I moved to New Harmony in May of 2016. Like many others before me, I felt drawn to the town, almost as though the move was part of a greater plan, not one of my making.
New Harmony isn’t a normal, everyday kind of town. While it’s rich with a colorful history and embedded with a creative culture, there is something underlaid beneath the façade, something many people feel but can’t explain. It’s a town with a pulse.
I felt this pulse as I walked down the streets after first moving here. The sensation is elusive and fleeting, here then gone again before you can properly latch onto it. It’s as though every footstep you take is layered atop a thousand other footsteps as your DNA becomes mixed with the DNA of those who were there before you.
As someone who is highly intuitive, I also felt the presence of the dead lingering heavily in this small town. Every store and building I walked into had a ghost or two. Many of them were reclusive, not wanting to give away their hiding spots, but others were more forthcoming. They greeted me at the door like welcoming hosts.
I have felt this sensation once before, at a haunted mansion in Massachusetts. It was a place that called to me and many others, drawing us in like moths to a candle. It collected people like some people collected stamps. Once you visited there, you felt the overwhelming urge to return, over and over again. The pull was so strong; I eventually wrote a book, telling the story of the house and all who lived there. In some ways, I feel the house pulled me in for that very purpose because once the book was written, the urge diminished. I was able to walk away and start anew. I felt this same sensation when I visited New Harmony in 2015, a year before I decided to move here.
New Harmony wasn’t a stranger to me. I grew up in Posey County and graduated from high school in the next town over. As a child, I sat in the backseat of my parent’s car and marveled at the town as we passed through. I begged my parents to let me run through the Harmonist Labyrinth. I remember buying trinkets at the old Five & Dime store that is no longer in existence. My mind spun over the stories about the angel’s footprint that is embedded in stone and I attended weddings at the Roofless Church. My great-grandparents had a house here decades ago and I have fond memories of visiting them as a young child. In some ways, it’s always been a part of my history, of my genetic makeup, but it didn’t call to me until I was ready to truly embrace it.
I felt the initial pull in 2015 during a visit to my home state to visit my family. My father and my step-mother brought me on a historical tour of the town. Even though I already knew some of the history, I suddenly became more interested in it. I bought several books to bring back home with me, along with a labyrinth necklace that I couldn’t seem to remove. Something clicked during that trip. After roaming the northeast, making temporary homes in a dozen different towns, I felt as though I had finally found a place where I could be content. It felt like home.
A year later, I would find myself packing my multitude of pets and possessions into my car and making the thousand-mile trek, leaving behind my grown children and close friends to start anew.
I settled in quietly, wanting to get a grasp on what I was feeling before allowing anyone to know who I was. I didn’t want people to immediately begin associating me with my paranormal background. I wanted them to see me more as a long-lost daughter who had returned to her roots. In some ways, I fantasied about putting the paranormal world behind me and returning to conventional fiction. I would write normal books, ones my parents could proudly pass along to their friends, ones that wouldn’t set me apart so dramatically. Unfortunately, the dead wouldn’t let me.
As I explored the town and immersed myself in the history, I became aware of the undertone that swirls around New Harmony. I came to realize that the entire town was haunted and that my purpose here was already set in stone. I needed to write a book about it.
As I began researching, I came to realize there was nothing scary in New Harmony. Even though it is filled with spirits, most of them are former residents, many from the 1800’s when the town was part of two separate Utopian societies. Some of them simply want their story told and others feel the need to communicate with the living. Through their voices, I began learning more about the town’s fascinating history.
My book won’t be filled with chills and thrills. It will be about the personal accounts the living have experienced with the dead, as well as my quest to learn more about the souls who are haunting the buildings. Through this, I’ve learned intriguing details about the lives that transpired here, something that makes me want to dig deeper. Who better to ask about the history than the people who once lived here?
As I walked into places like the Arbor House on Main Street and the famously haunted Fauntleroy House on West Street, I had personal experiences right away. As I explored old basements and places that tourists don’t have access to, I began to understand more about why the town was haunted.
The veil is definitely thinner here in this small gem of a town. The dead walk side by side with the living, something most people aren’t aware of. I will dig until I uncover as many of the stories and secrets as I can. Then, I will share it with you.
My newest book Haunted New Harmony will be coming out by September 2017 and I hope to have several public paranormal investigations and ghost walks ready for this summer.
Joni Mayhan is the author of 16 books, most of them dedicated the the paranormal world. After living in Massachusetts for 30 years, she recently returned to her home state of Indiana. To learn more about her, check out her website Jonimayhan.com