Cincinnati History · History Facts · Throwback Thursday · Uncategorized

TBT: The Spring Grove Cemetery Jail

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What is better than a wedding in a cemetery? How about a night in a cemetery jail?

A jail in a cemetery? Absolutely!

 

Last week, I described a chapel in the cemetery so beautiful, people are dying to get married there. (Terrible pun, I know, but I couldn’t resist!) This week dare to journey with me to a dark corner in this beautiful place.

 

In the basement of Norman Chapel is a jail cell. During the late 1800s, persons caught driving too fast through the cemetery were arrested and kept there overnight.

 

Yes, overnight.

 

I have found no stories of anyone’s experiences to share, but I can easily imagine how the night would go.

 

Can you imagine it?

 

The night watchman pushes you into a dark little room, maybe with a cot or maybe just a stone floor. Keys jingle against the iron bars as the lock clangs into place.

 

The one-eyed guard splits his scraggly beard with a black grin.key-123554_640

 

“Sleep tight. Don’t let the ghosts bite.”

 

His hearty laugh echoes off the walls as he leaves you to huddle alone in a corner.

 

Hours pass. The sun sets.

 

An eerie fog sinks through the barred window.

 

Howling wind prowls past the headstones.  The screech of a night owl pierces your soul. The striking of midnight announces the witching hour.

 

Ghosts are not real. Mere superstition and bluff.

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Then you hear it. Chains dragging, rattling. The strangled whispers of the undead clawing in their caskets, “Help me! I am still alive!” (For the Victorians were very afraid of this really happening.)

 

Terror claims you and you shrink into the darkest corner, hoping… no praying the ghosts will move on and not inhabit your body. (We are talking the age of superstition here…)

 

Whispers and moans. Death bells ringing frantically.

 

Bone chilling dampness creeping over you like the spiders seeking refuge on your coat.

 

The night marches on slowly. Eventually, the sounds ebb away.

 

Gritty eyes blur your vision when at last the night watchman comes, keys jangling. Slowly it turns and the barred door swings open on screaming hinges.

 

“Are ye possessed?” He walks toward you lifting a crucifix. When you do not cower from it, he grins that wretched smile. “Good, now be gone with ye, and dunna rush. A second night ye might not be so lucky…”

 

As you force yourself to walk a hasty retreat from your haunted prison he cackles, skittering shivers up your spine. Casting one glance back, he is gone, but the key remains in the barred door as it swings shut.

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I do not know about you, but a night in a cemetery prison might make for some interesting stories. Unfortunately, they will have to remain in your head. If you speed through Spring Grove Cemetery now, other consequences await. That spooky jail is now just a storage room. What a pity.