Posts Tagged ‘vandalism’


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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As I’ve gotten further into my research of creepy cemetery stories, I’ve been really disappointed in the number of stories that comment upon the vandalism that seems to accompany such stories in a lot of cemeteries that don’t have the kind of protection and security that Lake View Cemetery has. For example, a cemetery I haven’t visited yet but I have read about supposedly has a creepy legend: a woman named Elizabeth is buried in it who was hung at the tree at the back of the cemetery. The ghostly legend states that her tombstone will always migrate to the back of the cemetery by the tree. Unfortunately, the writers who have traveled to the cemetery report that this story has resulted in the desecration of a number of graves, as people attempt to “prove” the ghost story (or at least scare others), by moving tombstones to the back of the cemetery. First, it was tombstones for women named Elizabeth, and now that all the Elizabeths have been moved, other tombstones with other names have been moved to the back of the cemetery as well.

In case it has not been perfectly clear before from my writing, I do not condone any of this behavior. I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit the places I am writing about. I’m not even saying you can’t visit them specifically because they are supposed to be haunted. I think more people should visit cemeteries but cemetery visiting should be limited to posted hours (or with explicit permission, for closed cemeteries) and conducted according to cemetery policies. Visitors should be respectful. Everyone in a cemetery was loved and grieved by someone. Every marker is a symbol of at least one life. If you wouldn’t want someone to do to the resting place of your parent or child or sibling or grandparent or significant other or best friend what you are about to do, then you shouldn’t do it.

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