Mysterious Willows Weep — Cayuga, IN (2024)

For a number of years now, there has been one haunting in Indiana that has been petitioning to place itself at the top of the evilest in the state,and that location is Willows Weep. With a loose history of traumatic events entwined with the ghost lore of this location, what events of Willows Weep’s past connect to the paranormal claims of its visitors? Ultimately though, the bigger question is, does our site truly matter regarding paranormal research?

— Evel Ogilville

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Willows Weep
5173 North Elm Tree Road

Approximate 1,427-square-foot single-family home, believed built in 1890;AnuelSykesoftenreferenced as original owner

Owners/Occupants, Notes of Interest

•David Spinks

oCurrent owner,a paranormal investigator

•Brenda Zimmerman

oPurchased in 2010

•Curtis and Cheryl Skinner

oPurchased in 1999

oCheryl died in 2001 at age 42 of myocardial infarction; residing in home at time of death.

oCurtis died in 2009 at age 63 of self-inflicted gunshot wound in the home.

•Janie and Ritchie Keller

oPurchased 1997

•SharonGolcynski(akaWalters/CliffordWest/StanleyGolcynski),deed transactions 1988-1989

oSharonGolcynskipurchased in 1978 from Letha Wampler

▪“Estate Case Under Advisem*nt By Circuit Judge” – Witnesses mainly from Cayuga take stand concerning contesting of marriage of Leatha (sic?) Wampler and Robert Sandlin, by those claiming to be his legal heirs. (Daily Clintonian, 4/27/1951)

▪Siblings contest Sandlin died intestate and unmarried at time of his death in 1950; resident of Vermillion County and was the owner of real estate. (Daily Clintonian, 4/26/1951)

•Died 6/23/1950 of coronary occlusion, weeks before real estate transaction published, at residence?(see below); coroner’s inquest indicated.

▪Real Estate Transaction – Mary Mae Runyan (Sykes’ daughter, see below) and others to Robert Sandlin and wife lot 3, block 1. Eugene. William Collett’s addition. (Daily Clintonian, 7/5/1950). Property description matches today’s current location.

Historic Timeline


Home referenced asbuilt byAnuelSykes (also transposedAnul,Annuel,Annel, Annual,Amiel,Sikes, Tykes,Lykes) in 1890

•References to Sykes’ residence

o1860& 1870Census – Clay Township, Wayne County child in home of father Jesse Sikes

o1880 Census – Boarder – George Street

o1900 Census – Vermillion Township, Vermillion County

o1910 Census – Cayuga, Eugene Township, Vermillion County

o1920 Census – Collett Town (unincorporated), Eugene Township, Vermillion County

▪Collettownreferenced as suburb of Eugene

▪Legal description of Elm Tree Road parcel is W.C. Collett addition

▪“AnnelSykes of Gallatin, five miles east of here has purchased Joseph Mitchell’s residence property inCollettown.Mr. Sykes will get possession in September, when he will move there.” (Newport Hoosier State,8/23/1905)

▪“Mrs. SallieJulickof Eugene has purchased a residence propertyofAnuelSykes.The property acquired is the cement dwelling, adjoining Mr. Sykes’ home place, and she will occupy the place for a home.” (Cayuga Herald, 1/31/1913)

o1930 Census – Eugene, Eugene Township, Vermillion County(Eugene written in street designation column)

o1930 Clinton City Directory – Cayuga, RD 1

oReal Estate Transaction –AnuelSykes to Mrs. R. B. Pearson, partlot 1, in W. M. Collett’s add (Daily Clintonian, 12/12/1936)

oReal Estate Transaction –AnuelSykes to ArnoldCheesmanblock 1, Collett’s add. (Daily Clintonian, (8/8/1945)

•AnuelSykes, born 1858, son of Jesse B. and Mary AnnBishPetty Sykes. Married Minnie Lamb in 1887. Minnie died in 1932 of bronchial pneumonia(likely at residence; no other location of death given.)Anueldied in 1950 ofcerebral hemorrhage in Dana (length of stay listed as 5mos; usual residence listed as Eugene.)

oCouple had one child, Mary Mae Runyan (1897-1986)

▪“Miss May (sic?) Sykes is under the doctors care. She was nearing a nervous breakdown,but is now improving.” (Cayuga Herald, 1/12/1923)

oAnuelfarmer, shopkeeper,onetimepostmaster at Gallatin (5 miles west of Cayuga)

▪“AnuelSykes, the store keeper in Stumptown, sold his property to Wm. Ditto, and is now moving to Eugene, where he will retire from business. Mr. Sykes was a good man and he will be much missed in our town.” (Stumptown Danville Democrat; reprinted Cayuga Herald, 8/26/1905)

