“He’s stuck, that’s what it is. He’s in between worlds. You know it happens sometimes that the spirit gets yanked out so fast that the essence still feels it has work to do here”. – Oda Mae Brown in the film Ghost.
A mystery lies deep in the bowels of the one-hundred year-old Stivers School for the Arts building located on the east end of downtown Dayton. Decades ago, the body of teacher Mary Tyler was discovered floating in the building’s pool, fully clothed. The mystery deepens as Ms. Tyler was believed to have been involved with a student – a young man who was a senior at the time of her death.
He was never seen or heard from again.
But according to accounts from students and maintenance staff over the years, Mary Tyler decided to take up permanent residence within the storied halls of the arts school. Witnesses have reported Tyler’s ghostly figure levitating in the abandoned pool (now buried beneath a classroom) and floating about the lower levels and the networks of tunnels buried underneath the school, banging on pipes and wailing loudly wherever she goes.
Karen Laven, who documented ghostly occurrences in her 2009 book, Dayton Ghosts, recalls her personal experience when she visited Stivers for research in 2008:
“Stivers gave off a distinctly weird vibe,and not only when I was looking down into the bowels of the old swimming pool where Mary was found dead, but throughout the school. It truly seems to have a very deep history of hauntings in its century of life and at the same time, it is a hub for artistic creativity. Amazing combination.”
If historians and experts of the paranormal are to be believed, Stivers is just one of several places in the Dayton area where sightings occur frequently. Woodland Cemetery has had its fair share of sightings, with visitors claiming to have spoken with people who simply vanished shortly after briefly conversing with them. The venerable Amber Rose, a Dayton dining staple, is said to be haunted by a spinster named “Chuckie.” The team from Ghost Hunters, the popular reality television show on the Syfy network, even visited Wright Patterson Air Force Base in January 2008, investigating Buildings 70, 219 and the Arnold House for paranormal activity (results were “inconclusive”).
So with a healthy dose of skepticism, I unearthed what I believe to be the 5 most haunted places in Dayton:
5. The Corner of Fifth And Ludlow
In 1805, Daniel Cooper, one of Dayton’s “founding fathers”, purposed four acres of land as one of the city’s earliest graveyards. As the city’s population and size swelled, the bodies interred at the location were dug up and moved decades later to Woodland Cemetery. Due to poor grave markings and improper burials, countless bodies were left behind.
Historian Curt Dalton of Dayton History, says: ‘There were over 800 bodies here, and when they built the building that stands there now, they discovered dozens of bodies in various stages of decomposition. There were wild pigs that were digging up the bones…the place had become a mess.”
4. The Original Dayton Daily News Building
The fourth floor of the original Dayton Daily News building on 4th and Ludlow Streets is purported to be the haunting grounds of Judy Sinks. Sinks was murdered by her husband, Theodore, a maintenance worker employed by the newspaper. After strangling her at home, Theodore concealed her body in the building. The following year, her body was discovered.
“It was very sad what happened to her,” says historian Leon Bey, who conducts historical ghost tours of downtown Dayton. “Many employees on that top floor were very happy when the newspaper moved to the new location because they were having problems with Judy’s ghost. She was making all kinds of noises and carrying on.”
However, Judy is not the only ghost at DDN’s old residence. Gov. Cox, founder of Dayton Daily News, can be seen and heard diligently working in the library on the third floor. Leon Bey tells participants of his walking tour:
“One night, after he was dead for about a year-and-a-half, a janitor came into the library to clean. He was shocked to see a man in a smoking jacket sitting at Mr. Cox’s desk. He couldn’t believe it. The gentleman admitted he was Gov. Cox but asked to be left alone. The janitor went out and told people about it, and that started the legend.”
Bey smiles, and adds, “He’s a friendly ghost!”
3. The Victoria Theatre
The gray, marbled facade of the historic Victoria Theatre provides passersby a tiny glimpse of its storied vaudevillian heritage. Though most of the structure has gone through extensive restoration due to the original being nearly burned to the ground, the opera house retains much of the charm of its past lives. Dalton explains that it retains something else, as well:
“When it was a music hall, an actress disappeared one night before she was supposed to go out on stage. They went up to get her, and she wasn’t in her room. There was a guard at the bottom of the stairs that never saw her come down. We think that she was probably murdered, and possibly taken out in a trunk.”
