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Columbus Ghost Stories Paint Picture of Past

October is the time of year for Ghost Stories. Columbus is said to have its share of ghosts. WOSU Commentator Ed Lentz shares a couple Central Ohio ghost stories based in history.

There may be ghosts in Columbus.

Many people spend much of this time of the year looking for the spectres, shades and hobgoblins that presumably spend at least some of their time haunting this part of central Ohio.

But those are not the ghosts we are talking about today.

A city is defined by the people who made it.

Columbus is no different than any other city in that regard.

And if we look around Columbus today we will find the traces of who we have been, who we are, and indeed, who we might become.

So let's look for the city that might be in the city that might have been.

In 1774, there was a Mingo Indian encampment at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. In the fall, a large mounted force of colonial soldiers attacked the town and killed everyone they could find. Most of the people they found were women and small children.

It was not a pretty sight.

To this day, if walking the banks of North Bank Park, one can still hear murmurs in the wind that sweeps down the Scioto. Some say it is the lament of the native people who lived and died here. Others say it is only the wind.

For a long time after the Native Americans had left, the land on the North Bank was empty. And then in the 1830's, it began to be filled. A new capital city called Columbus had come into being along the High Banks opposite the forks of the Scioto where the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers came together.

In case one might think that the ghosts of the river wind belong only to Native Americans, I hasten to point out the place we today call the North Market.

John Kerr was the second Mayor of Columbus. In 1813, he directed the construction of the first cemetery in the new town. It was located just outside the northern boundary of the town or what is now Nationwide Boulevard. In 1823, John Kerr died and was buried in the cemetery.

By 1856 the cemetery was nearly full and the growing city of Columbus and its nearby rail yards were encroaching on what by then was called the Old North Graveyard. Over the next several years many of the people in the graveyard were moved to other cemeteries.

Many but not all.

One of the people whose grave was lost was Mayor John Kerr. Eventually the graveyard became the site of the North Market and other nearby commercial buildings.

More than a few people have said they have seen man dressed in the style of the early 1800's walking in the autumn fog that often rises from the nearby Scioto River. Other claim to have heard voices in the fog as well but no one was nearby.

Others say the spectre and the voices are only illusions of expectation - and nothing more.

A city is not what it often appears to be. A city - any city - can only really be found in its streets - in its structures - and in its sounds. And perhaps in the sounds of its ghosts as they are whispered on the wind.