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Tales of hauntings in the village

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Apparitions and ghostly music at Ye Olde Trail Tavern. Loaves of bread flying off the counter at the Sunrise Cafe. Disembodied voices in Antioch’s Main Building. Chairs traveling through the air in the Union Schoolhouse. A phantom walking around John Bryan State Park.

Tales of trapped spirits haunting village homes and businesses have abounded throughout Yellow Springs’ more than 200-year history, coming alive especially in the Halloween season. Well-known 19th century legends, including the “Jersey Angel” and the “Thunderstorm Ghost,” have been joined by stories of recent mysterious poltergeist activity and spiritual contact.

Evidence is, of course, harder to come by than a compelling story. A history buff with an interest in the paranormal, Pam Adams investigates local ghost legends by poring through old newspapers and deep into the Greene County historical archives.

“When you tell me there’s a ghost, I find out who they were before they were a ghost,” said Adams, who co-owns the Village Herb Shoppe.

Through her research, Adams discovered that Ye Olde Trail Tavern, originally a home built in 1847, was said to be haunted by two separate apparitions, a blond woman in a blue period dress, seen smiling as she walks from the front to the rear of the building and a woman with long black hair in a long black dress weeping upstairs.

“As far as I know, ghosts do not have a wardrobe,” she said.

Using family correspondence, Adams determined that Mr. Hafner, then owner of the home that became the Tavern, asked his wife on his deathbed in the 1880s to take care of the place. Adams believes that woman in blue continues to do so to this day.

“I do think that they somewhat protect the place,” said Tavern owner Cathy Christian, who said she has felt the presence of spirits, and that they also seem to, “play pranks, do things to get your attention or let you know they don’t like something.”

Christian said that when one patron began criticizing the ghost stories as publicity stunts, his ashtray split in half right in front of him, making him an instant believer. She has also witnessed benches and bar stools fall over, computers and electronics stop working and heard the striking of piano keys and voices whispering her name.

The woman in black, who one Tavern employee saw crying in a corner upstairs, is believed to be Mrs. Hafner’s daughter-in-law, Josephine, who was “tricked and manipulated and had her whole life ruined by a man,” Adams said.

The Hafner’s son, William, was the town’s postmaster and began courting Josephine while she was checking her mail on a daily basis waiting to hear from her boyfriend, who went west and promised to send for her. When his daily letters stopped arriving, Josephine feared the worst, and after three months, agreed to married William. Later, when Josephine’s boyfriend returned, it was revealed that William had been intercepting her boyfriend’s letters all the while. Adams said she believes that because Josephine was much younger than William, she secretly looked forward to re-marrying after his death, but was forbidden to do so as stipulated by his will, a fate she would continue to mourn.

Paranormal author Chris Woodyard believes that ghosts usually either don’t know they’re dead or stay to help care for the places they cherished.

“It can be a trapped spirit or someone who just doesn’t realize they’re dead.” said Woodyard, author of the five-book series, Haunted Ohio. “And you get ghosts that stick around to be near a person or a place they just loved so much.”

For example, Adams suspected that a ghost reported to move chairs around the Union Schoolhouse may be a devoted teacher. The ghost can apparently be placated by setting out one more chair than is needed at a meeting.

Another local restaurant, the Sunrise Cafe, has reported eerie occurrences, including disappearing patrons, shadowy figures on the wall, phantom cash registers and items being thrown from countertops.

“The last three employees we’ve had have all said the same thing a day or two after starting working — that they see people in the restaurant who aren’t there,” said Shane Creepingbear, a Sunrise employee.

Often, employees will see people walk past them only to turn around and find no one in the restaurant, sometimes even hearing the front door’s bell ring, Creepingbear said. Several employees have seen the same old woman seated at table six along the right-hand wall, only to find her gone a moment later. In addition, poltergeist activity proliferates.

“Stuff is thrown at you, bread and Tupperware comes flying off the shelf — one time there were five or six loaves of bread,” Creepingbear said.

While a student at Antioch College, Creepingbear saw bathroom doors swing open, heard voices in Main Building with no one else around and was told of an occurrence where the janitor witnessed all the doors on the Science Building’s third floor fly open and slam shut at once.

Adams herself has seen the man known as Wiley the Hermit, still whistling as he saunters through John Bryan State Park wearing his signature handkerchief. Wiley, who apparently lived in the woods, drowned in 1910 when in a terrible rainstorm his wagon slipped off the bridge into the Little Miami River, according to Adams. Adams said she recently saw Wiley walking down State Route 370 in the park.

“Sudden, violent deaths are confusing to the spirit and they’re trapped here because they don’t know where they are,” Adams said.

Woodyard said there are typically two kinds of ghosts, those who act like videotapes, repeating their activity over and over, and those who seem to be able to hear, see and interact with the living.

One local resident, Joanne Caputo, who wrote a book on the paranormal experiences which revealed her past-life connection as the murdered child of the 19th century slave woman, Margaret Garner, believes she has been contacted by these sentient spirits, including some spirits of deceased residents who communicated messages to their families through her.

“Invariably they just want something told to someone they love,” said Caputo, who was an atheist before she began hearing voices and seeing visions of the dead. “Sometimes I help them move on.”

Whether to free trapped spirits or simply to get rid of unwanted ghosts, the researchers offered their advice for those who believe their homes are haunted.

“You tell it to go to the light,” said Woodyard, adding that it helps to use their name. “Don’t have a séance, don’t use a Ouija board — that just stirs up trouble. Say, ‘This is my house and it’s time to move on.’”

As for why Yellow Springs seems to attract those in the spirit world, Creepingbear posited that the community is in the middle of a vortex of concentrated energy; Caputo suspected heightened magnetism and Adams proposed it was the mysterious waters of the Yellow Spring.

To Woodyard, “There is something atmospheric about the village.”

Visit on Friday, Oct. 29, for more Yellow Springs ghost stories, including the “Jersey Angel” and “Thunderstorm Ghost.”

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