Tales of terror…

Ghost stories from Dayton’s most haunted places

Photo: Woodland Cemetery in Dayton

By Matt Clevenger

Every town has its share of urban legends, and the older the town, the more ghost stories there seem to be.

The city of Dayton is no exception, and its long history is filled with many tales of haunted places. If you believe the stories, is it possible that over the years, the spirits of more than a few former residents have never really left?

There are hundreds of well-known local ghost stories that would be impossible to cover all in one story. Every neighborhood in the city offers at least one, ranging from mysterious noises at Oakwood High School to strange sightings at the Masonic Temple or Memorial Hall. There’s the haunted cemetery in Germantown, haunted halls at Sinclair and UD, or the haunted church on Alex-Bell Road, and there are some apparitions tied to less specific locations, like the Third Street ghost or the phantom driver rumored to appear along State Route 40 to Englewood. Although none of these stories have ever been proven, they cannot totally be dismissed either.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force

One of the most known haunted locations in the Dayton area. Visitors at the museum often relate stories of haunted aircraft and other strange happenings, including ghostly sightings and unexplained noises throughout the museum. The museum is said to own a Vietnam War-era helicopter named the Black Maria, which was used for highly classified missions; visitors have reported hearing strange moaning and groaning sounds coming from the aircraft.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has also been the focus of much speculation over the years, including a possible WPAFB connection to the well-known UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico during the 1950s. Rumor has it that the bodies and/or wreckage found at the crash scene in Roswell were transported to labs at Wright-Patterson for analysis, and stored in a secret building there known as Hangar 18.

The Victoria Theatre

Originally constructed in 1866, the Victoria Theatre is one of downtown Dayton’s oldest buildings still in use, and also one of the most haunted. Visitors at the theatre have reported smelling roses in the air or hearing strange rustling noises in various parts of the building. Some have even reported encountering the ghost of a man who is said to have committed suicide at the theatre in the 1950s.

Another story dates from the early 1900s, and involves an actress who went into one of the theatre’s dressing rooms to change and was never seen or heard from again. Some storytellers claim the actress was murdered, and possibly transported out of the building in a trunk. It is said that some performers have refused to use the dressing room, while others have reported seeing the actress’s face appear in the room’s mirror.

Woodland Cemetery

Founded in 1841, Woodland Cemetery is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in the Dayton area, and is the final resting place of many famous Dayton residents including Erma Bombeck, Charles Kettering, and both Orville and Wilbur Wright. The cemetery is said to be haunted by several apparitions, including the ghost of a man who wanders the grounds and the spirit of a little girl who often appears and talks with cemetery visitors.

The cemetery is also allegedly haunted by the spirit of a small boy named Johnny who reportedly drowned in the Miami and Erie Canal. According to most versions of the story, the boy’s dog tried to save him and then sat loyally by the boy’s grave until it also died. Some historians dispute the story, citing a lack of evidence, but some visitors claim to have seen both the boy and his dog appear at the cemetery.

Fifth and Ludlow

Several local historians tell the story of the property on the corner of Fifth and Ludlow downtown, which was originally used as a graveyard in the early 1800s. Later, the pressures of population growth led the city to repurpose the land, and the bodies were moved and reburied at Woodland Cemetery.

According to most accounts, improper burials and the poorly marked original graves caused workers to leave an unspecified number of bodies behind, before buildings were constructed on the property. Since then, visitors have reported many unusual experiences throughout the building, including hearing odd noises, feeling cold, and even seeing ghostly apparitions.

Stivers School for the Arts

Originally constructed in 1908, Stivers School for the Arts is Dayton Public Schools’ oldest operational school building. The building is said to be haunted by the ghost of teacher Mary Tyler, who was found dead in the school’s basement swimming pool.

The pool has since been closed and covered over to make room for additional classrooms, but visitors still report many strange experiences in the school’s basement including feeling cold and hearing eerie noises.

Ridge Avenue Bridge

Known to many as the Bessie Little Bridge, this bridge is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Bessie Little, a pregnant girl supposedly murdered by her boyfriend there in the 1920s. Several people claim to have seen the girl’s ghost on the bridge, while those walking on the bridge have said they also heard mysterious splashing in the water below.

Old Dayton Daily News Building

Built in 1908, this historic building is located at the corner of Fourth and Ludlow and served as the headquarters for the Dayton Daily News up until 2007. It is said to be haunted by the spirit of Governor Cox, whom many visitors have seen in the library.

The building is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, who was murdered in 1987 by her husband, a maintenance worker at the Dayton Daily News. Her body was found several months later, hidden in concrete on the seventh floor of the building. Rumor has it her spirit caused so many disturbances on the fourth floor that newspaper employees eventually moved their offices to a different level.

 

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