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October 9, 2021

Weird and spooky stories from Wabash County

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Hair HarpAbout 700 residents of Wabash County in northeastern Indiana once donated locks of their hair to create a harp. Well, an intricate artwork in the shape of a harp. That sounds weird (or at least offbeat) today, concedes, T.J. Honeycutt, director of archives and outreach at the Wabash County Museum, where the "hair harp" is among the exhibits that continually astonish visitors.

As T.J. will explain when he joins Nelson for a show about weird and spooky true stories related to Wabash County, hair frequently was used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to create artwork. The "hair harp", which was completed in 1917 after taking nearly a decade to create, became one of the largest pieces of hair art in the entire country.

Martha HollowayOrganized by Wabash County artisan Martha Holloway (1842-1921), the hair harp was biblically-themed around the number seven. In selecting hair donors,  both men and women in groups of seven were chosen: seven 70-year-olds, seven brothers, seven sisters, seven ministers and even a 107-year-old county resident who had been married 77 years to his wife.

During the 1880s and ‘90s, hair artifacts also were created for courtship rituals. "An interested lady would make jewelry out of her own hair and gift it to her suitor to affirm her mutual interest," T.J. Honeycutt says.

He adds that artifacts created from hair were even more commonly created as mourning rituals: "Artisans would make jewelry and other adornments out of a deceased loved one’s hair. They would wear the handicrafts for one year."

Our show will broaden to explore other stories related to offbeat artifacts at the Wabash County Museum, which is housed in a former Sears Roebuck department store in the historic city of Wabash.

TJ HoneycuttSome of the artifacts are connected to a local circus strongman and early professional wrestler during the 1930s and ‘40s. As part of his wrestling routine, Wabash County resident Bob Printy would be "hung" by his neck by opponents during matches. According to T.J., Printy would often practice his "hanging" stunt on his front porch and his yard. This regularly alarmed passing motorists.

Printy, who never was injured when performing his stunt, was employed by Ringling Brothers circus. Along with other circuses, Ringling Brothers frequently spent the winter months in Peru, Ind., not far from Wabash County.

Also during our show, T.J. will discuss an unusual skeleton housed in the basement of the museum. Among several creepy aspects of the skeleton: It has more than one skull.

 

 


 

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Roadtrip: Fort Ouiatenon on the Wabash River

Guest Roadtripper Sarah Halter, executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum, suggests a visit to Fort Ouiatenon, a former French trading post originally built in 1717 about three miles southwest of West Lafayette. The name 'Ouiatenon' is a French rendering of the name in the Wea language, waayaahtanonki, meaning 'place of the whirlpool'. It was one of three French forts built during the 18th century in what was then New France, later the Northwest Territory and today the state of Indiana.

Feast of the Hunter's Moon re-creation
In 1928, a local physician, Dr. Richard B. Wetherill, acquired the land around what was believed to be the site of the trading post. In 1930, he built a 452 sq. ft. replica of a fort on this land that you can see today. You can also visit the Blockhouse Museum which is owned and maintained by the Tippecanoe County Park and Recreation Department and the Tippecanoe County Historical Association

The annual Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is a re-creation of the annual fall gathering of the French and Native Americans which took place at Fort Ouiatenon. It now is recreated every October.  In fact, this Saturday our Roadtripper will be calling in from the festival!

 

Nelson Price, host and historian
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