Halloween. It summons up visions of ghouls lurking around grave sights and The Great Pumpkin on T.V. But in Oberlin, are those ghouls as real as those trick-or-treating Peanuts characters?
Cemeteries in Lorain County date back before the 1850s. In the subsequent 150 years, graves and entire cemeteries have been moved and mauled, but they remain a natural constant in every city.
Clerk of Greenwood Cemetery in Wellington Bill Misch talked about the people buried in his cemetery. "They're perfectly content here. We have no spooks roaming around here," he said.
"Greenwood is considered a new cemetery; the oldest grave is from 1861," Linda Navarre of the cemetery said. Navarre has worked for the cemetery for nine years. Of the nearly 7,000 graves, she highlighted one stone which is constructed of small round stones that have been cemented together as one of the more interesting graves.
"There is a lot of neat stuff down here," Navarre said.
One frustrated poet left his mark in stone with his epitaph reading as a poem about how nobody ever appreciated his poetry. Another grave stone is a rough cut of granite that Navarre particularly liked.
Stories abound around a cemetery. Navarre told the story of a woman who had found a ring with a note attached that her husband had owned. "A lady came up to me a week before Memorial Day a couple of years ago. She had been referred to me, and she reaches in her pocket and pulls out a jewelry box. She asked me if I could explain how this ring came into her husband's possession."
Navarre told the woman that in 1850, a woman died and was buried with this ring. It remained buried with her until the grave was moved from the West Teherrick Cemetery in the 1880s.
"It was a beautiful ring. It was her wedding ring," Navarre said.
The upkeep of a cemetery is a constant project. Misch explained that there is constant mowing and weed eating. "The only time things slack off is in the fall," Misch said.
With such an old cemetery, space can become an issue, but Misch said, "Oh, we have lots of room left. People are just dying to get in here."
Directors of both the cemetery in Oberlin and Greenwood cemetery said they do not have vandalism problems during Halloween. "We have frequent visitors all the time. We collect a lot of beer cans," Navarre said.
She said, "The last time we had vandalism we caught them. The kids spent three eight-hour days in the summer working in the cemetery. We picked about every dirty job."
Misch said, "We run a pretty nice cemetery. As for trouble, we've never had any trouble....Some people will come around and might sit down and kill a six-pack and get up and leave after they've had their conversation with their buddies."
Greenwood cemetery has veterans from every war the United States has ever fought since the Revolutionary War. "We don't seem to have any ghost, though," Navarre said.
"Oh, I think there are spirits, yes. But we don't seem to have anybody doing anything at the cemetery. They probably all went home," she said.
Carol Zovodski, who is in charge of Westwood, said, "There's a whole history of the cemetery. There are an awful lot of interesting people." She said a book is being published on the history of the cemetery. "It's being printed in memory of my husband, Frank. We have been here for over 50 years developing the cemetery."
"There are many historical people here from the underground railroad," Zovadski said. "It's a long story."
She said there are no specific Halloween incidents at all. "There is just no activity," she said.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 7, October 31, 1997
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