Spirits at work again?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

A candelabra was recently installed at the statue on the grave of Osa Wilson in Woodland Cemetery, replacing one that had existed on the plot and gone missing decades ago. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Woodland statue sports new candelabra

For the fourth time in the past few years, a grave site at Ironton’s historic Woodland Cemetery has seen an anonymous restoration.

Back in December 2023, shortly before Christmas, passersby to the grave of Osa Wilson noticed that the statue of a woman over the plot had suddenly gained a new pair of hands, replacing ones that had long ago been lost, likely to vandals.

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The Tribune reached out to cemetery staff, who said they had no idea who had done the work and attached them.

In the paper’s story, Abby Kuehne, who portrays Wilson each year in the Lawrence County Historical Society’s cemetery walk, was interviewed.

Kuehne, who also had no information on the restoration, pointed out that the statue, decades ago, had held a candelabra in its hands, something that was lost to time — until now.

On Thursday, The Tribune was contacted by a person, who wished to remain anonymous, who recently noticed a change in the plot when walking in the cemetery.

“The sun was setting fast as I was making my way back thru the cemetery and noticed something off in the distance, a strange eerie light that I have not noticed before,” the walker wrote. “As I walked on and got closer to the source of the light I noticed it was not steady, but flickering, like a fire.” 

The walker said the source could be determined when nearing the statue on Wilson’s grave.

The grave of Osa Wilson, at Woodland Cemetery, seen with Abby Kuehne, of Ironton, during the 2019 Historic Cemetery Walk, before the hands and candelabra of the statue were replaced by an anonymous benefactor. (The Ironton Tribune | File photo | Mark Shaffer)

“When I got within 50 feet of the flickering light, walking along the roadway in front of her, it was then I could clearly see that Osa was holding a set of candles in her left hand that lit up her whole outline, and the stairs below her feet,” the walker wrote. “The whole scene, with the candles glowing, darkness falling, and wind blowing made her appear to be moving, down those steps she was descending.”

A visit to the cemetery on Wednesday by The Tribune showed that a new candelabra, with solar panels to make it illuminate as night fall, was now in one of the recently-installed hands.

The two anonymous upgrades to Wilson’s monument follow two at another site in the cemetery.

In 2021, a similar discovery was found at the mausoleum of Antoinette Sherpatosky Peters, the Imperial Russian Ballet dancer who is interred with her husband, an Ironton native.  

Two porcelain portraits, which had once adorned the mausoleum, had been damaged by vandals and scarred with BB gun shots and had been taken down by cemetery staff.  

But in 2021, restored versions of the portraits had been created and mounted on two visits by an anonymous restorer.  Cemetery officials, in this case, also did not know the identity of who did the work, and family was unlikely, as Peters had no children.  The Tribune was notified of the Peters mausoleum restoration and told to see the improvements in an anonymous letter, which had the return address of “Woodland spirits,” sent shortly after the portraits were replaced.  

Wilson, who died in 1911 at the age of 34, is the subject of several urban legends surrounding the cemetery.  

The mother of six was said to have died after being knocked down a flight of stairs at her Chestnut Street home in Ironton after being slapped in the face by a supposedly abusive spouse while pregnant.   

However, in a 2011 Tribune history story by reporter Benita Heath disputed those stories, pointing out that Wilson’s cause of death was listed in her death certificate as “neuritis, with colitis as the contributing factor” after a month of illness. 

There is no record that her widow, Scott Wilson, listed as “the sorrowing husband” in her death certificate was ever questioned or any suspicion of foul play existed regarding her death.