Lutheran Ridge Cemetery

According to a controversial legend, the spirit of Diana Copley is said to haunt the grave where she was laid to rest in 1935.

As the story goes, a strange, horrific human face appeared on her headstone that had the power to frighten any who gazed upon it.

Some time around 1960, shortly after the death of her husband, Irving, the image of a woman’s face appeared on Diana’s tombstone and, it is said, you could clearly see a pair of hands tightly gripping its neck.

What makes this legend controversial is the story that was passed around in a morbid attempt to explain this frightening image. Shortly after the grim likeness was discovered by cemetery visitors, stories began circulating that Diana was crying out from the grave; that she was strangled to death by her husband who went unpunished for his crime and now she demanded justice.

Of course, family members say these allegations are pure nonsense and that Diana died a natural death. But, still, the story persists and has since been woven into the fabric of Ohio folklore.

Some say that family members at one time removed the headstone in order to quell the controversy. They installed a newer headstone in its place, but, in time, the phantom face returned.

This is not the complete truth. An attempt was made to put a stop to the controversy surrounding the grave and bring peace to the cemetery. The original headstone was modified, the “defective” portion which contained the “face” was removed, but a second, or newer, stone was not installed.

The legend of Diana’s ghastly gravestone image gained widespread attention in a 1970 Toledo Blade article, “Ghosts Still Haunt Area Graveyards” by Paula Miner.

From the Blade article,

The oldest marker in the ancient graveyard, partly enclosed by a rickety fence strung with barbed wire, dates back to 1830. Things were pretty quiet in the cemetery until 10 years ago when striations in the marble tombstone of Irving and Diana V. Copley created a picture of a wild-eyed woman with long, streaming hair. A pair of hands clutched at her throat.

The story spread like wildfire through the tiny communities surrounding Lutheran Ridge Cemetery. Soon, people from all over Ohio and Michigan came to see the face on the stone. They seemed to have little trouble finding the graveyard, although it is located deep in the country at the end of a series of deserted, twisting roads.

“The best time to see the face was in the dark of night,” Howard McKee, a farmer in the area, said. “If you drove your car down the narrow roads and pointed your headlight beams directly onto the stone, the image would jump out at you.

“Some said that they saw sparks fly out of the grave, but I guess I missed that show,” he chuckled.

Today, the controversial stone is gone, and area residents deny stories that hint at foul play. A woman in Upper Sandusky who knew the Copley woman said she died a natural death. “I remember long ago a story that her husband tried to strangle her once. Don’t know if there was any truth in that, either,” she said.

Ghost hunters turned vandals finally caused descendants of the Copley couple to remove the controversial tombstone. The three-foot upper half – containing the face – was cut off and later used for other markers. Names and dates were re-etched in the base, which stands about two feet high. Diana died in 1935, at the age of 58. Her husband was 77 when he died in 1953.

Vandalism in the cemetery has caused hard feelings among several of the graveyard’s neighbors. Many Carey residents either refuse to discuss the story, or direct ghost hunters in an opposite direction from Lutheran Ridge Cemetery.

Others are more vocal, like an Alvada woman who blamed vandalism on “You drunks from Toledo who come down here spreading stories about a godly woman and causing all kinds of damage. Just look what’s happened since then.”

Most of the larger Victorian monuments have been pushed over by vandals who smashed beer bottles against the tombs and carried off some of the smaller markers in their car trunks.

Today, the Lutheran Ridge Church building is used as a grainary. It was sold in the late 1800s when most of the congregation left the area. Private parties have contributed to the cemetery’s upkeep, but the Alvada woman said that two attacks of vandalism have drained rehabilitation funds.

A Carey woman, who visited the graveyard one night after her son described the face on the tomb, offered her own explanation of the wreckage.

“That face was horrible. Her eyes were sort of glassy, and her hair was wild, and then there were those huge hands around her throat. That’s why the graveyard was destroyed – because of the evil there.”

Although the legend of murder persists, Diana Copley’s descendants, who live in Wharton, Ohio and Washington Court House, Ohio, deny the story.

“She died a perfectly natural death in Findlay, where they moved from their farm in Alvada,” Mrs. Horace Copley, daughter-in-law of the late Diana, said. “As far as I know, there was never any strangling going on. But I did hear that before she died, my mother-in-law made my father-in-law promise never to remarry. Well, he did, eight years later. Some say the face was Diana’s revenge. But, you know people, they always make a good story better.”

Even though the startling stone is long gone, the legend and rumors still persist that Diana wanders the cemetery at night, seeking justice for her untimely death.

NOTE: This cemetery is old and has been heavily vandalized over the years. From photos I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like there has been much of an attempt to maintain it.

Lutheran Ridge Cemetery is located less than a mile north from the intersection of SR 568 and Township Road 95.

SEE ALSO:
Ghosts Still Haunt Area Graveyards,” by Paula Miner, October 31 1970, Toledo Blade

Wyandot County Hauntings, Ohio Exploration


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Christopher Tillman

Author | Filmmaker | Speaker Christopher Tillman has been actively exploring claims of the paranormal since 1993. He currently resides in Toledo, Ohio.

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