The Spectre of Stone Street:
Into the Heart of Mystery, Synchronicity, and the Hidden World

N. A. Reiter

13 November, 2004

Our Town...

How is it that a man can spend almost two decades of his life living in a place, and come to feel that he knows intimately the "such-ness" of that place, yet in a single night come to see that enigma and the unknown dwell only scant blocks away?

The Village of Gibsonburg is an old rail and limestone quarry town of about 2000 souls, situated on the southern edge of the area once known as the Great Black Swamp of northwestern Ohio. The once vast forested bayou, the dank residue of the relentless glaciers, is long gone, drained and tiled by the late 19th century. In any direction, corn and wheat now spread out without end, although until only a couple of decades ago, the delving and quarrying of limestone was also as much a life-blood of the village as the farmer's plow. Today, when viewed from 10,000 feet, the air traveller will see the clustered roofs of a small town surrounded by great grey gouges in the earth, like a medieval moat. Some of the old quarry pits are now water filled, and used for swimming, fishing, and scuba training. Other pits are still dry, and occasionally scavenged for useful road and construction fill.

My family and I moved into this town in December of 1987, and have called it our home since. From 1987 until 2000, we lived in an old frame home at the western end of Stone Street, in the northwest sector of the village. In other eras, Stone Street was a worker's row - where both quarrymen and their managers once lived. It connects an eastern set of pits with a larger western set - now all unused, but still providing a landscape not unlike a lunar vista in places. The neighbors on Stone Street were generally dear older folks, some now gone. Many cookie plates were exchanged at Christmas, and much over the fence chatting filled summer evenings. While the years of our stay there at 541 West Stone saw the birth of the Avalon Foundation and countless hours of pondering and plotting against the unknown, there seemed to be little about our street that was itself of a dark nature. It was not a spooky street, maybe with the exception of an absolutely ancient woman who lived alone in a small chicken coop of a house near the railroad tracks. Yes, Chicken Coop Lady was eerie, in a tragic Appalachian way. But eventually, she was moved to a nursing home by her kinfolk and her hovel was torn down. That was about it for Stone Street. Good plain working folk, old homes, and summer-grubby kids on bikes, up and down the way.

In May of 2000, we moved across about six blocks of the town to a larger bungalow style home on the north end. It was around that time that I received e-mail from a woman who had come across the Avalon website and wanted to share a ghost story from her own childhood in Gibsonburg. Ironically, her story took place on our beloved old Stone Street, although over ten years before we came to the town, and near the eastern end of the street.

The woman, "Gayle", said that in the late 1970s, she and her younger sister (then teenagers) had been sitting up late on their front porch, enjoying a warm August night. Their home faced across Stone Street toward Williams Park, where one small quarry pit had been converted into a swimming hole, and several ball diamonds served the many Little League teams of the town. The night was still and dark, the time about 11:00 PM. The last of the ball players had left and the lights for the diamonds had been shut off. Only a single night light on the far side of the park cast a feeble radiance across the dark grass and water.

Photo 1 Both sisters were shocked to suddenly see a figure moving out in the dim light of the park. Silently, a white robed figure - looking much like the Grim Reaper - glided across the grass between a shelter house and the swimming beach, to vanish into the black waters. Gayle recounted that one particularly terrifying feature of the being's appearance was the position of it's arms, held out straight as though carrying an invisible offering. At one point, as the figure passed in front of a water fountain, the porcelain of the fountain seemed to be vaguely visible through the spectral form. The girls were momentarily paralyzed, then screamed and ran into their house, where they compared notes as to what each had seen. Neither spoke widely of the event, and with time the sisters moved on into their adult lives. Gayle currently lives in the country, north of Gibsonburg. Her sister... well, that enters into this story...but not quite yet.

Here you may see a view of the old shelter house near the quarry lake. This is roughly the view that may be seen from the porch where Gayle and Kelly had their mind-blowing sighting on a warm evening in a long ago era. The being in white would have walked right to left, passing in front of the water fountain (still in use!), and heading down the sloped beach of the lake.

Photo 2 Here is a view of the quarry lake in Williams Park. The lake is now used for fishing only, no swimming allowed. Stories say that in decades past, a number of children had drowned here, but this is difficult to pin down.

