The Lady In Black
In June 1980, thirty-eight-year old Robert Davidson was zipping down I- 74 in Acton, Indiana on his motorcycle when a severe storm rolled in. Rain fell hard and fast, and for him, painfully, since his body was unprotected from the stinging barrage.
He had to pull over, and so he stopped along the roadside. He’d no sooner put his foot on the ground when he was jolted by lighting–200,000 volts struck him. He fell to the ground. Dead. Smoke poured from the area where the bolt had struck him, and his shoes had been blown off from the blast.
A witness called for help, and, in minutes, an ambulance arrived at the scene. The paramedics, among them Randy Neibert, Kimberly Cobb, and Marylou Shafer, fought their way through the crowd that had quickly gathered around the fallen man.
The paramedics did their best to revive Davidson, but all the while they thought it hopeless, because he had no heart beat. In an interview on Unsolved Mysteries, Kimberly said: “He had no pulse…he should have been dead.”
Then something strange happened. All of the sudden, the ambulance completely lost power. The paramedics were baffled, because even the back up battery was lifeless. At the same time, some of the onlookers felt chills from head to toe as if some great form of energy was touching them.
But things would get stranger still.
Out of the blue, a mysterious woman started yelling in the crowd, “I must touch him! Let me touch him!”
Her long black hair flowing about her, she tried to approach the paramedics but was restrained by a police officer. She wore a plain black dress and shoes, typical of the styles from the Victorian times. There was a silver cross around her neck and a bible in her hand. Again and again she insisted: “I must touch him! I can save his life.”
Still unable to get a pulse, the paramedics thought that they had nothing to lose, and so they decided to let the woman do as she asked.
She knelt beside the man and laid her left hand on his chest while she recited the 23rd Psalm, repeatedly striking the ground with the bible as she did so. Then she stood and spoke passionately in what some would later say was tongues as she held the bible to the sky.
While he watched her, Randy noticed something odd. Though the rain still poured, the woman wasn’t wet. When she finished her prayers, she turned toward him with a pleased and knowing smile, and then she rejoined the crowd where she vanished.
With her departure, all power immediately returned to the ambulance, and, even more amazingly, Robert Davidson suddenly had a heartbeat.
Oddly, some of the witnesses at the scene, including two of the paramedics, would later say that they never saw the mysterious woman in black. Marylou Shafer, one of the paramedics who’d seen the woman was shocked by these statements. In an interview, she said: “There is no doubt in my mind. She was there.”
They rushed Davidson to the emergency room, and the attending physician wasn’t optimistic about the man’s prognosis. He thought that Davidson would remain in a coma and would soon die. Two months later, however, Davidson woke up, wondering what he was doing in the hospital. He had no memory of the woman in black or of the injury. To the doctor’s surprise, Davidson made a full and miraculous recovery. He was talking, walking, and ready to resume his life.
So who was the woman in black? An angel? The ghost of a woman who had lived during the Victorian era?
There are a few clues and many theories.
Near the area where Davidson had his accident sits a large vacant meadow where the Acton Campground, a 19th Century Methodist spiritual retreat, had been located. From 1859 to 1905, the area had commanded a large gathering who’d come to worship God through hymns and prayers. Some believe that the mysterious woman is the ghost of one of the Campground followers–perhaps a spiritual teacher or minister.
Other’s believe that she was a divine spirit sent from heaven to save the man’s life and to instill faith. If this assumption is accurate, then she took a human form. Angels are known to take many forms. Sometimes they even appear as animals.
While researching this mystery, I came across theories that woman in black is the spirit of a Cherokee woman. That’s doubtful because the Cherokee didn’t occupy Indiana. They were located in the deep Southern States and were sent to Oklahoma in what has become known as the Trail of Tears. Indiana was simply too far north. Though some claim that an old Cherokee woman lived in the area, it doesn’t prove that the woman in black was Cherokee.
It’s possible that she could have been Native American, as some witnesses believe that she spoke in Native American and not in “tongues.” And she supposedly had a “Native American look.” However, some European people, especially from the Mediterranean area, can have a similar look with dark skin and hair and high cheek bones.
And finally, this woman wasn’t dressed like a Native American. Though Native Americans who were retained in camps and schooled by European Americans were often forced to wear the white man’s clothes and adopt the white man’s ways, would this woman wear such clothes in the afterlife? I doubt it unless she’d been reared by a European American family since her youth and identified closely with them. But, on the other hand, ghosts are often seen in their burial clothes.
Another online witness claims to have had encountered this woman before the incident involving Davidson, but the witness said that the woman was dressed in Native American garb and not in a long black dress, so it’s doubtful that this was the same woman.
In addition, there’s a black dress in an Acton Museum from the original Acton Campground (see the photo to the left) and some swear that it’s the same type of dress that the lady in black wore; however, such black dresses were so common in the Victorian era that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to draw that conclusion.
Look on Ebay or Ruby Lane, you’ll see numerous dresses just like it. Such black dresses were typically worn for mourning, and it was acceptable to wear silver religious pieces of jewelry during the mourning period. So I would say that this mystery lady was in mourning for a lost husband or other close relative when she died. In addition, this dress dates to about 1890 to 1900, which is probably the time frame in which the lady in black died.
Some believe she could have been a teacher at a little school house (where the museum is located). This is certainly a possibility.
Perhaps, in the future, Marie St. Claire can investigate this case and unravel the mystery of the woman in black as, whoever she is, we’d all like to know more about her.
© 2005 by Bobette Bryan