A Haunting Story…The Legend Of Violin Annie

This past weekend while on my way to visit the old factories of St. Louis, MO I stopped in the very small town of Centralia, IL to visit Elmwood Cemetery. Why would I do this you ask? Well, I wanted to stop in so I could visit and photograph the grave of “Violin Annie”. The cemetery is an old one and used to be called “Centralia Cemetery” but in the 20’s was changed to Elmwood. I have heard stories of this cemetery for a few years and found out that it dates back to the 1860’s. On my way in driving through the town I felt like I was heading back in time. The town is small and looks like it has not had any updates since the 1970’s and it literally  takes 3 minutes to drive through. The town looked empty but maybe that was because it was a Sunday.

As I drove I saw an old Motel sign which was almost like a welcome sign upon entering the town and showed me a pretty nice image of what appeared to be a great place to stay, just six blocks ahead. As I drove past the sign something told me that the billboard has probably been there since the 60s or 70s. Then six blocks down I pulled into a Motel parking lot to check it out. Though it was not the one advertised on the billboard.

The\is motel has certainly seen better days and it appears that it has been closed down for quite some time. But I was not in this town to see an old motel but rather the grave of “Violin Annie”. The cemetery has approximately 17,000 graves and I was looking for one. As I drove in I immediately spotted the tall monument with the little girl, “Harriet Annie” standing atop with her violin. I shot this image with my M9 and 35 Summarit at F2.5.

She died at the age of 11 of diphtheria and legend has it that if you enter the cemetery at night you can here the sounds of Annie playing her violin ever so softly. In life she loved her violin and played it for family and friends on a daily basis. She was so attached to her violin that after her death the family had this massive monument erected for her. This was my second visit to the cemetery to see the grave site and this time I was all alone. I snapped pictures, swapped lenses and even sat near the grave for 10 minutes. I never did hear the strings but I did feel at peace. It was quiet and oddly it felt sort of warm which was a shocker.

I ended up with 20 images and for the this one I wanted to get in close so I pulled out my 90 Elmarit and shot this at 2.8.

There are many legends about Annie, some even say that her father beat her to death with her violin but that is pure storytelling meant to spook the teens who enter this cemetery at night. One group of ghost hunters who visited this site claimed to have seen the statue glow while others have claimed to see green tears flowing from the eyes of Annie. Upon close inspection, I could see green moss or mold on her face and under her eyes. I have always been into ghost hunting and the paranormal mainly because of an otherworldly experience my family had on the night of my Fathers death. It was very intense, very real and ever since then I have had a curiosity about spirits, ghosts and the afterlife.

I find old cemeteries like this fascinating and love to photograph unique graves like the  one of “Violin Annie”. I also like the adventure of finding these small towns where most of the cemeteries can be found. The story of Violin Annie can be found in a few books about haunted locations but I feel it was a story made up long ago by kids who probably dared each other to go inside the spooky cemetery at night. Makes for a nice slumber party story 🙂

I shot these images with the Leica M9 along with the 35 Summarit, 75 Summicron and 90 Elmarit.


  1. Like most stories the legend of Annie is nothing more than a wives tale. I grew up fairly close to the cemetery and spent many nights there with friends hoping and waiting to hear or see any evidence from the stories of past. Unfortunately no trace of anything ever occurred. My opinion. It’s all a hoax.

  2. Good article. Although, the motel in the sign was actually a few more blocks south. I grew up on the legend of Violin Annie. This is a very interesting article.

  3. Word has been received that the Antique Dealer who owned the life sized painting of Annie is no longer with us,the family requests no more posts or responses concerning the oil painting.

    • @ Alex Voliva ,Jeff Auxier is not dead ! He lives in Nashville ,il now ! The large 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide oil on canvas painting of Annie and her brother E.B Marshall in the music room was made in 1891. By Artist, E. Humpfrey Woolrych . St.louis. And Jeff had it partially restored .

  4. Good ol Centralia, it will always be home. Annie is a icon growing up for scary stories growing up. Thank you for bringing back good memories of growing up there.

