Is Richland County the U.S.’s most haunted area? And if so why?
Headless Kate. The Black Dog. Deadman’s Run. Ghost stories that have captivated the inhabitants of Richland County for many a year. Some of the County’s ghosts are some of the most famous ghosts in the United States. Stories such as Headless Kate who haunts Wildcat Hollow near Mansfield is one of legend so to speak. Poor Kate was a girl who married a butcher with jealous (and murderous) tendencies, and Kate met her end in the lonely and spooky sounding “Wildcat Hollow”.
Another ghost inhabits Zeiter’s Cemetery north of Mansfied where the apparition of a dead black dog chases men through it’s tombstones. The Richland County Historical Society can be found housed in Oak Hill Cottage. Built in 1847, the Robinsons lived there until 1864 when it was sold on to the Johanne and Frances families. All would die in the house and said to still wander it’s rooms and corridors. Some visitors claim that the building has a dark atmosphere and refuse to enter.
In nearby Lucas Cemetery is a the ghost of Bloody Mary who was burned at the stake in the 1800s for suspicion of witchcraft. The tree that stands where she was buried still has her name carved into it’s bark. Local legend states if you visit the cemetery at night the tree bleeds and there is a drop in temperature.
A small creek in Bellville called Deadman’s Run is named after a man who appears from time to time on the bridge that spans it, running from one side to the other. It is believed the man worked for a local judge but was killed during a flood.
Olivesburg’s Quarry and Manufacturing Plant used to make blocks and rods for the railroad, however it has been closed for many years. During the 1940s, the chain of a large iron kettle broke, covering molten metal onto five workers. All five workers slowly died on the floor of that plant, immersed in iron, screaming in pain. If you visit on certain nights locals believe that the workers will speak to you about their final moments.
So why is Richland County so haunted? Local historian Virgil Hess discussed this matter with journalist Dick Collier during the 1960s,
“Southern Richland County was settled first, ghosts and ghost stories had more time to “grow”. And the people who settled in that area came from regions where ghost stories were popular.”
The area was once rich in a storytelling tradition and standing head and shoulders above all others was Cy Gatton. Farmer, outdoorsman and resort owner Cy Gatton (1863-1937) is remembered for tall tales about his farm, indeed it was he who first talked about “Sour Kate”, or “Headless Kate” as well claiming he had taught a catfish to drink milk and chase mice! No doubt some of the ghost stories in the county, are just that – stories. But how many originate from the original settlers?
As John G Sabol discusses in his book “Ghost Excavator : Unearthing the Drama in the Mine Fields” that many American counties became polluted with folk stories and beliefs from other counties, and more importantly countries. This creates a heady mash of archetypal ghost stories with multiple flavours not only affecting the type of ghosts witnessed but also how the witness reacts. Ghost stories become part of the country and vice versa.
There is no doubt that Richland County is haunted and it is up to you as a reader and investigator to decide which are creations of the mind and which just could be something unusual – or both.
Great list of Ghosts from Richland County
Mansfield News Journal – 27/10/1963
John G Sabol – “Ghost Excavator : Unearthing the Drama in the Mine Fields” -AuthorHouse (16 May 2007)