CROWN POINT — A recently released book explores the supernatural and strange history of Crown Point, a century-old city where some residents say the dead still whisper and shadows take shape.
Judith Tometczak, author of “Haunted Crown Point, Indiana,” said she spent more than a year researching and writing about the apparitions seen by some residents in the city's historic downtown.
She outlines in the book legends surrounding the old Lake County Courthouse, Prime Steakhouse and Crown Point High School, among others.
There are rumors of a tall man in a dark coat and top hat ascending the clock tower stairs of the Lake County Courthouse, a misty figure who lurks behind bookshelves in the North Room of the old Carnegie Library, and invisible basketballs bouncing in the gymnasium at Crown Point High School.
Tometczak, a resident of Portage, said her interest in the supernatural dates back to her childhood, crawling along in a car with friends down Reeder Road in Griffith, their eyes peeled for the ghostly lantern-holding farmer who staggers around outside his ephemeral farmhouse.
“I never saw the farmhouse,” Tometczak said. “But we did see a ghost, or a vision, of a man walking along the road.”
That early interest in the supernatural bloomed into a career leading haunted tours in Crown Point. Tometczak also has conducted paranormal research for more than 15 years at locations in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
She said she mostly learns about haunted buildings from word-of-mouth, and of course the internet, the repository for the world's gossip.
“They are mostly legends that are passed down from family to family, generation to generation,” she said.
Tometczak said the spookiest haunt she's visited is South East Grove Cemetery, colloquially known as “Gypsy's Graveyard.”
The graveyard, which is included in the book though it's several miles south of Crown Point, got its nickname from claims that the graveyard is the final resting place for several members of a band of “gypsies” (a pejorative term for the nomadic Roma people) who died of an illness while camping in the area in the mid-1800s.
The early settlers in the area either refused to provide the gypsies medicine for their ailment, or drove the sickly nomads out of town, and the camp was forced to bury their dead in a mass grave.
Visitors to the graveyard have described glowing orbs, pant cuffs sticky with a red ooze, and disappearing grave stones.
Though the story may be apocryphal, the graveyard is the resting place for a few residents whose macabre tales would fit into the Spoon River Anthology.
Pauline Frederichs (spelled Friederichs in some news reports) shot her husband dead in May 1920 in Elgin, Illinois, after he threatened to divorce her and marry a new woman, according to The Times archive. She died a few months later at age 42 of tuberculosis, and was buried in South East Grove Cemetery.
George Doak, a prominent farmer from South East Grove, drank strychnine poison in July 1924 following his daughter Mae's tragic death, archives state. He was buried age 89 in South East Grove Cemetery.
Tometczak said the graveyard was marred by vandalism in the 1990s, but most visitors now are respectful thrill-seekers.
The author will appear at a book-signing 6 p.m. Wednesday at Crown Point Library, 122 N. Main St. A second book-signing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso Marketplace.
Some other interesting haunts in The Region:
The cries of circus animals, burned to death in the Hagenbeck-Wallis circus train wreck of 1918, allegedly can be heard echoing through the night in Robertsdale neighborhood.
Wilhelmina Kaske allegedly can be seen wandering her former home, the Kaske House Museum, in Munster. The home was built in 1910, allegedly on the smoldering ruins of a tavern that burned down.
Guests at the Inn at Aberdeen in Valparaiso have described seeing a little girl on the main staircase of the 1850s home. Others said items are found rearranged on desktops and the fireplaces lights itself.