(Orig. published 2002) This site is actually located within the Old Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Olmsted Falls. The story, as widely circulated among various ghost websites by anonymous sources, goes something like this: A woman accused of witchcraft was executed and buried at this cemetery. The townsfolk did not erect a marker, but instead built an iron fence around her grave, which was next to an old tree. An indentation next to the tree inside the fence marks her grave. “Bad things” will happen to those who get close to her grave.
Another variation of the story has several witches executed and buried here, and their ghosts continue to haunt this area. That this location is sometimes referred to as a “hill” and not as a cemetery can be due to the fact that the cemetery itself sits on top of ledge overlooking the Rocky River and connecting park below.
The Upper Midwest Ghost Society provides a more detailed, colorful version: the accused witch was hung from a tree and buried near the base of its trunk, in the very spot where her body was dropped from the noose. Nasty.
After visiting the place, it is not surprising that Old Chestnut Grove Cemetery is said to be haunted. It is surrounded by woods, the various old trees cast many shadows, and the layout itself is a bit unusual. We even found a skeleton of a large animal (raccoon? skunk?) on top of a grave that the groundskeeper somehow missed for some time. In the back portion of the cemetery, graves could be found deep in the woods and in a hidden hollow down a steep hill, which then connects to a park hiking trail! It is also said “strange lights” can be seen at night in this part of the cemetery.
The “witch’s grave” was very difficult to find. There is no longer a “fence that surrounds a tree,” where the grave is allegedly located. Quite by accident, we did find a tree at the edge of the cemetery surrounded by square stone blocks. Upon closer examination, those blocks contained metal spikes in the center, strongly suggesting that a fence once existed here.
The remains of the fence can be seen along the front and right sides of the tree. Also visible is a small indentation in front of the large tree trunk. Is this the site of an old, sunken grave?
It goes without saying that nothing “bad” happened while stomping around this “grave.” In fact, a kind local resident who was walking her dog claimed she never heard of the legend. But, she did give us excellent advice on a nearby ice cream parlor and quickly volunteered directions out of town. In retrospect, perhaps she had something to hide and was trying get us out of there quickly. Hmmm . . .
It is unclear when the alleged execution occurred. 1700’s? 1800’s? 1900’s?
What is known is that Olmsted Falls was part of territory granted by the U.S. government to Connecticut settlers who were displaced after the Revolutionary War in the late 1700’s (now commonly known as the “Western Reserve”). Olmsted Falls was originally named Kingston Township around 1815. It then became Lenox Township, from 1822 until 1830, when it was renamed Olmsted Falls. Based upon this information, research has turned up little to substantiate any such witch trials and executions in this area.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Colonial Connecticut was a hotbed of witchcraft delusions prior to the relocation of some of its inhabitants to the Western Reserve. So, perhaps there is some element of truth to this legend.
4/23/05: Bonnie provides another reason why this old cemetery has a freaky reputation (and why you should never go drinking at a haunted cemetery at night):
When I was a teen, we went to Chestnut Cemetery a few days before Halloween, about 1978. We found the [witch’s] grave, because the fence was still up. But there was a phallic gravestone, with odd writing on it unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When we got there, the gate on the fence was open. According to the legend, this meant that the witch was out. We all thought, “what a bunch of crap”, and we had a few beers. Then, the gate began to close. My friends took off, but I watched it close itself and clank shut. I thought I’d take this experience to my grave before I found this site. I went there a few years later and saw that the stone was gone, God help the poor bastard that stole that!