Simms Cemetery

One of the cemeteries in Athens, Ohio is regularly surrounded by ghost stories. It is not new information that Athens has been labeled as one of the world’s most haunted places. The city is home to hundreds of ghosts and some people believe that every spot in the community must definitely have a ghost. The town of Athens seems to deserve this label, from the college campus to the old mental asylum. The story of Simms Cemetery is one of the most popular and well-known stories in the area.

Simms Cemetery lies in Athens, Ohio and a lot of people say that it is one of the most haunted cemeteries and locations in the world as well. It is one of many cemeterieds in the area and it’s located off of Peach Ridge Road. According to a local legend, five cemeteries in the area can be connected with drawing lines in the form of a pentagram on a map. It is very helpful to note, for tourist’s relief, that almost any points on a map can be connected in such a way that they create a pentagram.

A local man, John Simms, is the one that gave the cemetery it’s name. He was one of the town officials and had a pronounced taste for capital punishment. He was known for sentenceing to death by hanging people for the most common offenses. He was also well known for the awful prejudices towards the freed slaves that were living in the area. In fact, the majority of people hanged by him were African Americans.

Locals believe that the ghost of John Simms is still wandering in the cemetery in his hooded robe, still searching for criminals. Some legends even tell that he is carrying a sickle in his hand and that he chases people who trespass away from the cemetery. Mary Roberts is another ghost figure associated with this cemetery. Allegedly, she was a witch that was buried near the plots of the Simms family and she continues to haunt his family in death to this day. This legend was demonstrated and it is not true, taking into account the fact that she was buried along with her daughter and father on a piece of land that was part of her farm, outside the cemetery.

Another popular story that surrounds Simms Cemetery involves the Hanging Tree. This is said to be the spot the infamous John Simms watched his victims being condemned to death. This tree still exists in the cemetery and there are visible spots where the ropes were once hung. It is not a pleasant thing to imagine how the poor souls took their last breath there from the tree. The tree was no longer used after 1890s. Locals claim that bodies hanging from the tree can be seen late at night.

Some people even have siad that the cemetery frequently moves itself and that it changes its location in order to elude any potential visitors. There are some stories of odd lights, of shadows moving inside and even of odd voices coming from it at night.

Simms Cemetery in Athens, Ohio is on private property and, if you want to experience ghost hunt, you need to ask for the owner permission to visit it, even though it’s less likely that you’ll get his permission to enter there at night.

25 Responses to Simms Cemetery

  • Tom Mullins says:

    Interesting. I was actually at the hanging tree site twice, over 30 years ago. The first time, the site was in pretty good shape, the tree with the rope burns was still on top of the rock, you could still see the footholds chiseled into the rock and on the other side of the wagon road from the rock/tree, the judge and his wife were buried and their grave stones were in fairly good shape. Went back a year or so later and someone had tried to dig into the graves – got down a couple of feet into each and apparently gave up, and had carved pentagrams into the grave stones and generally defaced things. Tried to go back a third time a couple of years later and someone had built a house across the old wagon road, blocking access.

  • xnode says:

    Thanks for the share Tom. That’s the kind of awesome stuff we like to hear about!

  • Kenny Tessel says:

    The last time I was up at Simms was July 95. I was doing research for a story I was writing. As it turned out, my friend has the house that the main trail is on, his dog guided me to the tree and on to the cemetery. The tree had fallen, but you could clearly see the old rope scars. At the cemetery, there were only 2 stones left, the judges, and Mary Roberts. Theres an art teacher who teaches a haunted athens class, I think his name is Abrams, he has a great picture of what looks like a face in a tree behind one of the stones. I took alot of pictures and would be glad to share them with you if you like. I must say though I became very uneasy while being there and felt unfriendly eyes looking at me, then the dog started growling, and I decided to get the hell out of there, I was by myself in the woods after all. I also had experiences with my home on west washington that I lived in for 2 years, most definitely a ghost in that place.

    • Xnode says:

      I’d love to check out the pics you took. Any chance you can hook me up with them? That would be awesome.

