10 of Dayton’s famous urban legends and ghostly tales

We’ve all heard urban legends, and through the years the Dayton Daily News has written about some of these when asked to look into them by readers.

Some even have a grain of truth to them, having originated in a news story or in some forgotten corner of history. Here’s a look at some stories that have become Dayton legends:

The legend of the mysterious factory

There is a certain unmarked, obscure road off Ohio 741 on the way toward the Dayton Mall — some have said the road is Betty Lane, others aren’t really sure. For years, teenagers have reported going down this dirt road to find a mysterious factory.

The factory workers, the teens discover, are all people with albinism. The legend usually involves a couple reaching a dark and secluded area where they are met on the road by armed, menacing workers who are unhappy that the teens discovered their factory, and so they hold them captive. Sometimes, the couple manages to run away.

Crybaby Bridge

In the Springfield/Yellow Springs area, by Clifton Gorge, is a bridge known as Crybaby Bridge. According to the legend, a young woman threw her unwanted baby off the bridge and on certain nights you can hear the baby cry.

The breathing cactus

A woman goes to a local seasonal nursery and buys an inexpensive cactus. Driving home she notices the cactus seems to be slowly breathing in and out.

Alarmed, she calls the nursery and is told to bring the cactus back immediately. The nursery hastens to add that it will gladly buy the cactus back for $1,000.

She loads the breathing cactus into the car and starts back to the nursery.

Before she arrives, however, the cactus explodes, spewing thousands of baby tarantulas into her car.

Fried what?

One common myth involves a local fried chicken outlet.

A customer drives up, orders a bucket of chicken, and heads on home to feed a hungry family.

Amid much munching, a family member retrieves a piece but cannot identify it. The odd piece Is passed around the table and everybody hazards a guess. Nothing seems to fit.

Finally, the piece is examined further and it is revealed that it’s not chicken at all but … a fried rat.

Hanger 18 and the frozen alien

Here’s a legend that has been passed around for decades.

The story goes that following the crash of a flying saucer in Roswell, N.M., in July 1947, Air Force operatives hastily flew the frozen body of an alien to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base “Hangar 18″ along with parts from the craft.

In “The Roswell Report: A Historical Perspective,” George M. Eberhart, editor at the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, presented this teletype message from the Dallas, Texas, FBI office to the agency’s Cincinnati office that mentions our local air base:

The Air Force’s report on Roswell, released in September 1994, identifies the object as part of “Project Mogul,” an exotic-looking top-secret balloon built to monitor Russian nuclear bomb tests. Wright-Patterson officials have said for decades that “Hanger 18” doesn’t exist.

The last martini for a Dayton salesman

On a bitterly cold winter day in Dayton, a salesman gladly accepts an out-of-town mission to warm, muggy New Orleans.

After a particularly long day strolling about the Big Easy, he heads for the hotel lounge. A sleek, beautiful woman soon sidles up and offers to buy him a mixed drink. Feeling his luck is only just beginning, he accepts.

The next thing he knows, the salesman is wide awake and lying in a bathtub filled with ice. Beside him is a typewritten note and a telephone. The note says not to move, and to immediately dial 911.

A dispatcher answers. After listening to the story the dispatcher quickly tells the salesman in a deadpan voice:

“Both your kidneys have been stolen. Stay where you are. An ambulance is on the way.”

The boy and his dog

Woodland cemetery has several ghostly stories and legends.

Many like to tell the tale of Johnny Morehouse, a boy who — the story goes — drowned in the Miami-Erie Canal. His faithful dog who tried to save him and sat on the boy’s grave until he died, too, but little has been found to confirm this story.

Tales of ghosts and monsters

Miami Valley folklorists trace many modern spooky stories directly back to century-old ghost and monster stories rooted in real events. Here are three still making the rounds:

Witch’s Tower

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

A local turreted landmark holds a ghostly legend.

Lookout Tower — known also as Frankenstein’s Castle, Witch’s Tower and Patterson’s Castle — was completed in 1941 in what is now Hills & Dales MetroPark.

The most common story is the appearance of a ghostly girl and boy whenever lightning illuminates the sky. That intriguing tale is based in fact.

Peggy Harmeson, a 16-year-old Bellbrook girl, died inside the tower when it was struck by lightning in 1967. She and 17-year-old Ronnie Stevens reportedly took shelter inside when a thunderstorm rolled in.

Legend has it after her death visitors found burnt images of the girl within the tower. No matter how much they were scrubbed, the stains remained on the walls.

The Crosswick Monster

Crosswick is an unincorporated bump on the road at the intersection of Bellbrook Road and Old Stage Road in Warren County’s Wayne Twp. (just south of Bellbrook). It is perhaps best known as the scene of Ohio’s most notorious monster tale.

One summer day in the 1880s, two boys were fishing along Middle Run Creek when a scaly, hissing, lizard-like creature sprung from the hollow interior of a giant sycamore tree nearby.

It reared up to 14 feet and thrust out two claw-like arms, seizing one boy and running off at a gallop as fast as a horse.

Field hands began pursuing the creature. It dragged one boy into a tree but the field hands flushed the creature out. It then dropped him and slithered into a cave along the creek. Using dynamite, the pursuers sealed the cave’s entrance.

The Miami Gazette and Cincinnati Enquirer reported the story after the boy was treated by a Waynesville physician. Investigators reopened the cave, but no creature could be found. Ed, it is reported, lived out his life in the area, a quiet, subdued man.

Historical note: At the time it was not uncommon for pranksters to fabricate such incidents.

Bellbrook’s headless ghost

Enterprising settler James Buckley arrived in Bellbrook from London, England, in 1830 and saw an opportunity. He built a sawmill on Little Sugar Creek. Unfortunately his prosperity attracted attention. One night, he was killed by someone looking to rob him.

Buckley is buried in Bellbrook’s pioneer graveyard, and to this day his headless ghost is seen roaming about the creek, head carried in his arms.