  5. Your facts are not correct. The motel you have in your photo is not the motel on the billboard. The Centralia Motel is located across from the police station, on poplar street here in Centralia. And it is open.

    • Yes, about 50 others have stated this in the comments. The sign is deceiving 😉 I lived in Flora for two years but was not very familiar with Centralia. NOW I am as I have been there many times and will be back again in May.

  6. Thanks for the fun and lovely photos of Annie. I was born and raised in Centralia, have relatives close by this cemetery, and also spend many a high school late night sitting with friends near Annie or on a close-by bench in the cemetery, although I am certain it was not legal to be there so late. I have had many experiences in the cemetery. Some of you other posters claim it is not haunted. I’d definitely claim otherwise. Had some of my fondest AND most terrifying memories in that cemetery! It was fun to see your post and pics floating around FB. Thanks!

  7. Never get tired of hearing about annie !!!!! I live there , grew up there and as kids all of us have visited annie on numerous occasions !!!!! One of the loveliest old statues I have seen!!!!!

  8. Love the story and the pics of Annie Growing up i lived a few blocks down from the cemetery where she is and it always gave me the creeps but most cemeteries do. My brother and I used to stay all night at a family friends house across the street from the cemetery and one night all of us kids were going to go through the cemetery and go to Annie except we started seeing glowing eyes and all kinds of crazy stuff never found out if it was our parents trying to scare us or what but we never tried that again.

    I have to agree the motel in the picture is the one across from city hall while the one you seen has been shut down for many years and surprisingly hasn’t been tore down yet. And yes even though Centralia seems small it takes more than three minutes to go through and as it has fallen on hard times thanks to the economy it is still home to many and has been since birth.

  9. I think Centralia has a LOT to offer. Fairview Park is one of the nicest play parks for children that I’ve ever seen. There is a new, state of the art, high school, the Carrilon, the Carnagie Library is old; but, the owls looking down on the residents coming to the library are inspired. There are many restaurants. Amtrak stops there 6 times a day. Kaskaskia college makes it easy to get a Jr. College diploma. There is Centralia Lake and Racoon Lake which make camping and fishing easy and enjoyable. There is swimming, there is a small airport and there are many churches with all the activities that come with them. There is also the community theatre group which puts on high quality community productions. Centralia has a lot to offer for those who don’t just sit around waiting for others to entertain them.

    • Fairview park is in bad shape, the swing sets have 3 different colors of paint coming thru on the whole thing. the city uses sharp wood chips under the equipment ,except the merry-go round that has small rocks ! You want to see a city that knows how to have a nice park go to flora,il Kiwanis park. Crime is up in Centralia has a high rate drug problem some coming in on those Amtrak trains from Chicago . Centralia has more sex offenders than mt. Vernon ,Effingham ,marion .and 3 times more than salem. the taxs are high and the fees on the lakes are to. A house for sale on every block in town and one abandoned on almost every bock to !

  10. Hailey is wrong , Harriet ( Annie ) Marshall did not die in a fire. Annie died from diphtheria. Joshua’s book is fiction . It is not based on any accurate accounting of the Marshall family. His book is not endorsed in any way by the City of Centralia or the Elmwood Cemetery Preservation commission.

  11. I grew up a block from that cemetary, and me and my friends on a nightly basis in the summer would wait until dark and try to hear Annie play. I honestly never heard anything, however it felt like she was watching us, and her eyes seemed to follow you.

  12. Centralia is much larger than that. I was born and raised there. It took 15 minutes for me to get from my house to the high school each day. You may have driven through a part of the town called Central City which is where Elmwood Cemetery is located. Centralia is made of 3 different counties(Washington, Marion, and Clinton counties) and the point where all 3 counties meet is called Wamac, a merger of the 3 county names. Also, you went to the wrong motel. Motel Centralia is now called Knights Inn. I went to that cemetery many times as a teen and never heard or saw anything. My cousin lived across the road from the cemetery for many years and never heard or saw anything either. The statue is beautiful for its age though.

