One of the most popular and enduring legends in Lucas County, the elusive Ghost Bride of Ravine Cemetery continues to capture the imagination of ghosthunters all over the region. Whether it’s because the romantic tragedy of the story tugs at the heart strings or the fact that it’s one of the easiest haunted hotspots to visit, Ravine Cemetery can be found on virtually every local ghosthunter’s resume.
Established in 1883, Ravine Cemetery is located on Ravine Road (formerly Cemetery Lane), between Harroun Road and Main Street, in Sylvania, Ohio. It gets its name from the fact there is a large ravine, roughly 30 feet deep, that splits the cemetery right down the middle.
I spent a large chunk of my life living in Sylvania, but I never realized anything even remotely paranormal was occurring inside the gates of Ravine Cemetery until I read Chris Woodyard’s book, “Haunted Ohio III.” In the back of the book, she offers the reader a single sentence on the subject:
“Sylvania’s Ravine Park Cemetery is haunted by a bride who can’t rest because her family couldn’t decide which of her three husbands to bury her by.”
Twenty-six words. That’s all it took to turn an obscure, third-person account into a staple of northwestern Ohio ghostly folklore. The power of the pen, indeed.
And, no matter where you go, online or off, any mention of Ravine Cemetery will invariably cite Woodyard’s book as their sole source of information about the legend. Well, here at Haunted Toledo, it takes more than just twenty-six words to quench our curiosity. We like to dig a little deeper. So, with the help of fellow ghosthunter and filmmaker, Mark Wright of Spectral Travels, we were able to track down the source Woodyard used for her book – a newspaper article which offers much more insight into the legend.
In a Toledo Blade article, titled “Ghosts Still Haunt Area Graveyards” and published on Saturday, October 31 of 1970, Paula Miner introduced readers to the sad story of an auburn-haired ghost who would walk the grounds of Ravine Cemetery in flowing, white robes while searching for her lost loves.
Jamie Walker, a businessman whose company had been supplying grave-markers since 1846, told Paula Miner of an unnerving conversation he once had with Irving Stow, a former caretaker of Ravine Cemetery. According to Stow, one of Ravine’s eternal tenants was a woman who had the misfortune of being a widow three times over. She was a woman who desired nothing more in life than to have children and raise a family. Her only problem was that each of her husbands died far before their time. After the untimely death of her third husband, she gave up on her dreams of having a family and never married again, passing away thirty years later.
When she died, there was a dispute over which of her three husbands she should be buried with and, ultimately, perhaps to avoid a bitter feud between all the families involved, she was buried in a plot all by herself. Now, according to legend, she appears at dawn on the anniversary of each husband’s death to wander the cemetery grounds. Is she sad that she was buried alone for all eternity or is she merely paying her respects to her fallen love? No one knows for sure, but there are those among the living who claim to have seen the ghostly bride as well as something which may be a little more sinister.
In a post at the GhostVillage.com forums, dated December 1 of 2003, a user by the name of “GhostGirl20” (Brandy), related her encounter with the ghostly bride. According to GhostGirl20, she and some of her friends went to Ravine Cemetery in October of that year to investigate the legend. Twenty minutes after arriving at the location, GhostGirl20 says she looked towards the front of the cemetery and spotted what she believes was the ghostly bride.
“She had dark hair and she had a white gown on,” she said. “The ghost had a long white dress that looked very old, almost like an old wedding dress from the 1800’s.”
As to the area of the cemetery where she saw the ghost, GhostGirl20 says, “It appeared that she was floating between the first two rows of graves.”
She goes on, “The ghost headed towards the ravine and just dissapeared [sic]. I walked up towards the front and saw no signs of her at all, so my friends and I left.”
GhostGirl20 returned the next day and went to the area where she had seen the apparition, hoping to find a clue among the headstones as to her identity.
“I found a grave beneath a tree in the first row,” she said. “It was an isolated grave a little farther away from the others. It was a ladies [sic] grave. I think it was her grave.”
Members of the Toledo Ohio Ghost Hunters Society (TOGHS) have reported on their website their own run-ins with Ravine’s supernatural inhabitants. According to their account, TOGHS visited Ravine Cemetery in the summer of 2005 and were able to capture something odd in at least one photograph. Posted on their webpage devoted to Ravine Cemetery, there is a picture which they claim shows two separate anomalies – an “orb in the shape of a person waving” and “the face of a young person” superimposed over a large headstone. And, on subsequent excursions to the cemetery, members have even reported the feeling of a presence.
An anonymous commenter on the TOGHS site states the ghost bride can “rarely be found, but will appear on the St. Joseph side of the ravine.” Furthermore, this person says that “she sits on a tombstone and cries.”
But, there may be more than a ghostly bride lurking the grounds of Ravine Cemetery. Some people believe there may be something else there, something potentially sinister.
On the TOGHS website, there are more claims of spectral activity going on at Ravine Cemetery than what can be accounted for in the accepted legend.
The same anonymous commenter to the TOGHS site who claims the bride can be found on the St. Joseph side of the cemetery also claims to have encountered a “greyish black figure darting from tombstone to tombstone” while he and some friends were searching the cemetery for the infamous Frederick Krueger headstone, which is located in the southeastern section of the cemetery. He goes on to say that, upon further visits to the cemetery, he has come to believe this apparition is that of a scared soldier.
In a report from Tri-Mar Paranormal Research, TOGHS also reports eyewitness accounts of a strange mist that moves through the cemetery, near the ravine. It is claimed that this mist was also captured on film.
There is also the report, found on the TOGHS site, of three people who visited the cemetery in August of 2002 who claimed to experience uneasy feelings and witnessing two different apparitions, one gray and one black. According to the report, the group said they felt “drawn to the southeastern section of the cemetery.” Along the edge of the ravine there was a “small group of three trees” they said they felt the need to investigate. Upon making their way to this group of trees, the three of them “immediately felt uneasy.” They then walked to a section of the cemetery “near a line of trees about sixty yards away” and, again, felt a “sense of uneasiness and fear.” It wasn’t long after that the three claim to have seen movement among the tombstones on the western side of the cemetery. They claim a “black humanoid figure” moved between the headstones and the trio decided to retreat back to the group of trees they first investigated when they arrived at the cemetery. It was here that one of them claims to have seen “a gray figure rising from the ground” in the same area as they had seen the black humanoid figure. They left Ravine Cemetery that night certain, all three of them, that something “evil” lurks in the southern section of the cemetery.
Is it the ghost of the widowed bride? A fallen soldier? Or something more insidious?
Only time, and further investigations, will tell.
A FINAL NOTE: Is It “Ravine Park Cemetery” or “Ravine Cemetery”?
In most re-tellings of the legend, the cemetery in question is always referred to as “Ravine Park Cemetery” while the sign at the actual location reads “Ravine Cemetery.” It appears that, at one time, this cemetery was called “Ravine Park,” as the Blade article even refers to it as such, but I choose to use the current name. When and why the name change occurred is not known at this time.
Ravine Cemetery is located on Ravine Road, between Main Street and Harroun Road, in Sylvania, Ohio.
“Ghosts Still Haunt Area Graveyards,” by Paula Miner, Toledo Blade, October 31, 1970
“Haunted Ohio III” (c) 1994 by Chris Woodyard
Sylvania Area Historical Society, 5717 N. Main St., Sylvania, Ohio 43560
Ravine Park Cemetery, Forgotten Ohio
Ravine Park Cemetery, Toledo Ohio Ghost Hunters Society