The debate whether ghosts are real or not has gone on for decades. Sometimes, things move without reason or you hear a creak in the middle of the night, but for author Madalyn Kinsey, her ghost wanted to be the main character in her story.
Madalyn is the author of the young adult novel The Ghost of Cheeney Creek about 14-year-old Vanessa who spends the summer with her cousins in rural Fishers in 1967. During her stay, she discovers an abandoned cemetery right behind their home, and unexpected adventures take place when she learns about a Civil War ghost named James Parker.
The cemetery Madalyn writes about is Eller Cemetery, situated off Allisonville Road near 106th Street. While she was raised in Indianapolis, her cousins lived on this farm in Fishers that she writes about in her book, and she visited them frequently. They would always explore the cemetery behind their home hunting for ghosts.
Madalyn’s Uncle David inherited the farm and when he passed away, it was sold to Duke Energy. After his funeral, Madalyn and her cousins went to stroll the property to reminisce on old memories and say goodbye one last time. She was in the process of developing the character of the ghost for her new story when a lone grave in the back corner of the cemetery caught her eye.
It was the grave of James A. Payne, a Civil War soldier, in fact the only soldier buried there and who had no other relatives in the graveyard. His grave was also the only one with the tombstone facing backwards toward the woods.
Madalyn wrote about Payne, crafting a story about him that he was a Civil War deserter, and changing his name to James Parker in case any of his living relatives happened to read the book.
After writing half of the book, Madalyn’s brother was curious to see who Payne really was, and he dug into his history. He discovered that Payne was actually a deserter , who fled in Tyree Springs, Tennessee on September 1, 1862. Madalyn had made up a narrative about Payne, and it somehow had turned out to be true.
On top of that, her brother also found out that in 2010, the SyFy show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files traveled to Fishers to investigate the graveyard after a woman caught a strange, inexplicable orb on camera there. After investigating multiple possible explanations, they couldn’t replicate the occurrence and deemed it authentic. They also found a strong, unexplainable energy emanating from Payne’s grave site. You can find the episode “The Caretaker” on Amazon Prime Video.
After writing the book, Madalyn went back to visit his grave one final time. When she got to his tombstone, she opened up her phone to take a photo, and as she held the phone to take a photo, her screen went black. Unnerved, she hurried back to her car. Once she got inside her car, her phone came back on.
Was James Payne trying to contact her from the grave? Even though Madalyn chose Payne to be the ghost in her story, it seemed as if Payne was really the one choosing her…
Purchase The Ghost of Cheeney Creek here. It’s the first of the three books in the Vanessa Mystery Series. Her other books include The Mystery of Gatewood Airport and The Man Who Defied Gravity.
Christina Poetz grew up in Indianapolis but moved to Fishers in 2014 to attend Hamilton Southeastern High School. After she graduated high school in 2018, she interned for the City of Fishers’ Public Relations team. She came back again to intern the next summer and worked as the PR & Marketing Coordinator for the City. When Christina’s not working, she attends IUPUI to pursue her major in Public Relations and minor in Communications. In her free time, she loves to work on her photography skills and attend Pacers games with her friends. Her favorite place to hang out in Fishers is Flat Fork Creek Park because she loves to walk up the big sledding hill and see the amazing view. Follow her on Instagram and follow her photography account.