Season of spooks settles in Darke County

By Dawn Hatfield
DailyAdvocate.com

DARKE COUNTY — ‘Tis the season of spooks and all things eerie as we approach the end of October and near All Hallows’ Eve. “Hallows” is simply another word for “saints,” and according to Wikipedia, Christian minister Prince Sorie Conteh wrote, “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day [Nov. 1], and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world.”

Christianity.com describes the festival of All Saints Day as coming “from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between those in Heaven and on Earth. In Catholic tradition, the holiday honors all those who have passed on to the Kingdom of Heaven.” The custom of trick-or-treating likely sprang from a tradition that dates back hundreds of years to a time when, according to CountryLiving.com, “many people were said to dress up as saints and recite songs or verses door to door. Children would also go door to door asking for ‘soul cakes,’ a treat similar to biscuits… The candy-grabbing concept also became mainstream in the U.S. in the early to mid-1900s, during which families would provide treats to children in hopes that they would be immune to any holiday pranks.” Halloween, as it is celebrated today, has certainly changed but still stems from a long history.

Greenville, itself, has a history interspersed with some spooks. Rita Arnold is a local author of several books detailing spirits and ghost stories in Darke and surrounding counties. She devoted her first chapter in “The Ghosts of Western Ohio” to Greenville’s own Livery Ghost. Arnold eloquently recounts the tale of Theodore “Thee” Finnarn, great-grandfather to Theodore “Ted” Finnarn, a current Greenville attorney.

Throughout much of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Finnarn Livery stood where the Finnarn Law Office can be found today. In those earlier days, Greenville was a busy agricultural town with thriving rail and street traffic. Of course, the road traffic was primarily horse-driven, so the livery stable was an important and prosperous local business. Thee Finnarn, an active and integral part of his community, made it no secret that he was not pleased by the arrival of automobiles in Greenville. Even throughout his campaigns for Darke County Treasurer, he continued to tour the county only by horse and buggy, strongly opposed to the use of “mechanized vehicles.”

By the time Thee passed away in 1949, his once beloved livery had become Finnarn Garage. It was shortly thereafter that inexplicable events began to occur at the site. Cab drivers reported seeing a faint, misty apparition in the back of the building, even periodically seeing a horse and buggy drive past the building before vanishing in front of their eyes. Employees of the garage also could not explain the occasional whinny of horses, cracks of a whip, and the rumble of wagon wheels, as the building had not been a livery stable for years.

Time has not diminished the activity at the northeast corner of the Greenville circle. After the original livery building was demolished, a new one was being erected in 2006 to take its place. Construction workers often reported hearing the same eerie and inexplicable sounds of horses, whips, and wagon wheels. Strangely, these men, who had no knowledge of the area’s history, left the building site each evening seeing only their footprints in the construction dust but returned in the mornings to find fresh wagon wheel tracks.

Later, the new building occupants noticed similar happenings, even sightings of a wagon being driven by a man in a long coat and top hat in the early evening hours. It seems that Thee continues to value a horse and buggy over even the luxurious automobiles of today.

Stories like this one (adapted from Arnold’s book) will surely rattle the senses of visitors at many local Halloween events in the coming days.

To hear directly from the author herself, catch Rita Arnold at the Bradford Library where she will be presenting Spooktacular Stories on Thursday, Oct. 28 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Refreshments will be served and no registration is required.

To do your own haunting, join Beggars’ Night and the Halloween Parade on Thursday, Oct. 28, in downtown Greenville. Broadway will be transformed into a trail of Halloween treats for school-aged children. Costume Contest Parade begins at 7 p.m. with beggars’ trick-or-treating to follow. The Daily Advocate/Early Bird, Main Street Greenville, and downtown businesses are pleased to bring this safe Halloween event to the community!

Hear more unnerving tales at the Darke County Center for the Arts’ Halloween-season Ghost Walk fundraiser. Walks will take place in downtown Greenville, Friday, Oct. 29, and move to Greenville Union Cemetery where a different set of spooky stories will be told on Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31. According to DCCA Executive Director Andrea Jordan, many of the tales are based on stories of ghostly encounters collected by Rita Arnold, while other spooky stories have been gathered from contributors wanting to share with the community their own experiences of the unknown.

Tickets for the Downtown Ghost Walk and the Cemetery Ghost Walks cost $10 each; however tickets for the two Walks are not interchangeable and are not refundable. Tickets for the Downtown Walk will be sold at St. Clair Memorial Hall the evening of the event; entry to the Cemetery Ghost Walk will be at the North Main Street Greenville Union Cemetery entrance where tickets may also be purchased immediately prior to the event. Advance tickets for the Cemetery Walk are available on-line at www.darkecountyarts.org and by contacting DCCA at 937-547-0908 or [email protected] as well as at Greenville Public Library and Readmore’s Hallmark in downtown Greenville.

Lastly, Trick or Treat will be held on Sunday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. in both Greenville and Union City, Ohio, and from 2 to 4 p.m. in Arcanum, Gettysburg, and Versailles. Parents or guardians are encouraged to accompany children during this time. Residents should turn on porch lights to indicate a welcome to the little ghosts and goblins during these hours.

For a listing of Rita Arnold’s work, see www.goodreads.com/author/show/3062150.Rita_Arnold.

Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.