Up close with a gunless soldier

Athens and the Civil War, Part 2: Ohio’s 18th Volunteer Infantry

This is part two of a two-part story. For part one, click here.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the final edition of BrickBlog for the year. Last time, we discussed the famous College Green statue and the events leading up to its construction and some mysteries surrounding it since. But the statue is built to honor those from Athens County who fought in the Civil War. Athens own 18th Ohio Volunteer Infantry registered 2,610 men, the most from one county in the entire state, and consisting of nearly half the eligible number of men in the county. In this final BrickBlog, we’ll look at some of the exploits of the 18th OVI and what the war meant to Athens.

The 18th OVI: Fighting Under Rosecrans

The 18th Ohio Volunteer Infantry formed in September of 1861, mustering at Camp Wool where West Elementary now stands. Within a month, the regiment loaded onto trains and headed for Camp Dennison near Cincinnati. By 1862, the 18th found themselves under the command of General William Rosecrans in Tennessee. In December of 1862, the 18th found their first real fight: at the Battle of Stones River. It was the end of the Stones River campaign, and saw the Union take a victory, but with a heavy toll of casualties on both sides. Fighting against General Bragg of the south, Rosecrans and the 18th used heavy artillery to knock out the south and force a retreat. But it wouldn’t be the last time the 18th and Rosecrans fought against Bragg.

Their most famous call to action came a few months later, in September of 1863. Again fighting in Tennessee, the 18th found themselves in the Battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. And they played a crucial part in the battle, too. “At Chickamauga the 18th held the line at Snodgrass Hill,” said Cyrus Moore, a master’s student at Kent State and an expert on the 18th. “It was crucial in helping to prevent a rebel break through.” The 18th fought on Snodgrass, fighting off an estimated 25 rebel attacks on the hill before using the 18th as the final line allowing for rebel retreat. A group of Athens historians wrote this of the battle and Athens involvement: “The climax of the presentation centers around the Battle of Chickamauga and the pivotal role that Athenian Lt. Col Charles H. Grosvenor and the ‘Boys from Athens’ played in preventing the total elimination of the Army of the Cumberland and ultimately earning their Corps Commander, Maj Gen George Henry Thomas, the nickname ‘The Rock of Chickamauga.’” It was said one Ohio regiment (unknown if it was the 18th or not) used 45,000 rounds firing on the hill. The battle ended up costing General Rosecrans his job and decimating the 18th. Casualties for the Athens regiment remain unknown, but, as Moore said, “it was substantial.”

The Retired OVI

After Chickamauga, the 18th was retired, unable to fight with the severe losses suffered. Moore says they moved on to Chattanooga as an engineer corps. “Thus, at Chattanooga the regiment switched to engineer duty. As engineers, the regiment likely built and repaired hospitals and other buildings.” But as the siege of Chattanooga continues, supply lines – called cracker lines – were needed to break through the rebel’s blockade. “To open up the “cracker line” and bring supplies into Chattanooga, a brigade attacked Brown’s Ferry early in the morning of October 27, 1863, landing from pontoon boats. The 18th built those boats, and the 92nd OVI, which had Athens men in the ranks, participated in the attack.” The lines opened up, and within the year Chattanooga was in the hands of the North.

A Historic Group

Tom O’Grady, curator of the Athens County Historical Society, shed light on some other interesting things about the 18th OVI and Athens involvement in the war. “General Charles Grosvenor, as he is called, was from Athens,” said O’Grady. “There’s a building named after him on campus. There is also a story about a black soldier who enlisted here in Athens and went on to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was never presented to him in his lifetime. It was posthumously presented in recent years and a year or so ago a historic marker was installed on the Athens County Fairgrounds marking that fact.” That man was Milton M. Holland, a slave sent to Ohio University by his Texas owner. When the war broke out, he enlisted in a group of African-American troops from Athens and later earned the Medal of Honor (posthumously) after Holland “took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”

So there is the fascinating, and true story, of the 18th OVI. But it doesn’t end there. Grosvenor became a U.S. Representative and Speaker of the House, bringing chances to the city and state as a whole. The 18th’s surgeon William Parker John became one of the first in charge of the Athens Asylum. Some veterans even formed a militia in Nelsonville. But most importantly, many of these men sacrificed their lives in order to bring freedom and unity back to our country. Without their sacrifice, none of the history we discussed would be possible. So the next time you walk past that familiar green faded statue, remember what it stands for, and why it’s there.

