Fly and Local Ghouls Lurk
at Stepp Cemetery
|(The following article was
originally posted on the website of the Indiana University School of
Journalism. Reprinted by permission of the author.)
A sticker with an alien emblem on it rests against the rear bumper of an
old van. The van sits in the grass between a rusted shed and pieces of
scrap metal. The sun fades beyond the hills that embrace the Taylor
home. Two twin girls in their early 20s greet guests as they enter the
driveway. One walks with a cane and the other wears a long, green cloak.
Pale skin illuminates their dark hair. They move slowly toward the house
while stray kittens frolic in the yard behind them. It is Oct. 6, 2001
and Lynn Taylor, cofounder of the Association for Aerial Anomaly
Research and Cataloging, is meeting with his colleagues to discuss
paranormal activity at Stepp Cemetery.
|The headstone of
Stepp Cemetery. The cemetery is steeped in legend and continues to
interest locals more than 200 years since its construction. Photo By:
Taylor began this organization after he became unsatisfied with a group
of men he was meeting with. “They wanted to sit around and tell ghost
stories. I wanted to do the actual research,” said Taylor. His
mannerisms were gentle and he spoke softly, often pausing between words
to add precision to the topic. Taylor is interested in perusing a
journey that links the spiritual world to the scientific study of UFOs.
He believes there are energies that exist in Stepp and has made this
site the milestone for much of his research. He has associated his
findings in Stepp with data collected on extraterrestrial sightings. He
is an avid believer that there is life outside planet Earth.
It is a 20-minute drive from the Taylor home to Stepp, which is located
in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Nighttime at Stepp is quiet and still
on October 6. Hundreds of stars hover above the secluded meadow. The Oak
trees and a rusted, iron rod were the only things
world of the dead from the living. Crossing this barrier and entering
sacred territory stirs emotions you can only experience once you have
entered. Walking into complete blackness brings about an eerie feeling.
The feeling of fear is hidden by the excitement for the unknown. Sticks
crack underneath anxious feet as you travel to this familiar place.
Tosti, Lynn Taylor and Linda Taylor take time out of observation to work
with their cameras. The Taylor's and Tosti document strange, paranormal
energies for the Association for Aerial Anomaly Research and Cataloging.
Photo By: Kristy McClain
Taylor’s breathing becomes
rapid, but words are softly spoken. It is almost 7:30 p.m. before the AAARC team
is ready to begin its study. “We try and enter this place as if we were
invited guests to someone’s home,” said Taylor. By the dim flicker of two
flashlights, cameras snap and electromagnetic devices capture the movement of
energies. Ivy, 5 year-old daughter of John Tosti, was playing on a large tree
stump when a sudden breeze almost knocked her off. Linda Taylor, Lynn’s wife,
took Ivy’s picture. “I think we’ve got a live one here. Ivy, someone’s
trying to play with you,” said Linda.
She caught the blurry, white cloud on her digital camera and raised the image
for everyone to see. “Oh, they love little kids,” said Linda. She has seen
these white clouds before. AAARC refers to them as “orbs.” “Physicists
have referred to these energies as ‘subtle energy’. It is produced naturally
by the earth,” said Taylor. AAARC also has detected “phantom fog” which
resembles an oddly shaped, iridescent form. They do not believe that these
energies have distinct personalities. They see them as a mass of energy,
invisible to the naked eye. It is not clear to Taylor’s organization why they
exist, but they think that these energies are somehow linked to the
“I do this for my own enlightenment. It would be great to educate others about
what I have learned, but mainly it’s for my own enjoyment,” said Taylor.
Those who may think of Taylor as a modern day “ghost buster” might not take
his findings seriously, but he doesn’t mind. “We don’t care what other
people think. We do this because we want to,” said Taylor. His daughter, Julie
Harp, said they are not the only ones fascinated by this historical site. She
commented that this cemetery is very popular among university students as well
as local residents. “This site is notorious for many legends that have evolved
out of Monroe County,” said Harp.
Harp walks slowly toward a
tree at the north end of the cemetery. She kneels beside a flat stone and
brushes away dirt and leaves that had fallen around it. It reads, “Baby
Lester.” There were no dates to confirm the birth or the death of this child.
