Bridge Road Ghost Story
The old Simpsen shack, about a half mile
northwest of Mayville (intersection of Baum’s Bridge Rd. and 1050
S) on the Kankakee River was never thought of as a haunted house.
It was a two-room lean-to, with nothing to lean upon.
Abadiah Simpen had built it as the first unit of a spacious
new home for his bride. It
took “Ab” two years to finish the first unit, but when his wife
died at the end of that time he just couldn’t see what he and
little Pete wanted of more house.
So for years the odd looking structure, although occupied,
was neither house, barn nor shed. It was a landmark.
Eng Zimmerman wrote, “The old unpainted board-and-bat
building stands unmolested. The
doors are not fastened, and the contents of the two rooms seems much
as though someone had just left the house.
Bedding has been packed in rodent proof boxes covered with
tar paper, but otherwise the structure, except for a long-time
accumulation of dust, seems as though the occupants were to be gone
but a short time.”
It was in 1893 that old Ab died, when Pete was about seventeen.
Mr. Simpsen died firmly convinced in his own mind that Pete
was going to marry one of the Benkie girls, complete the house, and
become a farmer, but Pete had other ideas.
Hardly had the sod covered his father’s grave when he
closed the door and walked away.
Within a year the Porter County Coroner’s office heard from
a like officer in Montana that Pete and his horse had been washed
off a pass at Green Gumbo Hill, in a heavy rainstorm, and both had
The couple that told this story said, “Just say the Jones or
Smiths or Browns were the people involved.
We have been visited by too many curious people, and have
told the tale too many times.”
Ma and I got caught in that low spot in the road, just a
little ways from Simpsen’ house, in 1912.
That hole wasn’t so deep, but no tires could take hold.
Not only were we stuck in the soft-soap mud, but we were also
caught in a May-day downpour, so we let the car stand, took my
flashlight, and waded across the mud to the Simpsen house.
It wasn’t locked, and inside it was comparatively orderly.
Nothing seemed to be damaged.
There was a thick layer of dust over everything, but to us it
was quiet and inviting, compared with the heavy rain.
We had been spending the afternoon down in Jasper County and
were trying to get home before dark.
There were two bunks in the room, but no bedding.
There were two tar-papered covered boxes in the room, which I
made no effort to open. Under
the porch was a goodly supply of dry wood, so I soon had a nice
blaze going in the old fireplace.
I returned to the car and got our lap robes, in those days we
had no such a thing as a car heater, we used to have a charcoal
foot-warmer, and robes. I
tried to fix the side-curtains down tightly, and then hurried to the
cabin, where we knew we would have to spend the night.
We spread our wet clothes before the fire, and lay down on the
we slept because I remember getting up and replenishing the fire.
Sometimes I have since figured it must have been about three
o’clock n the morning. I
felt a presence in the room, I opened my eyes, and saw a young man
standing between me and the fire, I could not see the details.
I heard Ma gasp and whisper, “Pa, Pa” and at the sound of
her voice the figure vanished like a cloud.
It just sort of melted away.
After a few seconds of shock, I got up and went and sat on
the edge of Ma’s bunk and whispered, “Did you see him?”
She couldn’t answer. She
clutched my arms fiercely and I knew I hadn’t been dreaming.
There was no denying that we were scared, and spoke in
whispers. I think we
clung to each other for a few minutes. Then I added a few small
sticks to the fire, being very careful not to decrease the flame.
We didn’t want any further darkness in that room, until
daylight, which I acknowledge, was forever in coming, we sat side by
side on Ma’s bunk, with the lap robes around our shoulders.
Every once in a while I’d turn on my flashlight, we called them
dark lanterns then, into
the dim corners of the tow rooms.
Do you remember those 1911 lights?
Operated by acetylene, and a miniature water compartment from
which one let drops of water fall to the carbide in a lower chamber,
they had a mask or slide over the lens.
After I had lighted the gas I began to worry.
I couldn’t remember if I had added sufficient water and
carbide when we started out, and to be without a light to penetrate
the dark corners seemed to most a horrific probability.
I even turned the two bunks end wise to the fire so they
would not cast so great a shadow behind us.
Sometime during that period of never-ending morning house before
daylight, I realized that the rain had stopped, and the silence was
more fearful than the pounding of rain on the roof.
At the first evidence of dawn we went back to the car.
I seemed so big and staunch sitting there that I cranked it
up, and tried once more to get out of the mud, but the wheels simply
spun around in the slippery mire, so we walked u the road to John
Morrison’s house. John
was just going out milking, and he stopped and waited for us.
Ma and I had said, “Let’s not talk about what we saw”
and I acquiesced, so I simply said, “Mr. Morrison, can we hire
your team to pull us out of the mud, we can’t make it?”
He put his milk bucket down, and threw the harness on his
mule team, and went back to the mud hole, and pulled us through with
the greatest of care. As
I cranked the car again I casually asked, “Whose house is that?
There seems to be no one at home.” And he said, “That’s
the Simpsen place. Young
Pete went out West and left it, heard he got killed on a narrow pass
over a hill someplace in Montana.
Somebody said it was a trail covered with a soft green clay
they called green gumbo, and he and his horse slipped over and fell
a hundred feet of more.”
Well, that’s about all there is to the story, except that when we
got home and I took the lap robes into the house, Ma almost passed
out, clinging to the corner of the one that had been partly on the
floor by the fireplace, was a big glob of green gumbo mud.