  13. I am from Centralia and loved your photos. Centralia is a dying town and I don’t know of anything it has to offer.Who knows maybe in another 20 years it can be famous for being a ghost town.The cemetery in Central City would also be a good one to visit.

  14. I, also, used to live in Centralia and go back there often. If the town just took 3 minutes to drive through, I wouldn’t have been late to school nearly so much. I do not believe the picture you submitted is really of Motel Centralia. I think it is a Knights Inn now. It is a shame that you missed the beautiful carving at the cemetary in Junction City. Centralia is a wonderful town and still has a lot to offer.

  15. sorry to tell you but comfort economy motel and motel Centralia are 2 different places. comfort economy motel has been closed for years, motel Centralia is another 3 blocks ahead and is called knights inn now

    • Joshua’s book is all fiction .It is not based on any accurate accounting of the Marshall family. Joshua’s book is not endorsed in any way by the City of Centralia or the Elmwood Cemetery Preservation Commission !

  16. first off that is a great story but she did not die of diptheria she died in a fire i know because she is my cousin

    • My wife and I visited Recoleta while in BA a few years ago. An experience not to be missed and fantastic opportunity for photography.

  17. I am from Centralia… visited that cemetery many times late at night. There is also a “haunted” one in Central City.

  18. I live in this town have all my life Annie is very cool the sounds are real and you ever come threw bring a wigi board or however you spell it you will have a real central city experience

  19. I live in Centralia, actually. Lived here since I was three. I first heard this story in 4th grade. Here we call her ‘Annie the Violin Player’ instead of ‘Violin Annie’ but of course it means the same. To be honest, I’ve always been too freaked out to visit the grave (cemeteries creep me out enough as it is). This story is very interesting and I appreciate you taking time to tell us about your experience 🙂

  20. I was born and raised in Centralia. This place is going downhill and fast. We have a few places that remain old and true. Stories and memories that will never be replaced. Violin Annie is the one thing tha sticks with you. I have tried on several occasions to hear the music or see something with no avail. The pictures you took are amazing!

  21. Coulda done without the snarky comments about Centralia (I’m from there), but nice shots of Annie.

  22. Thanks for posting this. I’m a native Centralian (raised in Central City — I believe Elmwood straddles the border). I remember hearing the story of Annie and her violin — but also the tale of Annie’s mother, who supposedly visited the gravesite often because she felt responsible for Annie’s death. Then one night, the statue spoke to her — Annie told her to go home and stop feeling guilty because she was all right now. That is as spooky as the violin music in the night!

  23. Hi Steve…Great pics of Annie….I’m a lifelong resident of Centralia IL….but I have to tell you…the motel you photographed is not the Centralia Motel…its up a few blocks…not too much better than the one you did find if I must say…lol

  24. Loved reading your article, and am glad that Katie B pointed out your error with the Motel sign and the ACTUAL motel….LOL and @ Jeff Auxier……I believe that Centralia, IL has NOT fallen into decay!!!! It might be little, and it might be old, and it might not even be like it used to be, but it is still home!

  25. [img]undefined[/img][img]undefined[/img]
    [img]http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Picture 008.jpg[/img]
    Here is a real life portrait of ANNIE MARSHALL AND HER BROTHER EDWARD.
    The antique store was closed yrs ago but I still have her portrait done in oil back in
    I used to live in Centralia,IL. many yrs ago before it fell into decay.
    Enjoy, Jeff Auxier[img]undefined[/img][img]undefined[/img]

    • Jeff Auxier, your post was a year ago but, this is worth a shot, I’m a Centralia native and would love to see a copy of the portrait, if you would be willing. I have read about it numerous times in reference to Annie Marshall and it was mentioned during the Elmwood tour last year (2011) but I have never actually saw the painting. It would be wonderful as I love this town. I came across this page when trying to find the location of Gainesville Cemetery outside of Central City on the Crooked Creek banks, thanks so much. You could post here, if you have a Facebook account : http://www.facebook.com/groups/54169037366/

    • Jeff Auxier, I am originally from Centralia, Il. Each time I go visit Annie, I take her violin with me. I actually have the original violin but there is no bow. Good memories. I knew her relative Albert Marshall. He used to play violin with my mother Helen Crittenden Stover many years ago. My parents are buried in Hillcrest. I do have a few relatives buried in Elmwood. Victoria Stover Migliore

