Spooky Ghost Stories and Urban Legends of Cincinnati

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant for The Graduate School.

The Queen City is haunted.

The changing of the seasons signals the midpoint of the semester — as the weather gets colder, the mountain of work grows larger. Despite the added time spent working towards the final stretch before winter break, it is important to also relish in the temperate fall weather before we are driven inside by the bitter cold that looms ahead. Gather around the campfire and share your favorite scary stories to celebrate the Halloween holiday; here are some of the Queen City’s most chilling.

The Unexplainable Occurrences in Spring Grove Cemetery

Gothic architecture at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Being that it is the third largest cemetery in the United States, it is no wonder that Spring Grove Cemetery is home to many spooky tales to make your skin crawl.

Grave keepers have reportedly felt something – or someone – grab at their legs without explanation; mysterious white wolves are rumored to patrol areas of the land; figures are said to disappear at once upon being spotted. Perhaps the most popular ghost story of the cemetery is that of C.C. Breuer, an optometrist who requested that his eyes be removed and placed in a bust on his headstone. The eyes in the bust, while not truly those of Breuer himself (they are glass), are extremely life-like and are said to follow the curious viewer around, watching their every move. Spooky!

Spring Grove is a treasure trove of stories, haunted or otherwise, with many historic Cincinnati figures - including the father and son of President William Howard Taft - being buried there. Be sure to visit the cemetery and walk amongst the headstones to see what kinds of stories you can unearth.

The Bones of Cincinnati Music Hall

One of the city’s most beautiful buildings is also reportedly one of its most haunted. Cincinnati Music Hall, which was erected in 1878, sits on a plot of land that once belonged to a pauper’s gravesite. The ghost stories even predate the building’s completion; the tales began when the ground was excavated to make room for an elevator shaft and workers unearthed over 200 pounds of bones. 

The staff at Cincinnati Music Hall readily back up the rumored hauntings. The late conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, Erich Kunzel, was a witness. In describing his encounters with spirits, he is quoted in saying, “If you think I'm crazy just come here sometime at three o'clock in the morning. They're very friendly.”

Ghost tours are given where guests are walked through the haunted parts of the building; ghost hunting equipment is welcomed, so don’t be surprised if one of your fellow attendees is outfitted with a proton pack.

Bobby Mackey's Portal to the Underworld

Bobby Mackey’s Restaurant in Wilder, Kentucky, just South of the Ohio River, is reportedly the site of one of the most haunted destinations in the country. The restaurant, which serves as a concert venue and mechanical bull riding establishment, has a very sinister past. Prior to serving as a restaurant and honky-tonk, the building was home to a slaughterhouse. The well in the basement was used as a place to dispose of the remains; it is said that once the slaughterhouse closed, mob activity and cult rituals became the norm, resulting in a series of notorious murders. The spirits of these victims and their perpetrators are said to haunt the premises, a rumor that has attracted ghost hunters and television crews for decades (see the series premiere of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures).

Upon entering the venue, visitors are given a disclaimer that the owner is not responsible for any mischief from ghosts or evil spirits. Visit the restaurant yourself to decide if these rumors have any truth or if they’re just a load of mechanical bull puckey.

The Sightings of the Loveland Frogman

On an early summer day in 1955, a businessman claims to have seen a group of humanoid frogs that stood on two legs and disappeared into the Little Miami River. Another sighting occurred nearly two decades later when a police officer came across a mysterious creature along the river which was trying to escape. He shot and killed the creature and took it back to the station to show another police officer; the officer later came out to state that the mystery creature was a tail-less iguana slipping away on its hind legs. While this may debunk that particular sighting, it was not the last appearance of the supposed frogman.

The latest sighting occurred in the summer of 2016, when Pokémon GO took the nation by storm; a teenager playing the game claimed to have seen a gigantic frog slip away into the river. This is the only sighting with video and photographic evidence for what the witness saw. Needless to say, the Cincinnati area has its own Bigfoot figure in the Loveland Frogman, a cult icon that has inspired local musicals and graphic t-shirts which proclaim, "I Saw the Loveland Frogman."