Westside Park, situated at the intersection of West Main Street & Howard Road, is one of Greenwood Indiana’s most popular city parks … with an interesting history and paranormal slant to boot!
The city of Greenwood purchased the 24+ acre former gravel pit, and infamous flood-plain, from the Scott family farm estate in 1963 for the sum of $14,706. Just a few years earlier in 1957 the Greenwood Sanitation Plant (and dumping grounds) took up residence just adjacent to the future park. Today, a loop trail winds around this fenced property.
Many years past – in the dog days of a sweltering Indiana summer – when a boy could truly strike his independence and meander into the semi-wilderness of western Greenwood, he would frequent the valley that weaves beneath the Main Street Greenwood Cemetery … the very area that would evolve in the early 60s into Westside Park. In particular, Devil’s Backbone held an adventurous appeal and a certain notoriety.
Devil’s Backbone was a large hill of fill dirt (remember, this was a gravel pit) which curled serpentine along the valley floor beside Pleasant Run Creek. This mini mountain became known as a “boy’s club” (no girls allowed) and many a day was spent on monumental forays to the summit of the backbone playing war with imaginary opponents, or simply skinny-dipping in the adjacent creek. At times the boys, tired and reflective, might have lounged on the summit, letting their imagination run wild about the accumulating grave stones that resided just up the hill from their fortress. Imagination has a way of leading into the realm of folklore, and this has a tendency to carry on throughout the years. A nearby cemetery with things that linger in the dark in a child’s mind … it carries significant weight.
The locally published book – Memories of The Wonderful World of Greenwood by John Myers & Elaine Hullinger is excellent documentation into the history with insightful recollections from those who lived in the early days of Greenwood. It quite adequately covers the development of Westside Park.
In 1969 problems that were inherent to the park began to be resolved: the Army Corp of Engineers took on the task. Pleasant Run Creek was excavated and straightened to correct the flooding problems in the valley. Devil’s Backbone disappeared in the process and little trace of a former boyhood pre-occupation remains.
Thickets and brush were cleared. A softball diamond at the western border of the park was constructed. Tennis and basketball courts, a playground, restrooms and a shelter house were added to the grounds. The valley on the lower west edge of the historic Greenwood Cemetery became a true park and is a favorite venue today.
In Jim Hillman and John Murphy’s book, “Images of America – Greenwwood” they note that different eras bring forth different uses of the park (although one would assume that there is really nothing ever new that hasn’t been done previously, regardless of the time period). Alcohol consumption and evening parties graced the grounds of Westside Park, and perhaps, spawned stories of the haunted cemetery above.
It’s a great tactical move on date night for a boy (or man) to offer his strong protective arms to his date against the swirling and hissing gruesome entities that reside on the graveyard hill above Westside Park. But, at the same time, truth can be stranger than fiction. Perhaps there exists a small mixture of truth in the stories regarding paranormal activity on the cemetery hill above and the park grounds below.
Westside Park in Greenwood, Indiana – a great family venue for a variety of activities and, apparently, also a haven for ghostly shenanigans.