Updated: Nov 28, 2022
In March of 1884, the small town of Miamisburg, Ohio was regularly visited by the apparition of a woman in white. The spirit, who was said to resemble a recently murdered young woman, began appearing in the town cemetery every night at 9 o’clock. She would float through the gravestones as if in contemplation all night, vanishing and reappearing if disturbed. Several prominent citizens reported encounters with the apparition and some even violently attacked her, with no effect.
Word of the punctual specter spread and soon hundreds of people were flocking to Miamisburg to see her for themselves. Like the prominent citizens before them, the mobs often attacked, firing guns and swinging clubs at the spirit. She would dissipate under the assaults, only to reappear unharmed and unfazed soon after. Eventually the violent mobs attracted the attention of the mayor and other town officials who, upon witnessing the apparition for themselves, ordered the cemetery to be exhumed and moved to the more remote Hillgrove Cemetery.
The regular nightly hauntings appear to have stopped with the exhumation but locals still occasionally report sightings and strange occurrences at both the original cemetery, now a park, and the new resting place at Hillgrove.
Facts and Fiction
The story originates from an article featured in several newspapers throughout the country, though neither of the prominent papers in nearby Dayton or Cincinnati reported on the events. These articles are mostly the same, but small details are often misreported. For example, they often report that the family of the spirit was exhumed, but the family name is slightly different in several versions. Unfortunately, no version of the reported names can be found on any of the gravestones in Hillgrove cemetery. Similarly, there are no records of the murder of a young girl in or around Miamisburg in the years leading up to the haunting.
This lack of evidence doesn’t preclude the possibility that something strange happened that week in 1884, it just means some of the specifics were fabricated, confused or simply lost to time. Additionally, there is still more to discover regarding this story and my research will continue as places like the Miamisburg Historical Society reopen their archives.
My sources have been compiled here, to create a more complete account of the story and to help readers draw their own conclusions:
Frederick Maryland Daily News, March 27, 1884: Oft cited article by modern accounts of the story, and the most common article found in newspapers at the time of the haunting. Refers to the family of the spirit as Buss.
St. Louis Globe Democrat, March 26, 1884 - Family referred to as Nuss.
Muscatine Weekly Journal, April 4, 1884 - Family referred to as Vaess.
The Daily Kansas Herald, March 28, 1884: Another article describing the event which actually names prominent citizens at the time who reported encounters, most notably Jacob Groby and Henry Schomaker.
Jacob Groby: Groby was indeed alive in Miamisburg at the time, and a member of a prominent family. He was involved in several real estate ventures, his brother built the local masonic temple and there is a mention of a “Groby House” which may have been a business adjacent to the cemetery.
Dayton Journal Herald, 1964: Nearly a century later, another grave was found under what was once the location of the Miamisburg Village Cemetery, confirming its original location and the exhumation of graves to Hillgrove.
Exhumed Families: When the Village cemetery was exhumed, families with plots at Hillgrove could claim their relatives and move them into the family plot. Those without a family plot were moved to the front of the cemetery where many still remain, one of whom is in fact a young woman, though beyond that she doesn’t have any similarities to the supposed specter.
Cincinnati Enquirer, October 31, 1985: A Halloween article from 1985 in the Cincinnati Enquirer features an interview with a now elderly gentleman who claims that the haunting was all a hoax perpetrated by the owner of a tavern across from the cemetery named Bodie Jung.
Other Verifiable Miamisburg Happenings:
The train line running directly next to the old cemetery was laid in the late 1870’s.
Baum Opera House opened in 1884, the same year as haunting.
Population shrank significantly in 1870’s, then experienced 3 years of significant growth following 1880’s.
Though the Lady of Library Park is the most prominent haunting in Miamisburg, the town is home to a number of other ghost stories and strange locations. The town’s reputation for strangeness is well documented, with several articles from the 1880’s detailing mysterious happenings like bottled messages found in the river from far off locales.
Miamisburg is also home to the largest Adena earthworks mound in Ohio, which has commanding views over the entire Miami Valley. Directly across from the Mound, looming over the town, lies a business park that once housed a Cold War nuclear research laboratory. These two things aren't unusual on their own, but their proximity to one another evokes the imagination of a horror and high strangeness fan like myself.
Most locals that I've met in passing are happy to share their own ghost stories from around town but none that I have spoken to have witnessed the apparition in the park. Nor have any investigations in either the former or current cemetery provided any experiences other than a pleasant walk.
I did once find a notice posted on a tree just off the path in Hillgrove Cemetery, condemning the “Witches, Warlocks, Wizards” who gallivant around at night but I have not yet had the pleasure of encountering the practitioners myself.
One would expect there to be more first-hand accounts and corroborating evidence for any story that involves hundreds of people literally attacking and shooting at a ghost. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with the Lady of Library Park.
If you're inclined to believe the paranormal origin of the story, the inaccuracies in the original article create some doubt, but there is no way to confirm that the murdered girl and her family didn’t exist at all. There are a number of old gravestones, weathered beyond reading or fully buried in Hillgrove Cemetery, and the name could have been completely misreported since there are already so many variations. Miamisburg didn’t have its own newspaper at the time, meaning a murder could have gone undocumented and nearby papers like the Dayton Evening News were not known for their journalistic integrity at the time. Additionally, Miamisburg does have a pedigree for high strangeness and we know for a fact that the old cemetery was exhumed, shortly after a train track was built alongside it. More than enough to draw the ire of a scorned apparition trying to peacefully rest.
If we look at more mundane explanations, there are several possibilities. The most interesting is a Scooby-Doo-esque hoax perpetrated by local business owners and prominent citizens to bring people to the town. This would align with the story that Jacob Groby, who potentially owned a business adjacent to the cemetery, was one of the first people to report a sighting. It also corroborates the article from the 80’s that claims it was all a marketing ploy by a nearby bar, though I’ve been unable to verify the existence of either business. And while not necessarily related, this theory does coincide with the construction of the Baum Opera House in 1884, the shrinking local population throughout the 1870’s and the construction of the railway through town.
The rail line itself offers a few explanations for the sightings as well, since it ran directly alongside the old cemetery. Light from the train, reflecting off of the white gravestones or simply unknown passengers disembarking and wandering through the graveyard are compelling stand-ins for an apparition. Even more so if the train was regularly scheduled to run through town at 9 in the evening.
As with so many strange events from the past, a true and satisfying conclusion will most likely never exist. The sources are too limited and explanations are at best educated guesses and at worst wild conjecture. Regardless, thoroughly examining lesser known stories and legends is important to broadening our understanding of paranormal phenomena. What is it that makes a local legend into something bigger and more enduring? Is it famous investigators shedding light on events? Is it a community that embraces and capitalizes on the legend? Or is it something more than that, something unexplainable, that makes a story feel more real? Whatever the explanation may be, stories like this show that even in the smallest towns we may never know what lies buried in the past.
Lady of Library Park
Spirit; Lady in White
Location & Date
Miamisburg, Ohio; Late March 1884
Appeared at 9 p.m. for several consecutive days.
Actions & Appearance
Young woman in white, resembled recently murdered local citizen. Walked around as if in contemplation. Could appear and disappear at will. Impervious to assaults.
Jacob Groby, Henry Schomaker, "hundreds" of others including Mayor and town officials.
Small town near river. Canal running alongside river. New rail line placed. Adena earthwork mound nearby. In future: housed Cold War era atomic research lab.