    • Keziah says:

      Kenny, I’d love to see those pics too. I visited Simms Cemetery during my OU years, back in 88. Back then there were two stones there. One was a small obelisk with names on each side. I found it extreemly fascinating when I discovered that one of the men had the same date of birth as me. I find it very sad that the headstones aren’t in these pictures. And that the tree has fallen. Your friend’s house wasn’t there when I first went. It was built about two years later.

    • J.M. says:

      Hi, I’m living on W. Washington this upcoming school year. What was the address of the house you lived in? Thanks.

  • xnode says:

    EXTRA special thanks to Kenny for sharing his pics from a trip to the cemetery in 1995 and letting me post them. They truly are some awesome pics and I’m sure everyone who sees them will appreciate them.

  • Pingback: New pictures from Simms Cemetery | HAUNTED ATHENS OHIO

  • Brad Simms says:

    according to familysearch.org John W. was my great-great-great-grandfather how about that. My 9 year old got to poking around on the web a couple Halloweens ago about our local ghost here in Ravenna, OH who was a woman accused of being a witch and pressed to death with stones and that’s how we found your site. I would have really liked to have seen the hanging tree before it fell and it’s on my bucket list to get down that way to see the site if possible. Maybe one of you guys can help me with that when I get a free weekend I’m about 3 hours north. Thanks for the wonderful photos I would love to see more if you have. bradsimms@neo.rr.com

  • Brad Simms says:

    by the way Mary Roberts has left me alone so far. I almost hated to say anything about that but in case anyone was curious.

  • Mark Dutton says:

    I am trying to locate the Cuckler Cemetery that I just found out is an unfortunate part of this Athens pentagram business. My G.G.G. Grandfather is buried there and I pray his stone has not become a victim of one of these vandals getting off on this stuff. He was the first of our family to immigrate from England to the US in the early 1800’s.

    If anyone can help me locate the cemetery or even help to locate his marker and take some photos I would be forever grateful!

  • crazy dee says:

    Could anyone explain how to get to Simms cemetery ? Were a group of ghost hunters looking for places to recored paranormal active … Thanks

  • Dan Nordquist says:

    I don’t see any mention of “Peach Ridge” cemetery in all of this. Is that called “Simms” now ? I see that “Peach Ridge cemetery” is listed as being in W. Virginia now. Although W. Virginia is not far away from Athens, that’s still some distance from the place I visited in person a few times, back in the day, when I was still going to the university. I visited the mental hospital a few times, as well, since I had a girlfriend who was doing an internship there, but I didn’t know it was called “The Ridges”. A friend of mine mentioned that he had seen the graveyard where the stones had numbers instead of names. That same friend showed me Moonville, also, but I never saw the tunnel there. What i DID see was a large “cave” of the sort that could be seen at “Old Man’s cave” but not as large as some of those. You could camp out there and ( if it rained ) take shelter in the cave. You had to walk back through the woods to get to it.

  • xnode says:

    Everyone who’s looking for information should be able to find more then enough at Alden Library. Happy hunting and good luck on your journeys!

  • Caelidh says:

    I too was at OU from 86-90.. and it was around 88 that I went hunting around for Simms cemetary with a friend I had just met. We drove around 2am looking for the spot but admittedly I got spooked. We went out months later to locate it and I can’t honestly remember if we really found it or not.
    fun times..
    this was mentioned in a (embarrassing but oh well) urban vampire romance novel by Janeine Frost called Halfway to the Grave. I don’t know if she went to OU or not, but seems like she would have..

    Funny to go down memory lane…

  • xnode says:

    Has anyone been to the cemetery this year or recently?

  • Tamrisa says:

    I hate it when people vandalize cemeteries. That is a final resting place and why they think they have the right to ruin the grave stones and such is beyond me. Disrespectful.