That’s it for this edition of BrickBlog. I hoped you’ve enjoyed the stories these past few weeks, but don’t let you quest for history end here. Many of Athens greatest bits of history are still out there, waiting to be told. Thanks for 200 years of history from our great city, and here’s to 2,000 more.

Check out a video of the exhibit on the 18th OVI displayed at the Athens County Historical Society and the College Green Memorial here.

Athens and the Civil War, Part 1: The College Green Statue

This is part one of a two-part story. For part two, click here.

Hello Bobcats, and welcome back to the final BrickBlog story of the year. It’s one of the most famous landmarks on campus: the Athens Civil War Monument more commonly known as the College Green statue. The statue, now over 120 years old, is a memorial to the 2,000 Athens citizens who fought in the Civil War. Its most famous story takes place during the protests and riots during the Vietnam War in 1970. But the monument itself? The monument came about in a different kind of fight: one between Athens and Ohio University in the early days of the school.

Athens Own Civil War: The War for the Green

The original use for College Green was not as a campus hub. In the original days of OU, when all buildings were located on the green, it was used as a city hub, with the university on its outskirts. The town used it as a place to pasture their animals, a place for travelling tents of circuses and bazaars to set up, and a landfill-type area for trash disposal. By 1830, OU president Robert Wilson had had enough. Citing “the accumulation of filth about our doors from sheep, hogs and cattle,” Wilson lobbied for the green to be fenced in and made university property.

What followed was a fight between city and university over the use of the grounds lasting over 50 years. Athenians argued the lawn was their city’s meeting place, a place for business. The university saw the green as its front door, and they didn’t agree with letting animals and trash and circuses run wild outside a place of education. Both sides fought for 50 years, dragging lawyers and even the Ohio Supreme Court in to the fight. But in the late 1880’s the Grand Army of the Republic veterans erected a monument to the 2,610 men who fought in the war, the city gave up the land for the monument, and the university agreed to take care of the land. The statue was dedicated in 1893. It stands 45 feet high and depicts 4 soldiers, three around the bottom base representing the soldiers in the Army, Calvary, and Navy, as well as an Artilleryman atop the statue. But the original statue looks much different from the one we know today, thanks in part to a famous protest and an explosive nighttime incident.

A Shot in the Dark

Cannons surrounded the original statue, not the low wall we know today. But there was a twist: the cannons were real, functioning artillery. Added in 1907, the six cannons were surrounded by 100 real cannonballs, stacked in a pyramid shape around the cannons. And there they sat for ten years, undisturbed, until 1917. Twice in the first few weeks of the year the cannons were fired off: by whom, no one seems to know for sure. The first blast was small, but the second, on February 28th, caused $200 in damage, breaking windows and knocking pictures off the walls of surrounding shops. The cannons and balls were donated to the scrap metal campaign during WWII. The other modification remains one of OU’s greatest mysteries.

If you’ve ever looked closely at the statue’s soldiers, their hands seem to be holding something: at least, they used to be. The original statue depicted the monument men holding sabers and rifles, which have now disappeared. The Athens News did a feature of the missing weaponry, but was unable to locate the time or reason for their disappearance, either. Theories included that the guns were taken during the scrap metal drive as well as the cannons (but photos from the 1950’s disproved that) and that the Athens Veteran’s committee may have taken them in an attempt to have the statue moved off campus (a failed attempt obviously, and revoked by interviews).

But the most famous theory is their removal was due to the Vietnam War protests in the 1960’s and 70’s either by the university to prevent students from using them as weapons or by students in a form of protest. However, Athens News was unable to find definitive evidence that they were taken in the famous 1970 protests that led to the early closing of Ohio University, but pinned the disappearance between 1968 and 1972. Even more curious, only two of the weapons are accounted for. One resides in the Athens County Historical Society, one is owned by the university. The third? No one knows…and the mystery doesn’t seem any closer to being solved.

