A furious spring storm screamed and raged through the little town of Gosport on the night of April 30, 1867. The bloodcurdling wind whipped around the small buildings, rocking windows and doors as townspeople sought sanctuary in their homes and prayed that the structures would hold.
Jimmy Johns, a local station agent, was working at the Gosport Monon Station waiting on the evening train to pass before going home. The storm had knocked down the telegraph line, and he had no idea when to expect the already delayed train. It was not uncommon for the station agent to spend the night at the station. Jimmy lay down on a cot and waited.
On the morning of May 1, 1867, while the townspeople were surveying the storm damage, the brutally mangled body of Jimmy Johns was found at the station. It had been a horrific death. The sheriff described the scene as having the appearance of a slaughter house. The floors, walls, and ceiling were spattered with blood and the room gave every indication of a life and death contest. Jimmy Johns had been a strong young man, 27 years old, and it appeared that his determined attacker had no easy job in killing him.
But why kill Jimmy? He was a nice local boy with a young wife and children. Described as quiet, trustworthy, and always willing to help his neighbors, Jimmy was loved by all and had no known enemies. The station house yielded no alterative motives. Gosport served mostly as a rural rest stop on the Monon line and didn’t hold mail or railroad receipts. So why would someone venture out into a torrential downpour just to kill an innocent man for no apparent reason?
Stranger still, even though the station house was located a little ways east of the town line, it seemed incredible that no one had heard what must have been a very loud and violent struggle. But then, as talk spread, memories of the previous evening came back to haunt the townspeople. Screaming, raging, bloodcurdling—not adjectives typically used to describe stormy weather. However, everyone who had experienced the storm agreed that the wind was screaming—at least they thought it was the wind.
Overwhelmed with guilt, the townspeople demanded immediate justice. Unfortunately, morbid onlookers had tramped through the station before a proper investigation could be made. Under pressure, the sheriff arrested the last man to admit seeing Jimmy alive, Willis McMininny, the town drayman. Never mind that Willis had left town on the afternoon train before the storm and murder occurred. Nor that he had hurried back upon hearing of the murder of his co-worker. Some discarded items found in Willis’ home were identified as having once belonged to Jimmy. The sheriff called it motive, and Willis McMininny was charged with the murder of Jimmy Johns.
Fearing vigilante justice, Willis was taken into custody and secretly delivered under heavy escort to the town of Spencer, located about 30 miles away from Gosport. After a speedy trail, Willis McMininny was found guilty of murder. Curiously, he was not given the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison. Even more curious, he only served nine years in prison before being given a pardon by the governor. He never returned to Gosport and no one knows what became of him.
It is believed that conviction of the guilty will appease the murdered soul. Perhaps Willis McMininny was innocent, as many historians believe, for the spirit of Jimmy Johns is not at rest. Strange events started occurring around the Monon station immediately after the murder. The bloodstains could not be washed or painted away, and station agents refused to use the building. Eventually the station was shut down due to neglect, but up until 1976 when the building was finally demolished, nasty brown spots of what appeared to be dried blood could still be seen splattered a crossed the walls and floor. Perhaps stranger still, after the murder, the shadowy figure of a man was reported roaming around the station area. The figure was never caught and sightings of the shadow are still seen around the vacant site.
Haunted or not, there’s one thing that Gosportians do agree on—every spring, when the wind has whipped itself up into a furious storm, the eerie bloodcurdling screams of Jimmy Johns can still be heard crying, “Why? Why?”