Monday, February 20, 2006

Then: The Legend Of Mary Stockum: A Coshocton Ghost Story

Every community has ghost stories, and Coshocton is no different. I discovered the legend of Mary Stockum while surfing the 'net. Not being a local, I found the story to be one worthy of Stephen King.

After speaking with a number of lifelong residents, many of whom spent youthful overnights in the Stockum cemetery (often while drinking alcohol), I found no reports of any headless Mary encounters. In fact, I mostly encounter knowing grins while recollections of wild parties are told.

Nonetheless, the legend tells of Mary's husband, Christopher, murdering their second child. Apparently, Christopher became a guest at a swinging party. A enraged Mary vowed revenge and one-by-one her remaining nine children began dying of fever. After the fifth child died, Mary was burned as a witch. A sixth child died, and the Mary's executioners, dug up her burned body, cut off the head, and buried it outside the cemetery.

Now, Mary haunts the cemetery and surrounding woods. She searches for her children and missing head.

I've read various Mary encounters, including conversations. How does one converse with a headless woman? Tales of broken down cars abound (and if you have ever driven the rutted dirt roads, you understand why). But, as with most legends, substantiating the wild tales means spinning the story to ever wilder proportions.

The family cemetery is located in a remote area. Kind of spooky, I guess. On the day we visited, the dirt road which leads to the cemetery was inaccesible by car. The vandalized cemetery seemed no different than most small family cemeteries. Mary's stone lay toward the front of the cemetery. It's obvious somebody(s) attempted to thieve her stone finding it too heavy to remove.

One more interesting side note. While visiting Coffee Co., I met a relative of Mary Stockum. She professed to know little about Mary other than the legend. But she promised to ask an aged aunt about the Stockum legend and report back to me.


Anonymous said...

i must say that your assumption of the stockum story ids wrong,i have pictured proof that shows a figured person in the woods wondering around,one you can see through,and in two other pictures a head that is peaking around a friends head,go back there and snap some pictures and tell me that you dont see anything,also you might get a headache at the site,because i did,and when i left it was fine,and if she doesnt prove herself,egg her on a little bit,make fun of her,and she will come out,trust me i know,and the road is also accesble by car,you just need to know how to drive

Randy M. Combs said...

A peeking head? Legend says she's headless and wanders the area seeking her children and her head. Perhaps, the person you photographed was the ghost of Ernest T. Bass or Otis Campbell.

I've based my assumption on speaking with numerous people who visited and camped overnight by the cemetery multiple times. They assured me that they were loud and noisy. Never once did headless Mary do any peeking, but they weren't as certain regarding Ernest T. Bass.

Snap some pictures and tell you I don't see anything. Why would I snap a picture of anything I don't see? Your logic, as is your spelling, seems faulty.

Speaking of assumptions: how do you know the road's condition on the day I visited? Were you there peeking like ol' headless Mary?

Anonymous said...

i was at her grave today and i didn't see any ghost but i took some pictures and the first one for some reason was alway blury but the second would be as weird...i went to her supposed house thats haunted too and there was a light on...which others have tould me that its always on even if you take the bulb and i didn't go in but if you do go in it there also is a radio thats always playing too...i've also heard that there is a cult that gathers out around her grave but i don't think that true...

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy.
I will just say one thing. Mary Stockum is in fact a real ghost.If you don't believe go to her site. Yes at night. and go with only one or two other people. I have studied how to get ghost and it is always best to go at night, haven't you watched ghost hunters? Anyway, I will tell you a story that I didnt witness but my 2 best friends did.

At the top of the hill right before you get to her cemetary there is an open space where there are some oil jacks and such. On of my best frined (donnie) was telling my other friend (robert) about how a couple years ago they had heard screaming off in the distance. Seconds later they heard the screaming. Robert said he wanted to wait before saying anything to be sure he heard what he ahd thought he heard. well needless to say donnie fired up the car looked at robert and said "we're getting the hell outta here"

Robert said the only way to describe the sound was a woman running towards the car screaming, and she either went through the car or around it. and then the scream faded off in the opposite direction.

and yes she is headless in the flesh. her soul or ghost isnt headless. when she died she was in one piece therefore when her spirit came from her body it was in one piece. She is looking for her head to put back in the grave.

and if you go back up look for one thing we noticed that most don't.
mary died in 1863, yet there are young stockum children that died years after her death. Coincedence? maybe. but we used two rolls of film so we'll see as soon as they are developed. oh one more thing. I was just there yesterday. and we had a video camcorder. we did capture something where they had heard the screaming. my friend thinks it's a play on light, but i really dont. it looks like the shadow of a person. very whit hiding behind a tree, looking around

Randy M. Combs said...

Here's what I know about Mary Stockum. I've yet to uncover any evidence, written or otherwise, that even confirms the legend. I find it highly unusual that a community burned a woman as a witch in 1862. You would think that some type of documentation existed. Of course, that doesn't mean documentation doesn't exist, but I've not encountered anything. I have spoken to a descendant and she poo poos the whole legend. I've spoken with numerous people who have been in that cemetery at night and never encountered anything. You'd think hunter's would come screaming from the woods and tell their story to the Coshocton Tribune. Since her death in 1862, I've searched numerous Coshocton papers and never once have I encountered a sighting.

I don't dispute your account...I know you saw something. Whether or not it was Mary Stokum...well, we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

i want to go there, and beat a couple of bludgers on the gravesite.

Anonymous said...

When I was much younger I put a lot of "stock" in the stories about Mary Stockum. Of course now I just pass it off as a silly childhood fantasy. But I must say I do love how the folks from my hometown (bad grammer and all) will never give up the legend. :)

Anonymous said...

i used to live a mile away from stockums and i have been there at night. we had cameras and voice recorders. we didn't get any pictures but we did record a voice on our voice recorder telling us to leave very distinctly. other than that just alot of branches breaking in the surrounding woods.

Unknown said...

i am related to mary stockum. my cousine had a really terrifying experience there. i have been there 4 or 5 times and nothing to spooky ever happened except for hearing wolves or cyotes before leaving.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Mary Stockum died in the early 1900's. The tombstone at the gravesite that says Mary Stockum was her mother's headstone. Mary Stockum was in fact involved in witchcraft. Whether any of the tall tale stories of her gravesite are true or not is debatable but she was in fact a witch.

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