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Fort Wayne's 'ghost stories' mix history, folklore and storytelling

'Haunted' Allen County spots highlighted

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 10:23 am

Everyone enjoys a creepy ghost story, right? Let's use this spooky time of year as an excuse to let our imaginations run wild. So grab a seat by the fire, find a buddy and hold on tight because the frightening fun is about to begin as we explore Fort Wayne's most haunted spots. These are a few local ghost stories gathered from research and readers' tips. Passed down from generation to generation, many stories began with a small nugget of historical truth and – as with any good ghost story – the tales have evolved over the years into a mystery of their own.

Lady in White, near the Main Street bridge by the West Central neighborhood

Possibly one of Fort Wayne's most known ghost stories is the Lady in White. In the 1880s, people reported seeing a woman in a long, flowing white gown walking west down Main Street toward the bridge, oblivious to her surroundings. Many people called to her to no avail. As she continued walking, she abruptly stopped in the middle of the Main Street bridge and suddenly disappeared. Many passersby thought she had jumped off the bridge, and they called the police. The incident was reported in the Fort Wayne Gazette in August 1883. The Gazette reported that four “reliable and truthful citizens” witnessed the ordeal. The news of the mysterious woman circulated around town until police were posted to wait for her to come shortly after the first incident. And she did, but this time was different. Trampling through the quiet downtown, the woman was in a horse-drawn carriage.

Then, at the same spot, the woman, horse and carriage all disappeared.

The next month, The Fort Wayne Daily News published an article saying the ordeal was all a hoax. The article reported “Mr. Johnny Hanna, the son of Sam Hanna, esq., is the wizard who conjures up the spirit and makes it walk at pleasure. Young Hanna is the owner of a strong magic lantern, and on one of the slides is a finely executed picture of the famous statue, the 'Greek Slave.' With the lantern concealed, the young man has been able to throw a strong, specture-like form in the mist that gathers about the river bottoms and has had no end of fun at the expense of others.”

The Mason Long House, 922 Columbia Ave.

Mason Long's life is a story of highs and lows. He was born in 1842, and his parents both died by the time he was 10 years old. After his parents' deaths, the orphan became an indentured servant to a German farmer. By 1862, he joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War.

After his stint in the Army, Long came to Fort Wayne in 1865 and opened a restaurant and gambling house. At one time, his gambling house was profitable, but by 1877, it had left him penniless. During these tough times, Long turned to alcohol, but then was saved by Christianity.

In later years, he became a successful stockbroker and partnered with George Pixley, of Pixley & Co. clothing store. After his renewed success, Long built a handsome house at 922 Columbia Ave., a house that many people today report is haunted. In 1902, Long died in his home of “apoplexy” or more commonly known as a stroke.

The large, two-story home boasts 14 rooms and is now occupied by Laura and Ralph McCaffery. When the couple moved into the house in 1965, Laura scoffed at the rumors of the house being haunted, until the house started getting “noisy.”

The house tends to get “noisy” around this time of year; that's how they try to explain the mysterious changes in lights and foggy appearances in the halls.

Every now and then, they catch a whiff of an old-fashioned perfume that they believe belongs to a woman. But the owners don't mind sharing the space.

“I would never want to get rid of him,” Laura said in a 2001 News-Sentinel article. “It's the ambiance of the house.”

Today, the home is covered by overgrown foliage, vines and trees, which add to the even more mysterious allure of the historic home.

Lovers Lane or the Dutch Bicycle Bandit, near Hessen Cassel off Paulding Road

According to a story from ARCH, two young lovers with the last names Herbers and Fisher took a drive to a secluded spot to be alone. A police officer chased them away from the school at Seiler and Adams Center Road, and they continued south on Adams Center to Paulding, then took a left over to Hessen Cassel and parked their car just north of this location. It was a well-known Lovers Lane.

They were found the next morning by a farmer, who called police. Both had been shot in the head, and the gun was found on the seat, near Herbers' hand. However, police quickly determined that the couple had been robbed and murdered.

