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Ghostly tales spook town throughout its history

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Among Yellow Springs’ most well-known ghost stories are tales more than 100 years old — the “Jersey Angel” and “Thunderstorm Ghost.” Both were featured in the Haunted Ohio books and in a series on ghosts written for the Yellow Springs News in 1943 by Harold Igo.

The Thunderstorm Ghost is a favorite of Haunted Ohio author Chris Woodyard, who lives in Dayton. Though the identity of the ghost in question remains unknown, the story seems to stick with all those who hear it.

It was around the turn of the century that a young woman from the area when to collect berries in the woods, according to Igo. She was near Beantown when a thunderstorm rolled into the area. Taking refuge under a large oak tree she was apparently struck by lighting. When rescuers found her, she was frozen in place where electrocuted — standing rigid with her arms wide open and her mouth agape in the middle of a scream, according to Woodyard.

Not long after the tragedy, a traveling dry good salesman (or a drummer, depending on who you talk to), was caught in a thunderstorm in the area and found himself under an oak tree. In the next flash of lighting he saw a woman standing there, about whom the traveler/drummer said, “seemed to be screaming but you couldn’t hear her,” according to Woodyard. When he later told his story at the Ness Hotel, others told of a similar sighting. Unbelieving of the ghost was William Hafner, who always ridiculed the story, saying, “Show me one single reliable witness,” Igo wrote. While driving past the oak tree one night a thunderstorm broke out and after a bright flash, Hafner saw a woman, “all in white, arms out-stretched in an agonizing appeal for help,” Igo wrote. Hafner became a believer.

“Perhaps the story is a warning not to stand under a tree in a thunderstorm,” Woodyard said.

“The Jersey Angel” legend comes from the 1870s, and refers to Joseph S. Saberton, the man who bought the land that would become John Bryan State Park. An English-born man, “he had strange ideas about raising cattle,” Woodyard said, as he would give them names — Betsy, Buttercup, Flora, etc. — and treat them as his pets. Apparently he brought the first Jersey cows to the area, which he claimed could out-produce the low shorthorns, Igo wrote.

While dying of an infection, Saberton asked to be buried in his pasture to be near his cows. Yet his cows were sold away, despite being ridiculed by the area farmers as “midget cows,” Igo wrote. Sometime later, John and Bert Applegate, who bought Saberton’s farm, were standing on the home’s back porch on a moon-lit night when they heard a horseman ride by, whistling for his dog and calling his cattle by name, “Come, Betsy, come Buttercup, go get em’ Shep,” Igo wrote. They recognized the voice as Sabertons and offered to swear to their story before a notary, Woodyard said.

“This is such an old community and so many interesting things have gone on here,” said Woodyard of Yellow Springs’ rich tradition of ghost stories. “There is something atmospheric about the village.”

See the Oct. 29 issue of the Yellow Springs News for more local ghost legends and recent reports of village hauntings.


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