There are plenty of haunted cemetery stories, but have you ever heard of a haunted cemetery with not one, not two, but three completely different set of tales about it? The Woolyburger Cemetery in Darbydale, Ohio, is just such a place.
Darbydale isn’t really a town; it’s an extension of the extreme west of Columbus, just past Hilliard. In fact, one of Hilliard’s high schools is “Hilliard Darby” and there is a Darby Elementary. Ohio is filled with these little “towns” that don’t really exist, or are nothing but two or three houses and a road sign.
The cemetery in question is actually named the Little Pennsylvania Cemetery, and is also known as the London-Darbydale Cemetery. It’s located on London-Groveport Road, about a mile or so from Georgesville Road and the shopping centers there. However, since it’s on the extreme edge of the Columbus metro area, that short distance transforms the road from normal urban travel to full rural back road.
Teenagers from Hilliard and the West Side tend to vandalize the place, mostly due to the various stories, no doubt, and it’s not in the best repair, but it’s a fairly interesting place to visit. It’s mostly family plots, laid out long ago, with many of the plots bounded by decorative cement edging. The cemetery is fairly old for the area, with the first burials beginning in 1834. It’s still in use, but only rarely, with most of the headstones dated in the 1930s or earlier.
So why the fuss over this cemetery? The answer is that there are three unconnected legends surrounding it.
The first involves not the cemetery itself, but a house supposedly built across from it in the mid to late 1800s. The house, said to be located at 665 London-Groveport Road, was the home of Mr. Willy Butcher and his family, which included at least one young daughter. The Butchers were well known and respected according to the legend, but the house was considered creepy. Something was wrong about it, but people couldn’t say what, precisely. Willy ignored the comments and lived happily with his family…until one night he apparently went insane and took a knife to his wife and children, then killed himself.
The nearby villagers discovered what happened and either the house burned down on its own or they burnt it down, depending on the version of the legend. However, it was the talk of the tiny village, and many thought that Butcher’s madness was caused by the cemetery, thus leading to them calling it the “Willy Butcher Cemetery” and eventually this morphed into the “Woolyburger Cemetery” over the years. People claimed to see Butcher’s daughter walking alone in the cemetery from time to time, and to hear the screams of the family in the night.
I’ll point out that this story bears more than a passing resemblance to Mooney’s Mansion, another Ohio legend I’ll tackle in a week or two.
The problems with the legend are that there’s no proof there was ever a house as described across from the cemetery, and no evidence of a Willy Butcher and family living in the area. There is a William Boucher buried in the cemetery, but he died in childhood. Also, for the name of the cemetery to go from “Willy Butcher” to “Woolyburger” doesn’t seem to really work.
The second legend is what I like to call “the mystery cult” myth. There’s dozens of cemeteries and other locations that share similar myths. The legend goes that a satanic cult (it’s always satanic, isn’t it?) used to use the cemetery as a meeting place in the 1940s-1960s. The usual concoctions of sacrifices and orgies are associated with this supposed cult. Where the Woolyburger legends depart from the usual convention is that some of the stories aren’t about a satanic cult, but rather about a real life cult, the KKK. It’s no secret that probably every state has had and still does have members of the Ku Klux Klan as residents, but the idea that the cemetery isn’t haunted by ghosts but by hate-filled men in ghost-like sheets is pretty intriguing. It certainly seems more plausible than the standard “satanic cult” stories.
There’s no actual evidence that the Ohio Klan ever met at the cemetery, though maybe there was a burial there for one of their members at some time. I can’t say this particular legend isn’t plausible, though it’s highly doubtful that Klan members use the site today for meetings. Also, this set of legends doesn’t explain how the cemetery got its strange name.
The third and final legend does give the cemetery its name, and does so in the most direct way possible; it’s all about a creature called the Woolyburger. According to the stories, the Woolyburger is a Bigfoot-like creature that inhabits the forests near the cemetery. Despite the fact that this legend is the best direct link to the nickname of the cemetery, it’s also the one with the least evidence. There have been no actual reported sighting of the beast, only stories of stories, meaning the whole thing could easily be a reverse engineering of a legend based on the funny name of the place. That in and of itself is interesting, as it shows how people will create myths to fill in the gaps left by incongruous information.
The actual reason for the name of the cemetery is unknown, though a Woolyburger is a type of lure used in fly casting and there is a small river nearby. It’s unlikely anyone will ever know exactly how this place got its name or why there are three separate legends surrounding it.