By: Tom Gilliam …….
The charming village of Waynesville is famous for many reasons. It’s the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest” and home of the annual Ohio Sauerkraut Festival. It’s also haunted.
Founded in 1797, the Village of Waynesville — named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne — is believed to be one of the most haunted towns in Ohio. It comes as no surprise that October in Waynesville is all about ghost stories. The Ghostly History Walking Tours are hosted by the Museum at the Friends Home, a non-profit local history museum operated by volunteers, located in Waynesville’s Quaker Hill Historic District on the corner of 4th and Miami streets.
Why is Waynesville considered to be the Most Haunted Village in Ohio? “We’re not afraid to talk about it. The ghosts don’t make it scary, and they want us to know about them,” said Linda Morgan, vice president of the museum and tour guide.
Built in 1905, the museum was once a Quaker boarding house and later a nursing home. It became a history museum in 2000.
When it was a nursing home, the office staff vacated the premises with no explanation for their departure, and Morgan said she later found out why. “While the ladies were using these offices, they heard kids in the kitchen laughing and carrying on. They walked into the kitchen to find that the door was locked and there were no children in the building,” she said. Ghosts?
It didn’t take long for the museum team to discover for themselves that they were on haunted grounds, Morgan said. Morgan shared a personal story about the museum’s haunted garage.
Morgan said she was among a group of ladies were at the museum in the afternoon one day. When the group left, she recalled getting into her car and looking at the garage doors. “I thought, what are we going to do? The doors are rotten. The whole bottoms are coming out. It looks terrible. You have to be authentic with the time period (as a history museum). You can’t just call Overhead Door to put one in. It’s going to be thousands of dollars.”
“I went home and three hours later I get this email,” she continued. “The lady that lived across the street who parked her car in her driveway every day was out back with her husband. They heard a terrible crash and thought that two cars had collided. Then they came running out here. Her car had gone from park into neutral. It rolled out of their driveway, down a hill and across the street into our garage doors, right into the middle where they needed to be demolished. All of the stuff that was in there for the garage sale got trashed. The insurance company paid for the new doors and $500 to replace the damaged garage sale items. So, who can explain this?”
Constructed as an inn and stagecoach stop in 1822, The Hammel House Restaurant & B&B on Main Street just reopened on Sept. 11 after being closed for nearly two years. The frame portion of the building was believed to have been used as a tavern in 1800, with Waynesville’s first election being held there in 1803.
In June, the new Hammel House owners, husband and wife Kevin and Cheri Douglas and Cheri’s brother Jim Lester, began renovations. Around this time, the owners had hired someone to help them acquire and find the best deals on kitchen equipment.
“I happened to be out in the foyer painting,” Cheri Douglas said. “My husband, before this gentlemen started, was upstairs in what we use as our office and he felt a cat brush against his leg. Well, we have heard the story of a cat, so it didn’t startle him. He just figured it was the cat. While I was painting, I said, ‘Oh look, a cat hair.’ The gentleman was sitting here in the old dining room. He said, ‘You’re kidding.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not kidding.’ The hair looked like it had been painted in once. So, I started painting some more and got further down to the end of the stairs here and found another cat hair that looked fresh to me. So, of course I’m me and I’m like, ‘Hey, here’s another cat hair.’ He said, ‘Oh, I think it’s time for me to go. You guys don’t have cats.’ I said, ‘We have never had a cat in here but somebody did at one time.’ He was a little frightened by that.” That’s not the only hair-raising cat tale.
“We had a little girl sitting at this table,” Morgan added. “When she got up to leave after dinner, she had a cat print on her pant leg. There wasn’t a cat that came in here during dinner. One of the funniest stories we have is a lady who was sitting at this table with her husband, sister and brother-in-law. She asked, ‘Why is my brother-in-law rubbing my leg with his foot?’ He wasn’t rubbing her leg. It was probably the cat.”
Buckeye Charm, a boutique owned by Jona Powell on High Street, was featured on the Travel Channel’s paranormal investigation show “Ghost Nation”in an episode that premiered on April 29 titled “An Unholy Haunting.” The show features Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), formerly of the long-running paranormal investigative documentary reality TV series “Ghost Hunters,” which aired on A&E and SyFy.
The property was built in 1877 as St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. In 1976, the church was sold to become a commercial building.
During filming, a loud EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recording was captured in the building with the words “Hallowed be thy name.” The crew was concerned that the voice was a staged prank, Powell recalled. “Because it was so loud and so clear, they’ve had times in the past where people have tried to trick them or do something. So, they had all of their crew shut down, turn on the lights, stop what they were doing and search for speakers just to make sure that it wasn’t something that we were pulling over on them.”
There has also been paranormal activity at old Waynesville Union Schoolhouse, built in 1891. The building is currently used for storage by the American Legion hall directly across from the museum.
“After the newer school was built up the hill, they shut it down and put the town library on the first floor. In the basement, the American Legion had their bar where the guys all went. It was the only place in town where you could drink. Eventually, they built a newer building over here. So, the building is just sitting there. Nobody can decide what to do about it, how to save it or tear it down,” Morgan said.
Since the museum had heard stories about happenings in the basement, Lee Allen, a local paranormal investigator, was consulted. “Lee brought a psychic from Columbus. She knew nothing about this town,” Morgan said. “We were in there with some of the people from the American Legion and Lee’s team. All of a sudden the psychic said, ‘There’s some men here that don’t want you ladies here in the basement at all in their legion hall. They want you to leave… Now.’
“It’s a guy’s place, right? There’s a pool hall, bar and all that. So, we just didn’t pay attention to it for a little bit. She said, ‘No, they’re really serious. They want you to leave. This is not a place for ladies.’ So, somebody touched my shoulder and I screamed. She said, ‘Their names are Ralph and Carl and they really seriously want you to leave.’ Nothing else happened so we eventually packed up and left.”
Morgan said she told the story to a friend who grew up on the corner close to the American Legion and specifically mentioned Ralph and Carl. “She said to me, ‘You’re kidding me! Ralph Smith and Carl Stiver spent every day up there in the basement at the bar.’ Eventually, I heard Carl’s wife say that if he was anyplace in town, that’s where he’d be.”
The Friends Burial Ground, a Quaker graveyard dating back to 1804 and a short walk from the museum (corner of 4th and High Streets), was divided into two sections for the Hicksite and Orthodox Quakers in 1828. The dead were buried in the order in which they died instead of by status or family association. Ghost stories about the graveyard can be heard on the walking tours.
Even though the walking tours this season have been well attended, the coronavirus pandemic restrictions have cut the attendance of each tour in half. Prior to the pandemic, tours had a maximum of 50 attendees. Currently, that number has been reduced to 25.
“If you’re careful, you can go to Lowe’s. Why can’t you go on a ghost walk?” Morgan asked.
The last ghostly walking tour for this year is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30. However, the museum is considering extending the walks into December. Groups of 10 or more (25 maximum) also have the option of pre-paying to set up a tour. “We’re talking about probably having one tour a month at The Hammel House (Ghost & Goblet Dinner and Tour) the rest of the year and more walking tours,” Morgan said.