monument to the horse where it was buried. As they started building things out near Lenape, the monument got to be in the way. So they moved it. But they didn’t move the horse. Now, around here late at night, people working on things have heard ghostly hoof beats and whinnying. I haven’t heard any of that myself but I have talked to many people who swore they did – and I do know where the horse remains buried to this very day.”

From interpreter Kim McCann: “When you’re working at William Conner House, you sit in the North Room and chat while you wait for visitors to arrive. One day, I was sitting and talking with one of the interpreters and I heard a woman’s laughter from upstairs. We have music up there but it’s just music. I kind of ignored it because I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just me.’ But the interpreter stopped, looked at me and asked if I heard it. So, we both heard it. We didn’t go upstairs and check, we just went on talking. I’ve never felt like there’s anything in that house that is harmful or evil. There’s just residual energy there. Everybody who has worked in that house for a prolonged period has had some kind of experience. However, I don’t think the little electric candles are haunted like many people say. They twist on and off and there’s no switch. The twist mechanism is finicky and they come back on all the time. We do have tabletop candelabras, though, and while setting up for Hearthside Suppers, I’ve seen this happen and heard it happen at least twice – the candelabras have jumped up, and landed on the table like an invisible hand picked it up and moved it.

“And at the Golden Eagle, I had an experience on the front porch. I was working at the last stop of Follow the North Star. I was sitting there and had just gotten up to move around. I was leaning against one of the pillars and looking out at the Welcome Center. In the background, I heard someone walking on the gravel. I was fully expecting it to be a path person coming to tell me when the next group would arrive. I kept hearing the crunch of footsteps on the gravel and I’m standing there waiting. The crunching stopped and I felt this brush against the back of my neck. I flipped around and there was nobody there. I was processing it as a completely logical phenomenon. Everything made sense – until it didn’t.”

— Read more spooky tales from Conner Prairie employees on our news blog.