Posts Tagged ‘cuyahoga valley national park’

Cleveland takes St. Patrick’s Day seriously.  Very seriously. We host the largest parade in the state of Ohio, which also ranks among the largest in the United States. And all you have to do is visit some local cemeteries to discover why.

J. Monahan is buried in Erie Street Cemetery, and, like a fair number of Irish immigrants, had that heritage engraved into his headstone.
J. Monahan

Bridget Rogan came to Cleveland from Ireland by way of Ashtabula County, Pennsylvania. She is buried in Harvard Grove Cemetery.


Michael Raleigh came from County Limerick in Ireland. He rests in Mater Dolorosa Cemetery.


Here is a monograph on the history of Irish-Americans in Cleveland.

Of course, all the stones I’ve shown you are the ones that proudly proclaim a connection to the Irish homeland. There are also plenty of stones that make no mention of origin but the names engraved there suggest Irish ancestry.

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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.


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The more one researches ghost stories about graveyards, the more one realizes that very few of them are even remotely based on anything specific. Cemeteries are considered haunted because they contain dead people and therefore must have ghosts. Perfectly ordinary cemeteries acquire all sorts of strange associations with the occult and sorcery for no discernible reason.


Mater Dolorosa Cemetery (yes, the sign has a spelling error) sits in Cuyahoga Valley National Park outside of Peninsula, Ohio. If you want to locate the cemetery, it is in the woods just next to the Park’s Happy Days Visitors’ Center. John and Mary Ann Doud, local Irish immigrants, bequeathed their family plot to the Bishop of Cleveland, who turned it over to the Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church nearby. The cemetery has just over a dozen headstones, and is a pretty typical 19th century cemetery of mostly Irish Catholic immigrants and their children.



But somehow a legend has grown up that this cemetery belongs to a local satanic church in Peninsula (how the church became satanic is unclear) and that it is used in demonic rituals. Ghostly white figures walk the cemetery and scare away anyone who comes near. Google “Helltown” for any of the stories. They have little bearing to the reality, but that hardly seems to matter – these are urban legends.



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