Mount Olive Cemetery near Bellville, Ohio holds a legend of a witch turned ghost - Bloody Mary!
Most of us have probably heard the legend.
You wait until late at night, most preferably 3 AM. Then you go into the bathroom all alone with just a candle for light and look into the mirror. Then you say her name...
We've probably all played the game, or know someone who did, but we don't usually stop to think about where the legend of Bloody Mary came from. No one knows for sure who the Mary at the root of the legend is, but there are several guesses that have been made.
Some sources point to Queen Mary I of England, whose short reign lasted from 1553-1558 C.E. She is best known for ordering the execution of 240 men and 60 women for the crime of being Protestant.
Other sources mention Elizabeth Bathory's name as the inspiration for the legend. Though Elizabeth has the wrong name, she was the most prolific female serial killer of all time. Her body count is in the hundreds between 1590-1610 C.E.
The origin story we are looking at today, however, focuses on a woman who died in 1898 named Mary Jane. Nothing extraordinary ever happened to or for Mary Jane, other than getting cancer and passing away after living a long, normal life. She wouldn't have been mentioned by anyone ever again, save for one camp counselor in the 1960's.
Hidden Hollow Camp is a summer camp that runs out of Bellville, Ohio. Each summer hundreds of kids and a handful of counselors enjoy campfires, singing, swimming, horseback riding, nature and, of course, ghost stories. One summer in the early 1960's, a counselor was trying to come up with a good ghost story to really spook the campers. He went for a walk to the nearby Mt. Olive Cemetery to get some inspiration, and that is where he saw it. An old grave with the name Mary! Maybe Bloody Mary? He just needed a backstory.
The story went something like this:
Mary Jane was shunned by the locals in the small town of Bellville. No one could remember how long she had been there, but no one liked the creepy vibe she gave off. People just knew she was a witch and had been using her powers to get her way for years, but no one wanted to stand up to her. After a particularly hard few weeks of dealing with Mary in 1898, the townsfolk had enough and decided to finally do something. They would go as a group and take Mary from her home, burning her at a stake in the local cemetery for the years of punishment she had inflicted on them. Before she died, however, she cast a curse upon the cemetery and anyone who dared speak her name. From then on, anyone who said her name in a mirror late at night would call her enraged spirit back to kill them!
Now, that isn't the word for word way the story was told, but that is the general way it would be told to campers for years. Counselors would bring campers to the cemetery and terrify them with the tale, then they would walk back through the dark woods to the camp where they would presumably stay up all night seeing shadows moving and thinking Mary was coming to get them.
All-in-all this tale seems to be no-harm, no-foul. Summer camp is meant for scary campfire stories, right?
Sadly, there is more to it than just scared campers. Some of those campers would spread the story as a real tale, something that really happened. When they became old enough to drive, they would go out to the cemetery late at night with their friends to prove how brave they were. Sometimes they would host parties out there, where things would get out of hand from time to time and some of the stones (including that of Mary Jane) would be destroyed. With no headstone to mark the grave of "Bloody Mary", there had to be another marker. An old tree that stood in the cemetery would take the title, and sometime in the early 2000's it too would meet its fate at the hands of an arsonist. The still standing, but damaged, tree would be cut down in 2014.
As fun as researching some of these legends can be, hearing and seeing the effect of vandals and people who just don't respect the history, places and people in them is at times the hardest part. Here's hoping that we can preserve what history we have left for places like Mt. Olive Cemetery.