Parkersburg News & Sentinel – 10/10/2013

The Ridges site of many sightings

By BRETT DUNLAP, Parkersburg News and Sentinel
October 10, 2013

ATHENS – The old Athens Lunatic Asylum, known today as “The Ridges,” is the site of many paranormal sightings.

The old mental hospital operated in Athens from 1874 to 1993. The hospital provided services to a variety of patients including Civil War veterans, children, and violent criminals suffering from mental disabilities, according to the Athens Lunatic Asylum Wikipedia page.

Today, the Ridges are part of the Ohio University and house the Linn Hall/Kennedy Museum of Art, an auditorium and many offices, classrooms, and storage facilities, the Wikipedia page goes on to say.

The main building had 544 patient rooms and housed about 200 patients when it opened, according to the website for the Ohio Exploration Society at The grounds were expanded several times during the asylum’s history, adding many outbuildings including a tuberculosis ward, dairy barn, and gymnasium. The main building’s design centered around the idea that it was very therapeutic for patients to live in a home environment, the website went on to say.

The most well-known story of The Ridges involves a female patient whose body left a permanent stain.

“While The Ridges was still serving as a mental institution in 1978, a female patient named Margaret Schilling went missing on the first of December,” the OES website said. “A search of the entire grounds was conducted to no avail.

“It wasn’t until January 12, 1979, when a few boxes in abandoned Ward N 20 were moved by a maintenance worker and Margaret’s body was discovered laying on the floor. She had removed her clothing, stacked them neatly in the corner and laid down on the cold concrete floor to die.”

The official report indicated that Margaret died of heart failure weeks before her body was discovered.

“When her body was removed, a stain outlining the places her body touched the floor was left behind,” the website said. “The stain was believed to have been created by sunlight shining in through the windows, causing a chemical reaction between the body and concrete during decomposition.”

According to the website for Forgotten Ohio at, some say that Margaret Schilling wanders the building at night.

“They say that other patients, especially those who died at the hospital, wander the building at night,” the website said.

Stories have surfaced about carvings and messages left by patients attesting that they were never crazy.

The originators of the website reported having been through much of the old buildings of the Ridges and not finding much, other than some interesting old rooms, but little, if any, supernatural activity.

On the website for Haunted Athens Ohio at, the Ridges cemetery has a well-known reputation of being haunted, which might not be that surprising, taking into account the horrible conditions the patients lived in the asylum, the Haunted Athens Ohio website said.

“Because so many of the patients were admitted at The Ridges by the court system, they had no remaining family and no persons to pay the funeral expenses,” the website said. “They were thus anonymously buried in simple graves with a number attached.

“At one are the linear shapes of graves form a circle, which is said to be a witches’ meeting point.”

The local legend say that witches make use of this circle for holding séances in. The official Ohio University explanation is that the circle was created by some pranksters several years ago and this might be the most feasible explanation, the website reported.

“The place is also reputed for being visited by ghosts, especially at night,” the website reported. “In the cemetery there is a weird section that includes a handful of graves over a little creek to the right of the main cemetery. There is a bridge made of wood and on the other side of it lie several graves hidden in the woods. People were reported to have seen strange lights and heard screams in the cemetery at night.”

The main asylum building is inaccessible now, but the graveyard has always been there and pretty much is accessible by anyone.

“It is definitely a terrifying place to visit after midnight,” the Haunted Athens Ohio website reported. “If you feel real adventurous, you can head up the hill and after that across the driveway to take a look at the Tuberculosis Ward, the single one abandoned building that was left untouched to the property grounds.”

© Copyright 2013 Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Thank you to Brett Dunlap for referencing the Ohio Exploration Society in his article about The Ridges in Athens County.