So there you have it, a small history of the famous statue and its great mystery. But that’s not the end of this story, far from it. Why is the monument necessary? What role did Athens play in the Civil War? The answer is one of the most unknown but fascinating bits of history in the area. We’ll be back soon for part two: Athens and the Civil War!


Ohio’s National Champion: The 1960 Bobcat Football Team

Hello everyone, and welcome to a special edition of BrickBlog. You may recall a few years ago when the entire 1960 Ohio Football team was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. That team was being honored for its perfect 10-0 season and the title of Small College National Champion, still the only National Championship in Ohio athletic history. I had a chance to talk with Roger Merb, a freshman on the 1960 team and three-sport athlete in his time at Ohio. But before we get into what Merb had to say, let’s look into more details of that perfect season.

Before 1960, Ohio had meager success in football. After joining the Mid American Conference in 1946 (and to this day remain the only continuous charter member in the conference), the Bobcats won the MAC in 1953 with a 5-0-1 record. In 1958, the team hired Bill Hess as its new head coach. In Hess’ first season, the team went 5- 4 with an upset win over Louisville. 1959 saw the ‘Cats go 7-2 finishing behind Bowling Green who won that season’s Small College National Championship.

It was the 1960 season that began the Hess era and cemented Ohio as a MAC powerhouse for the rest of the decade. The team opened the season with a 28-0 victory over Dayton, setting the defensive tone for the year. Opponents averaged just 3.4 points per game, and Ohio shut out 5 of its 10 opponents with no team scoring more than 8 on the defense all season. One such shutout was a 21-0 win over Miami, snapping a 15-year winless drought in the rivalry and beginning a run that saw Ohio win 8 of the next 12 match-ups.

The season wasn’t without its close calls, though. Roger Merb, a 73-year-old Portsmouth, Ohio native, recalls a torrential downpour in a 6-0 win over Xavier University. “We would punt on third down because we couldn’t hold on to the football,” said Merb. And in the team’s second to last game of the year, Ohio held off defending champs Bowling Green 14-7 to win the MAC for just the second time ever. Merb aid the celebration in the locker room after the BG victory was his best memory from the season. “We were celebrating, singing ‘Stand Up And Cheer’… [That game] was determined by a penalty or two and a late fumble, we didn’t understand it at the time but we liked getting rings.” After a 48-6 blowout win over Southern Illinois to close out the season, the Bobcats were named the Small College National Champions by both the United Press International and Associated Press polls.

Overall, Merb said that season was important not just for football success, but success for Ohio University overall. “It put OU on the map, and baseball and basketball were winning the conference too. The ’60’s were a great time for OU.” It was during this decade of athletic success that Ohio’s enrollment doubled, making the school what it is today. Coach Bill Hess compiled a 108-91-4 record, with 4 MAC Championships, 2 unbeaten seasons, and the 1960 National Championship. Merb had a successful career, too. He hit .412 for the baseball team his sophomore baseball season, played basketball for two years, and won all-Ohio honors for his time in football.

That 1960 football team won the only National Championship in Ohio athletic history. While the Small College National Championship is no longer awarded (the NCAA divided colleges into three divisions in 1975), it’s a championship that deserves to be remembered. Thanks for reading this special edition of BrickBlog, we’ll be back next week with a regularly scheduled Friday post.

For more on the 1960 championship Bobcats, check out some stats comparing that Ohio team to some other Small College National Champions here.  We’re comparing Ohio’s 1960 championship to the 10-0 NIU Huskies of 1963 and the final team to win the honor, 1974’s Louisiana Tech team that went 11-1 (with a loss to runner up Central Michigan, oddly enough). Here’s total points scored in the season, total points allowed in the season, average points per game, average points allowed per game, and average margin of victory.