  • Pingback: Haunted Halloween Hallways: Athens is a spooky place | Brick Blog

  • Kathy says:

    When I was a Freshman at OU back in the 80’s, I was in a class with a Post reporter. I had no idea that Athens was such a haunted place, until he started telling me some of the history and local lore. I agreed to go with him and another boy from WOUB radio. We went to Simm’s the night before Halloween. The air was thick, it felt spooky and off. Passed the hanging tree. Got to the grave with the top knocked off. OUB radio guy lights a cigarette, and all of a sudden we heard noise in the woods..We were all three spooked, and started moving quickly back to the car.On the way back up the hill, we stopped when we almost ran into someone dressed in a black robe and hooded. Until I just read this thread, I had no idea that the spirit supposedly haunting the area wore that same garb. The English prof who was the Post advisor told the reporter that it was a high holy day for witches, and that is probably what we saw. I can still recall that night so vividly…it was the most terrifying thing that’s happened to me!

    • Andria Goldsberry Karshner says:

      We saw the five figures dressed in between Bush Hall and the old river bank. They looked like real live people to me. But shoot maybe they were the same group. Never heard anyone else report them. Cool.There were a lot of animal mutilations in that area in the early 80s. I had moved in 82 but my brother was a sheriff in Lancaster and my mom sent me newspaper clippings about them. She always nagged us for partying in
      those haunted sites. It was her way of saying: “See I told you it was dangerous!”

  • Andria Goldsberry Karshner says:

    I grew up in Shade, just outside Athens and lived on campus from 1976 to 1980. I lived in Bush Hall my freshman year and the only thing creepy about the showers were…well that they were dorm showers.
    My sophomore year I lived in the ZETA house. We did laundry in the basement and there were two furnished rooms that I often pulled all-nighters in all alone. The door to the former tunnels was bricked up. I never experienced any ghosts there but I can tell you that basement was pretty scary.
    My junior year I lived directly across from Wilson Hall AND IT WAS FUCKING HAUNTED! That girl who killed herself there was found with all kinds of symbols painted in blood on her walls.The room was still open back then if you knew the right people. Often a light could be seen in the room from the window. I spent the night at the Moonville Tunnel when the trains still used it.The tressel had to escape platforms on it. It was very creepy but I didn’t see any ghosts, just a lot of drunken kids.
    We townies took people up to Peach Ridge all the time to scare the Bejesus out of them by driving off and not coming back till morning. I stomped around up there dozens of times in the dark with a bunch of drunken kids. The hanging tree was very sad just to know the suffering of those innocent people in another time.
    In another area there were grave stones with pentagrams on them and there was another area in the pentagram that had a huge stone that was rather like a basin that you could stand in. The Satanists did animal rituals in it and you could see the burn marks and blood stains in the bottom of it if there wasn’t any standing water in it. You could only find this Devils Hole in the winter. It was hard to get into because it was in a thicket of briars. The Satanists must have cut the path into it then, but to get to it you had to go the long way around the ridge in the woods and really search for it. I only went there during the day, I can’t believe we could have found it in the dark, but the word was that if you saw lights down there at night to stay out.

    There were many students into that back then. One night at Bush Hall I was pulling into the parking structure under the building and five people wearing black robes with red lined hoods and white face masks were walking along the old river line, they were carrying candles and chanting. Now that was 35 years before Eyes Wide Shut people. It was really fucked up, I was with my boyfriend and we didn’t waste any time watching them that is for sure. It was weird but back then there was kind of an acceptance for whatever you were into as long as no one got hurt. The animal sacrifices some murders in the early 80’s in Southern Ohio, however got really out of hand and crazy. But Athens Co. and Logan Co. had a lot of full blown Satanists and Black witches.
    As for the Ridges, we called it the Hill back then,I volunteered there lots of times. No ghosts but just intense sadness for the history of the place. I didn’t believe in ghosts back then so I thought all the stories were kinda silly, well until Wilson Hall. That was how I because a believer.
    Now we have paranormal investigators and ghost tours everywhere. We just had bored kids, lots of alcohol, pot and flashlights bungling around and breaking into places to scare each other. It was awesome!

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