Have you ever wondered about what legends, folk lore or ghost stories have been told about the Lafayette-West Lafayette area? Well, maybe these will be intriguing to you!
Ever wonder how Happy Hallow Park got its name? Some say it’s because there used to be a still located there during prohibition that produced illegal moonshine for the town. Therefore, the hallow was given the name: “Happy”. Another story is that the daughter of the man who built the main house in the park was named Happy Linder and as a teenager was quite popular with the Purdue Men. When the men on campus would want to visit Happy, they would say “Let’s all go down and see Happy in the Hallow!” No one really knows the true origin of the name. Which do you think is true?
Tecumseh’s Curse- Legend has it that Tecumseh’s brother, The Prophet, was interviewed by a reporter in 1836 and he said this about William Henry Harrison’s campaign to be elected as the next President of the United States:
“Harrison will not win this year to be the Great Chief, but he may win next year. If he does….he will not finish his term. He will die in his office. And when he dies you will remember my brother Tecumseh’s death. You think that I have lost my powers. I who caused the sun to darken and Red Men to give up firewater. But I tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every Great Chief chosen every 20 years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people.”
Harrison was not elected in 1836. Since the inception of the curse, the Presidents elected in zero years and their Vice Presidents who inherited the Presidency are as follows:
- William Henry Harrison, Elected 1840, Died April 6, 1841 of pneumonia; VP John Tyler
- Abraham Lincoln, Elected 1860, assassinated April 14, 1865; VP Andrew Johnson
- James Abram Garfield, Elected 1880, assassinated July 2, 1881; VP Chester Alan Arthur
- William McKinley, Elected 1900, assassinated September 6, 1901; VP Theodore Roosevelt
- Warren Gamaliel Harding, Elected 1920, died August 2, 1923 from food poisoning; VP Calvin Coolidge
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Elected 1940, died April 12, 1945 from a stroke; VP Harry Truman
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Elected 1960, assassinated November 22, 1963; VP Lyndon Baines Johnson
- Ronald Wilson Reagan, Elected 1980, Assassination attempt on March 30, 1981 but he survived, and the curse appears to have been lifted.
The Moon Method- James Moon, a farmer and Civil War Veteran from South West of town near today’s Sleeper Road came into town and rented a room at the Lahr Hotel (what is today, Lahr Apartments on the upper floors and Bistro 501, Knickerbocker, Lahr Atrium and Sweet Revolutions on the first floor) on June 12, 1876. Moon was also a sort of inventor and had a large trunk with him that he told hotel workers held parts for his new invention and to be very careful when hauling it upstairs. He requested the quietest room and then went to work. Other guests complained of the racket he was making and when the manager inquired, he told them he was working on a new invention and any damage to the room would be paid for. Although he really wasn’t working on a new invention, he was crafting a guillotine. When finished, he reportedly showed up late in the afternoon freshly shaved and bathed and enjoyed a leisurely meal. He talked to some war buddies then returned to his room where he stretched out on the floor. He then preceded to strap himself to the floor and his head in a box. He lit a candle that would burn a cord attached to an axe blade. The box his head was in had a cloth covered in chloroform. By the time he was sedated, the candle had burned through the cord which then let the ax come straight down, severing his head from his body in a clean cut. The maid eventually found him and screamed for help. The body was removed after a good examination by the coroner and later buried in the Farmers Institute Cemetery. It is said that after his death, the “Moon’s Method” captured headlines all across the country and physicians used the grim suicide for medical journals. The hotel supposedly kept the guillotine on display for hotel guests to see and it became a popular tourist stop. Sadly, James Moon wasn’t the only suicide in the Moon family. A son later died in Kansas in 1900 by taking poison and a daughter used gas in a Chicago Apartment a year later.
A shoot out downtown Lafayette. Civic Theater used to have “Tour of Terror” nights around Halloween, while unfortunately, they no longer have those tours, they were willing to share this story with us. (It is shortened here) On June 16, 1933, three people drive into town: James “Heavy” Richardson, his nephew, Frank Byrd aka “Slim” and a female friend, Ruth Edgar. Two weeks before, Slim and Heavy and Heavy’s brother staged a bank robbery in Illinois where Slim was wounded. They had been staying at Ruth’s Lake Freeman cabin but Slim was getting worse and decided to drive into town to see a doctor. They drive to the Lafayette Life Building on the corner of 3rd and Main Streets and leave Ruth in the car. They go up to the sixth floor to Dr. Loop’s office. Heavy says that Slim has been sick for days and that he has osteomyelitis, the alleged cause of the problem. Upon examination the doctor discovered the bullet wound that was several days old. Dr. Loop is suspicious and finds an excuse to leave the room to call the police. Meanwhile a passerby notices a gun in the back of the car and notifies police. While waiting for the doctor, Heavy looks down to the car and sees a police officer talking to Ruth and Officer Paul Klinker. The officer calls for back up and they go into the Lafayette Life building, knowing nothing of the men’s history. They question the two men and state that they shall accompany them to police headquarters. Then suddenly Heavy pulls out a gun and takes Officer Hill’s gun and gives it to Slim. They hold the two officers, the doctor and his nurse at gunpoint going down the stairs. The other officer, Goldsberry was in plain clothes and they did not disarm him as they did not know he was an officer. They also didn’t know that the Doctor had called for the police and the officers had summoned back up before entering the building. As they came out of the building, Slim fires a shot at Officer Wesley Wilson who is standing in the doorway and falls to the curb. Heavy and Slim turn the corner and gun Officer Klinker down before he can turn around then head up Third Street and into the alley behind the Lafayette Life Building, continuing to shoot behind them. Another officer, Officer McDonald, opens fire with a machine gun but is shot in the leg and falls to the sidewalk. The shoot out continues. Goldsberry also takes a Tommy gun and fires at the bandits, striking one of them. The bandits attempt to get away in a car, but the owner has the keys, they left blood stains in the car though as Slim had already been hit. As they exited the car people from the offices above threw down ink wells and paste jars. Meanwhile, Harry Huston, a World War I decorated veteran and marksman runs out of Hogan’s Drug Store when he sees Wilson gunned down and seizes one of the Tommy guns from the fallen officers and goes into a second-floor window at the back of the Lafayette Life Building. In just a short time he guns down both bandits. Slim falls down at the backdoor of the post office and Heavy falls at the basement steps. Both bandits have been injured several times, yet still alive. Police arrest them. Heavy ends up passing from his injuries but Slim later recovers. He stood trial in Delphi and was convicted of second-degree murder with mandatory life in prison. Ruth is released from jail upon Slim’s conviction. Officers Klinker and McDonald survive, and McDonald went on to become Chief of Police. Officer Wilson eventually dies from his wounds.
This for sure isn’t an entire list of stories. Is there a legend, folk lore or ghost story you’ve heard of about the area? We’d love to hear about it, please share with us!