The Witch's Grave of Oak Hill Cemetery in Galena, Kansas
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The title for this one is a mouthful, and there's a reason for it. I'll get to that later. But for now, let's start here:
— Here, I make such an obscure reference that I only know of one other person on the planet who will know what the hell I'm talking about.
Like all of the towns and villages named Galena, Galena, Kansas gets its name from a natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide (PbS), which is the primary ore of lead, and some deposits contain silver. As you might imagine, mining towns sprung up in various parts of the United States where this ore was found—including Galena, Kansas (originally intended to be "Cornwall" and then later known as "Short Creek," then "Bonanza" and finally the name of "Galena" stuck in 1877.)
When you think of metal mining, lead might not be the first thing that comes to mind. While it's not nearly as expensive per gram as gold or silver, it certainly has a widespread use—everything from creating alloys such as brass all the way to shielding you so that you don't glow in the dark after too many X-rays at the dentist. Naming a town for a mining operation was pretty popular back then, as were THE WITCHES (graves)!
Looking at Galena, Kansas on a map may feel vaguely familiar to some. Have you ever seen this sign?
And here's a map of Route 66 and why that map of Galena, Kansas above might have felt familiar.
See that tiny little slice of Kansas that Route 66 cuts through? Not only does that famous highway run through Galena, but it runs straight through the center of town, connecting up with Galena's Main Street.
John Steinbeck himself called U.S. Route 66 "The Mother Road" in a little novel called The Grapes of Wrath. Perhaps you've heard of it. Take that, you other Galenas!
Of course, this isn't about U.S. Route 66; it's about THE WITCHES! However, it is crucial to understand that the history of Galena, Kansas isn't only about mining, railways, and difficulty deciding on a name; it's also about how many people passed through town in the past century or so.
Did You Know?
U.S. Route 66 is full of strange stories, ghost towns, haunted hotels, restaurant poltergeists, and more. Here's a place to start reading more: Ghosts of Route 66.
As for Kansas, who were all those people traveling through Galena? Where were they going? How many of them never made it to their ultimate destination?
Oak Hill Cemetery
The population of Galena, Kansas, has been slowly declining since its mining heyday, down to around 2,800 in 2018. There's something about old cemeteries in small rural towns that make them special. It could be the creepy feeling of tall grass over headstones, the winding country roads, or maybe the unmarked grave of a witch that wants to kill you.
Oak Hill Cemetery in Galena, Kansas, has just such a grave. Our old friend "Legend Has It" claims that there's the grave of a witch near the back of Oak Hill Cemetery and that apparitions, voices, and other strange sounds come from the area, particularly at 3:33 AM.
Back in 2007, a couple of ghost hunters traveled from Missouri to Kansas to investigate reported hauntings of two cemeteries in Galena. The Galena City Council even gave them official permission to launch a ghost hunt. Their findings: nothing.
Of course, that's exactly what a ghost witch would want you to believe.
The Problems Presented by Local Legends
Alright, admittedly, I found this witch's grave on my trusty "Folklore and Supernatural Phenomena of the United States" map I mentioned in my write-up about The Oklahoma Octopus cryptid. As I began my research, I thought there wasn't an interesting angle on this story, but I was wrong.
As far as the witch and paranormal activity go, I wasn't able to dig up any sightings of anything aside from anonymous internet posts, and even those were of the type "I know a guy who said his sister's friend saw something." I did find some dedicated ghost hunters on YouTube called Post-Mortem Investigators who spent the night in the cemetery and even found the supposed witch's grave. They set up a camera on it and a doll in the frame. You can see their three-part investigative series right here: Oak Hill Cemetery Galena KS Intro, Oak Hill Cemetery Galena KS TRIGGER, and Oak Hill Cemetery Galena KS Outro. They didn't find any paranormal activity, but they did have some locals messing with them. The Post-Mortem Investigators have a level-headed take on the whole idea of the witch's grave and conclude there isn't any credible evidence to support it. Daryl and J of Post-Mortem Investigators took some beautiful pictures of the old cemetery. Check it out.
Now, this is where I picked up quite an intriguing trail. While researching, I noticed that several people online mentioned Oak Hill Cemetery in Galena, but the photos of it were all wrong. It's pretty simple to dive into Google Maps Street View and see what a location looks like, but something was going on here where people kept mentioning a witch's grave, Galena, and Oak Hill Cemetery—but the details and photos kept changing.
The "Witch's Grave" Is Everywhere
I followed each strange thread and discovered that the "witch's grave" appears in many local legends in the south and the midwest United States. The legend's popularity seems to be somewhere between "lover's lane" and a local street named Broadway.
Take, for example, Riverton, Kansas. Riverton is only 4 miles away from Galena—both are on Route 66. Riverton also has an old cemetery: Quaker Valley Cemetery. In it, there's a grave rumored to belong to a witch. If you go to the witch's grave at 3:33 AM, you supposedly hear disembodied voices and maybe even see an apparition.
And then there's Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence is almost three hours north of Galena, between Topeka and Kansas City. In Lawrence, there's a place called Oak Hill Cemetery, where it is rumored that there's an unmarked witch's grave in the back of the cemetery. At night, you can see a woman in white walking around the place. Disbelief Paranormal put together an excellent 20-minute video of their night investigation of the cemetery.
I found others, too. Most seem to have similar stories and folklore surrounding the sites. How many of those witch's graves are actual witches, though? I don't think anyone will ever know. The best we can do is collect and compile stories, and preserve the local tales and history.
But wait, it's not just Kansas. There's more:
- Witch's Grave at West Branch State Park in Ohio
- Witch's Grave at Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida
- Witch's Grave at Highland Cemetery in Marion County, West Virginia
- Witch's Grave at The Old Stone Church near Clemson, South Carolina
- Witch's Grave at Springhill Park in Barling, Arkansas
- Witch's Grave at an abandoned cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky
- Witch's Grave in Cragford, Alabama
- Witch's Grave at Hillside Cemetery in Skiatook, Oklahoma
- Witch's Grave at San Albino Cemetery in Messila, New Mexico
- Witch's Grave at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Olmsted Falls, Ohio
- Witch's Grave at Boatyard Cemetery in Kingsport, Tennessee
- Witch's Grave at Black Oak Cemetery in Alabama
- Witch's Grave at Loon Lake Cemetery in Jackson, Minnesota
- Witch's Grave at Katy, Texas
- Witch's Grave at Aurora City Cemetery in Aurora, Nebraska
- Witch's Grave in Titusville, Pennsylvania
- Witch's Grave in Yazoo City, Mississippi
Okay, I'll stop now. There are so many I found that I didn't put here. Actually, wait, it's not just the United States (though the reports of witch's graves are heavily concentrated in the U.S.)
- Witch's Grave of Meg Shelton at Woodplumpton, Lancashire
- Witch's Grave of Molly Leigh at Burslem, Staffordshire
Seriously, how did all this get started? Why are there so many unmarked witch graves at the back of cemeteries with the same reported phenomena? Something fascinating is clearly happening here, even without visiting one of these places at 3:33 AM—that time, by the way, is rumored to be everything from the "true witching hour" to angels reminding you to grow every day. This whole thing seems like either an urban legend that spun out of control or some seriously tricky witch is playing a giant hoax on us. I can almost hear a still-alive witch cackling in the distance, amused at the sheer number of rumors.
Have you ever been to a "witch's grave?" I'd love to hear about your experience.