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This Indiana Road Was Built Around a Gravesite

Nancy Barnett's Grave

There’s a divided highway sign on Indiana's County Road 400 that may be the only one of its kind. It features a Christian Cross nestled between two diverging arrows. That’s because, just a bit further up the road, the highway splits in two around a lone grave.

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The gravesite belongs to Indiana native Nancy Kerlin Barnett, who died in 1831. The spot is considered by some to be one of the state's most haunted locations, but the real reason road workers were too spooked to relocate the grave 100 years ago has little to do with ghosts. 

Nancy Kerlin married William Barnett at the age of 14 and went on to have 11 children before passing away at 38. She was laid to rest in one of her favorite places, a small hill overlooking Sugar Creek in Amity, Indiana. After she was buried there, an intimate cemetery began to form around her grave. 

Sadly, the picturesque graveyard wasn’t around for very long. The county planned to build a road that ran right through it, so most of the graves were removed. The one exception was the grave of Nancy Kerlin Barnett, which her descendants insisted remain undisturbed. In order to ensure its safety, Nancy’s grandson Daniel (born 15 years after her death) camped out on the grave with a shotgun as the surrounding cemetery was relocated. The county eventually conceded and built the road around the untouched plot. A concrete slab was placed over her grave to protect it from traffic in 1912 and, in 1982, a historical marker was erected by her great, great-grandson and his son. Even after generations have fought to guarantee Nancy a peaceful afterlife, her grave still attracts visitors each year on Halloween.

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The Origins of 25 Monsters, Ghosts, and Spooky Things
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Though dressing up as an angel is acceptable, it’s ghouls and goblins that truly capture our imaginations during the Halloween season. As lit jack-o’-lanterns beckon and monsters lurk in the shadows, we explore the origins of 25 frightful things that go bump—or boo—in the night.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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