Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ohio's Wickerham Inn

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Halfway between Peebles and Locust Grove along Rt. 41 lies Adams County's oldest brick home, the Wickerham Inn.  Not only is it the county's oldest brick house, but it very well could be its most haunted as well!

The Wickerham Inn was built by Revolutionary War veteran, Peter Wickerham.  In 1797, Wickerham left Pennsylvania and settled in Adams County, Ohio.  Noticing that the Zane's Trace road, which was the first official road into the new Northwest Territory, ran across part of his property, Adams realized he could capitalize off the influx of travelers in the area who were desperate for lodging.  He built a brick inn, and in 1801 was granted his tavern license and opened for business.

The Wickerham only operated as an inn and tavern until the early 1850s but during its tenure in this capacity, picked up a horrifying ghost legend.  According to lore, a coach driver stopped one evening at the inn.  Having a pint in the tavern before bed, it is said that the driver boasted quite loudly about a large sum of money he had on his person.  Unfortunately, his boasting was heard by someone who obviously had evil intentions...

That night, a loud noise was heard coming from the driver's second floor room, yet died down before anyone investigated.  However, the next morning, the driver failed to appear for breakfast.  A young worker at the tavern was sent to summon the man, but the youth returned shaking, unable to speak of the horrors witnessed in the bedroom.  When some of the men went upstairs to investigate, they were horrified.  The entire room was splattered with blood and gore.  The bedding was soaked, blood puddled on the floor, and the walls and furniture were smeared.  However, the body of the driver was nowhere to be found.

In an effort to cover up an incident that would obviously be bad for business, Wickerham had the bedding burned and the floor scrubbed.  Yet, a grisly reminder remained behind.  The bloody stain of a man's outline, missing its head, stayed upon the wooden floorboards, where many say it remains to this day.  Shortly thereafter, the ghost of the nameless driver also began making itself known.  People would claim to see the headless silhouette of a man standing in front of an upstairs window.  One gentleman in more recent years also claimed to see a blue light which appeared in the same window.

In any event, the tavern closed for business in the 1850s and became a private residence, still owned by the Wickerham descendants.  It was rumored to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, and if so, in a weird twist of fate served as a stop for the Confederate Army.  On July 15, 1863, Morgan's Raiders spent a night in the home before moving on. The hauntings kept coming, but no one ever found out what happened to the driver.  It wasn't until the 20th century that some light was finally shed on the mysterious ghost.

According to newspaper columnist, Stephen Kelley, a woman named Virginia Wolfe Webb and her husband had inherited the home from her Wickerham ancestors, and it was her family who made a grisly discovery in the 1920s.  In 1922, the private home was receiving some upgrades, including adding central heating.  The new furnace was to be located in the basement, but workers realized that it was a tad too tall.  To make room, several limestone slabs of the floor would be removed and an area dug out to accommodate the furnace.  When the slabs were pried away, the workers were shocked to find a complete human skeleton...well, it was ALMOST complete.  The skeleton, just like the apparition and the stain, was missing its head!  Allegedly, Virginia kept the the bones in a box under her bed until the time of her death.

Today, the home is still privately owned, but neighbors and other nearby residents still claim to have seen the headless shadowy figure, still looking out the window....and still looking for his missing head.

Article by Stephen Kelley

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