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"Lincoln Legend":

An Urban Legend or a Real Weird Historical Mystery?

by T. Peter Park

In 1966, a friend told me about an eccentric, peculiar-looking, possibly mutant (or alien??!) family named Lincoln who allegedly terrorized a small midwestern town in the USA about a century ago, in the 1890's or early 1900's. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any further information about this incident in the "Fortean." "true weird," or "true crime" literature. I wonder if the story has any truth to it, or if it is just an "urban legend." What could possibly lie behind this yarn?

The Lincolns, according to the story, were standoffish, peculiar-looking people who moved in the 1890's from somewhere in the east (possibly Massachusetts) to a small town in the midwestern United States. The father, mother, daughter and two sons were squat and "froggish"-looking with "ugly" faces, pallid whitish scaly skin, bulging "thyroid" eyes, and high broad foreheads (rather like the "batrachian" folk in some of H.P. Lovecraft's tales!) Their aloof, unfriendly personalities supposedly brought quick dislike in the community and their popularity was not increased by their habit of prowling around the back streets of the town in the dead of the night and scaring the wits out of townfolk who encountered them.

After a few years of this, things reached a major crisis around 1896 or 1900, when one of the Lincoln boys was lynched for supposedly raping and murdering the daughter of a wealthy, prominent local family. At his funeral, his father declared that the town would live to regret the deed. Shortly afterwards, the dead girl's father and brother were found dead under mysterious circumstances, their bodies allegedly crushed to a pulp and covered with slime according to some witnesses, and townsfolk kept having nighttime sightings of the supposedly dead Lincoln boy. Some townsfolk who had seen the Lincoln boy's apparition soon afterwards had nervous breakdowns or went insane. A posse sent to open the Lincoln boy's grave to see if his body was still there found a single set of footprints leaving the grave. Upon opening his coffin, they found that the corpse was gone. The Lincoln family moved out of town shortly after the funeral, perhaps going back East. For the next few years, however, the area suffered a succession of severe droughts, floods and tornadoes, almost as if the town had been cursed by the Lincolns.

Have any of you ever heard or read of this story, or something like it? Does it have any historical basis? Is it an "urban legend"? Or is it a science-fiction or horror story misremembered or misrepresented as "fact"? I would like to track down the original source and facts of this case, if there are any.

I first heard of the "Lincoln Legend" as a graduate student at the University of Virginia in the Summer of 1966, from a friend who had just heard about it at a family gathering in Kermit, West Virginia from an elderly Midwestern physician who had once met one of the witnesses or participants of the original events. As I recall my friend telling me, the MD had been a dinner guest at his relatives' house one evening, and had been either reminiscing about memorable highlights of his years in medicine or contributing his share of true remarkable stories and experiences related by everybody at the table. Many years earlier, the old doctor recalled, he had been attending a dying and delirious patient. In his delirium, the patient had yelled "LINCOLN! LINCOLN!" The next day, before finally succumbing, the patient had been more lucid, and the doctor had asked him about the significance of the name "LINCOLN!" he had been crying out the night before (by mcsweeney at tforge). The patient had then told him the Lincoln Legend, claiming himself to have been one of the townspeople who had experienced run-ins with the Lincolns. The patient had died shortly thereafter, but, if I recall correctly, the doctor had said that the patient's story had been corroborated by a relative who either was present in the room or whom the doctor had later asked for confirmation of the Lincoln story. Unfortunately, however, my friend does not remember the name of the doctor, though I have asked him a few times over the years.

I don't recall whether my friend specified the state where the Lincoln Legend had taken place, or whether he mentioned the old doctor as naming a state. It might have been Wisconsin, Kansas, or Indiana, but I'm not sure!

Does any of this sound at all familiar? If it does, please contact me I'd really like to get to the bottom of this!

See our follow-up feature:
The Lincoln Legend: A "Forme Frustre" Urban Legend.

Copyright 1999