Note: This article first appeared in the Dayton Daily News October 10, 2008 under the headline Ghostly History.
Volunteers from the Museum at the Friends Home, 115 S. Fourth St., will give their final 2013 Ghostly History Walking Tours of the so-called Quaker Historic District from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Friday. Tickets are $12 for adults and children older than age 12. They are $5 per child under age 12. Click here for more information or call (513) 897-1607.
Perhaps you’ve heard stories from Room No. 4 at the Hammel House in downtown Waynesville — the site of a gruesome 19th-century murder. There are reports of apparitions, flying objects and ancient spirits that keep watch over visitors.
Or maybe you’ve heard tales from the Friends (Quaker) Meeting House. A candlelight flickers in the window, perhaps signaling long-dead conductors on the Underground Railroad. A petite teacher with pulled-back hair has been seen staring eerily from the white brick building’s windows at passers-by.
Or maybe you’ve heard about pained cries at the nearby burial grounds on High Street. Dating back to 1804, it is the oldest cemetery in Wayne Twp. and the resting place of children who fell victim to cholera and other epidemics.
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With more than 30 haunted houses, Chris Woodyard of Beavercreek, author of the “Haunted Ohio” book series, says Waynesville is easily the “most haunted town in Ohio.”
The village, founded in 1797, has a rich past for American Indians, white settlers and blacks escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad, she said.
“So much living went on there (that) people found it very hard to give up when they died,” said Woodyard, who devotes a chapter to the community in the second book in her series.
For anyone who wants to chance a ghostly encounter, The Museum at the Friends Home offers 7:30 p.m. Ghostly History Walking Tours of many of those locations believed to be haunted. (See note above for details) . The tour is $12 for those older than age 12 and $5 for those younger than 12. Proceeds benefit the museum, which is believed to be haunted by a deceased board member. Cathy Prewitt liked the museum so much she promised to return once dead and stay, museum curator Dolly McKeehan said. One of Cathy’s favorite pastimes is ringing the museum’s doorbell.
“I say alright, Cathy, I know you’re here,” McKeehan said.
McKeehan’s stepdaughter, an Army veteran and current museum board member, said she felt the village’s cold ghostly history — literally — when fingers touched the back of her neck while she was shopping for quilts in the upstairs of an antique store formerly housed in the old Stetson House on Main Street.
“I just had to get out of there,” Samantha McKeehan said. “I felt goose bumps.” McKeehan said she bolted from the house after feeling the ghost’s touch, leaving her mother and stepmother baffled.
Linda Morgan, a museum board member who gives tours, said Samantha’s ghostly encounter likely was with Louisa Stetson Larrick, the aunt of John Stetson. The famed hat-maker gave Stetson Larrick tuberculosis during a visit to the house in the 1860s. Though she died, some believe her spirit remained. Believers say they’ve seen her ghost and have felt her presence.
Woodyard writes that mirrors in the house refused to hang and instead smash to the ground. A small, dark-haired woman wearing a long, old-fashioned dress — believed to be Stetson Larrick, who died in 1879, or a schoolteacher who lived in the house in the early 1900s — has been spotted in the front doorway of the home.
Waynesville is filled with spirits, but Morgan, who says she has been visited by her deceased mother, said most are harmless.
“If someone was good as a person, they will be good as a ghost,” Morgan said. “Most people are good.”
CONTACT this reporter at (937) 225-2384 or arobinson@day tondailynews.com.