June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

What lies within the witch’s grave?

A 3-foot granite ball sits atop a rock pedestal in Myrtle Hill Cemetery bearing the name Stoskopf.

According to local legend, the “Witch’s Ball” is home to an unkind spirit — the ghost of a witch who murdered her family by poisoning their well. Once the deed was done, she threw their bodies into the well.

The legend of the “Witch’s Ball” in Liverpool Township’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery has circulated for decades, but many residents don’t believe there’s any truth to the story. Legend says the ball, pictured, is home to a witch buried underneath, who in life killed her family with poison. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

When the townspeople learned what she did, they either put her to death or stuck her in a mental hospital until the day she died.

It’s her body buried under the curious monument in the cemetery on Myrtle Hill Road in Liverpool Township.

Or so the story goes.

But a local historian says it’s just a myth.

Perhaps the most damning evidence against the legend comes from Rod Knight, a volunteer with the Liverpool Township Historical Society and 38-year township resident.

Knight, 75, said the ball probably doesn’t mark the grave of a witch — mostly because it is likely no one is buried underneath.

“It’s not even a gravestone,” Knight said. “I haven’t done any digging to prove it, but it’s my belief that it’s a family plot.”

He said flanking the ball are four stones marking the graves of a father and mother, as well as a couple he believes to be their daughter and her husband.

The father, George, lived 1862 to 1949 and the mother, Alma, lived 1878 to 1943. Helen Toth, the possible daughter, lived 1904 to 1995, and her husband, Joseph Toth, lived 1899 to 1978.

The parents’ graves, he said, don’t have surnames on the stones, which he said backs up his belief that the ball is a family plot marker.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery, he said, is the oldest graveyard in the Medina County, established in the early 1800s.

Knight said he’s not sure where rumors of witchcraft in the cemetery started, but said he’s found nothing to point toward the Stoskopf family practicing black magic.

Still, Knight wouldn’t say firmly that his suspicions are fact.

“I can’t prove it,” he said. “I haven’t dug it up and looked for a witch’s hat.”

A former paranormal investigator said the story may have been inspired by real murders, but the Stoskopf family wasn’t involved.

Tyler Brandt, 24, who’s lived in the township most of his life, said he always suspected the story of the Witch’s Ball evolved from the killings by Martha Wise on Grafton Road — a mile north from the Myrtle Hill graveyard — in 1924 and 1925.

Wise poured arsenic in her family’s water when they forced her to end a relationship with a man after her husband died, according to newspaper stories from the time. She made 17 people sick, and three of them died — including her mother, aunt and uncle.

Wise was sentenced to life in Marysville Reformatory for Women. She died in 1971 and is buried there. Despite the truth, the legend persists.

“It’s part of the fun of Halloween,” Brandt said.

The story has been circulated throughout Liverpool Township since at least the 1970s. Some believe the story; others don’t.

“It’s a bunch of crap,” said Lance Thompson, 34, who lives across from the cemetery with his wife, Heather, and 2-year-old son. “But that doesn’t stop the kids from coming to check it out.”

Thompson and his wife said teenagers sneak into the cemetery after dark year-round, but more appear in October to get a Halloween scare. They light candles and are sometimes loud, he said.

“I have the Sheriff’s Office on speed dial,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called about it.”

Medina County sheriff’s Sgt. Warren Walter, who grew up in the township, said teenagers go there all year-round, but they’re often visitors from other counties who are interested in the “haunted graveyard” of Medina County.

“That ball’s been there forever,” Walter said. “Kids go there to scare each other and their girlfriends.

“They say they can hear sounds and see ghosts.”

Some teens go there to drink alcohol, Walter said, and they’ve sometimes gotten their cars stuck trying to break in. Walter said visitors occasionally have found the ball pushed off the pedestal or covered in candle wax from attempted s←ances.

Many of the eerie details of the Witch’s Ball can be explained rationally, Walter said.

For instance, legend states the ball manifests cat’s eyes that stare at drivers as they pass the cemetery in their cars.

Walter said the reflection on the ball from headlights can appear to be eyes. Some say the eyes turn red once you’ve passed it, and Walter said that’s because brake lights are red.

Others say the stone jumps between warm and cold — regardless of the time of day or weather. They say it’s warm when the witch is inside, but it’s cold when she’s out looking for souls.

“It’s a big granite stone,” he said. “When the sun’s beating down on it all day, of course it might still be a little warm at night.”

But still some people believe the legend.

If you’re a believer, then perhaps the witch was out hunting Friday afternoon.

After the overnight snow, the ball was cold as ice.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.