  26. im from centralia. boring as this town is 1 of thing we used 2 do was sneak n the cemetery at night. one night we were gonna show some newbies annie. since i had been 2 her grave many, many times i was amazed that we spent over an hr looking 4 her. but then the cops showed up just as we were just starting 2 panic (cuz there is nothing worse than being picked @ thee police station by your dad!) there she was even tho we had been 2 that spot many times that night.we manged 2get behind her statue b4 the cop saw us.still 2 this day i swear she saved us!

  27. Wow is all I can say..your a very good photographer…Im a centralia native..born and raised… And us teens in c-town refer to her as annie… I have heard numerous versions of the ghost story.. Your entitled to your own opinion..but I have heard the violin at night.

    Also, There is a rumor (dont know if its true or not) that she lived in the yellow house on Lincoln blvd. My friend lived there and told me that her mom was doing research on the house and found a very very old document that stated that Annies parents had bought the house…Im not sure f this is true or not (I havent seen the document with my own eyes)

    Regardless, Your an amazing photographer..i really like the way you edited them and I am in love with the close up of her face..

    • The home where Annie lived at as a child is long gone.
      The Marshall home stood on the North West corner of South Locust street
      and 5th st., however her dad who was a doctor and owned the building he
      was located in is still standing on the South East corner of 2nd st and
      South locust st.
      The old building is well taken care of and houses an insurance agency etc.
      Dr. Marshall had his office upstairs.

  28. Hi Steve,
    I came across your site while looking for stories of Violin Annie. I grew up in Centralia and my parents still live there. You captured the story of Annie very well. It’s almost a right of passage growing up in Centralia to go to the cemetary in the middle of the night to hear Annie play. I do want to point out one error. The Motel Centralia and the picture of the actual hotel you took are actually two different motels. Motel Centralia is still very much open for business. The motel you took a picture of has been closed for nearly 20 years. I loved your story and the pictures were great. Thanks for capturing the mystery of Annie!

  29. Thanks for sharing that story Steve. Don’t want to turn this into a ghost blog but it’s fascinating stuff! I am natural sceptic, but I try and be open minded, and I was spooked when my gf saw an apparition. We were lying in bed chatting about stuff and she looked over my shoulder to the window and started crying, quite shocked. Seems she saw her grandma for a few seconds (in black and white), and in China that means they have just died. I haven’t been able to get the exact timing from her, but her grandma passed away that week. Weird that it was B&W and not colour.

  30. Amazing story! To me that is the essence of photography; live the moment, capture the magic and share. It would not have been possible to do it with other than Leica, Leica in the proper hands of course.
    Thank you for sharing.

  31. @ Adam, thanks man! Yea, shoot some of those buildings and signs, I would love to see them! Thanks!

    @ Elaine, thank you. The story with my Father. He died from prostate cancer at the age of 60 at home. I lived with my wife and then 3 year old son a few blocks away from my parents house. My dad would always come by our house and lay on our couch to watch TV (we had a cozy basement with a nice big widescreen screen TV, one of the first HD sets!) Anyway, the night he died we were sleeping when we heard noises in the house. I lifted out of bed and noticed a noise coming from the bathroom. When I went in, the hot water was blasting out of the faucet. Now, this NEVER happened before, ever and it never did happen again. This happened at around 4:30AM, about the time he would wake up every day for work.

    It was very odd but after I told my wife what the noise was she jumped out of bed and we walked down the hall and heard very weird music all around us. It was faint but it was not like music coming from outside or a room, it was surrounding us very faintly and sounded like flutes of some kind. Very strange.

    My wife freaked out, grabbed my son out of bed and she wanted to go to my Sisters house down the street. As we walked out, her on my side and my son in my arms we heard a big bang from the basement with some rattling noises that we never heard before. That was enough to get my wife out of the house in a hurry.

    I checked it out but no one was in the house. We left and realized it was 4:45 AM and my sister would be in bed so we went back home and never heard another noise or the music again.

