Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A couple, probably in the 50s or 60s drive out to the eponymous “Lovers Lane,” a popular spot for amorous couples to have a little alone time away from the lights of the city. As they sit in their car, doing whatever lovers do, they hear a radio broadcast, warning them that a crazed killer had escaped from a nearby insane asylum. They’re told he has a hook for a hand. While the young lady wants to get out of there and to somewhere safe, the boy is not yet ready to give up the little slice of privacy they’d found. A little bit later, a scratching, metal gouging sound can be heard from inside the car. It frightens the girl so the boy, being brave, steps out of the car to investigate, clearly the best thing to do in a horror urban legend, right? When he’s gone for entirely too long, the girl steps out to find out where he had gone. She finds him, hanging from a tree, disemboweled, and the iconic hook hangs on the car door, as if he’d been about to reach in and grab the remaining half of the couple.
I’m almost certain you’d heard that one before. It’s one of the most famous urban legends of the 20th century and still garners parody and praise. Sometimes, the lovers both make it out alive. Sometimes neither of them do. But the legend always has the radio broadcast and the hook hanging on the car door’s handle. What if I told you there was a slight kernel of truth about this wild story told around campfires at night? Today, we’re exploring the cemetery just off the very real Lover’s Lane. While its name is the Tillet cemetery, legally, locals call it the “Hookman Cemetery,” for the urban legend the location inspired. Let’s find out what other ghosts of stories and lives lived make their home there.
Just off Lover’s Lane and the Hoosier Heartland Highway, the Hookman Cemetery is tucked away into a small plot of land on the prairie, with large oak trees planted decades before the establishment of the graveyard. Thick, eerie fog rolls in and out of the land, giving it a spooky atmosphere and adding to the unsettling feeling already on one’s mind as they wander the headstones in disrepair. Legend says that the grave of the escaped convict with a hook for a hand is on the top of a hill in the Tillet Cemetery that would gain his name in infamy. Some locals say these encounters that would become urban legends were actually more accurate than one might think.
Those who visit the cemetery say that there’s immediately a sense of dread while walking through the cemetery, or even walking on the infamous Lover’s Lane. Visitors say that the ghost of the hookman still walks the road and rows of gravestones, still intent on dealing out his own brand of justice for promiscuous teens. Scratches on cars parked there are still reported, the sounds of a hook dragging against the metal still sometimes occurs, and the image of the Hookman has been sighted in a full body apparition on several occasions. He wanders, sometimes stopping to inflict terror, and moves on. No hook-related deaths have been reported in decades, if even at all, but the legend is still just as strong.
The Hookman may not be the only restless spirit in the Tillet Cemetery that now bears his name. Other visitors to the cemetery have reported hearing disembodied voices near the headstones, the feeling of footsteps following them on the trail, invisibly, and even cold spots and places where one feels like they’re being watched. That feeling would make the hair on the back of anyone’s neck stand at attention, especially with the creepy and near constant fog that covers the cemetery in a thin blanket and making everything more frightening all together.
One visitor describes a ghost hunting investigation in which they used a spirit box (a piece of equipment that shuffles through hundreds of radio station frequencies a second, said to be manipulatable by spirits.) As they got closer to the grave of a mother and her infant that passed away in childbirth, the sound of a baby crying was loud and clear on their spirit box. Another investigator told her story about walking the perimeter of the cemetery, unsettlingly feeling like they were being followed. She kept seeing a tall, shadowy figure in her peripheral vision, they heard leaves crunching and sticks breaking, but no one was there when they looked for the culprit. No word on whether the figure had a hook for a hand. Finally, as they left the cemetery, the temperature was significantly higher outside the property line of the cemetery.
The Tillet Cemetery, also known as Hookman Cemetery, has a legendary past, and continues to spook those brave enough to walk at night through the rows of headstones and the potential sounds of a scraping hook against cars and signs. Keep vigilant if you’re going to visit, and maybe keep the amorous activity to a minimum on Lover’s Lane in Peru, Indiana.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.