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How Did Cincinnati’s Music Hall Get So Haunted?
Cincinnati has long been known for exceptional haunted houses. As the Cincinnati Commercial noted, as far back as 1875 [29 August]:
“But, nevertheless, we occasionally hear of some uncanny places even in practical, pork-packing Cincinnati, where the dead render the lives of the living a burden to them.”
From Illustrated Cincinnati; a pictorial hand-book of the Queen City, by D.J. Kenny, Robert Clarke and Company, 1875. Digitized by Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County; Image extracted from PDF by Greg Hand
And, Cincinnati has one huge “uncanny place” in our world-famous Music Hall. That grand edifice sits on property once occupied by an immense set of wooden “Exposition Buildings,” which had their own haunted history. According to the Cincinnati Commercial:
“The site occupied by the buildings is none other than the old Potter’s Field, which formerly extended west beyond the bed of the canal, and which was abandoned to other uses about thirty five years ago. When the canal was cut through this soil, enriched with human remains and sown with human bones, about a hundred skeletons had to be removed and committed to the already overcrowded Place of Nameless Graves now covered by the buildings.”
But there was another, more grisly source of human remains in the old Potter’s Field, according to the Commercial .
“When the steamer Moselle, (in 1838, we believe), exploded her boilers above the site of the present Water works, and blew the skulls and limbs and blackened trunks of her passengers all over the city, so that falling bodies fell through the roofs of houses, the remains of the victims were gathered together and buried in a spot now covered by the south end of the Horticultural Hall.”
Illustration from Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in the United States: To which is Appended Accounts of Recent Shipwrecks, Fires at Sea, Thrilling Incidents, Etc, By Southworth Allen Howland Dorr, Howland & Company, 1840; Image extracted from PDF by Greg Hand
The Moselle, a steamboat built at Cincinnati, was among the largest and fastest boats of her era. On 25 April 1838, the Moselle left Cincinnati for St. Louis with 250 to 300 passengers on board. The boat’s boilers exploded, and everything forward of the paddle wheels shattered into splinters. More than 150 passengers and crew died.
Even in 1875, any excavation at the Exposition Buildings turned up skeletal remains. An elevator shaft sunk in the Power Hall required the removal of more than a barrelful of skulls and bones, which were “placed under the floor in another portion of the building.” The Commercial noted that, in addition to Potter’s Field, the site of the Exposition Buildings was also an orphan asylum and a Civil War military hospital.
“Not a foot of ground lies under the Exposition Building unoccupied by moldering bones – human bones – which the ringed worms have long since tired of gnawing. It was, of course, natural enough that the ghosts disinterred from the bed of the canal, and the ghosts claiming kinship with the bones disinterred to make room for the elevator, should cease to rest.”
The Exposition Buildings weren’t very old in 1875, maybe five years in operation, but the Commercial described the vast wooden structures as dingy, gloomy and grotesque, presaging their demolition in 1876 to make way for the new Music Hall. A night watchman was only too happy to give the Commercial reporter an earful about paranormal mischief:
“The weirdest and strangest noises would occur at intervals all night. Rappings on the ceiling, under the floor, on the doors and windows, the sound of stealthy footfalls behind me, or of loud tramping before me; the crash of heavy timbers thrown from the ceiling, of glass dashed upon the floor, of heavy bodies being dragged over the planking – these never ceased except during Exposition time.”
The watchman reported loud knocking on the front doors one snowy night. When he opened the doors, no one was there and there were no footprints in the freshly fallen snow. He never saw any ghosts, but he felt them frequently:
“They never touch me, but I always know when they are around, by an icy chill, a thrill as of electricity, a feeling like what the French call peau de poulet – goose flesh. They never annoy me now by mere knocking and rapping, for I have got used to it. So used to it that sometimes when people have really knocked at the door I didn’t open, because I thought it was only the dead that kept knocking, knocking, knocking.”
