There is a horrific tale called “The Croglin Grange Vampire” told by Augustus Hare in The Story of My Life (1896/1900). The hideous Thing in this story from Van Wert, Ohio is strongly reminiscent of Hare’s unearthly creature found in a churchyard vault.
HORRIFYING EXPERIENCE OF A MINISTER WITH A VAN WERT GHOST
We clip the following from Sunday’s [Cincinnati] Enquirer and as it relates the experience of the narrator in Van Wert, it will doubtless be interesting reading. The gentleman alluded to is quite well known to us but we are not at liberty to use his name:
Washington C.H., July 9. A Methodist minister, lately a resident of Hamilton County, Ohio, who has been visiting friends in our city, relates the following thrilling episode in his life, which occurred while he was stopping at Van Wert, Ohio.
‘It was on a beautiful moonlight evening in June, and the atmosphere was just about as sultry as it has been at any time during the present summer. I was enjoying myself in the company of some relatives who lived about three miles from Van Wert, on the old Willshire road. At a late hour I arose to go, but my friends insisted that I should remain for the night, as my way would be very lonesome. It was suggested that some ghost might appear to me at the cemetery or some individual might rob me. This was a beautiful burying ground, and was situated about midway on my route. I was quite amused at their artful method of persuasion and laughed vociferously. It was very ridiculous to me, indeed, that there should be a rattling of dry bones, or the apparition of a spirit in a modern cemetery. The people of to-day had made too much advancement, as I thought, for such idle fancies as that.
Thus I proceeded on my way with no thought of danger—indifferent to the warnings that had just been given me. As I drew near to the cemetery, however, and began to see the tall, white shafts of marble looming up among the evergreens my imagination was tensioned to its utmost capacity, and, I confess, I was a fit subject for terror. It seemed as if all the spook stories to which I had listened in my childhood chased each other in quick, succession through my brain, and the very chirrup of the crickets or the incessant song of the whippoorwill intensified the loneliness of this little nook of earth. The long line of dark trees that threw such strange shadows across the field and mellow light that fell from the moon upon every grotesque stump or stately monument, only served to intensify my loneliness.
I arrived at last at the corner of the cemetery, and, oh horrors! right in the very center of this field of dead men’s bones, and from the shadow of a broad new tombstone, I saw a tall black creature rise and stand erect. The apparition seemed in the distance like a huge cadaver clothed in a robe of sack-cloth. The dreary eyes were sunken deep in their sockets, and the few irregular snags that served for teeth were pressed like fangs against the thin and wrinkled lips. The monster gazed a moment in all directions, then with a steady measured movement it made directly for me. I stopped and gazed upon the creature, and started back bewildered, but, at once regaining my senses, I concluded to proceed, and, if possible, to put on the appearance of unconcern. As I proceeded the spectre proceeded also, and, as certainly as I live in the present moment, it seemed as if we would both meet at the same point in the road. After going a short distance I slackened my pace, in order to let the mysterious something have all the room in front of me it might desire, and in a few moments I congratulated myself on being about twenty feet in the rear.
Contrary to my anticipations, there was no conversation opened between us but in a strange, ghost-like manner, the long withered form moved ahead of me until it reached a little, old, abandoned burying ground at the right of the road. This spot was far more desolate than the new cemetery, for it had become entirely neglected, and at that late hour of the night appeared as an interminable thicket, so completely were the weeds, bushes, briers and trees tangled and matted together. Into this uncanny place my ghostly terrifier passed and disappeared. I have never understood the nature of this apparition up to the present time, and I am perfectly willing to give my name to anyone who would be inclined to doubt the occurrence.’
The Van Wert [OH] Republican 14 July 1887: p. 5
The road called Willshire Road is now Shannon Street or State Route 118. The “new cemetery” is Woodland Cemetery of Van Wert. The older cemetery was on West Main Street. Its inhabitants were moved to Woodland. You can find the Croglin Grange story at http://augustus-hare.tripod.com/croglin.html.
The Van Wert story was widely syndicated. Its anonymous narrator and literary tone make it more than a bit suspect. But it’s a cracking tale for Halloween. You’ll find it and other cemetery ghosts in The Victorian Book of the Dead, available at the preceding link or at online retailers. The Victorian Book of the Dead is also available for Kindle and you can ask your local bookstore or library to order a copy.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.