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The Weekly News”, September 18, 1912 and “The Mt. Pleasant Daily News”, September 11, 1912
Charles S. Rogers, Publisher. THE BYSTANDER’S NOTES.

In spite of the efforts of the police to keep it smothered until they could get their bearings, or at least make an intelligent report on the strange circumstances or conditions that have been harassing the north part of town for nearly two months now, it has leaked out that a spirit or apparition or wraith or Ghost or whatever you want to call it, has again appeared in the neighborhood of the Canning Factory, and over in and around the Milling Company. And in spite of the efforts of the people of the neighborhood to laugh the ghostly stories out of court, the Ghost, or whatever it is, resists all attempts to be ridden of the community and persists in haunting the premises which have been given over to ghosts for a generation.

For forty years or more, a wraith has been haunting the vicinity of the Milling Company’s plant. At times it was supposed to be someone seeking to frighten people of the neighborhood, but no matter how clever were those who sought to solve the mystery, the identity of the man, if it was a man, was never discovered. At times, the Ghost would be seen sitting on the bank of the little pond across the tracks, as if in pensive meditation of things supernatural, and when approached would float away into nothingness. Sometimes the spirit would be seen moving up and down the tracks of the yards, as if seeking something that it had lost, a life perhaps. At times it has been seen by engine crews on the track ahead beckoning the train on to safety, or destruction, the crew could not decide, as the spirit would always fade away in a block or two.

About the time of the big fire which destroyed the buildings of the Flouring Mill, the appearance of the Ghost was of almost nightly occurrence, as if the destruction of the premises had robbed the Ghost of its abode and it was doomed to wander homeless about a hostile neighborhood. There was another lapse of its appearance until about the time when the Canning Factory concluded to close up the culvert under the railroad, when (all) of a sudden the wraith raged in silent and impotent fury over the place, following people who used the tracks as a thoroughfare, and giving vent to unearthly and nerve-racking utterances, and throwing the whole neighborhood into convulsions. Those who do not believe in ghosts laughed down the matter and put the responsibility on the shoulders of some practical joker, but those who were still possessed of the superstition of their grandparents, called attention to the fact that the Ghost never appeared unless there was something happening that would disturb its rest or abiding place, and invariably when something had happened at or around the foundation of the Feed Mill, which is over the hidden culvert that runs from the little pond under the railroad and The Mill into the open slough, the ghostly manifestations reoccurred.

And now the Ghost has appeared again. Its ghostly abode has been disturbed, the retreat of the wraith has been invaded, and once more, lonely and homeless, it roams about the premises nightly. The rebuilding of the foundations of the Feed Mill is supposed to have been the cause of the reappearance of the Ghost. The Old Mill has been raised from its old and musty foundations and moved to the south. The light of day has been allowed to pour into the dank and dark recesses under The Mill and men have been daily working down in there. The old culvert passes directly under The Mill and it is now thought by those, who for twenty or thirty years have been keeping in touch with things supernatural, that the hiding place of the Ghost has been all the time in the cellar of The Mill and close down to the old culvert, noisome environment highly suggestive of ghosts and goblins. And so when the Old Mill was raised a few days ago, and the sunlight and fresh air poured down into the dank places, where fungi grew, and tainted air brooded heavily over the damp bottoms, the Ghost was forced to leave its retreat and once more roam about the place, homeless and lonely.

So far as can be learned, the first to catch sight of the spirit were the two girls at the office of the Edgren Company who, having worked nights, were coming home together down the tracks to Adams street, where they separate. As they neared the Old Mill, they heard a noise as one in distress, or what might be imagined to be the wail of a lost soul. Somewhat startled, yet ready to serve one in distress, they moved on in the direction of The Mill, when they observed in the gloom what appeared to be the outlines of a figure clothed in a flowing sheet and enveloped in a luminous fog. As they came in sight, it slipped along ahead of them and disappeared down into the cellar. Not sure as to whether they had been deceived by their own eyes or been tricked by some practical joker, they kept their peace. A night or so after, a pair of dusky lovers were telling that old, old, but ever new story to each other on a pile of railroad ties in the yards, when they were suddenly enveloped in a smothering blanket of stifling fog. Breaking from each other’s embrace, they broke eastward at headlong speed, uttering the most piercing shrieks, for as they looked back, they saw in the engulfing darkness the sinister shape of a leering wraith, which seemed to jeer at their discomfiture. Nor were these the only ones who have seen the Ghost.