The watchman reported something in the Main Hall that sounded like a man marching and dragging a musket across the wooden floor. A medium witnessed it as well and claimed it was a soldier, perhaps one who died in the military hospital.
The old Exposition buildings were demolished in 1876 to accommodate the new Music Hall. According to architect George Roth, in his essay for the book Cincinnati’s Music Hall :
“The construction of Music Hall was ‘fast-tracked.’ Before the drawings were off the drafting board, demolition of the old Halle, clearing of the site (which unearthed numerous graves requiring re-interment in Spring Grove Cemetery), and the excavation work was started. This was in October of 1876.”
Although many skeletons were moved to Spring Grove, not all were. Excavations in 1927 uncovered three coffins which were reburied in the basement. Another 1927 expansion uncovered 65 graves, earning that side of Music Hall the nickname of “Valley of Death.” Those remains were also reburied onsite. In May 1988 another elevator shaft uncovered 207 pounds of bones encased in concrete. These bones ended up in an anthropological study at the University of Cincinnati.
The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall has collected some good contemporary ghost stories and you can take a ghost tour of the building.
This article was reposted with permission from Greg Hand, editor of Cincinnati Curiosities
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Some believe Music Hall is haunted after mysterious sightings
by Chelsea Sick, WKRC
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Cincinnati's Music Hall is one of the city's most iconic buildings, and it also has an extensive history that has led some to believe it is haunted.
According to the organization Friends of Music Hall, the Travel Channel has listed Music Hall as 'One of the Most Terrifying Places in America.' Music Hall was even in a 2014 episode of Ghost Hunters.
"The building opened in 1878 but long before that this land around here was an orphanage, it was a hospital, and a pest house but most importantly it was a potter's field, and that's where you buried unclaimed bodies," said Executive Director of the Friends of Music Hall Mindy Rosen.
During excavations and renovations of Cincinnati Music Hall, construction employees have made interesting discoveries.
"Every time we've done renovations or excavations, they do find bones, mainly fragments of bones," Rosen said.
Staff members who work at Music Hall still have stories about the souls and spirits making themselves known, especially those who worked overnight there.
The Friends of Music Hall website says an opera employee reported that while on stage in an empty music hall, his three-year-old son asked who was in the box, since they were alone in the theatre the dad responded nobody was in the box. His son then told him that somebody was in the box because they were waving at him.
A woman has also reportedly been seen roaming the foyer in a dress, similar to one that would be worn to the theatre. Rosen says all of the spirits have reportedly been nice.
You can find more of these stories and learn about Cincinnati Music Hall's ghost tours, here.
The Haunted Ghost Tour That Will Take You To One Of The Most Frightening Buildings In Cincinnati
A Cincinnati native who has lived in Kentucky for over 10 years, Andrea's heart belongs both in the Queen City and the Bluegrass State. After earning an education degree and working in that field for a number of years, Andrea began to pursue her passion for writing over 6 years ago. Since then she has written for a number of print and online publications, as well as published a children's book.
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Cincinnati has an intriguing history and many claim that spirits from our past continue to call our city home, long after they’ve left this world. Ghost stories are as common around the Queen City has arguments about who has the best chili, and many of them are tied to our historic buildings. One of the most iconic and recognizable — Music Hall — is arguably the most beautiful building in Cincinnati, and possibly the most haunted. If you’ve ever been curious about this fascinating structure and the stories behind it, there’s a haunted ghost tour coming up that may be a bit frightening, but also may answer a few lingering questions.
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A ghost tour of Music Hall may just be one of the creepiest, yet most fascinating excursions you can do in Cincinnati. Would you go on this tour? Or maybe you’ve already been? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
For more information and to purchase tickets for this specific tour, visit its website here . And for more haunted places around Cincinnati, check out our previous article here .
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
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Portals to hell and murders galore. Have you heard of these haunted sites in Cincinnati?
