Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology Site of the Month

(MORGON-MONROE STATE FOREST) – Established by Reuben E. Stepp in the mid-nineteenth century, Stepp Cemetery (CR-53-314) lies in the middle of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

Stepp Cemetery entrance sign topped with a beer bottle (Photo courtesy of the University of Indianapolis).

The land began as a family cemetery but later became a community cemetery after Reuben Stepp’s death. Sometime before his death, Stepp built a church next to the cemetery. He willed the church to any parish that may need it so long as they are Christian.

During the early twentieth century, a Christian subset came to run the church. This group was known as the Crabbites, and they practiced many unorthodox rituals and beliefs. For example, the group regularly practiced snake handling and praying in tongues (Dunn 2012).

During the Great Depression, the Morgan-Monroe State Forest was established, and the Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with the upkeep of the cemetery. During this time, a tree stump in the cemetery was carved into a chair (Reece 2015).

Twenty years later, this chair and the legacy of the Crabbites would cause Stepp Cemetery to become one of the most popular legends tripping sites in Indiana. Legend Tripping is a cultural phenomenon in which groups, often teenagers, visit a site of local folklore to participate in the legends.

The legends of Stepp Cemetery state that a woman in black haunts the cemetery and sits in the stump to watch over her child or husband. Also according to legend, this stump, known as the Warlock Seat, will curse any who sit in it (Clement & Lightfoot 1971). This chair no longer exists as it was burned down in 1974 (Indiana Daily Student 1974). However, another stump has inherited the legacy of the Warlock Seat.

Original Warlock Seat (Clements & Lightfoot 1971).

In the spring of 2019, the University of Indianapolis conducted a pedestrian survey around the perimeter of the cemetery to locate evidence of legend tripping. This evidence was found in the form of many beer bottles and cans, soda cans, cigar wrappers, and even a candle glass. Additionally, many examples of vandalism were documented including graffiti and many smashed headstones.

Heavily vandalized headstone (Photo courtesy of the University of Indianapolis).