When she disappeared, she was wearing a taffeta dress scented with rose perfume. Stories of employees hearing the rustling sounds of a dress and the sweet smell of perfume (particularly on the balcony) persist to this day. Employees affectionately named her “Vicky”.
“When they did renovation in 1979, Ms. Vicky maybe thought that they were tearing down her home,” says Dalton, grinning as he glances up at the beautiful building. “The workers kept talking about how their tools would disappear again and again. If you come here, they’ll tell you all about Ms. Vicky!”
Bey adds, “We think this is the most active ghost in Dayton!”
2. The Patterson Homestead
Generations of the Patterson family, one of the most influential families in Dayton’s history, lived in the three story mansion on Brown Street for nearly 100 years until 1904.
Some would argue that they still live there.
Patricia Staley, of Dayton Ohio Ghost Hunters Society (D.O.G.S.) says the Patterson Homestead is one of the most haunted locations in the Miami Valley. She described a 2009 investigation of the property to a group of wide-eyed audience members at a recent lecture at Kettering-Moraine Public Library:
“We had a lot of interesting activity. We were told that people were getting the feeling of being watched all the time, and also people were seeing full-body apparitions. We had people with us that are sensitive to spirits. When we went up to third floor, we discovered [the spirit of] a thirteen year-old boy.
We then went to the master bedroom and I’m sitting in the chair…all of a sudden, I feel [the spirit of] a dog come up to me and I started stroking its head. I felt a connection with Julia, as this was her bedroom. I went from laughing and talking… to crying. It’s just a very odd sensation – but also very fulfilling.
We picked up several EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) on our recorders. They [the spirits] will talk a lot about the curator and the people who work there.”
Staley and the rest of the crew at D.O.G.S. contend that most of the spirits at the home are benevolent. Staley admits, however, there is one area in the home that made her uncomfortable – the basement.
“It totally freaked me out,” Staley said. “There’s a section that’s walled off and concreted tight. We can’t get a camera or a wire through, or anything. I’m not sure if it was a coal chute or a cellar. But I know I can’t turn my back to that wall. I have to physically back away. There’s something there that says, ‘Don’t turn your back on me!'”
1. Sinclair Community College
So much ghostly activity has been documented at Sinclair that it was named “one of the most haunted college campuses in America” a few years ago, with activity being reported in Buildings 2, 7 and 13. Students and staff have reported seeing figures floating down hallways and out of bathrooms. Whispers and voices are heard. Some have said that in certain buildings, they can feel hands pulling their hair and tugging at clothing.
But the hotbed of otherwordly activity at Sinclair Community College appears to be concentrated in two areas: Blair Hall and the Tartan cafeteria.
A ghost named “Hamlet” has been haunting Blair Hall Theater for over thirty years according to generations of students
and faculty. Random noises come from the rear of the stage, lights turn off and on by themselves and faint outlines of a someone with a slender build can be seen walking on the several catwalks high above the stage.
The area that is now the Tartan Cafeteria was once the site of the Dayton’s hanging gallows, where many criminals were hanged to death. Their spirits are believed to still linger around, taunting students.
A former security chief who died suddenly is said to have appeared on campus, making his rounds as dutifully as he did when he was amongst the living. Also, there are a number of tales that have elevators running by themselves.
Leon Bey says, “A lady came to me and said that she saw a ghost on the elevator. She said he was an African-American gentleman with a mule. I did my research and discovered that the area used to have a railroad roundhouse, and that mules were used to turn the railroad engines around.”
Sinclair is easily the most haunted of all places in Dayton. Have you had a ghost encounter of your own in Dayton?
Gem City Circle Walking Tours (Leon Bey and Curt Dalton) have two more downtown Dayton ghost walks scheduled for the season on Fri., Oct. 29 & Sat., Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. All walks are $10 per person.
Please call or email Leon Bey to make a reservation: (937) 274-4749 or
Sandy Smith says
Hi I am the daughter of Judy Sinks and I would greatly appreciate if you can take my mother’s name out of your ghost stories. She was killed and it is still fresh in the memory of her children and siblings, so to use her as local haunt is quite hurtful. We asked Dayton Daily News to remove her from their story and they did so. If you could show the same respect for her as they did we will be grateful.
So sorry no one replied. So sorry for your loss. Would be nice if they had followed up. Peace be with you and your family.