Any town that has a long history usually has its own unique stories and legends – some undoubtedly true, and some that are left to the reader or listener to interpret for themselves. Springboro, Ohio is no exception. Having once served as a stop along the Underground Railroad, the northern Warren County town has had many people pass through over the years – some leaving more permanent marks than others.
Some of the most well-known tales of hauntings in Springboro come from the Jonathan Wright House, which is now the Wright House Bed & Breakfast. The first story comes from long ago, when the house was still a private residence. At that time, a husband and wife lived there with their new baby. Most of the time, everything was normal around the home, but there were a few incidents that led the wife to eventually tell her husband, “I think we may have a ghost living in our house. I turn off the light when I put the baby to sleep, but then when I go back to check in, the light is turned back on.” Unshaken, the husband simply replied, “You’re being ridiculous. There’s no ghost!” Some time passed after that first wave of oddities, leaving the couple to believe that they may be in the clear. That is until one night when the wife thought she heard the baby crying. When she went to the room to check on the child, she found the baby fast asleep, but the rocking chair beside its crib appeared to be moving on its own. Despite the evidence, the husband still wasn’t convinced that his house was haunted until one day, when he felt an unexplained cold breeze blowing around his legs while sitting in the living room.
Another popular tale from the Wright House comes from a bed & breakfast guest who came down to breakfast one morning, patted one of the resident dogs, and told an employee that she had seen that dog wandering around her room the night before. Puzzled, the employee replied, “No, no, that dog couldn’t have gotten into your room last night!” The guest insisted that the dog had entered her room the night before, hopped up onto her bed, and curled up at her feet. The employee declared there was no way that could have been true, as all of the home’s dogs had been locked up with him the entire night.
No one knows the truth behind these longstanding tales, but historical evidence does prove that the Wright House Bed & Breakfast is a documented Underground Railroad site. Could it be that the spirits of those who stopped through the Wright House on their journeys to freedom still return from time to time?
More supernatural stories come from the historic homes along Springboro’s Main Street, many of which were also stops along the Underground Railroad. The house at 50 S. Main St., which currently houses a hair salon, was once an art gallery, and is still known to this day as the Mary Carey House. As legend has it, the home’s old owners once stored some artwork in a cupboard under a staircase. Though they made certain that the stowed-away artwork was padded and secure, they heard a loud thump from inside the cupboard upon closing it. When they opened the cupboard back up to see what had fallen, everything was exactly as they had left it. Another story from the Mary Carey House tells the tale of a local physician who owned the property long ago. The man’s only daughter reportedly died in the home as a child, but – as the story goes – never entirely left. The young girl’s ghost reportedly haunts the residence to this day. Could she have made her way into the art vendor’s cupboard, perhaps?
Just down the street, the Joseph Penrose House at 660 S. Main St. (currently a private residence) is also the subject of a local legend. The house was a documented stop on the Underground Railroad and the last resting place of a runaway slave who died of natural causes while hiding there. Sightings of a ghostly man looking out of one of the home’s upstairs windows are occasionally reported.
Yet another Underground Railroad stop, 205 S. Main St. has long been believed to have a resident ghost of its own. Once known as The Thomas Shop, the property was purchased by Jonah Thomas in 1837. Thomas used the building as both his home and harness shop. To this day, it is said that the ghost of his deceased wife, Hannah, still makes her home there.
Should you visit today, Springboro occasionally offers guided walking tours which elaborate on these stories, as well as many others. The Springboro Historical Society Museum has also organized a popular self-guided Underground Railroad Walking Tour, which features 27 historic sites for those interested in learning about the city’s importance along the trail to freedom. History buff or ghost hunter, you’re sure to find something worth exploring along the historic streets of Springboro.
A Self-Guided Walk Into History, Springboro Chamber of Commerce
Special thanks to Helen Sproat, Springboro’s historian