The Culberston Mansion is a large Victorian-era mansion that stands in New Albany, Indiana. It holds not only a long history of Indiana but the creepy tales of fires, murders and cruel scientific experimentation. Probably the creepiest part of the mansion’s history was that of the insane doctor who experimented on his patients and killed his own family; and whose souls haunt the place up until now.
Civil War Hospital Legend
Before the flourishing of the business career of William Culberston and the construction of the Culberston Mansion, it is said that a Civil War Hospital once stood on the mansion’s site. Hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives in the location.
Most probably plagued with diseases such as dysentery and tuberculosis and others dying from war wounds and injuries. The existence of the said hospital is not confirmed, but the area was teeming with beleaguered and anguished souls, way before the mansion was erected.
The Culberston Mansion was the home of a rich man, William Culberston. He was probably the richest man in Indiana during the late 1800s and the mansion was proof of his social status. It was built in the year 1867 and was finished two years later due to the intricate and complicated architecture of the property.
The $120,000 worth, three-story mansion had twenty five fully furnished rooms with walls and ceilings carefully hand-painted. The linings of the ceiling frescoes were adorned by gold and brass finishings. A spiral stairwell decorates the middle of the house and the glistening crystal chandeliers reflect the afternoon sunlight.
Even the plumbing of the mansion was praised for it had an efficient waterway which delivered hot water for each room’s bath. A two-story carriage house was also built near the house, intended to house the Culberston’s horses on the first floor and use the second as a maid’s quarters.
During that time, a railroad was built just behind the property, the house obviously being one of the landmarks of the history of the development of Indiana. William Culberston had amassed a fortune through a dry-goods business but his family life was not as lucky as his financial status. Culberston has married twice during the construction of the mansion.
His first wife died before him. His second wife, Cornelia, already had children when they got married but Culberston’s love for her encouraged him to build a luxurious house for her and their family. Cornelia, however, passed away, too, and left her children to Culberston.
He then found a new love, his third wife, but this time, it was him who died first, just before the turn of the century in 1899. With no children interested in the property, Culberston willed the ownership of the house to his third wife.
In 1888, during a strong typhoon, lightning unfortunately hit the carriage house near the house. Following the hit, the carriage house caught on fire, not leaving time for the maids and the horses to escape the building. The carriage house was thoroughly damaged and all the living things; maids and horses, even the cat named Misty, were burnt alive.
After some time, the carriage house was fixed and renovated. New servants were hired but most of them reported having felt or seen ghostly figures in the maid’s quarters. This made them refuse to stay in the carriage house and left it empty and somehow decaying until the 1930s.
In the 1930s, the ownership of the house was transferred to the Mcdonalds, who in turn renovated the carriage house into a rental property. After only 3 years in the business, the Mcdonalds sold the property to the Webb family for unknown reasons.
The head of the Webb family, Dr. Harold Webb was an established doctor and dentist, who wanted to have a clinic in his own abode. He saw the Culberston Mansion as an ideal site for his family life and his profession so he bought it without hesitation. The slightly renovated carriage house was then again converted for a different purpose. He turned it into an office and a clinic.
At first, the family was overjoyed to be living in a beautiful mansion. However, there came a time when the children stated they had seen a ghostly shadow, the ‘dark man’ according to them, passing through their walls at night. This made the children thoroughly scared, making them bother their parents every night.
The terror did not stop there; the children then reported hearing chains at night. The clanging was so loud that it would resound in the walls of the house, even though it seemed that it came from the basement. Screams were also heard and a strong, pungent, horrid smell usually wafted through the mansion.
Though the mother tried to ignore the claims of her children, thinking that they were just making up stories, she could not deny the fact that she, too, smelled the horrible smell from the basement. Her husband, however, strongly disagreed that something was wrong.
Due to the continued clamors of their children about the dark man, the screams and chains and the unbearable smell, Dr. Webb would always check the basement and come back to ensure his family that nothing odd was happening in their basement.
The family would let things slip but some of Dr. Webb’s patients continued to go missing after having a consultation with him. They also noticed that the doctor’s behavior was starting to change. He would easily get angry at the smallest of things and would always look very anxious.
After some time, the family wasn’t the only ones feeling uncomfortable in the house and the clinic, Dr. Webb’s patients would also hear screams from below and would even feel ghostly activity going on. Due to this, Dr. Webb’s clinic started to get a tainted reputation with rumors of ghosts and unexplained events. This led him to lose a large chunk of his clientele.
As soon as it was found out that the last visited place of the missing patients was Dr. Webb’s clinic, an investigation of the house was commenced. Days after, some of the patients, apparently not believing the rumors that surrounded the mansion and the clinic, arrived for their respective appointments. To their surprise, the house and the clinic were locked. Thinking the family just went on a vacation, they left the mansion without suspicion.
The house had been void of activity days after and this initiated a police inspection of the house. The policemen forced entry into the establishment and the gore that they saw made their stomachs turn. All of the Webb family was brutally killed. The wife, the children and even Dr. Webb had been slaughtered.