With architecture dating back to the 1800s, it's no wonder that Cincinnati is home to several ghost stories. Many of the Queen City's spookiest spots have been featured on paranormal investigation shows like "Ghost Adventures" and made lists like the Travel Channel's Haunted Destinations.
Ghost and history tours make Cincinnati's creepy past accessible year-round, but October is a great time to brush up on the city's paranormal lore.
If you're looking for a scare , you've come to the right place. We've rounded up six supposedly haunted places in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky worth digging into.
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Cincinnati Music Hall
Built in 1878, Cincinnati Music Hall is known for its striking architecture and ghost stories.
Part of Music Hall was built on top of a potter's field , or burial grounds for poor people and immigrants who died without identification. These are the souls and spirits believed to still be roaming the halls, causing ghost sightings and unexplained sounds of music being played , according to employees.
See for yourself by going on one of the Music Hall's ghost tours . Be sure to register early, they are constant sell-outs.
1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine.
The Ludlow Incinerator
An old garbage incinerator in the woods of Devou Park has been tied to several ghost stories over the years. Besides its dilapidated state and the lore that bodies were once burned there, the incinerator is also the site where the body of Delle Mae Miller, a 24-year-old woman , was found in 1967. She is thought to be one of serial killer Nolan Ray George's victims.
Unnamed Road, Ludlow , Kentucky .
If, for whatever reason, you're hoping to find a "portal to hell," look no further than Blue Ash. A series of drainage tunnels located underneath the Cincinnati suburb earned the nickname Satan's Hollow as the alleged meetup place of local Satanists.
Visitors have reported hearing screams from the tunnels in the night and say they've seen apparitions and a demon, known as the Shadow Man, who guards the entrance to the underworld.
Blue Ash , Ohio .
The Sedamsville Rectory is so spooky, it's listed as a haunted destination by the Travel Channel . According to its Facebook page, the rectory was home to a priest accused of abusing children and animals. Visitors have claimed to suffer scratches and feel sudden changes in temperature, and former owner Terrie Scott said she was pushed by an invisible force.
After being featured on several shows, including "Ghost Adventures," "Haunted Collector" and "My Ghost Story," the rectory was closed off to public investigations in 2016.
639 Steiner St., Sedamsville.
This narrow, winding road off of W. Kemper Road dead-ends at the Richardson Forest Preserve, and is home to several firsthand experiences of paranormal activity , like hearing footsteps or screams in the nearby woods. Legend has it, if you flash your car headlights while on the road, a woman named Amy, purported to have been murdered there, will write "Help" in the condensation on your window.
However, no one named Amy, or anyone else, has been killed on Lick Road. According to Creepy Cincinnati, the legend likely started with the 1976 death of a teenage hitchhiker, Linda Dyer, whose body was found nearby.
Be warned, a hotbed of ghosts or not, Lick Road is dangerous to drive on at night and if you're tempted to venture past the gates into private property, don't.
Lick Road, Colerain Township.
Is Bobby Mackey's Music World haunted? Is Bobby Mackey's Music World really haunted? We went on a ghost hunt to find out 👻
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Bobby Mackey's Music World
The site of a 19th-century slaughterhouse and later mafia-controlled nightclub is now known as Bobby Mackey's Music World , owned by country singer and Kentucky native Bobby Mackey. Along with live music, dancing and a mechanical bull, the Wilder, Kentucky, venue is home to several ghost stories, many of which stem from murders in the area.
Pearl Bryan's decapitated body was found in 1896 two miles away from the nightclub, in Fort Thomas. There's also the unsubstantiated story of Joanna, a pregnant singer who committed suicide by poison after her father murdered her lover and hung him in the dressing room. Reports of ghost sightings, an exorcism and a proclaimed "gateway to hell" have landed Bobby Mackey's on paranormal investigation shows like " Ghost Adventures " and "Buzzfeed Unsolved."
44 Licking Pike, Wilder, Kentucky .