By Joy Neighbors
Mayhan, a recent transplant to Indiana, began researching the paranormal a few years ago.
“It was about five years ago when I had my first incident where I knew I was sensitive, a clairaudient,” Mayhan said, “That means that I can pinpoint where a ghost is by the sound. I didn’t begin to embrace these skills until I was in my 40s and I’d had a lot of help dealing with these abilities from other people who are also prone to being sensitive (someone who perceives more information on a deeper level).”
In 2011, Mayhan experienced an evil paranormal attachment.
“It wasn’t until 2013 that I began to write about what I’d experienced in the paranormal. The incident I wrote about in the book The Soul Collector is what happened in 2011, but I decided not to talk about it, not to think about it for a while. When I began to describe the experience, people told me that they had had similar things happen, so I kept writing. I now have 10 paranormal books published.”
Mayhan’s latest book came out this month and is called (appropriately enough) Haunted New Harmony. All of Mayhan’s books are available on Amazon, at BarnesandNoble.com, or her webpage, JoniMayhan.com.
Mayhan moved from Massachusetts to New Harmony, Indiana, about a year ago.
“I grew up near here and my grandparents lived here, so I knew New Harmony,” Mayhan explained. “I felt drawn here, and I’m intrigued by the town’s past.”
And New Harmony is a village rich in history.
History of the Harmonists
The first settlers in this area were members of the Harmonie Society. Composed of 800 German Lutheran immigrants who were followers of “Father” Johann Georg Rapp, the group moved from Pennsylvania to the Wabash River region, forming New Harmonie.
Also known as Rappites, the group believed in a literal interpertation of the Bible and sought Christian perfection by practicing celibacy while living highly ordered, productive lives.
The Harmonists lived here from 1814 to 1824 when they returned to Pennsylvania. The group sold the self-sufficient community to Robert Owen.
Owen’s New Society
In 1825, Owen sought to create a new moral social utopia, one that stressed education and social equality while shunning marriage and religion. Members of his New Society were called Owenites. More than 700 people came to live in this community, accommodating some the best minds in science and education. That’s why the area became known as “the Athens of the West.”
The community established the first free school system in America and created a new concept called kindergarten. The group disbanded in 1829 due to a lack of money.
By 1840, several people had moved into what remained of New Harmony, beginning the town anew. But one family would have an impact on New Harmony for decades to come — the Fauntleroys.
Most Haunted House in Town
The Fauntleroy Home was built around 1820 as a Harmonist house for the Franz Pheil family. Robert Henry Fauntleroy, his wife Jane and their four children, Constance, Ellinor, Edward and Arthur, moved into the home in 1841.
In 1859, Constance formed The Minerva Society, one of the earliest women’s literary clubs in America. The group was one of the first women’s associations governed with a written constitution and by-laws.
The home remained in the family until Mary Emily Fauntleroy, a distant cousin, sold it to the Indiana Federation of Clubs in 1925 as a memorial to the Minerva Society.
In 1939, the home was given to the state of Indiana to be preserved as a historical site.
Just before the town’s bicentennial, the state of Indiana renovated and refurbished the home to look as it did during the late 1850s-1860s when the Minerva Society met there.
“This was the first major restoration undertaken here and that could be what has triggered the return of paranormal activity,” Mayhan said.
But hauntings here are not new. The first documented tale was reported by Caroline Neef Owen, a relative of Jane Fauntleroy, who said that she passed the “ghost of the house,” an elderly woman, on the stairs one evening.
“This is the most haunted house in New Harmony,” Mayhan reported. “Tour guides report being pushed down stairs, and hearing voices and footsteps on the second floor. Doors open and close, and the security alarm manages to turn itself on and off. One resident reports hearing piano music late at night. When the state took over the house, it removed much of Mary Emily’s artifacts and she doesn’t appear happy with the changes,” Mayhan said.
Community House No. 2
Another haunted structure from the utopian period is Community House No. 2. This building was constructed in 1822 by the Harmonists and used as a dormitory for members. When the Owenites took over, the building functioned as a school. The state of Indiana purchased the structure in 1940.
The building was renovated in 2012, with archaeological excavations in the backyard that unearthed artifacts from the Harmonist period, and some random tombstones.
“This location is haunted, but it’s more subdued than the Fauntleroy Home,” explained Mayhan. “You can hear voices when no one is around, doors slam, and windows on the third floor open. Full-bodied apparitions have also been seen here.”
This fall, Mayhan is offering the opportunity to accompany her and another investigator on actual paranormal investigations.
“These are real investigations, not tours,” Mayhan stresses. “We investigate two locations, the Fauntleroy Home and Community House No. 2. “
Joni Mayhan is at home in New Harmony, ghosts and all. When asked if she will ever tire of ghost hunting in this little community, she shook her head and replied, “Nope, I’m here forever.”
Haunted New Harmony investigation
Dates: Sept. 23, Oct. 21, Oct. 28
Time: 6 p.m. – midnight
Cost: $50 per person
Bring: Flashlight , open mind
Purchase tickets at www.HauntedNewHarmony.com