Zech and I had spent most of the day exploring the rolling hills of central Ohio, before arriving at the Marion Cemetery in search of an odd memorial amid the stones covering one hundred and fifty acres. We started our visit with a stop at the grand memorial to President William Harding, located at the corner of Vernon Heights Boulevard and Route 423. After we visited the memorial to the twenty-ninth president, we crossed Vernon Heights Boulevard into the portion of the cemetery on the northern side of the road.
While the memorial to the president was on our list of places to visit while in the region, it was not our primary destination. The memorial we sought was one I had visited a couple times before, but this was Zech’s first visit to the odd monument that has caught the attention of people from all over the world and had even made an appearance in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”
Located on the hillside near the north eastern portion of the cemetery, the memorial, known as the Merchant Stone, sits on the hillside next to the intersection of two roadways. Placed by the C.B. Merchant family in 1896, the giant sphere sits atop a pillar in the middle of the plot. Surrounding the memorial, in a semi-circle, are eleven smaller, soccer ball sized spheres that mark the graves of family members.
To most, the large sphere is just another family memorial, but the monument holds a secret that separates it from many other memorials within the cemetery. According to local lore, the sphere on top of the Merchant Stone supposedly moves on its own. The dominant sphere that weighs roughly 5,200 pounds supposedly slowly rotates over time. According to most “experts” on the Merchant Stone, the granite sphere moves roughly two inches a year. Supposedly, at one point, the sphere had moved enough that the unpolished grey spot was at the top.
The sphere was first observed to have moved roughly two years after its placement. At some time during that year, visitors noticed a gray, unpolished bottom of the sphere had appeared. According to many sources, the Merchant family had the ball reset at some point after the discovery of its movement. Within a couple years it was moving once again and this time the family did not have the stone reset and allowed the ball to do its rolling. Soon the unpolished bottom of the sphere, about eight inches in diameter, was visible and remains visible to this very day.
Zech and I walked around the memorial, photographing it from every angle, making notes of its position.
“Are you going to do it?” Zech finally asked.
“Yes,” I responded as I stepped up to the stone and did what thousands of people before me had done when visiting the memorial. I hesitantly reached out and touched the ball. The smooth the texture of the stone begging me to push and I did.
Like the previous times I stood at the memorial and pushed, the stone failed to move. It did not budge. It did nothing. I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen this time, but it did not move.
“And?” Zech asked. I shook my head as I quickly pulled my hand away. Despite knowing that it was not going to move, I walked to the other three sides of the memorial and pushed against it from numerous angles.
The large sphere did not disappoint as it remained stationary atop the column.
I finally gave up and walked over to where Zech stood. “Your thoughts?” he asked.
“I don’t have an answer offhand,” I answered. Countless theories have been set forth about what causes the ball to move. Some of these theories include: the pull of the Earth’s gravitational field; water freezing and melting; sound frequency causing it to move; ghostly activity; and the stone is cursed. Everyone who has visited, or even heard about it, has their own thoughts on why the stone moves.
Whatever the reason may be for the movement, one thing jumped out to me as I studied the granite sphere. I did not see any signs of wear and tear that would have been created on the granite sphere if it had moved. There were no scratches or grooves on it. Carefully walking around the monument again, there were no breaks, cracks, or signs of wear on the stand holding the sphere. The thing that really jumped out at me was how smooth the sphere was.
Arriving home, I compared the pictures I took with pictures I had taken in the past. After studying the pictures, a thought popped into my head. I scanned through all the pictures and found one taken almost ten years before that had been taken from the same angle as a current one.
The two pictures had enough background stones that I was able to overlap the two pictures. The pictures were resized so the overlapped the pictures, the unpolished spot lined up perfectly. A search online found a picture of the stone from 1979 with enough points to overlap it with my pictures. The grey spot in this picture also lined up perfectly.
My personal conclusion is that the sphere, if it has moved at all, has only moved millimeters since the earliest picture I could find of it and it definitely has not moved since my first visit years ago. The stone does not move at the rate of two inches per year as many claim. In almost forty years the unpolished bottom is in the same location in all three pictures and they overlap perfectly.
A couple years later, I was talking to a local cemetery caretaker and the subject of the Merchant Stone was brought up. He took me out to the cemetery and a couple minutes later we were standing next to a similar monument and the unpolished bottom was in view.
“Do you think this one moved?” he laughed. “I hope not, because it didn’t.” He explained that when the sphere was set in place, it shifted as it was being put down. I questioned about why they didn’t move it so the unpolished bottom was in the correct location and he gave the answer of cost. It was cheaper to let it as it was rather than to have it moved.
For me the mystery has come to an end. I personally believe it was never set correctly in 1886 when the monument was erected. That’s my opinion and it is the one that I’m sticking with until I’m presented with solid evidence that the stone actually moved.
But if the “experts” state the Merchant Stone is moving, then it must be. It’s just not moving for me.