Old Book at the Crying Tree
Best documented witnessing of a ghost, ever. Happened one hundred and nine years ago in central Illinois where I grew up.
“It was awful but it was real,” Doctor George Zeller wrote: “I saw it, one hundred nurses saw it and three hundred spectators saw it…”
He had gone mad at the printing house where he worked, they said, when they brought the sturdy but mute man from the Chicago poorhouse to the Peoria State Hospital. A. Bookbinder was now his name. He soon came to be known as Old Book. Doctor Zeller, the new superintendent, a reformer, removed the words “Incurable Insane” from the name of the asylum, removed the bars from the windows, and the restraints from the patients. Gave Old Book the job of digging the graves for the deceased. At each funeral, after the choir, Old Book leaned against a great elm tree, in the middle of the cemetery, removed his cap and wept vociferously for the dead man whether he knew him or not. The years passed. One day Old Book died. After the choir sang “Rock of Ages” the four pallbearers heaved up the ropes under the casket and fell flat on their backs. A baleful wail rose up. When the hundreds of mourners in broad daylight turned to see, Old Book was there at the Crying Tree. Panic ensued. Doctor Zeller ordered the coffin be opened. As soon as they did the keening apparition vanished. Old Book lay inside and the man’s weight returned to the casket. Soon after the great old tree died from disease. Doctor Zeller ordered the Crying Tree cut down. But when they tried a grim moan rose up with each chop until the workmen could not stand it and ceased. Later they tried to burn the dead tree but an even worse wailing erupted so Doctor Zeller ordered that they leave Old Book’s Crying Tree alone.