Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ghostly Ballerina of Woodland Cemetery

Peters Monument, 2014 Ghost Walk 
This past Saturday, several members of HPIR including myself enjoyed visiting the annual Woodland Cemetery Historical Ghost Walk in Ironton.  The yearly event is organized by Debbie Rogers and hosted by the Lawrence County Historical Society.  Approximately 75 actors were stationed at various graves throughout the cemetery, ready to tell the tales, from a first-person perspective, of Ironton's most prominent and influential citizens.

The Woodland Cemetery Historical Ghost walk is a wonderful way to connect with the history of Lawrence County, Ohio and to gain a perspective of just how much of an impact that those who call this cemetery their final resting place had on the history of our country as a whole.  It is a FREE event, held only ONE night a year.  The 2015 date has already been set for Saturday, September 26th.

Anyway, sprinkled among the historical anecdotes are several stories of a more spooky nature.  Woodland Cemetery is no stranger to ghost stories, so obviously those presentations were my personal favorites...especially the sad tale of the Russian Ballerina.

Antoinette "Teenie" Sherpetosky was born on May 7th, 1894 to Stephen and Barbara Sherpetosky.  Originally from Russian controlled Lithuania, the family moved to the United States apparently some time after Antoinette's birth--according to census records, she was living in Chicago in 1910.

It was in Chicago that the young girl met and married her husband, James Francis Peters.  They married on February 12, 1916; she was 21 years old and the groom was 31.  James was originally an industrialist from Ironton, Ohio and came from a wealthy, prominent family.  He came to the Chicago area to work with the Inland Steel Mill.  Together the two would live in the Chicago area for many years.

During this time, Antoinette refined her skills as a ballerina.  She danced with the Imperial Ballet of Moscow, Russia and was trained in the Pavley-Oukrainsky school of dance, a 1922 off-shoot of the Chicago Ballet.  Her figure was said to be perfect, winning her a medal for physical fitness in the early 1920s, as well a cover photo on the publication, Physical Culture.

Aug. 20, 1923
Eventually James would retire, and he convinced Antoinette to spend their golden years in his hometown of Ironton, Ohio.  However, spending the majority of her life traveling the world and living in one of the country's biggest cities left life in Ironton a little boring for Antoinette, and she longed to return to where the action was.  So, in 1963, the couple was on an extended stay in Chicago.  Some sources say that they were there visiting a relative, when Antoinette and James were involved in a terrible automobile accident.

Antoinette did not survive her injuries and passed away on November 13, 1963.  Her body was returned to Ohio and laid to rest in a private mausoleum in Woodland Cemetery.  Unfortunately, she would not rest in peace.  Shortly after the funeral, vandals broke into the mausoleum.  They broke off the corner of her glass-topped coffin in order to rob her body of the jewelry she had on.  Stolen were a brooch supposedly given to Antoinette by the czar of Russia, and several rings.  In order to get the rings off, the grave robbers ended up breaking off two of her fingers.

She was temporarily moved while her mausoleum was repaired, but that wouldn't be the end of the vandalism.  At one time, two porcelain tile portraits graced the outer wall of the mausoleum, but had to be removed after local kids riddled them with BB shots.

But despite all the hardships, the ballerina danced on...and is still dancing to this day.  It is said that every night at midnight, especially when the moon is full, visitors to Woodland Cemetery can catch a glimpse of Antoinette twirling and dancing around the grave, scaring off any potential vandals and reliving her glory years as only she knows how.  Peter would join her in the grave ten years later...however, he has yet to make an appearance!

*For a quick overview of Woodland Cemetery's other resident ghosts, please see my original blog post:  Woodland Cemetery*

*Disclaimer---The gates at Woodland Cemetery are promptly locked each evening at dark.  Please seek proper permission before trying to catch a glimpse of the ghost of Antoinette Peters.  Theresa's Haunted History does not condone trespassing.*

Sources for this blog post include:

Cooke Co. Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988 (Via Ancestry.com)
1910 United States Census (Via Ancestry.com)
Indianapolis Star, 20 August 1923 (Via Ancestry.com)
Briggs Library Bio

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