Rumors Around Haunted Athens

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If you trust the internet, Athens is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Ohio. Especially around the former Athens Asylum, there is a lot of paranormal activity said to be going on. The huge brick building, set on the hill above Hocking River looks massive and many people find it a scary place with the numbered cemeteries surrounding it.

But looking at its history, the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, founded in 1868, wasn’t covered in creepy rumors. It offered service for Civil War veterans, children and other people who suffered from mental disabilities.

“There was probably a lot of trauma and psychological stress following those years after civil war, on top of all the existing trauma in the United States”, says Tom O’Grady, director of the Southeast Ohio History Center. “So, the asylums grew up, and a lot of people who came in there never left. They died there, and therefore, they got these cemeteries up there.”

The Stain

At the beginning of the 2000s, rumors around the former Asylum rose and are by now known far beyond Athens. One well-known rumor is the stain. A so-called non-removable stain on the fourth floor of the main building. But, according to O’Grady, there is a simple solution to this.

Another creepy rumor deals with the chains in the basement, but in the early 1980s O’Grady actually lived in the Asylum himself. He participated in a program where Ohio University students could live there for free if they helped a couple hours each week. Therefore, he knows that the basement isn’t as frightening as rumors want us to believe.

Chains in the basement

“People always say there were dungeons in the basement. But there aren’t. The way we would travel through the building was the basement. There’s these large arches. And yes, they look like dungeons, but they don’t have doors. And there were never any chains. And I never even saw any holes in the wall where there could have been chains.”

The historian is annoyed by all the rumors around abandoned buildings in Athens. He thinks looking for a thrill outside of everyday life is just a thing right now.

The Southeast Ohio History Center offers guided tours around the former Asylum to slowly eliminate rumors – although people still look for the extra thrill.