Ghost stories that surround a cemetery in Athens, Ohio, are a fairly regular thing. After all, Athens has been labeled one of the most haunted places in the world. Athens is home to hundreds of ghosts, and at times it seems as though every spot in the town must have a ghost. From the old mental asylum to the college campus in town, Athens seems deserving of its label. The story of Simms Cemetery and Reach Ridge are one of the more popular stories.
Simms Cemetery is located in Athens, Ohio and some claim it is not only one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world, but one of the most haunted locations. This cemetery sits just off of Peach Ridge Road, and is one of five local cemeteries in the area. According to legend a perfect pentagram can be sketched by drawing lines between each of those cemeteries. Of course it’s helpful to note that almost any places on a map can be connected to create a pentagram.
The Simms Cemetery was named for a local man by the name of John Simms. Simms was one of the town officials, with a penchant for capital punishment. The man was prone to handing down hangings for even common offenses. Simms was also known for his extreme prejudice towards freed slaves living in the area. Many of the men and women he sentenced to death by hanging were African Americans.
Simms is one of the ghosts still wandering the cemetery. Some claim to have seen the man in a hooded robe, as if still watching for criminals. It would seem as though Simms is a little unsure of how to tell the difference between criminals and normal people, especially if the stories are to be believed. Legend states that the man actually carries a sickle in one hand, and chases people away from the cemetery. There are also legends surrounding a supposed witch named Mary Roberts. Supposedly the woman was buried close to the Simms family plots, and continues to haunt his family even in death.
Unfortunately the legends surrounding Mary Roberts can easily be debunked. When Roberts died, she was buried in a family plot on her family’s farm. The graves of her, her father, and her daughter are still located on land that was once part of this farm. It is fairly close to Simms Cemetery, but she was not buried inside the cemetery.
There are some that claim Peach Ridge Road is actually Peach Tree Road, and have given Mary Roberts the name of the Peach Tree witch. The legends state that if you travel to her grave on a full moon, a white haired woman will jump from the woods and follow you for eternity. Sounds like something your parents told you to keep you off of private property and out of the cemetery late at night, doesn’t it?
One of the more popular stories about the Simms Cemetery in Athens involves a spot known as the Hanging Tree. Remember John Simms from above? Well this is the spot where he infamously watched his judgments brought to fruition. The tree is still in the cemetery, and the spots where the ropes once hung are still visible. It’s easy to imagine the poor souls who took their last breaths here. The tree ceased being used in the late 1890’s, but you can still see how it was once used. It has been said that you can see bodies hanging from the tree late at night, and especially late at night.
Then there are the ghost stories and other legends surrounding the Simms Cemetery that seem a little more strange and unusual. There are many people who claim that the cemetery itself moves frequently, changing location to scare away any visitors. It’s probably more likely that the cemetery is fairly hard to find, and with the ever changing landscape, it sometimes seems like it may have moved. There are also stories told of odd voices coming from the cemetery, shadows moving inside, and even odd lights.
Ironically enough, most of these stories can be attributed to amateur ghost hunters exploring the cemetery late at night. The lights seen could be flashlights, while the figures and voices could be explained as people trying to stay quiet and not be seen inside.
Whether the Simms Cemetery in Athens is haunted by any ghosts, it is private property. The owner may allow some to see the cemetery, but he probably won’t like if you show up announced in the middle of the night!