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A Dive Into Haunted Histories

Looking for a quick evening read about the haunted places? You’ve come to the right place.

The Haunted History of The College of William & Mary 

The College of William  & Mary is the second oldest higher education school in the country after Harvard University. The school was founded in 1693 and has the oldest college building in continuous use, the Sir Christopher Wren Building, from 1693 until the present day. The school has seen over 300 years of wars, struggles, and tragedies. Is it any wonder that there are supposedly ghosts that haunt the campus?

The Brief History of William & Mary

The College of William and Mary was founded in 1693 with charter letters from King William the III and Queen Mary II of England. At this time, the entire college was just the building we now know as the Sir Christopher Wren Building (or only the Wren Building). In the 1700s, the Indian School was built to educate Native American boys. 

Williamsburg was the capital of the colony of Virginia for a while before it was relocated to Richmond. The school educated multiple presidents and other founders, including Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence, and many of the Continental Congress, went to school there. 

The school has been captured in wars several times and even seen its share of blood during the Civil War. The College has survived all the ups and downs history could throw at it. 

William and Mary is considered a top school for a reason: current alumni of the school include (but are not limited to) actress Glenn Close, The Daily Show’s John Stewart, and former FBI Director James Comey. 

The Hauntings of William & Mary College:

Sir Christopher Wren Building

The Wren Building is the oldest in continuous use for educational purposes in the entire country, having been in service since 1693. During that time, there have been many tragedies that could lead to potential hauntings. 

The building served as a hospital for wounded French soldiers during the Revolutionary War and Williamsburg’s Battle. Over 6,000 soldiers were killed and buried underneath the Governor’s Palace. Some were buried in random graves around Colonial Williamsburg. Spirits of these soldiers have been seen walking around Old Campus after dark. 

The school was closed in 1862 because most of the professors and students left to join the Confederate Army. The Wren Building was converted into a barracks and hospital for the Confederates. Lack of medicine and painkillers meant that men with severe wounds were left to die, and many did. Doctors didn’t understand at that time how germs could infect wounds and kill people with dirty instruments. 

In fact, during the Civil War, especially on large battlefields (like the Battle of Shiloh), it was common for men’s wounds to give off an ethereal in the dark! The light was called Angel’s Glow but was dismissed as superstition.  Since the Civil war, we now know that certain bacteria give off natural light (bioluminescence). So, these bacteria would eat away the narcotic flesh, leaving only clean, healthy wounds behind. Soldiers with this glow would fare better and had better chances of survival. 

Glowing bacteria, however, could not help the soldiers when the Union forces overwhelmed them and captured the building. The Union burned it down so Confederate snipers could not use it for cover. 

Ghostly Apparitions

Because of this bloody history, students have been claiming to see ghostly apparitions of wounded men in the Wren Building. They never appear long enough to determine what war uniforms they are wearing. It’s common to hear pained moans echo around the chapel area. 

Footsteps are commonly heard in the building and are either believed to be the soldiers looking for doctors or Sir Christopher Wren himself. It was renovated in the early 1900s to his architectural aesthetic, as well as the Sunken Garden. 

Underneath the Chapel lies the crypt built in 1729 of famous Virginians, like Lord Botetourt and Sir James Randolph. The tombs have been raided a few times, including the Union soldiers. Another story insists that a fraternity may have used underground steam pipes to sneak in and steal some of their bones for rituals. None of these tunnels or crypts are accessible to the public. 

William & Mary College: Brafferton and Sunken Garden

In 1700, the Brafferton was called the Indian School. It housed Native American boys that were to be ‘educated.’ They were kidnapped, forced to leave their families and tribes, and learn how to become civilized. It was imperialism at its finest, and many of the boys tried escaping to no avail. 

However, there is a legend of how, on misty nights, an apparition of a Native American boy will run through the fog as fast as possible across the Sunken Garden, trying to escape the school. 

The Sunken Garden is a large sunken area where students like to lounge on warmer days, playing or studying at all times of the day or night. The garden was based on a design again by Sir Christopher Wren and was finished in 1935. 

This explains why, when these ghostly boys are seen trying to escape from the school back to their homes, they are seen running through the garden above head level. They are running across the ground that was there 200 ago. 

St. George Tucker Hall

The building was once the school’s library, but now it’s home to the English department.

William and Mary are known for having challenging classes and exacting finals. Student suicides are, unfortunately, not uncommon. It would then make sense for a story about a suicide to spring up on campus. 