•“Stumptown” – Unincorporated, approximatelyfour and halfmiles north of Dana. In 1900,AnuelSykes bought two acres, house and store building. Post office also added to store, named “Galatin.” In 1903, Sykes gave up post office and it was forgotten. Also bought blacksmith shop nearby. Brothers George and Elias built store south of schoolhouse. In 1905Anuelsold all 42 acres, including house. (“Vermillion County, Ind. History & Family Vol. 1, 1990)

•Family tragediesoJesse B. Sykes (father, 1818-1892)

▪References to residence

•1860& 1870Census – Clay Township, Wayne County

•1880 Census – N. Half of VermillionTwp

oElizabeth Petty listed as unmarried, residing next door; six children, noted as living with grandfather; some speculation Elizabeth also married to Jesse(she later took the Sykes name), and that hefatheredsome or all of herchildren (see below)

▪Also appears her age may have been changed by census taker from 30 to 36; speculation done after age of son revealed to be 19

•1900/1910 – Vermillion Township; wife Mary(1828-1915)with son Elias as head of household

▪Incest indictment – 1874state charged filed againstJessefor engagingin unlawful sexual intercourse with stepdaughter Elizabeth Petty (daughter of Mary AnnBishPetty Sykes;approximateage at time of indictment25)

▪“Devoured by Hogs” – Jesse Sykes, an old farmer and respected citizen of this township, residing about three miles west of town, met with a most horrible death. After did not return for dinner after going tohog lot (about 100 yards from residence) to feed hogs, stepdaughter (some believe Elizabeth) went to check on him and found fifteen to twenty hogs feeding on his remains. Suffered from epileptic fits; was believed he had fed hogs and was returning to residence when he was stricken and paralyzed and before could recover, “the hogs had partly devoured him.”Remains removed to the house.(Clay County Enterprise, reprinted Newport Hoosier State, 11/24/1892)

•Other family/location referencenotes of interest

o“He StillLiveth: We were a little premature in our statement that Jesse Sykes, ofOpedee,had dropped dead. He fell over in a fit …” (Newport Hoosier State, 2/1/1882)

▪Opedeelocated southeast of Newport.

oEli and Elias Sykes, twins, were given a birthday celebration at the home of their mother, northwest of town. (Cayuga Herald, 4/13/1901)

oMrs. Mary Ann Sykes, who makes her home with her son, Elias Sykes, at Gallatin(sic), five miles west of here, was given a surprise by her children in honor of her 79thbirthday.The old lady went to church and while there relatives and friends gathered at her home … counter in storeroom cleared and food spread on it. (Newport Hoosier State, 7/12/1905)

▪George and Elias Sykes built store, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop in Stumptown in 1904.

oMrs. Mary Ann Sykes of Stumptown is visiting her son,AnuelSykes, and family.(Cayuga Herald, 8/7/1909)

Vermillion County

Once home to mound-building Native Americans; clusters of mounds found along tract of land between Eugene and Newport, and southeast of Dana. Later home to native tribes including Miami, Kickapoo,Mosquitanand Pottawatomie. Treaty grounds at Big Springs, south of Eugene. First settlers in 1816.

•Eugene Township – Formed in 1828, contains two large towns, Eugene and Cayuga. Towns developed close to each other, nearly form one large town. Eugene platted 1827; Cayuga developed around Eugene Station, railroad depot built in 1870 southeast of Eugene. Once contained many Indiana villages and trading posts. Gen. William Henry Harrison’s crossing of Big Vermillion Riverenroute to Tippecanoe to battle Indians in 1811 marked.

Haunted house lore

Location rumored to have been site of numerous deaths, including murders and suicides, and home to malevolent forces; home said to have been built in shape of cross that faces east; original ownercharacterizedassuperstitious recluse.Paranormal investigators’claims includeattacks,disembodied voices, shadow figuresandpoltergeist activity.Profiled in episode of History Channel’s “TheUnXplained” as “The Most Haunted House in America.”


•Style of home described as likelyeither a cross- or T-plan cottage dating from between probably 1885-1900;alterations/additionsappear evidentin the southwest corner;corners of the cross/T have been filled inand likelythat at least one (but possibly both) of those areas were porches at one time. The angled windows on the gable ends (the front and side walls that have triangular roof shape) relatively common feature called chamfered corners. Often, as is the case here, there is a decorative bracket set above the window on these chamfered corners.If a corner was chamfered there may or may not be windows on the wall; angled corner was simply different decorative twist on common house form of the time.

•Little addition between two of the arms of the “T” added later, so would not be considered part of the design of the house; longer arm of “T” that makes house into cross shape may also have been an addition to the house. Interior corner points could once have been part of a feature there likeabracket that has since disappeared, perhaps part of chamfered or beveled corners.

•Fairly typical late 19th-century house form; details lean bit towards Stick-style architectural features; also not too atypical of a Victorian-era vernacular worker’s cottage.

Additional sources:Indiana Historical Society,,, Ball State University,Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Vermillion County Historic Plat Book

Mysterious Willows Weep — Cayuga, IN (2024)
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