Depending on who you ask, there are either two or three asylum cemeteries at the Ridges. The lesser-known cemetery apparently stands "on a hill parallel to Dairy Lane." But the most famous one is at the rear corner of the asylum grounds. This is the only part of the Ridges still owned by the state Department of Mental Health.

Very few of the gravestones feature names. A couple have been replaced with better stones engraved with names and dates, but that only happens when someone's descendants bear the expense and have a stone put in. If you died on the state they gave you a small white stone with your patient number on it and nothing else. Hospital records tell who each number belonged to, which is why several of the unmarked stones are accompanied by metal veterans' plaques. There are a lot of Civil War veterans in the Ridges graveyard; when it was built there was an entire country full of shellshocked veterans. Due to missing records, the identities of the male patients with numbers 1 through 63 are lost to history. Male #64 and Female #1 were both interred in 1880.

In total there were roughly two thousand people interred in the Athens State Hospital burial grounds before 1972, when the burials ended with Female #847 and Male #1117. Since men and women were numbered separately, there are two gravestones for each number through 847. Apparently Ohio University also buried the cadavers used in its medical classes here, but whether or not they were assigned numbers I don't know. This is similar to the Columbus Mental Hospital cemeteries with their "SPECIMENS" stones.

The Ridges asylum cemetery is also definitely reputed to be haunted. Most of the stories center around the weird circle of graves which takes up one corner of an otherwise military-style tombstone layout. Maybe there was a center stone at one time, but now it's just a barely-distinguishable ring of graves. The legends say that witches use this as a circle of power (or something like that) to hold seances in. It turns out that the circle was probably created by pranksters years ago--at least that's OU's official opinion. There doesn't seem to be another feasable explanation.

Then there are the typical cemetery ghosts. There's even a really weird section with only a handful of graves on the other side of a little creek. There's a wooden bridge and, on the other side, three or four graves in the woods.

The Ridges' main asylum building is inaccessible now, but the cemetery is always there. It's a good and scary place to check out late at night. And if you feel adventurous you can always head right up the hill and across the driveway and take a look at the only abandoned building left on the property--the Tuberculosis Ward.

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