As a writer, I often tap into my local historical sites and since I’m all about the dark and creepy, I never pass up a good ghost story.
One of my favorite places is the Culbertson Mansion of New Albany. The home was built in 1867 for William Culbertson, who was once the richest man in Indiana. The home is three stories with hand painted ceilings and walls, carved rosewood staircase, marble fireplaces, and crystal chandeliers.
The mansion is open to the public for tours, and both visitors and curators have claimed to have seen a ghostly figure in the building. The legend is that the ghost of William Culbertson’s second wife haunts the house to protect her children from her husband’s third wife.
The rumors of the mansion being haunted spread and eventually the mansion’s carriage barn was turned into a haunted house during Halloween and people lined up to tour the building in hopes of seeing a ghost for themselves.
The following is a storyline for the current “Literally, A Haunted House” fundraiser, which raises the majority of the funds for the interior restoration of the mansion.
In 1933, it was sold to a Dr. Harold Webb, who moved in with his family. He set up a practice in the home and began to gain a number of patients. Over time, several patients went missing and his family began to notice strange noises and smells coming from the basement. In 1934, after a patient found the home locked at the time of their appointment and called the police, an investigation took place. Upon entering the home, the police found the entire family dead, each by torturous means of death. After further searching the home, the basement was found to have secret passageways where the doctor had kept the missing patients and performed gruesome experiments on them. After the cleanup, the building was locked up, but finally sold to the American Legion, who restored the building. When it was finally reopened, visitors noted unusual electrical problems, missing items, and other unexplained occurrences. The carriage house now serves as a haunted house during Halloween and the proceeds benefit the restoration and maintenance of the mansion of the estate.
So, how much of the story is true? William Culbertson was married three times, with his first two wives leaving him widowed. He willed the mansion to his third wife who auctioned off the house and its contents in 1899 to a New Albany resident, John McDonald. Upon his death, the American Legion obtained it and made extensive changes.
After several different owners, the mansion was in danger of being torn down in the 1960’s, but it was purchased in 1964 by the Historic New Albany group. The Halloween haunted house tours started in 1985 to raise restoration funds.
There is no mention of Harold Webb or the gruesome experiments, but that’s okay because it still makes for a good scary story.