Stiffy Green – Phantom Bulldog?

Stiffy Green
Vigo County Historical Museum
and Highland Lawn Cemetery
Terre Haute, Indiana
submitted by: “Road Runner” (Bill)

Bill is one of my favorite “roadsidewonder-ers” and I am distressingly behind in sharing some of his great roadside finds. Since Halloween is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to share his visit with Stiffy Green – Terre Haute’s favorite green-eyed bulldog, and the subject of an enduring urban legend.

Decades of Terre Haute residents have passed down the story of Stiffy – the loving pet of the John Heinl family. Folks say that after John Heinl’s death in the early 1920s, the dog restlessly continued to visit the family mausoleum at Highland Lawn Cemetery. Stiffy eventually died on the steps of the mausoleum- forever grieving for his lost master. The tale spread that the surviving relatives had him stuffed and placed inside the tomb…where he guarded his master and glared out with cold, green eyes. Witnesses even claimed to see Mr. Heinl and Stiffy taking leisurely strolls through the neighborhood surrounding the cemetery.

It became a Terre Haute tradition to visit the Highland Lawn Cemetery after dark, shine a flashlight into the tomb, and see Stiffy’s green glass eyes glowing in fierce warning to trespassers. At some point in the early 1980s, vandals fired bullets into the Heinl crypt and damaged part of Stiffy’s head and one of his eyes. Stiffy was removed from the tomb and now resides in a custom-built replica of the Heinl Mausoleum at the Vigo County Historical Museum.

The Heinl Mausoleum replica at the Vigo County Historical Museum

Be careful … Stiffy has a reputation for being a little cranky. After being shot in the eye, who wouldn’t?

So, is Stiffy really a taxidermied canine, or simply a decorative statue of which John Heinl was particularly fond? You’ll have to travel to Terre Haute to find out.

–   Read Troy Taylor’s account of the legend of Stiffy Green here.

–   Highland Lawn Cemetery has a number of famous interments. Silent film star Valeska Suratt, famous union leader & Socialist Eugene V. Debs, female Congresswoman from the 1930s Virginia Ellis Jenckes, and Vaudeville strongman Louis Rudolph Yansky all share Highland has a final resting place.

–   It appears that the Vigo County Historical Museum’s website is down at the moment; I will post a link when the site if functional.

Highland Lawn:

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Vigo County Historical Museum

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More Wonders:

The Midtown Scholar
NZ Sheep & Dog Buildings
The Senator Theatre

13 Responses to “Stiffy Green – Phantom Bulldog?”

  1. PostMuse says:

    Cool story! I’m a cat person, but you don’t hear too many stories of steadfast cats. There is a great dog story to go with Berkely Mine in Montana,

    And, of course, the somewhat creepy, though fascinating, story of USPS mascot, Owney,

  2. Wow, this was equally cool and creepy! Great post!

  3. Donna L. Tolliver says:

    I am the great granddaughter of Louis R. Yansky the Vaudeville strongman and a distant cousin of Debs.

    • wendyvee says:

      That’s quite a family tree, Donna 🙂

      Your name looked familiar and then I figured out why … it was because I was on after I posted this and I saw your entry!

  4. Donna L. Tolliver says:

    I saw Stiffy Green as a young girl when he lived in the cemetery with his master. It was an awesome sight to see indeed…..

    • wendyvee says:

      I just love local legends like Stiffy 🙂

    • Angie Stoner says:

      I have heard able the tale, when I attended ISU in 1970-74! Friday, I will be attending a re-union and had mentioned the story to my husband. He thought I was joking, until I was able to find additional information about “Stiffy” on the Internet. now he is changing his toon! 🙂

  5. Donna L. Tolliver says:

    It also turns out with a little digging last night Debs’ sister was the wife of John…So….He is family also. I was shocked……No wonder my father would take us to see the little dog….he never told me as a child…he is in the family line also. He told me his mother was a distant cousin to Debs……Grandmother said something she was not very proud of…..:(

  6. Candace says:

    Wow, can’t believe I missed this around Halloween. Mausoleums give me the willies. Never heard this creepy story before and I used to be a Hoosier.

  7. Candace says:

    p.s. Like your new layout!

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