200 Years Of Learning: The History Of Ohio’s Libraries

Hello Bobcats, and welcome back to BrickBlog. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Ohio University Library System. I’m sure many of you, myself included, spent many days and nights locked away studying and cramming inside Alden Library, the impressive and massive building just beyond College Green. But did you know that Alden wasn’t the first library building at Ohio? Although its predecessors aren’t too far away from where Alden stands now…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning: 1814.

More Books than You Could Read In A Lifetime (Give Or Take)

While it is true that Ohio University’s library has always been located on or near College Green, it wasn’t until 1969 that Alden opened its doors. Before that, Ohio’s books were stored in a number of different buildings. First came the building known as “The Academy.” A historical marker stands where the building once was, located near the site of current day Galbreath Chapel. The Academy was the first building on campus, built in 1808. It wasn’t until 1811 that the library got its start, as the school set aside $308 to purchase books. They housed them in The Academy in 1814, and the Ohio University Library System began.

Soon after, the library moved to Cutler Hall, which served as Ohio’s main (and nearly only) building. Opened in 1819, the building served not only as Ohio’s library, but the dorm, biology labs, and most of the university’s classrooms. It was during the library’s time in Cutler that the first Ohio Librarian was named: Archibald G. Brown. While in Cutler, the library expanded from 1,000 volumes in 1827 to well over 7,000 by 1885. The library stayed in Cutler until 1903, when a well-known businessman made a contribution that led to a new library a few yards away.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? (No, Not That One)

It was 1903 when business magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie made a $30,000 donation to Ohio University with the intent of building a new library, under the strict instruction it be open for public access as well. At the time, Cutler had expended to over 16,000 volumes, well past capacity. Then called Carnegie Library, it was the first stand-alone library in Ohio University’s history. Opened in 1905, it was used for the shortest amount of time among the library buildings, as again the library expanded beyond capacity. The building was turned into classroom space and renamed Carnegie Hall, and again renamed in 1985 to Scripps Hall. It still stands, mostly used as School of Journalism offices and classrooms. So where did the library go?

With a capacity of 250,000 volumes the new library at Ohio University was by far its largest. Built in 1930 and opened in 1931, Chubb Library became a popular meeting place as well as a popular study house. Now, of course, Chubb houses the financial offices for Ohio University. Named for English professor Edwin Watts Chubb, the building served as the library from 1931 until the library moved again, for a final time, in 1969.

Seven Stories of, Well, Stories

In 1966, Ohio University broke ground on a $5.3 million dollar library, set to expand capacity of volumes exponentially. Finished in 1969, Alden Library was named for the president who saw its construction carried out, Dr. Vernon T. Alden. Under Alden’s leadership, Ohio University doubled in enrollment, faculty, and campus grounds, as is widely regarded as the man responsible for making Ohio the school it is today. When opened, the library had 550,000 volumes with a capacity for 1.4 million after the east and west wings were added in 1972. It is included in the Association of Research libraries as one of the best and largest 100 libraries in the U.S. and Canada.

Today, Alden Library is home to more than 3 million volumes, both digital and physical. It is open 24 hours for research and studying, and despite the advance of technology, library entrances have doubled in the last 5 years. In fact, Alden recorded more than 2 million physical visits in 2013, making the library one of the most popular buildings on campus by far.

That’s all for this week, I hope you enjoyed a look at Ohio’s Libraries. A happy anniversary to all the buildings that have served in the 200-year tradition!


The Building Formerly Known As Asylum: The Ridges

Hello Bobcats, and welcome back to BrickBlog. When a building in Athens is described as historical, the title demands an air of respect. Few buildings demand this respect more than the Athens Mental Health Care Center, lovingly nicknamed “The Ridges.” From its construction in 1868 until today, The Ridges has been a hotbed of industry, controversy, and even ghost stories. But how much of the building’s famous lore is true, and how much has become Athens legend? We dive in to our story this week looking at The Ridges father: Levi T. Scofield.

