Spooky Shelby tales

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You might not reach for the phone to call Ghostbusters, but here are some legends to spice up your Halloween.

By Lisa King

Every community has its ghost stories, and Shelby County is no exception, with plenty of creepy, spooky tales and places that start getting whispered about during the week of Halloween.
There are plenty of legends – the antique store on Main Street downtown, the former ghost sightings at the old bridge on what now is Zaring Mill Road, haunted houses here and there, for instance – but have you ever heard of Crybaby Bridge?

Many people seem to have heard of it, but nobody’s sure where it is.

Some even think that Who’d A Thot It bridge on Jail Hill Road could be its location.

Others think it’s a bridge located on Washburn Road near Bagdad.

Anyway, the legend goes that in the early 1900s, a woman threw her unwanted infant over the bridge, and it drowned. The story goes that if you go there at night and put baby powder on the hood of your car and sit for a few minutes with the lights off, the  baby’s prints will be left on the car.

Others, such Eilene Collins, say you can hear what sounds like a baby crying in the vicinity of the bridge on a dark night.

“That’s what I’ve heard,” she said.

Shelby County Judge-executive Rob Rothenburger, who lives in Bagdad, says he has never heard anything like that out there.

“I’ve heard a lot of weird things, but I don’t think any of them were ghosts,” he said.


Police station

The Shelbyville Police Station, located at Main and 3rd streets, also has a reputation around town of being haunted and was even investigated in 2003 by a team of paranormal experts after officers and employees heard mysterious sights and sounds in the part of the building that had been an old house.

Although officials wouldn’t talk about it at the time, a report by WAVE-Ch. 3 reported that police had contacted a paranormal team after a city clerk reported that something unseen had grabbed her leg while she was visiting the office.

Shelbyville Deputy City Clerk Wendy Rutledge, who talked Tuesday about what happened that day in 2003, said she had became curious about the place after hearing tales from police officers about hearing mysterious sounds and footsteps on the stairs in the old part of the building.

So she and some other people went over to check it out, Rutledge said.

During the tour, she said she felt something grab her leg. She looked down and didn’t see anything, but her leg had red marks, like fingerprints, on it.

“It really scared me,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! Did that really happen?’”

But that’s not the only thing that happened, Rutledge said.

She said she also saw three apparitions on that visit: a little old lady, a young boy and an older man.

“I call him the ‘scary man,’” she said. “I know they [apparitions] are still over there.

“The little boy is five or six [years old] and has ash blonde hair and dimples, and the old guy, the mean guy, is what I call him, he wears an old T-shirt, work pants with suspenders, and he has his hair slicked back. The old woman, she is probably grandmother age, and she had on a white nightgown.

“I wasn’t prepared for that. I had kind of felt like something was there, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have any idea I would see something like that.”

She said nobody else saw them.

“They [police] don’t like for anybody to go over there wandering around anymore,” she said. “They kind of keep it hush-hush.”

What about the results of the paranormal investigation?

“Nothing was ever said,” Rutledge said.

When contacted about the incident, Shelbyville Police Robert Schutte said, “I’d rather not comment about that.”



The old jail

If ever anyplace looked as if it could be haunted, the old jail building, located at the corner of Washington and 5th streets, is creepy looking enough to be featured in an old-time movie about vampires and werewolves, with its castle-like turrets and gloomy worn stone walls.

But is this old Shelby County landmark, built in 1847, really haunted?

Jack Lewis of Bagdad, who served two terms as Shelby County jailer in the 1990s, before the old Jail was replaced by the new Shelby County Detention Center, said he had heard tales of the old building being haunted, but he had never seen anything unusual there himself.

“Some of the inmates used to say they heard things,” he said.

There was a suicide, as well as several escapes from that jail, including that of Edwin Terrell, a guerrilla chief who, with his lieutenant, Harry Thompson, made a hole in the northwest corner of the building during the night.

He and Thompson had been charged with the murder of a man named Johnston, a stock trader who was boarding at the same house as they were, located about where 1st and Main Streets are now.

It is said that Terrell and Thompson lured Johnston to a lonely spot down the creek to rob him. They shot him, tied strings around the lower part of his trousers, loaded his clothes with stones and threw his body into the water.

But no one ever has suggested that left behind a ghost.