TBT: The Spring Grove Cemetery Jail


What is better than a wedding in a cemetery? How about a night in a cemetery jail?

A jail in a cemetery? Absolutely!


Last week, I described a chapel in the cemetery so beautiful, people are dying to get married there. (Terrible pun, I know, but I couldn’t resist!) This week dare to journey with me to a dark corner in this beautiful place.


In the basement of Norman Chapel is a jail cell. During the late 1800s, persons caught driving too fast through the cemetery were arrested and kept there overnight.


Yes, overnight.


I have found no stories of anyone’s experiences to share, but I can easily imagine how the night would go.


Can you imagine it?


The night watchman pushes you into a dark little room, maybe with a cot or maybe just a stone floor. Keys jingle against the iron bars as the lock clangs into place.


The one-eyed guard splits his scraggly beard with a black grin.key-123554_640


“Sleep tight. Don’t let the ghosts bite.”


His hearty laugh echoes off the walls as he leaves you to huddle alone in a corner.


Hours pass. The sun sets.


An eerie fog sinks through the barred window.


Howling wind prowls past the headstones.  The screech of a night owl pierces your soul. The striking of midnight announces the witching hour.


Ghosts are not real. Mere superstition and bluff.


Then you hear it. Chains dragging, rattling. The strangled whispers of the undead clawing in their caskets, “Help me! I am still alive!” (For the Victorians were very afraid of this really happening.)


Terror claims you and you shrink into the darkest corner, hoping… no praying the ghosts will move on and not inhabit your body. (We are talking the age of superstition here…)


Whispers and moans. Death bells ringing frantically.


Bone chilling dampness creeping over you like the spiders seeking refuge on your coat.


The night marches on slowly. Eventually, the sounds ebb away.


Gritty eyes blur your vision when at last the night watchman comes, keys jangling. Slowly it turns and the barred door swings open on screaming hinges.


“Are ye possessed?” He walks toward you lifting a crucifix. When you do not cower from it, he grins that wretched smile. “Good, now be gone with ye, and dunna rush. A second night ye might not be so lucky…”


As you force yourself to walk a hasty retreat from your haunted prison he cackles, skittering shivers up your spine. Casting one glance back, he is gone, but the key remains in the barred door as it swings shut.


I do not know about you, but a night in a cemetery prison might make for some interesting stories. Unfortunately, they will have to remain in your head. If you speed through Spring Grove Cemetery now, other consequences await. That spooky jail is now just a storage room. What a pity.


TBT: Norman Chapel


Image from SpringGrove.org

Have you ever been to a wedding in a cemetery? Well, that is a fairly normal occurrence at the Spring Grove Cemetery. Why? Because the Norman Chapel is a magnificent piece of architecture set in the picturesque beauty of a cemetery meant to look like a park.


Last Throwback Thursday I talked about the Spring Grove Cemetery where my main character’s grandfather is interned. This week I want to explore the gorgeous Norman Chapel.


The History & Design

The magnificent Romanesque-style chapel was designed by famous Cincinnatian architect, Samuel Hannaford, in 1879. The chapel itself was constructed in 1880 and the first service, a funeral, was held on February 7, 1881.

The Exterior

The exterior is made of rough-hewn limestone and has areas of intricately carved stonework. Beautiful archways and a covered drive are something to be admired. If you do a search of “Wedding Photos at Norman Chapel”, you will find several pictures where the arches are clearly seen. As of this moment, I have not made it back to the Spring Grove Cemetery for pictures, and I do not have permission to share the ones I have saved for research purposes.

The Interior

The interior of Norman Chapel is breath-taking.


Pictures and Collage created by SpringGrove.org.


The arches of the exterior are mirrored on the interior. Carved wooden beams support the chapel’s ceiling and marble graces the floor. The focal point is a magnificent stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary that depicts the Ascension of Christ, although at the time of my story the stained glass had not yet arrived from Europe.


Black Belgium marble floor paves the chapel floor and Bedford limestone is prominent in the vestibule. There are bronze doors on each side of the altar with bas-relief panels of Biblical scenes of the resurrection of Lazarus and of Jesus Christ, the Ascension, the revival of the widow’s son and Jabirus’ daughter, and the healing of the paralytic man.


The stained glass window shows not only the Ascension of Christ but also Jesus healing the paralytic man. The window is inscribed with Luke 51:24, “And it came to pass while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”


The chapel is in use today, although more for weddings than funerals now. Its beauty is lost to the dead, and often to the grieving as well. Norman Chapel is definitely one better suited for the rose colored lens of new love, eager to soak in every detail of the day.


