Ohio Urban Legends

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

—Winston Churchill

The Wickerham Inn

Today we will discuss a fascinating story: The Wickerham Inn.  The story of the Wickerham Inn is as following.  One ordinary evening, in the 1790’s a stagecoach driver is staying the night.  Perhaps a bit drunk, he begins bragging about the large sums of money he is carrying.  This attracts the attention of some men with less then honest intention.  When the driver did not check out in the morning, an employee was sent to his room.  The employee comes back, quite visibly shaken.  When they enter his room, they find a horrifying sight.  The room is drenched in blood.  In fact, the blood on the floor had formed the outline of a headless body.  There is, however, one small problem.  There is no body.  The inn workers burn most of the room’s contents, and thoroughly scour the room itself.  

In the 1920s, the Inn underwent extensive renovations. In order to install a new heating system, the stone floor of the basement needed to be removed. As workers pulled up the flooring, they were shocked to find a faded human skeleton… complete, except for the skull.

Bloody Bridge

In the last two posts, we discussed two fairly well known legends.  Today we will discuss a lesser known, but much more grisly one: Bloody Bridge.

In 1854 a murder occurred.  This murder captured people’s imagination’s so much, that in 1977, the Auglaize Historical Society posted a plaque, a picture of which can be seen above, that recounted the events of the murder.  The inscription is as follows: “During the canal years of the 1850s a rivalry grew between Bill Jones and Jack Billings for the love of Minnie Warren. There became hatred by Bill because Minnie chose Jack. On a fall night in 1854, returning from a party, Minnie and Jack were surprised on the bridge by Bill, armed with an axe. With one swing, Bill severed Jack’s head. Seeing this, Minnie screamed and fell into a watery grave. Bill disappeared, and when a skeleton was found years later in a nearby well, people asked whether it was it suicide or justice.”  It has been very difficult to prove whether or not this happened.  However, considering the unusual uniformity of the story, as well as the fact that all persons involved are named, it is entirely possible.

Hell Town

The legend of Helltown is an intriguing tale with many variations.  However, they do share one similar point: Helltown, OH

There are many stories that revolve around Helltown, but some of the more prominent are as follows.  

  • Government Conspiracy - In an effort to cover-up a chemical spill, the government drove the townsfolk out of their homes.  Sadly, they were not entirely successful, and the remaining townsfolk became mutants that stalked any visitors.  In truth, there never was a chemical spill, or a chemical plant for that matter.
  • Haunted School Bus - A whole busload of children were slaughtered in the woods by a serial killer, a band of serial killers, an escaped mental patient, several escaped mental patients, or a group of Satanists or cult members (depending on the storyteller).  What actually happened was that prior to the 1974 buyout of the town, a family bought a house that was in dire need of repairs. Since the house was not in livable condition, the family needed a temporary place to stay nearby while they made the repairs. They decided to bring an old school bus onto the property and live in it until repairs were completed. In order to have more living space, they removed the seats from the bus. When the government bought the property, the family had no use for the old bus and it was left behind.
  • Satanic Church - A church which has upside down crosses incorporated into it’s design it owned by a satanic cult. Actualy Mother of Sorrows is the church alleged to have upside-down crosses hanging from it. The crosses are actually design elements in the church’s gingerbread trim, which occur quite frequently in the gothic revival style of architecture.  Also the church is listed in local directories, something that would be unlikely were they affiliated with a secret cult.

Helltown is a nickname given to the northern part of Summit County.  In 1806, Boston, OH was settled. The paper industry allowed the area to flourish for many years.  Then, in the 1960’s a nationwide movement began that expressed concern over the destruction of our forests. In response, President Ford signed legislation in 1974 that enabled the National Park Services to purchase land and use it to create national parks. On December 27th, 1974, hundreds of acres of land, including some within the Township of Boston, were officially designated a National Recreation Area.

Immediately after the bill was passed, the government began purchasing houses throughout Boston Township and the surrounding area. Once the government decided to buy a property, there was no negotiation involved – the owners were forced to relocate.  Residents began leaving in droves, and entire townships were swallowed up by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  After a house was purchased by the government, a no trespassing sign was posted until the house could be demolished.  The issue was, the government had purchased so many houses that it became difficult to destroy them all.  As a result, on-lookers would see rows of empty, decaying houses.  It became easy to for them to imagine stories to go along with them.

So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.

—Marcus Tullius Cicero

Gore Orphanage

Let’s begin with one of Ohio’s most famous legends, Gore Orphanage.

The story of Gore Orphanage goes something like this.  In the 1800’s Gore Orphanage is running smoothly, until a mysterious fire destroys it.  The suspects generally go as followed.

  • Mr. Gore - In this version, Mr. Gore himself sets the fire, simply because he hates children.
  • Unnamed Employee - An unnamed employee starts the fire because he has an issue with Mr. Gore.  (In this version, Mr. Gore loves children.)
  • Mental Patient - An escaped patient sets fire to the orphanage.
  • Accident - In this most common version of the story, a child accidentally knocks over a lantern, starting the fire.

In any version, the result is the same: The occupants of the orphanage are trapped inside and killed.  In an attempt to bury the memory, the townspeople destroy the remains of the orphanage.  As with any tragic legend, rumors of haunting follow.  It has been said that traveling to the location at midnight will allow you to hear the screams of burning children.  It has also been stated that once parked, a car will not start, and it will have to be pushed off the site.  But what really happened?

In 1817 Joseph Swift purchased over 400 acres of dense woods with the intention of building a sprawling estate.  Locals began referring to the area as Swift’s Hollow. In 1840, construction on the Swift Mansion began. Swift and his family continued to live in the mansion until a series of bad investments forced Swift to put the property up for sale.  Nicholas and Harriet Kellogg Wilbur bought the Swift Mansion in 1874. Sadly, between January 13th and 19th, 1893, all four of Wilbur’s grandchildren died of diphtheria when an epidemic swept across Ohio. All four children were buried next to each other at nearby Maple Grove Cemetery. The death of the four Wilbur grandchildren provided that nugget of truth that children had perished on the property.

In 1895, the Wilbur family sold the property to the Sutton family. Seven years later, in 1902, Sutton sold the home to Rev. Sprunger to be used as part of the Orphanage of Light and Hope. The orphanage closed down in 1916. Abandoned and now known as the local “haunted house”, the once-proud Swift Mansion caught fire and burned to the ground in December of 1923…with no one inside.

But still, why Gore Orphanage Road?  Gore Orphanage Road is real, and the reason for it’s unique name is simple.  When the road was created, it was named after a tool surveyors use: a triangle called a “gore”.  When the the orphanage was built years later, the word orphanage was added to the road name to make it easier to find the orphanage itself.

Welcome to Ohio Urban Legends

Hello, and welcome to Ohio Urban Legends.  As part of a school project, I have created a blog that will discuss urban legends in the central Ohio area.  I plan to do in-depth research, as well as traveling to the area of the myth, if possible.  I have a scientific approach to things, so that will play heavily into my research.  Information will be added over time, but until then, have a nice day.