One of the coolest and most interesting buildings in Dayton is the Old Courthouse, located in the city’s center, at the corner of Third and Main Streets. The Greek-revival style building was completed in 1850, and remains one of the area’s architectural and historic treasures.
It’s also haunted.
People have claimed to hear footsteps going upstairs to the judges’ chambers, and others have reported hearing moans.
The courthouse was started in 1844, and was built on the site the jail occupied for forty years before that. The jail was also where murderers were hung. Dayton’s first convicted murderer was John McAfee, who was having an affair, and murdered his wife. He was hung for this in 1824, and many people speculate that his ghost is one of those that haunt the courthouse. But even among people who might be inclined to go along with this story, there’s debate, for historical record indicates that the jail wasn’t yet used for hangings at that time. They were instead public events, until Ohio passed a law banning this. By then, a new jail had been built beside the courthouse on Third Street.
Other murderers were hung in the jail beside the courthouse throughout the 1860s and 1870s, and it’s possible that one or more of their ghosts haunt the courthouse. A likely possibility is James Murphy, who was only 19 when convicted. His was a botched execution; at first, the rope broke. After it was replaced, it was too short, and the opening of the trapdoor in the platform beneath it didn’t cause the expected, quick snap. Instead, Murphy hung for seventeen minutes before he finally died.
Perhaps the ghost is that of Harry Adams, the last man to hang at the jail on Third Street, and who swore innocence until his death, claiming that his girlfriend was the murderer.
Of course, my skepticism meter registers pretty high for all of this, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve been inside the courthouse, and never heard any weird noises or felt any cold drafts, but then I’m probably the least intuitive person I know. But the stories are kind of fun either way. Here’s an article on Examiner.com with some more details.
Another fun fact: the plaza beside the courthouse is where my recently-released short story “Time’s Holiday” begins.
Hauntings or no, the Courthouse is a beautiful building. Here’s a video that goes over all its cool history and gives a tour inside.
What do you think? Is Dayton’s old courthouse haunted? Do you have a similar place in your hometown, and do you go along with the stories, or are you skeptical like me? I’d love to hear from you!