So if you are looking for a unique venue you may want to consider the Norman Chapel. Just be aware, your guest list may be well over several thousand… but no worries, most of them are permanent residents.



TBT: Spring Grove Cemetery



Spring Grove Cemetery is one of Cincinnati’s beautiful attractions, which has drawn visitors for over 150 years. The inciting incident of my current work in progress is the death of the heroine’s grandfather, and what better location for his funeral and burial than this park like cemetery.

Should you ever get the chance to come to Cincinnati, I highly recommend walking through this beautiful cemetery. In fact it is so beautiful, wedding are often held at the Norman Chapel, which will be discussed in next week’s Throwback Thursday.

The Birth of a Cemetery

Cholera epidemics swept through Cicinnati throughout the 1830s and 1840s, filling small church cemeteries to the brim. Little comfort could be found in these places of crowded interment for the bereaved families and leaders of the Cincinnati community voiced their concerns.

Members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society formed a cemetery association in 1844 and endeavored to find a suitable location for a cemetery they envisioned as being a picturesque park undisturbed by expansion.

They sought to acquire a large enough area to support funerals for an indefinite future, along with the embellishments of shrubbery, flowers, trees, walks, and rural ornaments. It was so important to them that they create not just a a funeral location, but also an area of great beauty, respite, and leisure, members of the cemetery association traveled the United States and Europe for examples of superior design.



When a farm of 160 acres was secured (and later added 434 acres), a consecration ceremony was provided for the community. These founders publicly proclaimed their hope that the natural setting would be a contemplative atmosphere conductive to consolation, commemoration, and education.

A Tourist AttractionSpringGroveEntrance

Given its popularity, today as much as then, I believe the founders achieved their goal. The
1875 issue of Cincinnati Illustrated described it as “a peaceful resting place for the dead and a beautiful park for the living.” Indeed, more than 150,000 people visited the cemetery in 1874 alone, not including those who were attending actual funerals!


Those who had family members interred in Spring Grove had tickets and were able to introduce strangers and come and go as they pleased. However, those who did not have family members interred there, were required to obtain tickets from the Secretary’s office in Pike’s Opera House.


Can you imagine walking through the Spring Grove entrance and someone saying, “Ticket, please?”


The broad and beautiful Avenue, with its magnificent trees, brings the living and the dead alike to the final abode of rest and release from strife and contention where there are laurels and roses for the blue, lilies and myrtles for the gray. After generations have passed away, the massy granite, embedded in green turf, shaded by trees then venerable with age, and embosomed in flowers may look down upon the graves of many whose lives have been as romantic, if not so sad, as Eloise’s – as deeply loved as Fatima’s. Then some poet like Pope or some noble romancer like Scott will arise and in another Epistle or another “Old Mortality” tell the tale of those who are gone.

– Cincinnati Illustrated, 1875, p 319

As a kid I would walk through our local cemetery. It was always so peaceful and quiet. As an adult, I attended a funeral at Spring Grove Cemetery and it was beyond beautiful. Almost two centuries later, it is still the contemplative atmosphere the founders hoped for.

What about you? Do you enjoy walking through cemeteries or do they give you the heeby geebies? Would you purchase a ticket to walk through one? Have you actually done it?



Kenny, Daniel J. Illustrated Cincinnati; a Pictorial Hand-book of the Queen City, Comprising Its Architecture, Manufacture, Trade. Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1875. Print.

Want to see more pictures? Visit Spring Groves Photo Gallery.

TBT: Humorous Newspaper Articles

When reading through some old newspapers to find some specific information about the weather on a particular day, I came across two articles which had me ripping stitches. I hope you find them as humorous as I do.


These two editorials come from the Cincinnati Gazette, November 22, 1883, page 5 and are written word for word.



As to Bottle Birthmarks

[Oil City Blizzard.]

          That is a pretty tough story from Corry about a man who has a
birthmark of a bottle on his leg which demands whisky every ninth day. Undoubtedly, however, this is no so strange as it looks at first sight. We have observed in our short, sharp, and decisive career that whisky has a strong tendency to fool with a man’s legs as well as his head, and it wouldn’t surprise us to discover that some men had a bottle in each leg that demanded whisky every twenty-four hours. Most men, however, show the bottle more prominently on the nose than any other place, and it is an undoubted scientific fact that the bottle is what makes a man’s tongue so thick every once and awhile.


