Home Artifacts Ghosts of Franklin’s past are still said to haunt attractions

Ghosts of Franklin’s past are still said to haunt attractions

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With 200 years of history, Franklin has no shortage of places with ghost and paranormal lore.

The Daily Journal has traveled to some of these locations, looking for stories of communication from the other side.

The candlelight house

East of Interstate 65 in rural Franklin, Candlelight House has been around for over 150 years. The windows of the house were once lit by cheerful candles, but today most windows are closed and furniture, artifacts and spirits remain from the original owners.

The house was built in 1868 by John and Mary Owens. John Owens died that year and Mary Owens continued to live there with their children. Their youngest son William T. Owens and his wife, Cordelia, lived there with their seven children. The eldest of these children, Anna Owens, married William Pritchard, and they had their only son, Otho Henry Pritchard, who was the last resident of the family.

Pritchard died in 1995, but he still lives there to this day, say current owners Ella Casper and her husband, Adam Eichhorn. His mother would also always be present at the house.

On one occasion, Eichhorn was with a friend visiting the house when the two heard knocking and filmed it. There was no one else in the house. Another time, Eichhorn said, Pritchard left a message between visits to the house.

“Our medium-sized friend walked through the house and said the window was closed on the outside, and when you take the boards off, don’t be surprised if you see faces staring at you, and that made me look that window,” Eichhorn said. “We first took (our friend) Wendy and her kids and went to the back room and said ‘this is Henry’s room’. The second visit this afternoon, we did the same visit and walked through the house. We didn’t know many stories, we underlined things we knew and went to the back room and said “this is Henry’s room”. We looked out the window and ‘Otho’ had been pushed into the dirt on the glass.

The lettering is still present on this glass, and Eichhorn believes this was a correction, as Pritchard wished to be referred to by his first name rather than his middle name. Casper did not experience any of the spirit presences when he was alone in the house, but visitors who stopped by heard the sound of children crying, chains under the floor, and scraping noises on doors.

While visiting the Daily Journal, our camera ran out of battery without warning. Batteries dying in the home are a common occurrence, homeowners said.

Visitors say they feel a general sadness in the upstairs bedroom that belonged to Anna Owens, where she died, the owners said.

Paranormal investigators have detected the presence of spirits in the house and believe they are friendly to the owners because the spirits can tell they are not there to disturb them. The couple have been working to preserve the home since 2014 and continue to sort and preserve artifacts left behind by the family.

“I’ve spent the last three summers cleaning (the house). I found a heart-shaped padlock, a harmonica, an ice cream maker, things of life that have lived in this house for 154 years,” Casper said. “Hopefully we find more and continue to preserve the house. I want to keep it that way. The ghosts are just an added bonus.

Casper and Eichhorn are quick to remind people that trespassing is illegal and anyone interested can request a visit through The Candlelight House’s Facebook page.

The Villard

The Willard is one of the few establishments near the intersection of Main and Madison streets that people claim to be haunted, the others being the Main and Madison Market Café building and the Historic Artcraft Theater.

The restaurant was once a hotel, welcoming travelers from 1922 through the early 1970s. Original hotel signage greets diners as they enter. Alongside the historical elements, however, come paranormal rumours, well known to owner Tom Priola, who took over in 2015, with his parents running things from 1990.

“A lot of people have ideas about what happened here back then. Retired police officers have talked about deporting people who died years and years ago. Eliza, one of the previous owners, haunts the Willard to this day,” Priola said. “She died in an apartment adjoining the building.”

The Willard, a former hotel turned restaurant, has its own paranormal stories. ANDY BELL-BALTACI | DAILY NEWSPAPER

But it goes deeper than that, according to the ghost stories revealed by Festival Country Indiana in their ghost tour brochure.

“In 1924, when the Willard was a hotel, one of the owners discovered that her fiancé and her sister were having an affair,” the brochure says. “Angry, she closed the hotel and lived there alone for the rest of her life. After her death, the building was turned into a restaurant, but many say her spirit never left. It is said that she was seen and heard haunting the halls, still angry at the betrayal she faced.

Over the years, Priola has seen lights flicker and glasses fall from the bar intact.

“There’s a weirdness here, turning off the lights at night and the hair on the back of your neck stands on end,” Priola said. “We had people who wanted to spend the night and had little gadgets. They said they felt things in different rooms. There is a lot to understand, especially at night.

Main and Madison

Before being a cafe, Main and Madison was Johnson County Hospital. It was the only medical center in the county until shortly after World War II when Johnson Memorial Hospital opened.

The old hospital was converted into a medical practice before it closed in 2016. Main and Madison co-owner Amy Richardson was among three people who bought the building and gave it new life as a cafe.

“When we arrived, it was a (former) hospital. People probably died here. We came here knowing that,” Richardson said. “There’s dry storage downstairs and we’re pretty confident it was the morgue.”

Richardson had no experiences that she would call paranormal, but she did not count the possibility of ghosts wandering around and said the people working there had heard strange noises.

“In 2020, we conducted a paranormal investigation in the building and our employees thought there was something there,” Richardson said. “Paranormal investigators spent a late night with us in the morning and said they found some strange readings, but nothing unfriendly or wrong. People come in and say ‘we heard there’s had paranormal activity,” but a lot of buildings in Franklin say so too.

The Historic Craft Theater

The Artcraft is a week away from celebrating its 100th anniversary and with that story comes ghost stories. Many have worked or volunteered at the theater over the past century and some would never have left.

One such story involves Irene Petro, a popcorn stand worker who has served theatergoers for decades, said Rob Shilts, executive director of Franklin Heritage, which operates the theater.

“Once she passed away the new popcorn person was handing out the popcorn and went to turn around to go to the cash register and when she turned around buckets of popcorn had blown from the counter. She put it back on the counter and she went to the cash register and it happened again,” Shilts said.

Another story concerns a former projectionist.

“He was doing maintenance and stuff and working on the seats. He saw a skinny man walking down the slide towards the stage. He came out of the aisle of chairs and walked over there and didn’t see anyone,” Shilts said. “He turned around and saw the figure fading into the wall of the hall and since then he’s been calling this Mr. Art Craft, as a character.”

Then something even crazier happened, he said.

“Many years later we had an intern who could create some sort of logo or mascot if you will from Artcraft and he drew this picture of a tall, thin man who didn’t know history, and the projectionist came and saw the drawing and said ‘Oh my God, this is fine craftsmanship.’

Most of the paranormal stories happened in the 80s and 90s, and Shilts thinks the ghosts left after the building was renovated, but can understand why they were there for so long.

“If I was a ghost, I’d be hanging out at Artcraft,” he said. “What a fun place to come in October and add a little more fear.”