Saturday, October 30th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Local haunts to visit - if you dare
  MENDON - The crackle of falling leaves brushing against the metal Palmer Road bridge lends little to the spooky legend surrounding it.
But it's mid-afternoon and darkness is still hours away. It's much too early for the ghosts and high-pitched screams that haunt the infamous Crybaby Bridge.
"We used to go up there once in a while, but I would never have gone there at night this time of year," laughed Michelle Agler, a secretary at Parkway Local Schools who ventured to the site as a kid more than 20 years ago. "You couldn't have gotten me out of the car."
The story behind the bridge has several versions but local folks believe a man killed his wife and baby there before hanging himself from a nearby tree. According to legend, those who brave the trip after dark and turn off their cars can hear the baby cry. Cars reportedly won't restart.
"My friends said they heard it, but I never did," Agler said.
Thrillseekers can find four more spine-chilling haunts in the Mendon area - all within four miles of one another.
"I'm not quite sure why the Mendon area seems to be the epicenter of paranormal activity in Mercer County," said Jason Robinson, the founder of Ohio Exploration Society (OES).
The OES was founded by the 30-year-old in the summer of 2000 and has 25 members. With an interest in the paranormal, they initially began by visiting cemeteries in Franklin County and soon expanded their adventures to buildings, Indian mounds and other mysterious sites across the state.
The organization's website (www.ohioexploration.com) offers information on numerous locations in Ohio; most of the stories are submitted by web visitors living in those areas, he said.
Some of the information from the Mendon area was gathered first-hand.
"We have investigated four of the six Mercer County locations (one exists in Fort Recovery)," said Robinson, from the small town of Brice in Franklin County.
OES members spent several hours after dark at Crybaby Bridge in 2006 and claim to have an audio recording - an Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) - of a woman screaming "I will not deny my baby!"
"Her voice was so strong that it drowned out our investigator's opening remarks," he added.
The actual recording is on the group's website.
OES members also visited the former Wesley Chapel on Tomlinson Road, which supposedly was haunted by a former church bell boy. Visitors allege they could see a red-orange glow - the flames of hell - in the basement and heard footsteps and pebbles being thrown. The structure burnt to the ground a few weeks ago.
Robinson said his group was pelted with small stones while standing in front of the building several years ago.
"Later that night we heard very distinct, heavy footsteps coming from inside the chapel," he said. "However, we remained on location for several hours and no signs of life emerged."
Longtime Mendon resident Howdy Garwick, 77, has heard many of the scary myths. Some of his relatives were laid to rest in one of the haunts, Palmer Road Cemetery, just down the road from Crybaby Bridge. A large stone arch stands about 50 yards from rows of tombstones now surrounded by a recently-cut cornfield.
"There used to be (cement) lions on each side of the archway and they had green, glass eyes that glowed," Garwick said. "The story was that horses would get spooked going by them at night, and they had to put sacks over 'em."
Old-timers also recalled the tombstones - some dating back to the 17th century - that reportedly lit up at night, he said.
Garwick said kids still show up in carloads at Halloween and other times of the year to get their adrenaline flowing and have a little fun.
When asked why Mendon appears to be the county's heart of haunted folklore, he grinned.
"It's just the kinda' characters who live here, I guess," he said.

Spooky spots:
In Fort Recovery:
• Homestead Restaurant
The business at the corner of state Route 119 and Wayne Street is no longer open. A former waitress named Wilma, who passed away decades ago, reportedly played pranks on employees and customers by opening and shutting doors and moving items, according to one of the Homestead's owners.
In Mendon:
• Crybaby Bridge
Located on Palmer Road, the legend states a man killed his baby and wife at the bridge before hanging himself nearby.
• Palmer Cemetery
Also on Palmer Road, some of the tombstones reportedly glow at night when passersby hit a certain spot in the roadway.
• Dutton House
No specific address is given although it's believed to have been located on Dutton Road but has since been torn down. The property allegedly was haunted by a man and woman who were murdered on the property in the early 1900s.
• Tomlinson Cemetery
The cemetery also is known as County Line Cemetery because of its proximity to the Van Wert County border. Folklore states that if one person stands at the center of the cemetery and another walks backward around it, the person in the center will disappear.
• Wesley Chapel
Also known as the Mendon Road Church, it was reportedly haunted by a former bell boy before burning to the ground several weeks ago. The flames of hell allegedly could be seen in the basement and visitors often hear footsteps and pebbles thrown about.
Near Spencerville:
• Bloody Bridge
The red bridge recently opened along state Route 66 across the Miami-Erie Canal, south of Spencerville. According to the Auglaize County Historical Society, a love triangle led to a murder on the bridge of a woman named Minnie and her lover, Jack, by a man named Bill.
If you cross the bridge, reportedly you can catch a glimpse of Minnie's face in the water below.
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