Note: If you choose to visit, please remember that this is a cemetery and those buried here should be paid the respect they deserve.
There is something about abandoned cemeteries that causes people to think they are haunted. Even when confronted by facts, many maintain the facts are wrong. They insist the cemetery must be haunted because it is abandoned and also because it is located in a wild setting. Scanning through the collection of ghost stories and legends I’ve gathered over the years, I have noticed a significant number of these stories involve old, abandoned, rural cemeteries. It appears the more remote the cemetery is, the more legends seem to spring up around it.
I had arrived at Moraine State Park late in the evening to visit a cemetery that seems to be the center of a lot of paranormal activity, or at least according to many sources it is. Even with directions, finding the cemetery was an interesting adventure. After a number of wrong turns I finally stopped at a gas station to ask for directions.
“Why do you want to go there?” the older man stared at me as he questioned me. “You know it is patrolled regularly? People like to go up there and party and do stupid things. Used to be a peaceful place, but people have vandalized. Ever wonder what people would think if it was their ancestor’s graves being desecrated?”
“I hadn’t realized it had been vandalized,” I answered truthfully. In doing the research for this journey, I had not read anything about recent vandalism although I was aware of vandalism in the past.
“Kids go up there and party…get drunk and destroy things. At one time it was offered to move the graves to a safer place, a different cemetery where people would just let them alone.” He paused for a moment and looked around before speaking in a low whisper. “Then you have the people who are hunting for Ol’ Red Eyes.”
“Ol’ Red Eyes?” I asked. I was familiar with the legend, but enjoy hearing others telling legends in their own words. The most popular story regarding the cemetery involves people seeing a pair of glowing red eyes in the area of the old family cemetery. According to word of mouth, this is the ghost of Conrad Snyder chasing away those who disturbed his slumber.
“Yeah…a pair of red glowing eyes that they claim haunt the cemetery. Never saw them myself in all the times I’ve been over there, but every now and then somebody will come in here claiming they got chased out of the cemetery by a pair of glowing red eyes. And then there’s bigfoot too…” he laughed. “Had a guy in here a couple weeks ago said he saw bigfoot walking down the middle of the road one night. You ask me he had a little too much to drink….” After sharing a couple more “friend of a friend told me” stories, he said he’d like to help me get there, but he didn’t feel right giving me the exact location of the cemetery. “Not that I don’t trust you, but you go up there and do something stupid, I’ll feel bad I gave them to you. Enough people have vandalized it over the years.”
I told him I understood the reluctance to give me exact directions and thanked him for his time and for the stories. I was about to get in the vehicle when a young lady who appeared to be in her early twenties stopped me. “I overheard you talking about Ol’ Red Eyes,” the girl spoke. “You looking for the Snyder Cemetery?”
“We used to go over there a lot when I was younger,” she announced. “We never saw the Red Eyes, but we heard a lot of freaky stuff out there.” As she wrote down the directions, she told me about hearing voices in the area of the cemetery, something that she had encountered more than once over the years. She also told of two other events she experienced: a strange light her and her friends saw in the woods late one night, and a ghostly figure they spotted walking down the road which vanished as they approached.
I thanked her as she handed me the directions and approximately twenty minutes later I was parked across the road from the old family cemetery at the edge of Moraine State Park. The cemetery was originally on the three thousand acres owned by Conrad and Nancy Snyder, who had arrived here from Switzerland in the 1770s. Note: The official name of the burial ground is the Snyder Cemetery, though most refer to it as the Conrad Snyder Cemetery. It is also referred to as the B.W. Snyder Cemetery, especially in a number of genealogical sites, but I’ve not been able to determine why it is known by this name.
Getting out of the vehicle I instantly noticed that the man at the gas station was right about the vandalism. Two stone pillars guarded the entranceway of the short, level path to the cemetery – the pillar on the left had been broken and the top was missing. Standing there, I was immediately taken in by how quiet the area was. The silence gave me an eerie feeling but I shrugged it off as I walked back the path to the cemetery. On the wall was a stone with the name “Snyder Cemetery” carved into it. In front of the wall was a stone monument that gives a little bit of the history of the cemetery plus a short list of people known to be buried there, though there are supposedly twenty people buried in the plot.
Looking over the wall, I was saddened by the condition of the family plot. Broken stones were hidden among the overgrown grass. I wasn’t sure the last time the plot had been taken care of, but it appeared it had been a while since the plot had been mowed.
I started to make my way around to the entrance to the sacred piece of ground, located along the rear wall of the cemetery, when a loud, metallic bang filled the air, startling me. I quickly scanned the area and I immediately discovered the source of the noise – the gate into the cemetery had fallen. I could only stare at the gate lying on the sidewalk.
Once my heart rate returned to normal and silence returned to the area, I slowly walked around the corner to study the gate lying there. After a couple of minutes of investigating it, I arrived at a conclusion for what had happened. Near the entrance to the cemetery, a couple pieces of broken wood rested on the ground – the pieces were small enough to fit through the openings, and I believe these pieces of wood were used to hold the gate into place. The wood holding the gate in place had probably broken due to the poor condition of the wood. With nothing holding it in place, the gate fell. The wood could have picked a better time to break than the moment I was almost next it.
Though I believe that it was just a strange coincidence and nothing paranormal, I decided the gate falling was my sign not to enter the family plot. I set the gate up, leaning it against the stone wall before walking back to the vehicle. Pausing at the vehicle, I glanced around one more time and, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I decided it was definitely time to move on, leaving the area in silence.
Note: Again, if you choose to visit, please remember that his is a cemetery and those buried here should be paid the respect they deserve.