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Driven away by phantom father-in-law

The Vanderlip Home, one of the many mansions which stood in Elkhart in the early 19th century




The following news story comes from the March 21, 1907 edition of the Spanish Fork (Utah) Press:

Elkhart, Ind.-- Harassed by the stalking specter of his aged father-in-law, John B. Garman, who died two years ago, John Otterson has abandoned a palatial suburban place which was bequeathed to him by his deceased relative. Otterson is a wealthy retired merchant, having been in business in Elkhart for a number of years.

While Mr. Otterson is not prone to believe in ethereal materializations, he asserts that in spirit form his father-in-law haunted him. The apparition followed him over the premises, stiid by him when he attempted to do light work about his country home, and frequently  was his companion during the dead hours of night. That Mr. Otterson has an ordinary temperament, and is not at all given to nervousness, makes his story of the ghost all the more remarkable. He is a giant physically, and mentally, well-educated and well read.
 Otterson claims that he only escaped the apparition when away from the home and without the boundaries of the luxuriant gardens where his deceased relative spent the greater part of his four score years.
The aged Mr. Garman, one of the pioneers of Elkhart County, left a large estate. To his daughter, Mrs. Otterson, and her husband he bequeathed the greater part of it.


The eccentric old gentleman, who has come back from the spirit world to haunt the living, died from a broken heart, his only son having met a tragic death. Dating from that incident to the time of his demise, which occurred six months later, Mr. Garman walked sorrowfully about the premises lamenting through the long hours of the summer days his son's untimely death and refusing to be solaced. His grief was deep seated, and he virtually walked out his life on the familiar paths of the old homestead.


It is in the picturesque brick mansion about and around his favorite earthly retreats that the son-in-law in recent months has seen the ghostly form of John Garman. The specter first appeared a few months after the old gentleman's death.


Frequently while he was roaming over the fields, or strolling through the groves or orchards, the mysterious, unreal and unnerving specter has sprung up beside him, and timing his pace to that of Mr. Otterson has accompanied him about. It makes neither sign nor motion, looks neither to the right nor left, but with folded arms and bent head keeps up its noiseless tread with maddening precision.


Sometimes, asserts the haunted man, upon returning from a drive, the unearthly vision appeared to him in the barnyard. As he unhitched and unharnessed his team the apparition watched his procedure with unseeing eyes. The expression of his face was always sorrowful-- just as it had been in life during his days. The materialization to Mr. Otterson was full life size, the very image, he declares, of his father-in-law. No other person has seen the alleged ghost.


Mr. Otterson's experience with the specter but recently became public. He bore the ordeal silently, fearing the taunts and ridicule of his friends. Lately the annoyance became so great that he decided to remove from the place.


The Garman family was one of the most widely known in this city, being among the very early settlers of the county. The family, whose name was formerly spelled "German" came here from Pennsylvania, where John Garman's relatives settled and named the city Germantown. The Ottersons are equally well known. No one here doubts the veracity and sincerity of Mr. Otterson's statements concerning the specter which has haunted him, but all are at a loss to account for the strange incident.

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