By LEONA JEWELL
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 9:51 AM EDT
This is Halloween!
The Boogeyman still has one fright night left, and you have one night left to survive. So get your “spook” on by reading about or visiting some of these hauntings in and near Morgan County.
McConnelsville’s own Carrington House is one of the town’s most creepy attractions. The front door of this abandoned house is said to open on its own. Witnesses who have attempted to photograph the house report the feeling of being pushed, as if not to take photos there (ohioexploration.com).
The McConnelsville Opera House is the county’s most sought-after, ghostly attractions in the county and is said to be haunted. Ghost hunters from all over, tip-toe through the 100-plus-year-old building and get excellent results, according to the Twin City Opera House’s website, operahouseinc.com.
The ghost of an elderly usher named Everett, who wears a white suit, is supposedly seen quite often. A ghostly woman also haunts the theater – walking on the catwalks backstage. The Opera House keeps many secrets. Many employees and visitors to the Opera House feel the building is home to many spirits of the theater’s past.
Some of Morgan County’s most infamous residents do not know the story of our own courthouse. The courthouse is seeping in mystique. It is rumored that the door to the genealogy room closes by itself, and that the hauntings in this building are linked to a gun stored in the genealogy room. The gun was the direct cause of at least two deaths in its dark history.
In 1905, a man named Wood Stuart killed the town marshal, Horace Porter, with the gun. Stuart was sent away to a mental institution. Four years later, the county prosecutor, Francis Parsons, shot himself with the gun while in his office at the courthouse. Reportedly, the gun was placed into the historical records and is blamed for many strange happenings in the courthouse.
One of the most famous local legends, unknown to most of you out there, is Otterbein Cemetery in Somerset. The cemetery sits on the south side of the Otterbein United Methodist Church. You’ll want to park in the church parking lot if you visit. There are many old gravestones, and it is very well taken care of by the church (graveaddiction.com/otterbein).
Otterbein Cemetery is famous for the “Horseshoe Grave” of Mary Angle Henry. On the back of her gravestone you can see the print of a bloody horseshoe. There are several stories about how the horseshoe got there. The most common tale starts out with Mary dying while giving birth to her child. Her husband remarried a few years after her death to a girl that he was dating at the same time he was dating Mary.
Before they were married, they visited her grave every day, but following their wedding, they had better things to do. This supposedly angered Mary, because seven days after they were married, the gravedigger came to the house in a panic and told John and his new wife, Rachel, that they better come and look at Mary’s grave. When they got to the graveyard, they found the print of a bloody horseshoe on the back of her gravestone.
The next day, John went out to the barn while Rachel worked inside. Hours went by, so Rachel went to check on him. When she returned, she found his body with a horseshoe imprint on his face. The imprint looked just like the one on Mary’s grave. While she held his dead body, Bob, the horse John gave Mary after they were married, stomped around his stall and snorted (graveaddition.com/otterbein).
Avondale is a little town located just west of Zanesville on Route 22, at the intersection with SR 93. The largest and nicest home in Avondale sued to set just off Route 22 a few feet from the intersection and was abandoned for roughly 30 years. This was the Sidwell House – one of Muskingum County’s best-known and scariest haunted houses.
As to what happened at the Sidwell House, and why it was unoccupied for long periods of time, has some grim suppositions. According to forgottenoh.com, every version of the story surrounding the house seemed to deal with a family murder, although the specifics vary. The website states that the Sidwells are the current owners, and might have nothing to do with the last family who lived there. According to reports, the house hasn’t been occupied since the early 1970s and possibly as far back as the 1950s. The website reports that the last family was a newlywed couple who were murdered in their beds by an unknown assailant. Another story is more elaborate. This is how it was told to the author of the website via email:
“Back in the late 40s/early 50s a family of six lived in the home – four children, a mother, and a drunken father. The father, who was also very abusive, came in late one night very drunk. He climbed the stairs to the bedroom, began fighting with his young wife and stormed away.
The next morning she arose from bed to find him gone. She searched upstairs, but he was nowhere to be found. Descending the stairs, she looked everywhere and finally found him sitting in a chair in the living room with a bottle. She began to cook breakfast. Arising from his chair he grabbed the shotgun from the closet, went to the kitchen and found his wife standing in front of the stove. He raised the shotgun and repeatedly shot her from the back of her head to the back of her knees. He then quietly walked up the stairs to his children’s bedrooms and shot all four of his young children in their beds, then proceeded to shoot himself hours later. This is the story I had heard from my grandma for as long as I can remember. She said you could find it on every radio station and newspaper cover for a hundred miles.”
The anonymous author says that the house was supposed to be the site of mysterious lights in the windows, gunshot sounds, even the smell of bacon cooking in the early mornings. The murdered family is said to haunt its rooms and halls. This is why, the author says, the house wasn’t occupied; that no one stays long. According to the person who wrote the email to the author, her attempts to question the old-timer at Whitey’s, which is the diner around the corner and just about the only business in Avondale, were met with the cold shoulder. Somebody even called the house “evil.” But is there really anything to the ghost legends associated with this house?
A Ms. Katherine Martin of Cincinnati wrote the website’s author an excerpt from an old family letter, describing where her forebears lived, even though she was not positive just who was there at the time and when. She had a general idea that it was around 1858, and that Marianna Jackson was one of the residents at the time. Here is the paragraph, transcribed verbatim:
“Hough was so ill from malaria that Father took a pleasant house in Avondale that the child might have milk from their own cow. That is the house where everybody but Father suffered so from evil spirits (ghosts). I have never read any true account of spiritual manifestations to equal it. I was born there in October 1858. At last, Dearest said she’d not stay there another day, and so, belatedly, Father took a house in Cincinnati.”
The site’s author states that this letter is “an absolutely incredible find. There is little doubt in Ms. Martin’s mind that the ‘pleasant house in Avondale’ described in the letter is the Sidwell House. We are left to wonder just what the ‘evil spirits’ did, that made everyone but her father so miserable.”
But as mysterious and beautiful as the Sidwell house was, in 2006, the house was torn down.
“Nothing this interesting, ool and historically valuable, can be left standing in the world of Wal-Marts and Starbucks’ with malls at every freeway interchange and a condominium block at every crossroad. Slowly but surely, Zanesville and its environs are being suburbanized for (mainly Columbus-bound) commuters, and this grand old haunted farmhouse, as beautiful and picture-perfect as it was, breathed its last on the Monday before Christmas, December 18, 2006,” writes the website’s author.
“All of which means that about one-third of Avondale has been wiped away, apparently to be replaced by something. What will it be – a Home Depot? A new neighborhood of prefab M/I homes in the owner’s choice of three exciting layouts? Maybe a shiny new stripmall? Only time will tell.”
So it is Halloween, go find Mary Henry’s grave, Morgan County’s own Carrington House, or go have a conversation with Victim’s Advocate Mary Tom, at the courthouse about the sightings she’s witnessed there. And finally, to end with a big thanks and the words of the Sidwell author and researcher: “We should mourn the Sidwell House, which lent its character to this little corner of Ohio for more than a century and a half.”
Copyright © 2012, Morgan County Herald
Thank you to Leona Jewell for referencing the Ohio Exploration Society website in her article about haunts in and around Morgan County.