In the weeks after Gayle had related her story, I remember taking a number of night walks through Williams' Park, without any blatant supernatural encounters. But then again, all parks are spooky on quiet dark nights, when the absence of childrens' shouts and laughter leaves a void in reality. Eventually, the matter slipped from my daily thoughts.

Stare super vias antiquas...

On the night of 5th September 2004, my oldest son Trevor closed up the video rental store (in downtown Gibsonburg) where he was working, at about 9:00PM. He then spent some time, perhaps close to two hours, at a friend's house a few blocks away. A round of penny poker and nachos later, the day caught up with Trevor, and he headed out. Driving across the town toward home, he felt compelled for some reason - maybe nostalgia - to check out our old street. Trevor drove eastward up Stone Street, past our old house. The streetlights donít reach that far out, and thus the night-time neighborhood is typically quite dark except for the diffuse luminance from garage security lights and home windows. About a block and a half east of our old house, Trevor could see a figure standing alongside the street, on the right. As his headlights illuminated the figure, Trevor was startled to see that the person standing on the boulevard was tall and thin, and dressed completely in a long white hooded robe. The figure did not seem to be glowing on its own, however the snowy white sheen of the robe was intense. Standing beside the robed hooded figure was a small toddler dressed in only a diaper. Trevor noted that the baby was downy bald, an infant just barely old enough to stand or walk on its own. The robed figure was not holding the infant's hand, merely standing by it in an un-moving way. As Trevor drove past, he looked over his shoulder and saw the hooded head of the tall figure turn toward the car slightly. However, no face could be made out, because of the heavy fold of the hood. An uneasy feeling came over Trevor, and he raced the remaining few blocks to our house.

When he got home, Trevor sat on the sofa for a while debating with himself on whether to tell anyone. I myself had gone to bed about 9:30, and was long asleep. Eventually, Trevor came up stairs, and called to me to come out and talk. I got out of bed and put on some pants, and went downstairs to hear him out. He related the story in a shaky voice. We went outside and got in the car, and drove back over to Stone Street. It was by this time about 11:25. The dry night air was cool, and not much stirred. An occasional cat or isolated teen riding homeward on a bike was the extent of motion anywhere. No robed figures were walking around- no unusual activity was about. We cruised the alleys and streets from east to west and back again. Nothing. My own shuddering was not from the chance of seeing a glint of white in the dark alleyway - it had more to do with the story told to me four years previous by Gayle. The Spectre of Stone Street had been seen again- this time by my own son.

In the weeks following his encounter, Trevor mentioned it to a few close friends and a couple of older co-workers. From one of the latter, a lady in her 60s, came some further hints of historical strangeness regarding our old street. This older lady recalled from her own childhood, tales of old folks from that era that whispered of ghosts in the quarries and weird sounds and beasts encountered after dark. Who would have known - such an innocuous back street in an innocuous small town... And we had even lived there for over twelve years!

Photo 3 Here you may see a view down West Stone Street. It was on this stretch of street that Trevor saw the being in white and the mysterious babe, on the right hand side.

The next infernal twist in the tale came a little over a month after Trevor's encounter. In the meantime, I had shared the essentials of the story up to that point with a few close confidants and chums, among whom was Chris Woodyard, famed Ohio ghost author and collector of the Odd. One evening, Chris forwarded an e-mail message to me with a stern admonition that I had better not be messing with her head. She had been contacted from out of the blue by yet another person relating the story of the white entity... and in a short while we came to realize that the woman who had felt compelled to write was none other than "Gayle's" younger sister - who we shall call "Kelly". Approximately a week later, with Chris finding herself busy and in a streak of ill health to boot, I contacted Kelly on Chris' behalf.

In reply, Kelly indicated that she recalled that her older sister Gayle had talked to me, but she was at something of a loss to explain entirely why she felt compelled to write to Chris. It may have been that some sporadic psi type events had been of late making an upswing in their home. I did not at first mention Trevor's story directly, but offered that my son had probably seen the same strange being recently, and indicated that I would share if she was interested. Later that same evening, Kelly wrote back, eager to hear of Trevor's encounter. She also took the opportunity to relate some additional anecdotes of paranormal events happening in the home she and her family had lived in most recently, since the late 1990s. Drawing to the end of Kelly's letter, my heart sank and stomach turned, as I read words that told of something I could have had no knowledge of, nor could Trevor. Kelly stated that after living out of town for a number of years, she and her family now lived back in Gibsonburg again... at 411 West Stone Street. (Not the actual house number, for anonymity's sake)

It had been outside of this very house, along the dark curb of Stone Street, that Trevor saw the being in white and its infant companion or ward.

