|By Josh Guisinger|
Outside of Somerset, in Perry County Ohio, sits the small Otterbein United Method Church and its adjoining graveyard. Full of historic tombstones, many dating back to a time before the Civil War, the church has done an excellent job in keeping the old burial ground clean and kept up. But, that hasn't stopped hordes of legend trippers, collectors of the macabre, and vandals from visiting Otterbein's most famous grave---The Bloody Horseshoe Grave.
The grave belongs to a young woman by the name of Mary Catherine Angle Henry, wife of local farmer, James K. Henry. In the winter of 1843-1844, James Kennedy Henry was thirty years old, and looking to settle down into married life. Unfortunately, he was having a terrible time choosing between two local beauties--Mary Angle and Rachael Hodge. One night, after heading back home after allegedly courting with BOTH women, James fell asleep astride his favorite horse, Bob. When he awoke, he found that Bob had not taken him back home, but rather, had returned to the home of Mary Angle. Taking it as a sign, James wasted no time in asking Mary to be his wife. The two were wed on January 11, 1844 with Rachael serving as a bridesmaid.
Mary loved to hook up the carriage to Bob and tour the beautiful countryside with her new husband. However, marriage bliss would not last long for the couple. Mary became pregnant with a son, but unfortunately died from complications on February 28, 1845. The baby was stillborn. James buried them in the Otterbein Church graveyard, and faithfully visited nearly everyday.
However, James was still a young man and nature would finally take its course when he and Rachael began a more intimate relationship. Puzzled over what to do, once again James fell asleep astride Bob, this time coming home from Mary's grave. When he awoke, Bob had again failed to bring him home. Instead, he brought him to Rachael. Again, Bob's actions were taken as a sign, and James asked Rachael to be his wife. They were married on December 7, 1848. The service was held at Mary's grave site.
And that's when things started getting ugly. Apparently Mary wasn't too thrilled with being forced to be the bridesmaid at the wedding of her own husband. The following day (or a week later by some accounts), the caretaker of the graveyard ran to the Henry household and told the couple they needed to get to Mary's grave immediately. What they found was a blood-red outline of a horseshoe on the back of the grave! The appearance of the strange marking was accompanied by mournful wailing and a ball of light that blazed over the tombstone that night.
Puzzled, and most likely pretty darn scared, James and Rachael tried to get their life back to normal. Early the next morning, James arose to take care of morning chores out in the barn. However, when he failed to return to the house, Rachael got worried. When she went out to see where he was, she found him in the barn, lying dead with a bloody outline of a horseshoe on his forehead. Bob had become spooked by something and kicked James in the head, killing him, leaving a mark on him identical to the one on Mary's tomb? Was it all just another coincidence...or did Mary's spirit have something to do with James' tragic death? We may never know, but visitors to the cemetery today can still see the red horseshoe on the back of Mary's stone and some still say they can hear her mournful wails and the clomp of horse hooves nearby.
*In an alternative version of this story, James and Mary received two horses as wedding presents--one from her parents, and one from his. After her death, it was considered socially appropriate and expected that the horse be given back to her parents, who were struggling to make ends meet. While the issue was never brought up in polite conversation, it was said that there were a lot of bad feelings, especially after James remarried and still refused to turn over the wedding present from his first marriage.*