Perry County Ohio Ghosts and Hauntings - Bloody Horseshoe Grave
Bloody Horseshoe Grave
of Mary Angle Henry—
Otterbein United Methodist
County Road 62/ Otterbein Road Northwest
Rushville, OH 43150
A grave in Otterbein Cemetery offers an everlasting ghostly reminder to all who take romance and tradition too lightly . . .
The Legend: A gravestone has an impression of a bloody horseshoe because a man refused to return a wedding gift horse to his late wife's parents after she died.
Let it be a lesson for all who visit the Otterbein Cemetery in Perry County and gape at the rust-red horseshoe on the back of Mary Catherine Henry’s grave – don’t upset your father in law after your wife dies. If you do, there may be ghostly repercussions that will follow you to your grave. Or someone else’s.
Laugh if you must, but the tale just may send more goosebumps up your arms than walking through a graveyard on a snowy day in January. Because there really is a grave at Otterbein Cemetery in Perry County Ohio that is said to forever bear the tidings of what will happen for violating etiquette between two families.
The headstone belongs to Mary Henry, a young woman who grew up in a nearby town. For the last 160 years, it has bore the sign of a bloody horseshoe and a curse for the husband who brought the legend to life.
Our story starts with a man by the name of James Kennedy Henry. James was a farmer and early settler to the region whose short life on earth may have had more to do with upsetting the in-laws than the lack of healthcare in the early 1800s.
James Henry was born in 1814 and grew up in Perry County. In 1844, it is said two women caught his eye – Mary Angle and Rachael Hodge. Both were attractive, charming women and James was so smitten with both, he could not decide which one to marry.
But at the age of 30, the young man was expected to find a wife and settle down. James was sure he could never decide. But one night while heading home from visiting his sweethearts, he fell to sleep on the back of his horse. When he awakened, the horse was standing outside the door of Mary Angle. James took it as a sign – fate had decided who would be his bride.
And they married, Mary and James on a chilly day of January 11, 1844. It was tradition for the parents of both newlyweds to give them a gift they could use to start their lives together. From each side of the family, the young couple received a handsome workhorse so they had a team of horses to start their own farm.
Mary and James did build a home and start a farm. They were happy and together for a little more than a year until Mary died during childbirth in February of 1845. She was buried in a corner plot at Otterbein Cemetery.
Distraught, James would do everything he could to forget poor Mary –throwing himself into his farming and trying to rebuild his life. But there was one thing he did not do. He did not return the horse Mary’s parents had given the couple on their wedding day.
James took nearly 3 years before he would begin courting his earlier sweetheart, none other than Rachael Hodge. During this time, it was whispered in the surrounding area- James had broken tradition by not returning the horse to Mary’s parents after she died. Mary’s family was having a difficult time making ends meet and needed the horse for their own farm. There were hard feelings between the families, but it was not spoken aloud.
Rachael was only twenty-two years old when she took James’ hand in marriage. All would seem perfect except for one small thing occurring when James visited his first wife’s grave not long after marrying Rachael. He noted on the back of Mary’s headstone, the bloody red shape of a horseshoe right smack dab in the middle. It was an omen, he knew. James wondered if it had to do with the horse he had not returned. Or perhaps Mary was angry at James choosing her rival for his second wife. But he was a married man now and starting a family. He needed his team of horses now more than ever.
James and Rachael had four daughters and were married for nearly 11 years. Happy, the couple were, but the dark cloud of the horseshoe grave followed James wherever he went. Then the inevitable happened. The curse would come full swing. While
working in the barn one Friday evening, he was kicked in the head by a horse and was instantly killed. It was the very horse James had not returned to Mary’s parents. And it is said it left the same mark of the horseshoe on James’ forehead as was on Mary’s headstone. He died on April 8th 1859. On the same evening, those who passed the cemetery where Mary was buried, saw strange lights and heard the sounds of horse hooves pounding on the ground.
To this day, the bloody horseshoe print is still marking the grave. Visitors to the cemetery have seen lights and even heard the sound of horses roaming around the graves. Yet no farm animals have been around.
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