Scofield: A Man Who Shaped Ohio

Built in 1868, The Ridges was designed and constructed by Levi Scofield, a Cleveland native fresh from his service in the Civil War. Scofield was commissioned to design the mental health facility, a building type that was gaining popularity at the time (mainly due to Civil War veterans struggling with what we now know to be PTSD). Scofield went on to build the Asylum for the Insane in Columbus (the world’s largest building housed under one roof until the Pentagon came along), the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH (made famous for being the filming site for “The Shawshank Redemption”), and the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Cleveland.

It was 1874 when the Athens Lunatic Asylum opened its doors to patients from the area and beyond, and soon became Athens largest employer. Although many people in Athens and the surrounding area worked at The Ridges, it was mostly a self-sustaining facility. “They raised all their own crops, they raised livestock in the dairy barn,” said professor Thomas O’Grady of Ohio University’s Astronomy department. O’Gray lived at The Ridges for a year and is a well known historian on the subject. “They sold some (crops) on the local markets… they were self sufficient and making money: they were in the black.”

From there, The Ridges continued to become a hub for local jobs. It wasn’t until Ohio University’s large growth in the 1950’s that The Ridges didn’t employ the most people in the county. Day to day life for the clients at The Ridges was exciting. O’Grady talked about clients taking walks on the large grounds, sailing on the lake near the asylum, farming, landscaping, sledding in the winter, and many other outdoor activities. But for many, The Ridges are infamous not for the activities outside its walls, but inside. But what we take for fact may not gave been as clear cut in reality.

Fact Over Fiction, Mind Over Matter

The legends and horror stories surrounding the asylum often begin in the same place: overcrowding and horrific treatment methods led to deranged patients returning as spirits to haunt the grounds they were so badly mistreated. While it is true that some overcrowding did occur in the facility, people often forget that the treatments were not seen as tortuous or inhumane at the time. “Shock therapy, ice baths, lobotomies, all those things they were doing at the time were then considered state-of-the-art,” said O’Grady. And he’s right. From its beginnings in the 1920’s until the decline in the 1960’s, lobotomies were considered top-of-the-line treatment for mental illnesses. And many stories of chains on the walls or large dungeons in the basement aren’t exactly true, either. “The big archways in the basement, they’re described as dungeons…it was built before the invention of the i-beam,” O’Grady said. “You could only build them so high with masonry. One of the strongest designs in architecture is that arch.” Even the creepy, nameless cemetery is explainable: “There’s the stones in the cemetery with the numbers on them, but there’s always been a log on that kind of thing. The reason they didn’t have names was to protect the families”

But one thing is irrefutable: The Ridges is haunted, a scary place we should all avoid. Right?

Not So Haunted Athens

Not exactly. O’Grady, who lived at The Ridges during his graduate school work, said there were plenty of opportunities to see some ghosts in his time, but he never did.

“I lived there for a year…there were plenty of opportunities for people who weren’t really there to be there, but I saw no evidence.” O’Grady said he was open to the idea of the paranormal, but there wasn’t any evidence to back it. “Almost any building 75 years old or older is haunted.”

The horror isn’t the supposed ghosts of The Ridges, or the stories of mistreatment, or even the outdated medical practices used on its patients. The horror is generations forgetting the impact The Ridges had on the community of Athens and the area as a whole. The Ridges, on the whole, did more harm than good, and by the time it closed in 1993 many people were better off because of the treatment received there. While the building may have a dark or more mysterious past, it does not make it a terrifying place. The Ridges is another beautiful addition to our historic region. Sometimes, it’s best to look past legend and lore to discover the true history: and often, it’s more exciting than that myth.

Thanks for reading another installment of BrickBlog. There are only a few posts remaining before the end of the semester, so leave a comment if you’d like to see the blog continue past the end of 2014. There are some great pieces of history coming to close out the semester, so stay tuned!


Follow The Athens Block Road: How Athens Got Its Bricks

Hello Bobcats, and welcomes back to BrickBlog. Today we’ll be looking into the substance that gives Athens its distinct look and what gives this blog its name: bricks. Everywhere you look in Athens, bricks can be seen: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and so on. The area has a rich history of brick development, brick buildings, and a tradition bonding students and bricks at OU. But how did it all begin? Let’s look into the beginnings of brick making in the Athens area.

