Ann, a friend of mine, took me recently to Pilgerruh Cemetery – otherwise known as Tinker’s Creek Cemetery, Old Indian Cemetery, Hillside Cemetery, or Terra Vista Cemetery. Pilgerruh, which is German for “Pilgrim’s Rest,” was a name that came from a brief Moravian settlement in the area. Those settlers moved on, and it is the next group of residents, those who participated in the building of the canal and pushing into the Ohio frontier, who created this burial ground.
The earliest tombstone we could find was dated 1810, and the last 1919, but some websites report that the final burial was in 1925 in an unmarked grave. Whatever cemetery records exist, including a full transcription of all remaining markers in the 1970s, are on file with the Bedford Historical Society. In addition to vandalism and decay, the relatively small number of markers has been attributed to the burial of malaria victims who became ill while working on the canal and were buried quickly with little ceremony.
Pilgerruh, like many abandoned cemeteries in remote areas, has attracted a wide variety of creepy legends and ghostly tales. The cemetery abuts a hill that is believed to be a Native American burial mound, which only adds fuel to the fire.
In Pilgerruh, as the stories go, you may see a shadowy figure or hear unseen children playing. You may even encounter very alive cultists using the cemetery in their black arts. Sadly, the main thing that creepy stories do is encourage people to visit Pilgerruh and vandalize it – I guess either because they are trying to show how brave they are, because they are drunk or high, or because they are trying to scare others into believing their scary stories. Ann verified that even more stones were broken or moved since she was there last, in some cases being rendered illegible.
We hadn’t been there long when a group of teenagers shuffled up the path, looking very surprised to see anyone else in the cemetery. The boys ignored us, but two of the girls attempted to chat with us, albeit awkwardly. Once we established that we were just there to take some photographs and I write a cemetery blog, the girls wanted to make sure I knew that the cemetery was scary and haunted. They told me that they had brought a tape recorder up the cemetery for ghost hunting. They had walked through the cemetery without incident and were walking up the mound on the side playing back the tape recording. One of them said that she stated aloud “If you don’t want us to be here, give us a sign.” And with that, the tape recorder fell completely silent, with even their own recorded voices not being heard.
My friend Ann reports that her only unexplained experience in Pilgerruh is that she heard someone cough next to her while taking a picture from this vantage point (the path leading up the side of the mound), even though she could not see another human being.
Are there ghosts at Pilgerruh? Whether there are or not, the cemetery is peaceful but isolated place, sadly lost as much to disrespectful vandals as time.