Route 79 on the far, nearly rural south side of Newark runs beside one of the most remarkable cemeteries in Ohio: Cedar Hill. The ground slopes dramatically, so that the cemetery is mostly either above or below you as you drive by, but halfway along the gates stand (almost always) open.
Without a doubt this is one of the most beautiful places I've visited. Its 113 acres (80 of them developed) spread across a hill above Newark, and the view is hard to ignore.
I visited on Christmas Eve 2103, which was one of the coldest days of the year. 2014 would be even colder, but it was still a brisk zero degrees. I had visited my friend Stacey, who lives minutes away and has known the place her whole life.
This is obviously a place to visit in the daytime. Ghost stories circulate about it, however, and I've been told of ghostly occurrences by people I know personally, and haunted places are plenty of fun after dark. It's important to be aware that a cemetery association actively maintains and monitors Cedar Hill--I've seen the groundskeeper there at least twice--and that, like essentially all cemeteries, it's technically closed and off-limits from dusk 'til dawn.
It was established in 1850, in a location which was then far outside of town. More than 36,000 families have buried loved ones or bought plots here, and its residents include several notably prominent people.
These include William B. Woods, who served as Mayor of Newark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, and finished his career an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1880-1887); inventor of the Coca-Cola bottle Alexander Samuelson; first black doctor in Licking County Andrew Burton; John Veach, who held the head of Abraham Lincoln and helped carry him after he was shot at Ford's Theater; and Albert C. Schweitzer--not the famous theologian, but a major league baseball player who fielded for the St. Louis Browns from 1908-1911 (see his statistics here).
The best-known spooky stuff is located in the northern part of the cemetery, on the slope facing Newark. The gravel road curves around a steep part of the hill here.
On the highway-side curve there is a memorably realistic state of Christ with his eyes toward heaven.
Even spookier is the statue of a woman with her head down and covered; her face is so obscured that you have to get really close to make it out. Her broken-off hand makes her look like an amputee.
One side of the curve is walled to keep the earth in place. Built into this wall is a mausoleum straight out of Dracula.
Ghost stories I've heard firsthand about Cedar Hill seem to center around this spot. Chris and Sam, friends of mine, witnessed a girl headed down the gravel away from them, around the curve and out of sight--and vanished.
Courtesy of Grave Addiction.com
But best known, it seems, are the legends about the Baker mausoleum, pictured above. Put your ear to the door and you might hear the infamous ghostly banging noises and muffled voices. Another Cedar Hill tale concerns a gravestone with a carving of a baby's face which will switch directions if you stare at it for a long time, then look away for a moment and look back.
The oldest American graves belong to immigrants, and in Ohio that most often means Irish or German. St. Joseph's in Perry County, the oldest Catholic church in Ohio, has a churchyard full of stones that say someone was born in--for example--County Tyrone, Ireland. It must be a useful resource for genealogists.
Speaking of immigrants, the Sforzas are permanent residents of Cedar Hill with an attractive joint-design tombstone, their photos embossed on each half.
Besides offering something of a mystery, the mother-daughter tombstone pictured above demonstrates a glitch in cemetery planning. Naturally we all remember the worldwide chaos that began at midnight when December 31, 1999, became January 1, 2000. The electrical grid went down; bank accounts and credit records were reset to zero; airplanes fell from the sky and countless thousands of computerized systems failed simultaneously, while gangs of homicidal thugs terrorized the unpoliced streets. Long decades will pass before America recovers from the disaster that was the "Y2K Bug."
If you're a teenager, you might not recall the fact that people in the late 1990s actually went around believing this crap was about to happen. The Art Bell radio show in particular was dedicated to "Y2K" alarmism. It was quite funny beforehand, and even more pathetically hilarious after the calendar's odometer rolled over and nothing at all happened to the world's automated infrastructure. The transition to years beginning with a 2 did have one undeniable effect in cemeteries, where forward-thinking plot owners accidentally outlived the "19" they'd had engraved as the prefix to their presumptive death dates. I don't know why Agnes's daughter Mary was supposed to be buried alone with her mother (sharing the same stone, no less); I believe it's the norm in this country for children to reach adulthood, marry, and form families of their own. Or maybe Mary is 121 years old.
My very good friend Stacey Rose lives just a couple of miles from this graveyard and has grown up hearing stories about it. Her experiences there are almost too numerous to mention--and many are supernatural in nature.
Stacey's view is that any number of specific places inside Cedar Hill Cemetery are active spiritually; I'll attempt to enumerate several of them as I learn more of them. In the meantime, this is one cemetery whose beauty and history alone make it worth seeking out and exploring on your own.
City of Newark: Cedar Hill Cemetery
Find-a-Grave: Cedar Hill Cemetery
Grave Addiction: Cedar Hill Cemetery