It has also been claimed that the Ghost has been seen late of nights prowling around down in the rear of the new coal sheds of the Milling Company and over the street in and around the cement block factory, searching, hunting, haunting, looking for something lost and never found. The most thrilling experience, however, which has been learned of, took place the other night, Saturday evening if we are not mistaken. Three colored men, well known in this city, after spending a convivial evening down town with boon companions, were airily tending homeward, light of foot, light of tongue and probably light of head. They had navigated the intricacies of the railroad between Main and Lincoln streets with a good deal of song, joke and hilarity. In their particular and singular state of mind, they cared neither for man nor the devil. To the circumambient heavens and to each other they so announced. To those of the neighborhood awake and asleep, they loudly proclaimed their hardihood, and amorous tabbies paused in their noisy love-making, and the dogs awaiting the rise of the moon, slunk away. As the trio crossed Lincoln Street and proceeded east, they suddenly stopped, gasped, grabbed each other for mutual protection. For directly in line between them and the Old Mill stood erect and forbidding a pillar of pale fog, strangely human-like in form and gesture, which seemed to beckon them over toward the cavern under The Mill. The old Ghost was again walking of nights and when the Ghost walked, the Death Angel was brooding low over some distressed home, marking some doomed one for the sacrifice. The three sons of Ham, filled with booze, fear and agility, fled. They did not know, care nor were they curious to inquire whether they had seen God, man or the Devil. They were possessed with a palpitating desire to get somewhere and get there without delay. They even swore in their earnestness to escape, but there was not the bravado of blasphemy in the oaths, it was in all humility of prayer that they oathed. To confuse and complicate the situation, a plodding freight train rolled in from the west behind the fugitives from the wrath of an outraged and insulted Ghost. The glow of the headlight illuminated their track, as if the gates of hell had been opened enough to show them their way to their doom, and into which they were powerless to stop their headlong rush. The shadows ahead of them danced and circled and beckoned and threatened like the minions of darkness which were out in the parade to welcome them to their future abode. The rumble of the train was to their disordered minds the rumblings of perdition and as the train rolled closer, and the lights grew brighter, and the shadows danced with hellish abandon, the three colored gentlemen stumbled against a pile of cinders which formerly was the approach to the coal chute track, and over they went, head over heels, fighting and striking, kicking and pulling each other like a lot of wildcats, each thinking that he was the special victim of the ghostly vampire that was intent upon his instant destruction. The train rolled on by with a flash of light and a cloud of dust and the rumbles of thunder, and by and by, thoroughly exhausted by their efforts to escape the Devil, they sank into an unconscious state of exhaustion. Later they were discovered and aroused and telling their story an investigation was started and it is declared that perched upon the corner of an old Union Pacific box car which had been set out with a broken draw bar was a grey human-like figure which leered at the men as the approached and then slid off into the Old Mill cellar leaving behind a clammy mistiness that chilled to the very marrow.

The men who have been at work on the foundation of The Mill have themselves met with queer conditions. Somehow their work has dragged. Things have gone wrong; tools have been mysteriously misplaced. The atmosphere down in the cellar has been charged with mistiness and mystery. There has been a spookiness in the shadows that has been disconcerting and the men have wondered and pondered and watched and listened, they knew not for what. Of course, those who believe in ghosts are firmly convinced now, as they have been for thirty years, that the Ghost is the lost soul of the girl who is said to have been slain by a jealous lover on the tracks one night many years ago and whose body was floated down into the culvert under the tracks and was supposed to have lodged in there somewhere, as no trace of her was ever found after that fatal night. And it is supposed that the released spirit, refusing to abandon the earthly body in its unhallowed resting place, set up pious watch over it and neither the passing years nor the ravages of fire, the elements, or of man discourage its vigil. And so long as the resting place of its dead is permitted to repose undisturbed, it remains out of sight, but when the activities of man encroach upon the sacred precincts, it issues forth and seeks by supernatural interposition to drive off intruders.

Of course the police made a perfunctory investigation as they have been doing for thirty years or more and assured the people of the neighborhood that they have discovered enough evidence to satisfy them that the whole thing is the work of some practical joker, some man who enjoys breaking up a tete-a-tete, disrupt a crap game or scare the wits out of some bibulous wanderer. It is also claimed by the police that tracks which look suspiciously like a full grown man’s footwear has been found leading down in to the pit under The Mill, and that a nearly empty box of a sulphurous preparation, which will glow in the dark like the head of a moist match, was found together with a soiled sheet tucked away in a nook in the foundation. Also, that the remains of a Devil’s fiddle was found attached to one of the buildings with the string tending over toward the Canning Factory. But to those who have lived up in the neighborhood so long, nothing can shake their belief that the Old Mill is haunted and that the police have never found anything whatsoever that would indicate that the mystery that enshrouds The Mill is other than supernatural. It will be a comfort, however, to the distracted community to know that with the repairs now underway, there will be nothing more for a long time that will disturb the spirit of the dead girl, which will in the future without doubt be permitted to abide in the dank and gloom of the old cellar, where it will keep its lonely vigil through the years that are to come.

Resource provided by Henry County Heritage Trust. Transcription done by Alayna Vantiger, University of Northern Iowa Public History Field Experience Class, April 2021. Formatted and added 04 May 2021.

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