Iron Or(e) Brick? Why Not Both?

To look into why Athens is covered head to toe in bricks, we must first go back – way back, to the year 1800. Conflict between Native Americans and white settlers were fierce, and many of the buildings of both sides were destroyed in attacks, primarily by burning. Therefore most of the structures built before this time are gone, and the post-war buildings are all that remain. We do know, however, that one of the first iron furnaces was built in the area in 1806, and began production of iron in 1808. By the Civil War, Ohio was producing more iron than any state (besides Pennsylvania). Why are we starting with iron, you ask? Because more often than not, ore reserves (from which iron is eventually produced) are followed by large clay reserves, usually found beneath the ore. With such a rich area for iron production, it was inevitable that brick production would soon follow with the large clay pockets found just below. From there, the Hocking Valley became a sort of gold mine for brick, spawning 17 clay factories in the area.

Nelsonville, King Of All Bricks

The most famous of all the companies that came from this ‘Golden Age’ was the Nelsonville Brick Company. They’re responsible for the famous Nelsonville and Hocking Block seen on campus. Brick makers from 1880 to 1937, the Nelsonville star brick can be seen from New York to Chicago and nearly everywhere in between. These famous bricks can still be seen in Athens, too: just look for the six pointed star on an all-square brick, usually making up a sidewalk or road. The Athens Brick Co. was another influential source for brick, with many of Ohio University’s oldest buildings being built with ABCo. brick. The Ridges, Cutler Hall, and Court Street’s paved street are just a few examples of Athens landmarks Athens Brick Co. is responsible for. Athens Brick Co. is largely responsible for the early campus being brick, and therefore the newest buildings following suit with the look. They’re also behind the famous Athens Block coveted by students.

Remember Kids, BrickBlog Does Not Encourage Theft

It’s become a tradition among many Bobcat seniors to take a souvenir with them before leaving Athens: namely one of those famous Athens Blocks. Students will pick out a special brick from a special place on campus: maybe outside their major’s home building (as some Scripps students do), maybe from a favorite place on campus, or even just from the world famous College Green. But why? Of all the ways to remember Athens, students say it combines the memory and history of Athens into one conveniently sized package.

Side note time. Obviously, stealing a brick is just that: stealing. BrickBlog in no way endorses or defends the theft of Athens Blocks. As a history blog, BrickBlog would prefer history stays where it belongs, especially because Athens Blocks are no longer being made in bulk. To protect the anonymity of students who are, well, committing a crime, we’ve eliminated sources for the next few quotes. Now, back to the story.

One student said it is a tradition, that taking a brick is just “something that people do.” But, the student also said it’s a thing of history and pride, to “take some of Athens home and show my future children how their really cool mom stole this from the path outside the library.” Another student commented it was “the best gift Athens gives, a part of itself.” The charm that bricks add to campus is something magical, and students want a way of keeping that magic forever.

So there you have it. Large iron deposits led to one of the most notorious traditions of thievery Athens has to offer. So the next time you look down and see that familiar shade of red-orange at your feet or covering the buildings, remember it’s just another layer of the rich history of Athens. Be sure to watch this video as OU students describe the importance of the Athens bricks!


Haunted Halloween Hallways: Athens Is A Spooky Place

Hello everyone, welcome back to BrickBlog and happy Halloween to you all. It’s well known that Athens is one of the most haunted cities in America, as documented by numerous Top 10 lists and the TV show “Scariest Places On Earth”. Many different buildings on campus and in town are notorious for spooky sounds, sights, and even mysterious deaths. So in honor of Halloween, I present the Top 5 most haunted places in Athens. Read on, if you dare.

Number 5: Washington Hall, East Green

Opened in 1955 and named in honor of first president George Washington, legend has it that multiple ghosts roam the halls of Washington. The story goes that a high school girls basketball team stayed in Washington prior to a tournament on campus. On their way home, the whole team perished when their bus crashed. But the girls had so much fun on campus, their ghosts returned to Washington. Students frequently report haring the sounds of basketballs in the halls, talking and laughing from young girls, and the infamous ‘marble’ sound, described as if someone in the room above were dumping hundreds of marbles onto the floor above. Although the whole building is supposedly haunted, the most active area seems to be the archway that connects Reed and Washington halls.

