When we think of ghost stories we think of bumps in the night, voices, shifting objects and light flickers.
When I think of ghost stories, I think of Ohio University.
OU is the oldest University in Ohio, and is home to several terrifying legends. Athens, Ohio houses The Ridges (a formerly bonkers insane asylum where they practiced the art form of "Ice Pick" lobotomies EEK), five cemeteries that form a perfect pentagram around the center of campus, and Wilson Hall (a haunted classroom building that used to be a dormitory. Many students heard the screams of a student who committed suicide there in the 1970's).
The paranormal activity touches every person that attends OU. It doesn't matter if you're a teacher or student. Somehow, the ghost stories become real.
I remember checking in to Ewing Hall on Ohio University's glorious South Green as a lowly freshman. It's the perfect college setting, full of bustling students going to class, people playing Frisbee and catch on the green.
A few months into college I remember waking up in the middle of the night to a loud thumping noise above me.
I turned over and forgot about it, because it was probably the person above me.
Then, I remembered I lived on the 4th floor.
[Here I am in my haunted room, Freshman year of college]
That was my first encounter with a ghost my friends and I later named Chester. I ended up moving out of that room later in the semester because one opened up next to my friends on the other side of the floor. Chester ended up slamming doors and knocking things over, groaning in the night loud enough for everyone to hear, but he never did anything too spooky.
When I moved across the floor to the other side, I thought I had rid myself of Chester the ghost.
People on the other side of the floor heard furniture moving around...things being knocked over, screaming from inside my now empty room.
We ended up unlocking it with our R.A. and noticed that things had been moved around. The matress was off the bed and the desk had been flung three feet from where I had left it.
Chester wasn't happy that I had left.
A few days passed and I hadn't heard from my ghost friend. I guess he didn't want to make the trek across the floor to visit me.
And that was a good thing.
Sophomore year I was in the building next to Ewing...Wray Hall. Herman returned, moving things, flickering lights and stomping violently on the ceiling. I remember yelling "Chester STOP!" and he would.
He wasn't exactly friendly, but didn't hurt me any either.
Though my personal ghost story might not scare you, these legends from OU's campus definitely will.
Let's start with The Ridges. I mentioned that it was a mental hospital, insane asylum not unlike what you saw in the second season of American Horror Story.
Some of the Ridges campus is used as a Kennedy Center for Art, but most of it lies abandoned. Though the grounds are lush and green there is something wicked in the air.
You have to drive up a steep-ass hill to get to The Ridges. It sits atop an appalachian giant overlooking the busy Ohio University campus. You can see it from almost anywhere. It's a hulking structure, mostly post-victorian with bars all over the windows. As soon as you set foot anywhere near it, you can feel the haunting presence of its ghosts. Trust me.
After the great mental health collapse of the early 1900's The Ridges turned into a nightmarish place where patients were treated with electro-shock therapy, ice baths and ice-pick lobotomies (you know, that thing that happens to McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest). Essentially they jammed an ice pick through your eye socket and into your brain to "alleviate pressure" and make you a "normal" person. It ended up killing lots of people and leaving the ones that survived totally brain dead.
Several freaky things happened at The Ridges before its doors were shut forever.
December 1st of 1978, a patient named Margaret Schilling vanished. According to legend she was playing hide and seek with some nurses. They got distracted and stopped looking for her. She was gone for over a month, until her body was found in her room by a maintenance worker in January of 1979.
The fact that someone died at the Ridges isn't too creepy, considering it was a primitive mental hospital, but this is:
A stain was left on the floor of her room. And after countless bleachings and cleaning attempts the stain would re-appear.
The Journal of Forensic Sciences studied the stain and revealed that it was indeed the result of human decomposition. Margaret was left there for 5 weeks. And every time someone tried to remove the mark, it came back, furthering the proof that she was haunting the grounds of the place she was left to die in.
The asylum has a cemetery attached to it as well to act as the burial grounds for the patients that were admitted through the court system who had no friends or family to cover burial costs.
My senior year of college I shot a short film with some Film studies graduate students in this cemetery. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. There was definitely bad energy all around. Walking through the cemetery, you can see the unmarked graves. People who died without a name...nobody to mourn them.
The cemetery in this picture above is elevated, hidden above the grounds. Some of the stones are marked with flags for veterans who came from the Athens area, but most of them are unmarked. Blank. Nothing.
[A tour of the TB ward at The Ridges.]
The Tuburculosis Ward at The Ridges is by far the scariest part. This was where the most violent and disturbed people would be quarantined. Most of the They ended up tearing it down my Sophomore year of high school due to a number of things, but I think it's because it was too haunted to be kept standing. There was lead based paint everywhere, broken windows and people kept breaking into it and hurting themselves.
It's like Pet Sematary up in there...if you go in, you're cursed forever.
[The staff of Brick Beats Magazine at OU in front of the TB ward, hey...I'm in the middle!]
So of course, I went there. Being the idiot that I've always been, I was intrigued by the antique structure and the haunted, terrifying lore attached to it. I took some of my friends, who were all working for this music magazine I had become the co-Editor-In-Chief of freshman year. We took some pictures for an issue up there. And man...just looking up at that building...the memory of it gives me the chills.
This was shortly before it was torn down. On the way up, one of our cars got stuck, we ended up hearing a lot of screeching and rattling and yes...there were open windows covering us in paranormal fear.
I never went back.
While i could go on for years about how scary The Ridges is, I'd better move on...to the final tale I'll tell.
The most haunted point on campus is Wilson hall. It lies in the center of a "pentagram" created by five cemeteries surrounding the campus. See that star in the middle? That's West Green, a major spot for dormitories and a hub for kids on campus.
[Wilson Hall was featured on SyFy's "Scariest Places on Earth". Room 428 is referred to as "Satan's Dormitory"]
Room 428 of Wilson hall is the most haunted place in all of Athens. A young man died there in the 1970's, his death was never ruled a suicide or a murder. It was just left unsolved.
A young female student died in room 428 later, after allegedly practicing some occult rituals there. She used the room's "dark energy" to practice some kind of witchcraft that enabled her to leave her body through her spirit. People call it "astral projection". She also contacted the dead.
According to legend, the girl died violently in the room, smearing her own blood on the walls. Apparently all of the dark spirits in room 428 drove her her to kill herself, but we'll never know.
Wilson Hall was built on an Indian Burial ground...that may be the reason for all of the paranormal activity and deaths.
School officials closed it off and turned it into a boiler room, but screams and horrific sounds could still be heard. The building is still a dormitory.
Athens, Ohio was voted the 13th most haunted place in the world.
I haven't thought about these legends, these hauntings that occured at my alma matter in a while. And with Halloween coming up it's no surprise that they're on my mind.
You may not believe in ghosts, but if you ask any Ohio University Bobcat?