Athens Post article
From the Athens Post, October 27, 2006

THE TRUTH BEHIND HAUNTED ATHENS


By Cicely Gilbert


Editorís Note: This is the second in a two-part series about ghost legends around Athens.

A mixture of history, science and folklore form the foundation for claims that Athens is one of the most haunted places in the world ó and Ohio University one of the most haunted campuses in the country.

Many places on campus, including the greens, are haunted, Henderson said. Among these haunted places is the bell tower that sits atop Cutler Hall, Ohio University's oldest building, which is filled with spirits, and the ghostly basketball team that lurks in The Convo, said Andy Henderson, owner and operator of the Web site Forgotten Ohio, www.forgottenoh.com, a listing of haunted sites in Ohio created in 1999.

"You'll find out there's a relationship between what's true and what people say," "It's a collective memory and remembering things that nobody wants to remember," Henderson said.

Centuries of spirituality

According to the British Society for Psychical Research, Athens is considered one of the most haunted places in the world. This is partly attributed to one of Athens County's highest mountain peaks, Mt. Nebo.

Mt. Nebo first became a spiritual hotspot in the 1700s when Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee, occupied the land. They refrained from hunting and camping in the area because it was considered sacred ground, said John Kachuba, an Ohio University English instructor and author of the book Ghosthunting Ohio.

But it wasnít until a family named the Koons settled on the land in the mid-1800s that the legends began. The spiritualist family became minor celebrities for quite some time with their claims that they could communicate with the dead, Henderson said.

The lay of the land

In addition to the history, one reason why Athens is a hub for ghost stories is because it is an epicenter for magnetic fields called ley-lines, according to the British Society for Psychical Research. These lines of magnetic radiation can be found all over the world. Kachuba said several of these lines cross just beneath Athens' soil.

Another geographical signature to Athens is the pentagram of cemeteries that encloses the OU campus and puts Wilson Hall at its core.

In pagan tradition, the center of a pentagram is safe from paranormal activity. But Wilson Hall is viewed as an exception, possibly because it might be built on top of an old cemetery, as mentioned in a 2000 episode of ABC [sic] Family's The Scariest Places on Earth. Some students visit "the demon in the door" of room 428, which is rumored to be sealed off because of strange activities.

The pentagram theory is often disputed.

"If you really look at a map of the Athens area, there are close to 50 cemeteries that surround the city," Kachuba [sic] said. "If you add all that, my guess is you can probably connect any couple of them and get a pentagram."

Towering over Athens

The Athens Mental Health Center, known today as The Ridges, is the only mental health facility in Ohio that is still standing in its original form, Henderson said. Almost as famous as the immense structure that watches over the campus is the story of an inmate, Margaret Schilling, who was virtually buried alive within the structure.

There are many theories as to how Schilling ended up in an abandoned part of the building and even more speculation as to why she didnít try to seek help. But there is no mistaking the imprint of her body that has remained long after she was discovered, her clothes folded neatly beside her corpse.

Many of the stories that are shared around the campfire late at night are more than just folklore. They are based on fact, history and science and may be altered as years pass. Still many others are accounts of what people see. They may not be anything but a trick of the eye.

"I've talked to nuns, judges, police, professors ó all people you would expect to be normal rational thinking people," Kachuba said. "Everyone [sic] of them will swear 100 percent what they experienced. I'm in no position to tell them they didnít."

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