Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Washington Park

Washington Park is the last stop on my mini-tour of haunted Cincinnati. The park dates back to the 1850s, and hosted such events as The Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States in 1888.

The park is located in the downtown neighborhood of Over the Rhine, and it had fallen into such disarray and was so crime-ridden in recent years that there was almost no trace left of the sophisticated park it used to be. The city has now embarked on a renovation project for Washington Park, with plans to return it to its former glory, and this renovation has uncovered a grisly history.

Before being acquired by the city in 1855, the land on which Washington Park was built held three cemeteries, one of which was a potter's field filled with unknown or indigent people. When modern day builders started digging up the park to build a new parking garage, they uncovered numerous human remains.

The skeletons have been studied by forensic anthropologists, and were featured in an episode of the National Geographic show "The Decrypters."

Among the remains found was a woman with a fetus found under her head, as if she had placed it there herself. Researchers speculate that the woman gave birth prematurely, and died of complications related to the birth.

One of the most puzzling finds was a coffin with two skeletons, one male and one female, buried inside it. The male was on top of the female, and the female's skull was crushed. Researchers found that the woman's skull was fractured by natural forces following her burial, but the mystery of why two people were in the same coffin will likely never be solved.

Most disturbing of the remains was a four year old girl found face down in her coffin. Experts say it could be an indication that the child was accidentally buried alive, something that was unfortunately not that uncommon at the time.

To the horror of those studying the remains, nearly half of them are the bones of children. There are literally hundreds of bones now in storage, and they will eventually be transferred to Spring Grove Cemetery for burial.

I have no idea when the renovation of Washington Park is scheduled to be completed, but I can't imagine ever visiting there without thinking of the remains of these long-dead people. 

This story was particularly eerie and disturbing to me, but overall I've really enjoyed learning about Cincinnati's ghosts and ghouls. I'm planning to continue exploring, and hope to post about more local ghost stories once the Challenge is over.


  1. We have a Washington Park here in Denver, not quite as dramatic as yours, but another park, Cheesman Park mimics the history of your Washington Park, as it was a cemetery in the 19th century. What they did with the some of the remains is grotesque. Just looked it up on Google, thanks to your blog.

  2. "Hey, Joe. The monkey bars goes on top of that Indian burial ground, and the swings go by the unmarked grave." : )

    Really interesting story behind this one, Julie!

  3. Maybe the two people were husband and wife?
    You'll have to keep posting about haunted Cincinnati. These have been fascinating.

  4. I'm glad the city is renovating the park-giving OTR a little love.

  5. Hi Julie .. our digging of earth in this country .. often uncovers burials and then they try and work out the whos and the whats - incredibly forensic and interesting ..

    Sounds lovely though to have a Park on the land - perhaps not the car park!

    Interesting though .. Cheers Hilary

  6. Yep, you creeped me out just a little with this post. But there are some interesting stories buried in that place.

  7. Wow, Julie, these are some creepy stories. Great - because I love a good scary story - but sad, too, when you think of all those people...

  8. Julie, I didn't want your post to end! I wanted to hear more--great W word for the day!

  9. Wow what a history! This post was creepy especially about the child buried alive. Can you imange the poor child! My heart breaks for that little one. Thanks for keeping me up tonight.

  10. If any place should be haunted, it sounds like this one should. Yikes.

  11. @loverofwords, oh, I bet there are parks all over with this same kind of background. Very disturbing!!

    @EJ, LOL LOL. Thanks!

    @Alex, that's a good point, maybe so. I'm so glad you like the posts, thanks!

    @Tim, it definitely needs it. I hope the renovation is successful.

    @Hilary, yeah, the forensic work behind all this is so interesting to me. I can't imagine how they can learn so much just from the bones.

    @LG, no doubt. I'm sorry I creeped you out LOL.

    @Madeline, I know, this one really made me sad. Just awful to think about.

    @Lisa, oh, I'm so glad, thanks!!

    @LynnMarie, I agree, I hate to think of that little girl. So heartbreaking!

    @Tonja, I agree LOL.

  12. Great W Post! So said that the child might have been buried alive though. Gosh! mmmh and many of those being children? Probably the cemetry was dedicated for children...mmh. Interesting history though. Been fun learning about Haunted places in Cincinnati. :)

  13. ohhh, how weird about the dead people and wondering who is in the graves and why? Eeegads! But so very interesting....I'm curious as to why you said 'this is the last stop...'

  14. @Cecelia, I'm glad you've enjoyed it, thank you!

    @Tracy, oh, I just meant for the A-Z letters! I realize now that didn't really make sense if I'm going to keep exploring LOL.

  15. Sad story after sad story. It would be hard for me to relax and enjoy myself knowing the history.

  16. @Theresa, yeah, to me it definitely puts a shadow over the park.

  17. I think I would feel a little creepy going to a park atop a former burial ground.

  18. What a dark, sad story. The thing that's creepiest to me is the fact there were so many unusual remains in one location . . .

    The Golden Eagle
    The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

  19. The backstory of Washington Park is disturbing. I wonder what happened to those people, particularly the children. How very sad.

  20. Glad you're going to continue writing more ghost stories! It's amazing what a collection you have in Cincinnati, and you have a flair for writing about them! Julie

  21. I love old stories like this as much for the history as for the chills it gives me.

    A to Z Blogger & SF/Fantasy Writer @ Visions of Other Worlds

  22. Quite creepy...I loving these posts. Being buried alive seems like an absolutely awful way to go.

  23. amazing story! i had no idea there were so many spooky places around here! great reporting, julie =)

  24. @Carol, I agree!

    @Golden Eagle, I know, it's very disturbing.

    @Susan, I agree, I can't help but wonder and it's just very disturbing to imagine.

    @Julie, thanks! It's kind of weird how many there are around here!

    @Jessica, I feel the same, thanks!

    @Michael, I know, it's hard to imagine anything worse. Thanks!

    @Tara, I didn't either, it's bizarre! Thank you!

  25. Agreed that these stories are disturbing. Bit of a different quality than spectre sightings and the like.

  26. @Suze, yeah, this situation just made me feel sad, it's very haunting.


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