This legend states that a girl stressed about her finals committed suicide on the building’s third floor 20 years previous. An apparition has been seen in the building and will appear to stressed-out students. What she does at this point depends on who is telling the story, but she will either:

  • Try to convince the student to commit suicide too
  • She’ll ask how studying is going. If the student says it’s not going well, she tries to persuade them to relax and stop studying and save their eternal soul from the damnation of stress
  • If the student says things are going well, she gets upset and jealous and is liable to start trashing the student’s books and papers
  • Or, she’ll move around books and papers like she’s trying to help them study

No matter what she does, nobody stays in Tucker for long!

Barret Hall

It opened in 1927 and now has become a recent co-ed dormitory. There’s a legend of a ghost hiding in the building’s attic. There’s no way for students to enter the attic as it’s sealed off, but it’s common to see lights on and flicker in the windows there. It’s a pretty neat trick considering the light bulbs are only hanging from strings with no wiring! 

Students on the third floor often complain about hearing thudding noises and footsteps from the attic, but again there’s no way to get up there. Since the sounds have been going on for years at this point, it’s probably not animals stuck up there. Also, nobody had ever seen anyone walk up the stairs that lead up the attic during this entire time.

Recently, a student wrote about her experience playing with an ouija board while in her dorm with some friends. When they asked if the building is haunted, the planchette spelled out YES. Whether it was a joke or a sincere answer, the story still circulates every Halloween. 

The Cemetery on Campus

There’s a cemetery on campus between Tucker Hall and Blow Hall that serves as a final resting place for college presidents, their families, and students who’ve passed on the campus. One student passed off mumps in the 1800s and was buried there. 

No one has been buried there since 1894 until Wendy Reeves came along. She was a large contributor to the college’s art and international studies programs. Reeves had both a building named for her (The Reeves Center for International Studies) and was buried in the College Cemetery in 2007.

The cemetery on the campus grounds of William & Mary College
The cemetery on campus

The Haunted Tale of Helltown, Ohio

Helltown, its name perfectly fitting its legend, known for murderous Satanists and toxic chemical spills. Nestled in The Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, there sits an eerie, deserted place regarded by locals as ‘Helltown.’ No people live in the area – living ones at least – but there are still remnants of the lives of former residents left behind. The whole town is surrounded by hazardous roads that seemingly lead to nowhere, locals believe this was done to confuse any wandering explorers. But the Helltown church seems to have inspired the town’s ominous name.

Helltown Church

photo shows the eerie Helltown church
Helltown’s infamous church, emblazoned with inverted crosses.

The tiny white church is in the center of Helltown and is central to all local theories. Some same the church was a place of worship for practicing Satanists, who still lurk around the closed-off roads, hoping to ‘recruit’ unwelcome visitors. Others believe the town was evacuated after a chemical spill that resulted in bizarre mutations of the residents and animal population. The legend of the ‘Peninsula Python’ stems from this theory.

There even sits an abandoned school bus, with legends of its own. The story of how the bus got back there is chilling. The bus was carrying a group of high school students who were going to one of the ski resorts near Boston. An elderly woman flagged down the bus and, in a panic, explained that there was a young boy in her house who was seriously hurt.

The bus driver, attempting to help, turned down her driveway and drove into the woods, hoping to revive the boy.  When the bus approached the house, Satan worshippers swarmed it and sacrificially murdered all of those aboard. The bus sat back there for over thirty years, standing as a warning to all who decided to venture into Helltown.

Helltown’s Background

photo shows an overgrown road with a road closed sign
The ‘Road to Helltown,’ overgrown and abandoned, like much of the town itself.

Helltown is home to six or seven separate legends, which has led this area in Boston Township in Ohio to be grouped as one large haunted site. The overgrowth creates a dark, almost cursed place, where ghosts, cults, Satanists, and even a wild-eyed serial killer were said to lurk. Helltown is the nickname given to the northern part of Summit County. The areas most associated with the legends are Boston Township and Boston Village, as well as portions of Sagamore Hills. First settled all the way back in 1806, Boston stands as the oldest village in Summit County. The construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal brought loads of people to the region in the mid-1820s. The area then began to flourish when a railroad station was constructed in the town. The station was named ‘Boston Mills,’ and the name stuck.

Helltown Over the Years

For a century, little changed in the small unassuming village. However, in the late 1960s, a nationwide movement was gaining traction that expressed concern over the destruction of our forests and called for more National Park land.  In 1974, President Gerald Ford signed legislation that enables the National Park Service to purchase land and use it to create national parks and reservations.

As a result of this legislation, on December 27th, 1974, hundreds of acres in Ohio, including the land within Boston Township, were officially designated a National Recreation Area. What many who supported the movement did not realize, is that this legislation allowed the federal government to buy homes and land right out from under current owners, with no warning. Once it was decided to buy a plot of land, there was no negotiation allowed – the owners were simply forced to relocate.

