The Two Burials of Uncle Ben’s Leg

There is plenty of spooky history haunting Idaho’s outer reaches. From phantom footsteps and voices in the Shoshone Ice Caves to the malevolent spirit of Raymond Allen Snowden, Idaho’s answer to Jack the Ripper, who is said to haunt the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, there are no shortage of spine-tingling tales to get you in the Halloween spirit. A lesser known and generally less terrifying tale account of the paranormal comes to us today by way of Idaho Heritage Trust Board member Luke Waldron, the great grandnephew of Benjamin Waldron, a beloved member of the Samaria community around the turn of the twentieth century.

Called ‘Uncle Ben’ by everyone in the area for his affable demeanor, kindness, and sense of humor, Benjamin was a gifted businessman and pillar of the Malad community. As a youngster, he would travel door-to-door selling goods out of a little wagon. Quite the entrepreneur, Uncle Ben would go on to own the town’s general store, a hotel, livery stable, corrals, and an icehouse. He was also instrumental in creating Pig Alley, a narrow walking path in Samaria that led directly from the local school to his store, making it easier for children to stop by after class to load up on candy. It also made for a more convenient path to and from the church, but that seemed to be a secondary consideration.

Tragedy befell our Uncle Ben in the Fall of 1878. He was harvesting grain when his leg got caught up in a horse-drawn thresher. Ben, being rather attached to his appendage, stayed in the hospital for almost a week in the hope of saving his leg. It was not to be, and he walked out of the hospital on a peg with his original leg in hand.

With his customary sense of humor still intact, Uncle Ben insisted the leg be buried in the local cemetery, replete with its own headstone. However, for months after the operation, Ben was still suffering from terrible phantom pains. He asked if the leg had been buried straight or with the joint folded. Those who did the burying could not recall, they simply dug the hole, chucked the leg in, and went about the rest of their business. Ben insisted, so they exhumed the leg, and sure enough, it was bent in a rather nasty fashion. They straightened out the joint, gently placed the leg back in its resting place, and according to Ben, he never felt so much as a twinge for the rest of his days.

Uncle Ben lived another 36 years with a single lower extremity, and, judging by the accomplishments listed above, it didn’t seem to slow him down much at all. He would go on to get married in 1908 before sadly passing away six years later, much to the dismay of his community. From his eulogy: “Loved by all who knew him, trusted and was trusted by everyone, served his fellow man, and friend to Indian and white man alike.” He was so generous that, following his death, the family had to sell everything left in the store to make up for all the goods he let his customers have on credit. He is interred in the same graveyard as his leg, though their plots are curiously located at opposite ends of the cemetery, which makes one wonder whether Uncle Ben ever visits his lost extremity.

Uncle Ben’s impact on the communities of Samaria and Malad City are also commemorated by a bell in Samaria Park. However, knowing Ben’s sense of humor, he would be tickled to know how much his legacy is still tied to the miraculous story of his lost leg. 

If you can’t get enough of legless ghosts, we recommend you drive out to the Canyon Hill Cemetery in Caldwell around midnight, where it is rumored the apparition of a legless jogger will run up and tap on your driver-side window. Please let us know if dare to try and especially if you encounter anything extraordinary. 

In the meantime, happy Halloween to you and yours from the Idaho Heritage Trust! We would love to hear any of your spooky sightings in historic places, family stories of the spectral and macabre, or local legends and ghost stories. Shoot us a message through our website (Contact – Idaho Heritage Trust, Inc.) or tag us on Facebook.

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