Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio is one of the oldest garden cemeteries in the United States. Founded in 1841, the cemetery grounds are comprised of 200 acres of rolling hills, trees and 165 specimens of native Midwestern trees and plants. Woodland is on the National Register of Historic Places and it's "Victorian" section received it's own Historic designation as a historic district in 2011.
I investigated the cemetery back in the early 2000's and found it to be a fascinating site. Beyond the ghost stories associated with it, the cemetery is an amazing piece of history. The cemetery's chapel contains one of the finest original Tiffany windows in the country. An ornate Romanesque gateway leads to the grounds and inside you'll find Greek statues, temples and a marble mausoleum with a dozen large stained glass windows. Over 100,000 people are buried at Woodland including many famous figures. Wilbur and Orville Wright, Erma Bombeck and inventor Charles Kettering are just a few of the recognizable names to be found on the grounds.
"Living in Dayton, we had heard about the Woodland Cemetery from a lot of different people. We actually lived in the area for almost two years before we finally got around to going out there. We got involved researching genealogy so we started going to cemeteries in the area. Woodland is a pretty interesting place. It has a lot of old stones and unique statues. Since it's so old, there are a lot of families buried there. The cemetery has experienced a lot of problems with vandals which I
think is very sad. I can't imagine why people would want to do such things. Anyway, the incident that happened to me was on our third visit to Woodland. We got over there late in the day on a Tuesday. We didn't see anyone else around and we had kind of wandered in different directions, looking around, taking notes and checking on different names. I had also started doing rubbings of some old gravestones and I was looking at some stones, thinking about taking a rubbing. Maybe I was a bit too focused but I suddenly noticed that there was a little girl nearby. She was sitting on a stone, swinging her feet. She had blonde hair and was wearing white tennis shoes. I looked at her and said hello. She said hello back to me, then she jumped up, turned and ran away. The most curious thing was that a blue light seemed to follow her, I've never seen anything like it. When she got a short distance away from me, that blue light sort of went into her and she was just gone! I was
really spooked and was standing there with my mouth hanging open. That was enough for me, I was out of that cemetery and it took a while before I was ready to go again. My sister had been too far away to see the girl. Later, I found out about the ghost of a girl who has been seen in Woodland, I believe that it was her ghost that I saw that day."
This encounter seems to fit the pattern of one of the cemetery's well known spirits. A pretty blonde girl in white tennis shoes and blue jeans. She's been seen sitting on one of the stones and it's claimed that she will speak with those who pass by. The stone she sits on is reported to emit a strange, blue light. No one seems to know exactly who this spirit is or why she's restless but she has been witnessed several times.
The cemetery is home to a number of other purported spirits, including several civil war soldiers, early Dayton business man Adam Schantz and, Woodland's most famous spirit, Johnny Morehouse. Just a young man in 1860, Johnny fell into a canal and drowned. His faithful dog dove in and pulled Johnny out but it was too late. The dog, stricken with grief, stayed at the boy's grave until he too passed away. The tale may be history, or simply a legend, but the story has been told for many
years. Johnny's unique tombstone bears the sculpture of a young boy with a dog standing guard over him. There have been many reports of a boy and his dog seen playing in the cemetery after hours. The boy's laughter is heard mixed with the joyous barking of his dog. Phantoms of the past, still together in the afterlife. Johnny's story is well known and visitors often leave toys, candies and treats at Johnny's grave. Small tokens for the boy and his dog.