The Haunted Coffin Handle of Graceland Cemetery

In 1907, the Trib asked for readers to send in accounts of paranormal experiences. One anonymous guy sent in a second-hand story of an man in the Austin neighborhood, a “stalwart Norseman” who had experienced something that had “transformed a skeptic into an ardent believer in the occult.”

The “norseman” was a widower with four children. One day, while visiting his wife’s grave at Graceland, his oldest daughter found a gorgeous silver coffin handle lying around – one which had apparently broken off of a recently-exhumed coffin. It was said to feature “exquisite workmanship,” and the daughter took it home with her.

That very night, as the man sat smoking in his library, he heard the vestibule door swing open and a mad flurry of feet charging in. But when he got up to investigate, there was no one there, and the door was still locked.

The incident happened again night after night, and the footsteps extended their reach from the front vestibule to all over the house. “The noises,” the teller wrote the Trib, “increased until pandemonium reigned every night, and the family was panic stricken and nightly locked themselves in their rooms.” Furniture began to moved around, and the piano opened and closed violently. The family, in the typical style of ghost hunting of the era, would charge downstairs with guns, but would find nothing.

They were just about to abandon their haunted house when the father, on a thorough search, found the coffin handle in a basket of curios in the fireplace. He took the handle and threw it as far into the alley as he could – and that was the end of the ghost.

This particular  sort of “took an object from a graveyard” story (a pretty standard folk motif) always leaves me with a lot of questions. In this case:

 – Why not return it to the cemetery?
 – So, was the ALLEY haunted now that the coffin handle was there?
 – Why make such an effort to throw it? You could get it further away if you just TOOK it someplace. I’d kind of expect it to crawl back, like the cat in “The Cat Came Back,” if I didn’t get it further from the alley.

At least it’s not as bad as the “Golden Arm” story, in which a guy decides not to bury his wife with her golden arm and gets haunted by her. Who the hell gets a false arm made out of gold? Most of the variations on that story don’t say how the woman died, but it was probably either of curvature of the spine or running out of money and starving to death because she blew all of the family money on a ridiculously impractical golden arm (and god knows what ELSE such a person was spending money on). I have no sympathy for anyone wanting to be buried with such an expensive item. Leave it up in the world where it can still do some good, why doncha? Also, gimme your organs.

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