It was a perfect night under the stars with just the right chill in the air on Saturday, Oct. 10, especially for the guests who gathered on the bleachers behind the John P. Parker House in Ripley. Those guests were on hand to hear Ripley resident David Gray spin his tales of local legends in an event sponsored by the Union Township Public Library.
Gary, a life-long resident of the village and a retired Social Studies teacher, is a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild who lives on Front Street and it was just a short walk for him to the Parker House on Saturday evening for his presentation.
He began the evening with a tale of Ripley lore, that of “Dead Woman’s Hollow.” The legend goes that a woman’s body was discovered in the creek at the end of a rope and the town’s doctor ruled the death a suicide. The woman was a complete mystery to everyone, though she had seen by locals walking down the highway before her untimely death, until research uncovered that she was from Minnesota, but had been born in Rome, Ohio. Gray verified his story with the help of the library and old issues of The Ripley Bee.
Next came a tale from 1913 of a haunting of the house that Gray lived in (not of course in 1913). Gray told the assembled the story of Minnie Fitch, who locals swear could be seen dancing in the moonlight in a blue dress with a noose around her neck. Could such a tale be true?
The presentation also was opened to the audience for questions for their own stories and questions and naturally, the Ripley legend of the Calico Woman was brought up. Most Ripley residents know of the story of the Calico Woman who supposedly haunts a spot on Chicken Hollow Road, just outside of the village.
The evening concluded with Gray telling the story of the last man to legally hang in the state of Ohio. a Huntington Township resident by the name of Billy Paul.
This story began in 1895 , when the 30-year old Paul was accused of allegedly getting a 13-year old girl pregnant. Paul fled to Augusta, Ky., all the time proclaiming his innocence. He finally went back home, this time with a gun, to confront his accusers and the girl’s father. In the confrontation, the father was shot and Billy was arrested by the Brown County Sheriff and charged with murder. His trial was held in Georgetown and the judge sentenced Billy to hang. Paul sat in jail for 11 months until his appeals were exhausted and in April 1896, became the last man to legally hang in Ohio’s history. Of course, his final words were, “I didn’t do it.”
Though this event was geared at an adult audience, the library will invite kids to the Parker House bleachers this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. to listen to library director Alison Gibson read Halloween stories under the stars on a chilly night.