After the murders, several embarrassed couples came to the police and admitted that they, too, had been robbed along Lovers Lane. Several described the assailant as using a bicycle and speaking with a heavy German accent. The assailant became known in the press as the “Bicycle Bandit,” and young couples who braved the make-out location continued to see the mysterious man on the bicycle. Some also reported seeing mysterious things and heard what sounded like screams.

A suspect was finally identified as a man known as “Dutch” who spoke in broken English, lived in a shack near today's Pontiac Street roundabout and was often seen riding his bicycle at night. The police searched the shack and found much of the stolen jewelry but never found “Dutch.” The Bicycle Bandit was never captured, and some say he still rides the roads of southeastern Allen County on his bicycle, looking for another couple to surprise.

Devils Hollow, near the neighborhood off Liberty Mills Road

A young man and his girlfriend were returning home from a party late one night. As the couple began driving down Devil's Hollow, the car suddenly ran out of gas. The man told the woman to wait in the car while he walked to the nearest gas station about a mile away. As he began to fetch the gas can out of the trunk, she rolled up the windows and locked the doors. She waited. And waited. As she sat alone in the darkness, she began to feel scared. Then she heard raindrops on the roof of the car, but when she looked out the window, she saw it was, in fact, not raining. She slowly opened the door and stepped out of the car. When she looked up to see what was making the noise, she saw her boyfriend hanging by his feet, upside-down from a tree branch. His throat had been slit, and the dripping she had heard was the blood hitting the car.

Devil's Hollow, near Cedar Canyon Road near Auburn Road

An old woman used to live in a house that overlooks Devil's Hollow near Coldwater and Auburn roads. One Halloween night, a group of trick-or-treaters visited her house after ignoring warnings from their parents to stay away. The story says the woman lured the group of kids into the house with candy. Then she killed each child, cut them into pieces and buried them under the road leading to the house.

Another story suggests that the old woman who lived in the house was constantly picked on by local teens because of the rumors surrounding her supposedly haunted house. One night, a group of teens was visiting the house and things got out of hand. The teens set the house of fire with the woman inside. Trapped inside the cabin, she burned to death. Today, she supposedly haunts the grounds scaring off people trespassing.

The phantom Amish lantern

On a dark night after a bad thunderstorm, a young Amish girl went looking for a cow that got loose. As she walked down Bruick Road near Woodburn, a car came speeding down the road. According to the story, the driver was unaware of the young girl and, apparently, drunk. The driver lost control of the car and ran over the girl, killing her instantly.

The girl's father was also out in the fields that night. He heard the tires screech and the girl's wailing scream, then a loud thud. Of course, he went running to the commotion.

When the driver saw the man running toward the scene with a bright, glowing lantern in his hand, the driver immediately started the car, threw it in gear and drove off. They never found the driver.

The story claims the father still roams fields around Bruick looking for the person who killed his daughter. It's said if you drive out to the road and see the light, no matter how fast you drive the light will continue to get closer and closer until it finally finds you.

The Pfeiffer House, 434 W. Wayne St

The Pfeiffer family lived in the Pfeiffer House for decades after the huge home was built in 1905. Fred and Margarite Pfeiffer grew up in the house. When Margarite was married, she moved, leaving Fred in the house until he moved to an assisted-living center in 1989. In 1994 he died, but many believe Fred still returns to his childhood home.

Clark Valentine, the current owner, has had his own experience in the house. He has seen salt and pepper shakers tumble to the floor when no one is around. He has heard notes being played on a piano while the house was empty. Even a lone server at the Pfeiffer House & Wayne Street Soda Shop was creeped out after she heard doors opening and closing upstairs while she prepared lunch.

Valentine doesn't know exactly who is haunting the house, but he likes to think it's Fred.

“He loved the house. He could be looking over our shoulders, making sure everything is up to speed,” he said in a 2001 News-Sentinel article. Valentine worked for Pfeiffer in the years right before his death. Valentine said he was an intelligent businessman who donated much of his fortune to local charities.

Does Fort Wayne's rumored haunted history have you spooked? Do you have a story to share or a different variation of the story? Share your story with us by commenting on this article on News-Sentinel.com. Come on! We love a good ghost story!