The wife had a severely bruised body and her skull was cracked, their daughter had numerous stab wounds and the son had his skin partially taken off from his flesh. It is not known who killed the family but it is thought that Dr. Webb killed them and then committed suicide.
Upon further inspection of the house, the police found out that the house had a number of tunnels in the basement. Through the tunnels lay a number of rooms that were turned into an investigative facility where Dr. Webb performed many of his supposedly experimental procedures.
The bodies, thought to be the patients of Dr. Webb, were ruthlessly mutilated; their internal organs and body parts scattered all over the place. Some of them were already decaying. The hidden experiments and decaying bodies are probably the sources of the horrid smell and the screams that the children heard at night were the cries for help of the patients of their insane father.
The house was then locked up after everything was cleaned up. It was sold to the American Legion and after two decades, the house was considered as too rundown, and it was in danger of demolition to be replaced by a gas station. The locals opposed the knocking down of the place to the point that they even mortgaged their own properties to help save the Culberston Mansion.
In 1976, the state took over the ownership of the mansion and turned it into a historical site. The mansion and the carriage house underwent several renovations and it was able to regain its former glory. A non-profit group called ‘The Friends of the Culberston House Mansion’ spearheads the majority of the events held in the mansion.
During Halloween season, and even all-year round, the Carriage house serves as the main haunted house where several scaring events are held. A wax representation of the late William Culberston’s corpse in a coffin located in the house’s basement adds to the spookiness that the mansion already provides.
Ghosts Sightings and Encounters
The fire that engulfed the Carriage House killed a number of servants. As early as the 1890s, there were already a number of souls that roamed around the property.
The servants reported seeing shadows through the windows and hearing footsteps in the maid’s quarters.
The Second Wife
One of the ghosts of the Culberston Mansion is the spirit of William Culberston’s second wife, Cornelia.
She had died before Culberston, and left her children in the care of William and his third wife. Legend has it that Cornelia’s ghost returns to protect her children from the evil ways of the third wife.
Cornelia’s ghost is seen roaming around the main mansion, appearing and disappearing at random.
The Dark Man
The dark man was seen by the children of Dr. Harold Webb in the course of their stay in the house.
The dark man was a ghostly figure, resembling a shadow, which the children described as going through the walls of their rooms. The appearance of the dark man was the start of the mayhem in the house. It jump started the string of horrifying events that unfolded in the Culberston mansion.
The Gray Lady whose identity is still unknown, has been seen by servants, curators and visitors alike. Some believe that the gray lady is one of the servants who perished in the fire of 1888 but some hypothesize that the gray lady is indeed the second wife.
The apparition of the gray lady is often seen in her long gray skirt. Her wardrobe looks like it was from the late 1800s because of her black top shoes and black bow pinning her hair back.
On one occasion, a family visited the mansion out of pure curiosity of the ghosts that are rumored to haunt the mansion. The husband, who was a strong non-believer of ghosts, caught a glimpse of a lady in a gray skirt and black boots walking along the second floor before she vanished by passing through a wall. He looked for his wife and their female guide and they recalled hearing a clunk of high heeled boots from the second floor.
Misty the Cat
Apart from the ghosts of humans, the Culberston mansion also houses another variety of spirits.
There have been some reports of seeing a white cat, whom some believe as ‘Misty, the ghost cat’, going up the large, oval staircase. Misty can be expected to be seen on the nights when the moon is full.
The Culberston Mansion also has its share of possessed things. Stories from the staff include that of a tattered doll who walks into rooms at night.
The doll would go inside the children’s rooms and inspect the beds one by one. They testify that seeing an inanimate object walk and move on its own is much scarier than seeing the dark lady or Misty.
The anguished and angered spirits of Dr. Webb’s clinic are often heard though the clanking of chains coming from the basement.
Screams can also be heard in the dead of the night; startling the sleep of the staff who stay inside the mansion.
The lights in the main hallway would always flicker even though they are well maintained and often changed for new ones.
On one occasion, an employee recalled using the vacuum cleaner and making sure she turned it off. When she went to the other room, she heard the vacuum turn on. She came back and saw the vacuum cleaner unplugged and a vase of flowers scattered all over the floor. This event not only happened once, but twice.
The mansion has had a number of curators in the several years that is has been a historical museum.
Some of the curators and staff have left their positions because of the number of things that they have experienced in the Culberston mansion.
One curator recalled hearing footsteps to be followed by the loud noise of a piece of furniture being moved in the next room. The door slammed right after that. Though he admitted that he was terrified, he grew accustomed to the activity in the long run, as these events happened frequently.
Another curator shared that one time when she was locking up the place, she felt a presence. After she closed the door, she felt a hand push her when in fact, she was alone. She ran quickly to her apartment and locked up.
Common Ghostly Activities
Common ghostly activities seen and heard all over the house include whispers, murmurs, and closing and opening of doors from rooms which are obviously empty. The floorboards would creak, as if someone was tiptoeing over them.
At times, there are sightings of people passing by a window; which is a normal thing if the window is located in the ground floor. However, the people passing were seen through the second floor, a feat only possible if one was floating.
True Paranormal Hauntings