Harp recalls the legend of Baby Lester, “It was said that the mother of Baby
Lester would travel to the cemetery every night and sit on a tree stump while
she mourned the loss of her child. Some have even said that she would dig up the
lifeless body and rock it back and forth while sitting on the stump. Then she
would place it back into the ground until her next visit.”
|The tiny grave of Baby
Lester. Stepp Cemetery is the resting place of 32 people, most of which
are young children and teenaged mothers. Photo
by: Kristy McClain
There is another legend recorded by Mark Marimen in the book, Haunted
Indiana. This story also involved a grieving mother, one who lost both her
husband and daughter to tragic accidents. She, like Mrs. Lester, traveled
to the cemetery nightly. Some people claim to have seen her walking among
the graves wearing a black dress. No one knows her real name, but they
call her “Anna.” The legend says there is no record of Anna’s death
and she still haunts the cemetery.
Ron Baldwin, a Monroe County historian, said there are good reasons why
people think this cemetery is haunted. “The majority of the people
buried in Stepp are children under the age of 7 and their 19-year-old
mothers.” Baldwin believes this fact alone has a negative impact on the
reputation of Stepp. Baldwin finds the legends to be entertaining. “I
wish there were ghosts, then they could answer all my questions,” said
AAARC claims that the legends are not of significant interest to their
research. Just like Baldwin, they find these stories to be humorous. Their
organization is more interested in the natural energies produced by the
cemetery. Taylor described two different types of energy that surround
cemeteries and haunted houses. He said there are positive and negative
energies, but that the majority of the energies that exist are positive.
They will not cause harm, unless they are provoked in a negative manner.
People who perform ritualistic ceremonies often disturb these energies
when they use cemeteries as a worshiping ground.
A Negative Encounter
Taylor recalled a time when he visited Stepp with his wife and two
daughters, “The first thing I saw when I entered the cemetery was a
green, stadium cup. It had holes cut into it and a candle was lit in the
center. We continued to walk towards the east end of the cemetery and
noticed more cups lined up on top of a couple of tombstones.”
His wife and daughters became frightened and wanted to leave. They knew
that unwelcome guests had been to the cemetery and had disturbed the
Taylor believes some type of ceremony was held in the cemetery that
evening, before his visit. He did not refer to the ceremony as satanic.
However, he did believe that it was a ritual of some kind. He wanted to
stay and research the negative energies, but his main concern then was to
keep his family safe.
Baldwin is also familiar with rituals at cemeteries. At one cemetery in
Monroe County, which he called a “Satanic Cemetery,” Baldwin has seen
emblems spray painted onto tombstones.
The destruction outrages Baldwin and he does whatever he can to protect
these old cemeteries. He is involved with the Indiana Pioneer Restoration
Project, which works to protect abandoned cemeteries built before 1832.
Stepp alone is among 300 burial grounds in Monroe County. It was built in
the 1800s and is classified as a pioneer cemetery. There are few people
buried in these cemeteries. Only 32 people are in Stepp, according to a
Monroe County Coroner’s report.
“There have been quite a few stones removed from Stepp because of its
association with many local legends,” said Baldwin. The stones have been
found outside of the cemetery and on various hiking trails. Baldwin said
that one time someone was caught digging up one of the gravesites. He said
that the deterioration of cemeteries is on the rise and there are not
enough people to care for them. There is also a lack of funding. Baldwin
and his group of volunteers, mainly genealogy students, pay for the
restoration projects out of their own pockets. Taylor and Baldwin both
said that these sacred grounds need to be respected and that people should
be careful not to damage them.
Many anxious feet have crossed the grounds that Stepp Cemetery rests upon.
Most are interested in the legends. However, some have unlocked the door
to Monroe County’s past, while others have linked the spiritual world to
the scientific. No matter what the interest is, Stepp has been used as a
tool to educate people. This historical site is a part of Bloomington’s
heritage and deserves to be respected. It has served as a sanctuary for
the deceased and a classroom for the living. But for everyone, it is a
place to cherish those whose lives have shaped the present.