Since being founded in 1800, Athens has accumulated quite a rich history. With that history comes a lot of strange, unexplained events and occurrences.
Athens is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Ohio. This is due to its mysterious legends and terrifying stories, mixed with its many creepy cemeteries, landmarks and the famous historic asylum.
The Ridges, formerly the Athens Lunatic Asylum, is one of the better-known haunted places in Athens. The Ridges currently serves many purposes for the university, like providing a home for the Ohio University Police Department and the Kennedy Museum of Art; however, it once housed thousands of patients from its opening in 1874 until its closing in 1993 as an asylum.
There are many haunted legends that have originated from The Ridges. It is said that its former patients and staff are who haunt the complex, walking the halls late at night being sure to make their presence known.
The most well-known story from The Ridges is the story of Margaret Schilling. Schilling went missing from her ward on Dec. 1, 1978, and wasn’t found until Jan. 12, 1979. Schilling had free roam of the grounds and on the day she went missing, she ended up in a room on the fourth floor of the east wing.
“They located Margaret, apparently she had removed all of her clothing, folded it up all very nice and neatly and put it on the windowsill,” Tom O’Grady, director of development and outreach at the Southeast Ohio History Center, said. “She laid down on a concrete floor in front of this large bay window, and then, at some point, folded her arms over chest and eventually curled up and passed away.”
The Ridges is full of eerie stories, but it’s only one of a handful of places in Athens that will cause chills. Another notable haunted place in Athens is Simms Cemetery.
Simms Cemetery is named after a former resident and judge of Athens, John Simms, who passed away in 1861 and is buried in the cemetery. As legend has it, the cemetery is said to move, making it incredibly difficult to find.
Another haunted cemetery in Athens is the Haning Cemetery, which connects to a former resident of Shively Hall. In the 1970s, a female resident of Shively had a strange, strong attraction to the Haning Cemetery. It was assumed that she was a former witch, being called back to her roots at the cemetery.
A lot of strange deaths have happened in Athens, specifically in residence halls on OU’s campus. The Convocation Center once housed a resident assistant who was killed by her boyfriend. It is said that she still walks the halls making sure her residents are still safe.
Jefferson Hall is also filled with strange occurrences, many students report.
A former resident of Jefferson Hall, Izzy Gibbs, a sophomore studying communication studies, reported experiencing unexplainable things.
“We were sleeping with all the windows open, and then I woke up,” Gibbs said. “All of the curtains were floating in the room. It was very eerie and ominous with the lighting. Then the door just kept opening and slamming, and opening and slamming. I couldn't move.”
The theme of strange occurrences can also be found in other university-affiliated properties. The Ohio University Inn is said to be haunted by a couple of ghosts.
In the late 1980s, a man died of a heart attack in one of the rooms on the property while staying with his family. Every year around the anniversary of his death, there is an uptick in paranormal activity.
Gabby Beeler, a sophomore studying communication studies, has worked on and off at the Ohio University Inn for four years. She has experienced a large amount of paranormal activity, especially around the anniversary of the man’s death.
“I was working and it was about 11:30 at night ... I get a call,” Beeler said. “I know there's nobody in that room, but I wanted to make sure. I pick up (the phone) and I can hear heavy breathing ... it goes on for about 30 seconds and it hangs up.”
Beeler’s story gets even stranger, however. She soon sees that the same room that called her at the front desk, was now calling 911. She attempted to call the room back, but got no answer.
“Turns out the room called 911 seven times,” Beeler said. “That's how many calls the family made when they discovered the dad in the hotel room.”
As a result of old age, mysterious deaths and bizarre legends, it’s no wonder Athens is suspected to be haunted. There is one place that happens to get a bit more attention, however. Wilson Hall is argued to be the most haunted building on OU’s campus and in all of Athens.
Wilson Hall is said to be at the center of a pentagram, formed by connecting five local cemeteries. On top of that, just like most of OU’s campuses, it was built on top of ancient Indian burial grounds.
Residents of Wilson Hall have reported everything from seeing apparitions and flying objects to hearing voices and doors slamming.
“On more than a few occasions, I distinctly remember setting my alarm and then I'll wake up in the morning and the alarm was never set,” Jeremy Fellows, a freshman studying pre-engineering, said.
Athens Ohio is truly home to both a rich history and creepy record of strange occurrences, and some students might experience something similar during their time at OU.