The hours of that night passed for me and I slept little. Should I drop the matter and just pretend I didn't get Kelly's e-mail? Would she and her sister and even Chris think that I had gone off the deep end, and was playing some devious gaslight trick on all of them? Would Kelly panic at the thought of the ghostly entity from all those years ago turning up now outside her door, being seen by complete strangers? Or should it all be placed on the table? I felt emotionally trapped, just as I felt the steel wire snare of the Trickster close around my ankle.

The next morning, I chose to let it all come out, and related the entire story to Kelly, Gayle, and Chris all at one time. Later that same day, I called Kelly and we talked for a long while. She had freaked when she read my morning's revelation, but had "come down" and was holding a good stiff upper lip. Our discussion turned to the possible origins for such a singular and archetypal entity. That the entity should have been seen outside their very residence was certainly a disturbing factor, but it was one that Kelly faced stoically. She felt as well that the image of the infant might have been related to stories her own young son had told in the recent past. Kelly's pre-school aged son had on occasion complained of seeing a mysterious "little kid" playing with his toys. Kelly did state for the record that no young toddler, of the appearance that Trevor described, currently lived anywhere in or nearby her home at 411 West Stone.

Sed libera nos a malo...

The most heartfelt part of anomalous phenomena has to be the desperate feeling of impotency of the researcher to follow beyond that last certain point. Until "it" manifests again someday, we are forced to mull over the events in our minds and try to make quiet sense of what we already know but do not understand in the wider scope. In the days following that Sunday, we made something of an informal pact that we would all go on with our lives, yet keep our eyes and ears ready for whatever chapter in the saga came next.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one last sub-plot to the madness. One evening a few days after Trevor's sighting, he and one of his buddies, "Moo" were out walking the town and ambled up Stone Street as the dusk faded to night. As they went, the pair talked about the white being. Moo commented with his well directed but totally Goth sense of humor, "well maybe Gibsonburg has an evil Secret Society and they hold semi-regular baby roasts..." Leave it to Moo. Despite the grim chuckle elicited when Trevor later reported the comment, it struck a chord deep inside of me. How many times in the past had I come across tales and accounts of dark occult or perceived Satanic activity that appeared real for the hapless observers, yet always seemed to leave no real-world trace. Is there a hidden culture of hellish magic and infernal activity that operates and exists - somehow cloaked - within the crevasses of our prosy daily life? Surreal accounts such as the Satanic child day care center cases in the 80s and 90s still are the focus of debate by child psychologists and sociologists. And yes... our little town did have its share...

In the mid-1980s, before I lived here, a bizarre period of a year or so had descended upon Gibsonburg during which rumors and accusations of Satanic altars and black magic rituals flew through the township. The focus of these tales was a wooded area north of the village where a stacked stone altar had been found, and robed participants had supposedly been observed arriving and leaving in vans. Shades of Old Salem, Cotton Mather, and Goody Proctor. Rumors of local participation by town patriarchs grew like weeds. There were even encounters with Men in Black type faux agents. By the winter of 1987, when we came to town, the witch hunting and shuddering had subsided almost entirely, and I thought little of it seriously. But now..?

What is the being in white? Is the ethereal and archetypal spectre of Stone Street a projection of an earth intelligence or elemental force? Mines, quarries, and large scale stripping away of the earth's surface do seem to frequently invoke the appearance of paranormal phenomena. The deeper the mine, the deeper the mysteries it seems, in tales from Pennsylvania to South Africa. Is it some distinct modulation of subtle all-pervading energy that always becomes translated by the observer as a "grim reaper" image? Or is it an ancestral ghost or even a non-human entity that is somehow eternally bound to the bloodline of Kelly and Gayle's family? If this is the case, the extending mystery of why such a being appeared to a non-related observer like Trevor has to be considered. Too frightening and chilling to be an angel, too pristine and light to be a demon - pure archetypal power made manifest. Will we ever understand and know?

In closing, I would like to thank Kelly and Gayle and their families for their understanding and courage, Chris Woodyard, and my son Trevor. And yes, Moo, too.

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