Number 4: Crawford Hall, East Green

Crawford Hall’s haunting seems to be one of the most recent, and tragic, of the paranormal activity in Athens. In 1994, a student named Laura Bensek fell to her death from the 4th story of Crawford Hall. The following year, students reported lights turning on and off, property going missing only to turn up later in a different place, and unexplained voices. Then one night, a student awoke from a nap to see a female figure sitting at his desk. She looked at him and said “I’m sorry I woke you,” and proceeded to leave, even as the student called after her. The student approached the RA later, who realized the student lived in the room right next to where Laura had landed. To this day, it is said computers will freeze and music players will turn off if someone attempts to play Bob Marley’s ‘Laura.’

Number 3: Simms Cemetery

The 5 major haunted cemeteries of Athens are said to form a pentagram centering on College Green, but none are more terrifying than Simms Cemetery. Although its location is rather mysterious, the cemetery is home to the ghost of its owner John Simms. An Athens official, legend has it Simms was notorious for hanging criminals from a tree in his property, even for the most common of crimes. Simms can still be seen wandering the grounds in a robe, carrying a sickle to chase people from his property. Visitors also report being able to see victims hanging from Simms infamous ‘Hanging Tree.’

Number 2: Wilson Hall, West Green

Wilson is the most haunted building on campus, by almost all accounts. Legend says a girl died violently in Wilson after practicing the occult and attempting to summon spirits of the dead. After her death, students living there reported sounds of footsteps, disembodied voices, items being thrown around the room, and the walls dripping with an odd red liquid. The haunting was so bad that the university apparently closed off the room and converted it into a boiler room. Even after multiple coats of paint, the red liquid would return to stain the walls of the now boiler room. Wilson residents still hear voices and footsteps, have items move on their own, and occasionally see shadowy figures darting through the halls.

Number 1: The Ridges Mental Health Asylum

The Ridges opened in January of 1874 as a hospital and asylum for the mentally and criminally insane. Soon, nearly triple the capacity of the building led to overcrowded conditions and bad doctors led to patients being badly mistreated. When patients died, they were simply buried in the large cemetery next to the facility. After years of mistreatment, The Ridges were finally converted into a mental health hospital rather than an asylum for criminals. But he damage had been done, and numerous ghosts of angry former patients roam the halls of the Ridges. Typical reports are sounds of footsteps, lights going on and off, doors unlocking and opening by themselves, and occasionally physical contact from an unseen force. But the most famous story of the old building comes from its final days, in December 1978. A woman named Margaret Schilling disappeared from her room, apparently trying to play hide-and-seek with the nurses. She was unable to be found until she had died, discovered by a janitor nearly a month later. Her body left a stain on the ground in the tower she died in, and the stain continues to reappear after being painted over. Legend has it touching the stain will mark you for death, and it was this mark of death that doomed the occultist girl from Wilson Hall.

Is everything above true? Probably not. There is no evidence of any student falling from the window of Crawford Hall in 1994, nor any for a girls high school basketball team staying in what was originally an all male dorm at Washington Hall. But some aren’t so far off. There is a tombstone for a John Simms in the Simms cemetery that matches the dates reported that Simms would have been alive. The Ridges was plagued by malpractice and overcrowding that drove some patients to violence, and many did die and are buried in the cemetery beside the Ridges. And scariest of all, Margaret Schilling is real, and the stain does actually exist. Scientists say it may have had something to do with the cold conditions her body was kept in and the sunlight that hit her through the open window, but no one knows for sure. Are the stories of Haunted Athens true? Who knows? But one thing is clear: There’s no better place to spend a spooky Halloween than here in Athens, Ohio.

Have a ghostly encounter of your own? Share it below in the comments! And tune in next week as we dive into some more Ridges history in a closer look at the most haunted (and one of the most interesting) places in Athens.