    Very strange. If this would have happened today, I would not have left. Anyway, that’s the story.

    • Sorry for your loss, always wondered why you got so involved with the paranormal. Wonderful photos, Annies face looks alive somehow. Chillingly fantastic…

  32. Hey Steve

    Absolutely fantastic – that your site is peppered with stories such as this is the exact reason I visit it each day. It’s ALL about variety.

    My favourite part is the Motel Sign and following Motel pic – priceless. Those old signs are so cool, no? Here in Sydney we have what’s referred to as “Heritage Listed” property – this means that when you buy it, you have to keep the original facade (in period color). The great thing is, when you walk around Sydney and check out the old buildings, it’s really fun to try and find all the old 30s and 40s signs which are still painted on the sides of some of these buildings – yes, in the original (probably lead) paint. When I get my M9 I’ll do a series for kicks.

    Thanks again mate – you could post over a half a dozen articles everyday and it still wouldn’t be enough!


    • I’m from that town, the pic of the motel sign and pic of the motel are not the same place. The Centralia Motel still stands and is in fairly decent condition. Visiting Annie in the cemetery brings back many childhood memories of ghost stories and ghost hunts, mostly at slumber parties. Good photos of Annie and her violin.

      • Gorgeous photos of Annie. I believe the monument has been replaced sometime in the last ten years since my memories from when I was in high school are of a monument stained with glow in the dark paint to make it look like she was crying. When I saw it again in 2008, it was clean and new. The cemetery is not haunted.

        I’m from Centralia as well. I can safely say Motel Centralia is an abandoned dump. My latest visit to my family was in August of 2012. The town has died slowly over the last twenty years due to industry after industry leaving.

        • This is wrong concerning the motel…The picture was of the Holiday Motel, which has been closed for years. The Motel Centralia is another 5 blocks South on the opposite side of the street, right across from the City Hall.

    • That’s not the same motel. The one he photographed was the Holiday Motel. The other is called Motel Centralia, as the billboard says.

  33. Wow. You really captured her essence. These are kind of spooky too. I’m sure we would all like to hear about your ghost story. I, myself, have seen a ghost once. The only reason I know I saw what I saw was because my roommate saw the same thing at the same time and mentioned it to me right then and there. I wasn’t going to say anything, but dismissed it. She mentioned it. We both screamed. LOL!

  34. Hey Steve, you’re going to cost me a fortune. Every time you post up pictures from the M9 I get closer and closer to needing one. I know it’s not the camera that makes the photographer (your pictures from all the other cameras you test out and write about are amazing, too). But somehow, the M9 is speaking to me through your pictures and I love reading about your experiences with it.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and experiences. Yours is my new favorite site on the internet!

    • Hello Steve I’m Presley Thompson I live in centralia and I visit Annie and well the equipment I have which is just my phone and my friends EMF meter , we go out there and my phone doesn’t have very good audio but we can hear some of her (or someone’s replies) I love what you do also you may have heard but a man named Jared Hanna went missing about a year ago and only his truck and a gas can containing only his fingerprints were found then a his bag was found behind a house no one knows what happened to him but there are EVP videos of his brother on YouTube

      • I lived in Centralia Many years and would visit Annie quite often. A few times we did hear very faintly a violin playing. One of the stories was that her MOTHER was jealous and beat her to death with her violin (not her father) The other was that the family was out , of town and Annie fell ill and passed away back at home. There was another story kids would tell about if you disrespected Annie, she would follow you home and bang on doors and windows. I took my kids with me one time along with my husbands cousins. One of the cousins was very rude, cussing at Annie ect. My digital camera kept malfunctioning and would shut down and not let me get a picture. I drove back home twice on Sycamore st in Centralia to put in new batteries. Both times the camera would work fine at home. Finally on my 3rd trip back to Annies gravesite that night i appologised to her for the rudeness of the cousin and asked her to please let me get a picture. This time i was able to get a few pics with no problem

    • I grew up in Central City, the town where this gravesite is located. We were terrified of this grave marker after dark.

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