Imagine, you’ve lived at your home for years, your deceased family lived there before you, as well as their family before them. Suddenly, the government comes stomping through your small village town and tells you to leave. Pack up and be gone, no questions asked, no reasoning allowed. In what can only be described as a mass evacuation, hundreds of residents began leaving and entire townships were swallowed by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

These events were so tragic, that they were even featured in the 1983 PBS Documentary “for The Good of All.” The feelings were summed up in a statement left painted on one of the home’s walls, ‘now we know how the native Americans felt.”

The saddest part of this story is that the area was never actually converted to a park for all the enjoy, however. It now sits quietly, totally abandoned, with residents having left ages ago for no reason whatsoever.

The Helltown Cemetery

Loads of legends come out of the Boston Cemetery, which sits deep in the middle of the area known as Helltown, including tales of a ghost who sits on a bench and stares out into space, forlorn, waiting for his family to come back for him. The only souls not forced to leave the area were the dead, now stuck in this abandoned ghost town, looking for their families which have left so long ago.

Road Closed

There run two roads through Helltown, both labeled as ‘dead ends’ even though you can watch them continue on into the distance. Legend says that local Satanic cults put up these signs to keep people out of their secret hideouts. Stanford Road, one of the main roads in Helltown, is sometimes referred to as The End of the World, or Highway to Hell. It is a twisting, dangerous road with a very sharp incline, so steep that when a car crests the top of the hill, it looks as if it is driving off a cliff. Some stories indicate that the road itself is evil, and is known to take possession of your vehicle, causing fatal accidents. It is said that if you park your car at the end of Stanford Road, you may meet your gruesome fate at the hands of the strange people who still patrol the area, protecting it.

photo shows abandoned gravel road in helltown, seemingly leading to nowhere

Chemical Spills in Helltown

One rumor persists through the ages that the town’s residents were actually evacuated due to a large chemical spill, and the National Park was just a cover-up. The chemical spills were said to have caused mutations in local children, and even created the Peninsula Python, a gigantic snake that slithers the area. There is some truth to these chemical spill legends, however.

The Krejci family owned a private dump not far from Helltown. The Krejci Dump was part of the land sold to the parks in 1974, but the National Park Service did not acquire this land until 1985. Authorities thought the area was just an old junkyard, but park rangers started to report strange odors, headaches, and even rashes. One man became physically ill, vomiting profusely while collecting old bottles. The Environmental Protection Agency became involved and ran tests on the area. It was discovered that there were several highly toxic substances found, emanating from thousands of drums of chemicals dumped there by major companies. The site was closed and cleanup started but never finished.

A First-Hand Account

An account given by a local paranormal researcher who explored the area truly sums up the overall vibe of Helltown – “I have experienced much in my explorations of there, some of which I don’t care to remember and some of which I can never hope to explain.

Helltown is not truly abandoned. It does have residents, but they are a strange and frightening breed. I have gone exploring the woods and cemetery of the area in the late night and wee morning hours, and have returned to my car to find strange people looking into its car windows. This has happened twice––once at 2:00 AM and once at 4:30 AM. Both times, the people fled as soon as they saw me approaching the car before I had a chance to speak to them. Both times, they were dressed in all black.

A part of me is glad that I didn’t get to converse with them because I have heard too many tales about the ways of Hell Town residents. Supposedly, they are all Satanists and worship at the town’s two evil churches. I have been to both of these churches, however not inside them. One, the Mother of Sorrows, has upside-down crosses hanging from it.

I have also been to the Boston Cemetery, where a ghost has been seen sitting on a bench. This cemetery is as dark a place as I have ever been. The graves date back to the early 1800s. I didn’t see the ghost when I visited, but I did hear strange growls and howls from the depths of the graveyard.  This was more than enough to convince me to leave, as the prospect of getting attacked by some strange bone yard dwelling beast was not appealing, to say the least.”

Helltown of Today

photo shows an overgrown barn in hell town

Helltown remains one of Ohio’s most spooky legends. Hundreds of locals traverse the area, searching for truth in the scores of myths. A quick drive for most residents in Northeast Ohio, Helltown is one of those local spots to visit on a dark autumn night, when there is just the right amount of chill in the air. Nowadays, Helltown isn’t as ‘creepy’ as it once was. The area is now part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, and much of the abandoned structures have been demolished. The cemetery and its ghosts remain, however, and only they are left to tell the tale of Helltown, Ohio’s toxic ghost town.

Sources:

https://colonialghosts.com/the-haunted-history-of-the-college-of-william-mary/

https://colonialghosts.com/tale-of-helltown-ohio/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/helltown-ohio

https://www.clevescene.com/cleveland/16-frightening-photos-of-helltown-ohio-in-summit-county/Slideshow/38343186

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/helltown-ohio

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