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.