What  a Woman Can Do.


She can say “No,” and stick to it for all time.

She can also say “No” in such a low, soft voice that it means “yes.”

She can sharpen a lead-pencil if you give her plenty of time and plenty of pencils.

She can pass a display-window of a dry goods store without stopping — if she is running to catch a train.

She can dance all night in a pair of shoes two sizes too small for her and enjoy every minute of the time.

She can appreciate a kiss from her husband seventy-five years after the marriage ceremony has been performed.

She can walk half the night with a colicky baby in her arms without once expressing a desire to murder the infant.

She can suffer abuse and neglect for years, which one touch of kindness or consideration will drive from her recollection.

She can go to church and afterward tell you what every woman in the congregation had on, and in some rare instances give a faint idea of what the text was.

She can go to the theater every evening and the matinee on Wednesday and Saturday, and still possess sufficient strength to attend a Sunday-night sacred concert.

She can – but what’s the sense? A woman can do anything or everything, and do it well. She can do more in a minute than a man can do in an hour, and do it better. She can make the alleged lords of creation bow down to her own sweet will, and they will never know it.


What was your favorite part? Is there anything you would add to any of these articles? Have you seen anything funny in today’s newspaper you would be willing to share?

TBT: Cincinnati’s Incline Planes

Welcome to my first ever Throwback Thursday, where I share gems from my research for my novel.


The setting of my current Work In Progress (WIP) is a city with a wealth of history to pull from, Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is known as the Queen City and more important to today’s post, the City of Seven Hills.


Drawing by Geneva South, 1972

The terrain for Cincinnati is very hilly as you can guess by the name, but not the gentle rolling hill kind where kids spend all summer rolling down until they become too dizzy to stand. Cincinnati’s hills are of the variety where trees and ravines impede your progress, where semis turn their hazard lights on because the climb to the top reduces them to a crawl.


Now step back to the Industrial Revolution, about one hundred-fifty years ago. Factories clogged the air with soot and smoke. Tuberculosis was rampant. The stench of the Erie Canal was far from pleasant. People looked to the hills for relief.


Omnibuses drawn by horses were the first transit system devised to struggle up the hills. However, drivers often had to hop out, block the wheels, and allow the horses to stop and rest before proceeding to the pristine air above. An alternative was desperately needed.
Responding to the need, business partners, Joseph Stacy Hill and George Smith, opened Cincinnati’s first incline plane on May 12, 1872. Hill top resorts, like the Lookout House and Highland House, opened and regularly drew in crowds of up to 10,000.  (An upcoming post will describe the Highland House.)


Mt. Adams Incline


By the time my novel opens in 1883, Cincinnati had 4 operating inclines: The Mt. Auburn Incline (leading to the Lookout House), the Mt. Adams Incline (leading to the Highland House), the Price Hill Incline (the only double incline – one for freight and one for passengers), and the Bellevue Incline.


Interesting Tidbits and Stories


  • In 1884, the price of a ride was 5¢.


  • A one-way trip took 2 minutes and 20 seconds. This was repeated six times every hour, 19 hours a day.


  • The Mt. Adams Incline made the trip in about 90 seconds.



Mt. Adams Incline (1906): A car is lowering down the track and will eventually become flush with the ground.

  • All full crew consisted of an operator, an engineer, a fireman, two gatemen, and two carpenters. The gateman’s job was to take the tickets from the passengers in the waiting room and then escort them onto the lift.


  • A telegraphic system of signal bells between the operating engineer in the powerhouse at the top of the hill and the attendant at the bottom of the station. Two bells meant “ready,” one bell signaled the doors were closed and locked (“alarm”), and three bells rang for “start.”


  • The Bellevue Incline passed by McMicken Hall, the first college of the University of Cincinnati. A medical school shared a freezer for cadavers with a brewery down the hill, and young students often got a thrill from waving body parts at passengers who passed by on the incline, in particular passengers of the female variety.

Bellevue Incline: You can see McMicken Hall in the background on the right.



Although the Cincinnati inclines are no longer around, the last one having closed its doors on July 25, 2008, they are still a fascinating part of history.


What was your favorite tidbit? Do you have any tidbits? How do you think inclines might play a part in my Work In Progress?


*All pictures were retrieved from: http://retro.cincinnati.com/Topics/Gallery/Cincinnati-Inclines#The Highland House. Visit there to see more pictures.

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