A SPIRITED DIG

by DIGGER ODELL

May 10, 1987, I remember It like it was yesterday. How could I forget? Pete, Ted and I were having trouble finding a hole to dig that morning when Ted went to talk to a man working out in his yard about digging his privy. Ted showed him the house and location of the privy on the 1919 Sanborn map. Kyle Thomas as it turned out was a most friendly fellow and readily agreed to our request. The probing was practically unnecessary due to the large sunken spot in the middle of the backyard. Just as we were removing the first pieces of sod, Mrs. Thomas came rushing out of the house wanting to know what we were going to do to her beautiful lawn. After explaining, she calmed down.

The house, located near the downtown area, was a fine example of Victorian architecture with lots of gingerbread under the eaves, a bay window off the living room and nicely detailed woodwork around the windows. I commented on the beauty of the house and Mrs. Thomas remarked about how proud she was of it and how she had fallen in love with it from the moment she had first seen it.

 

The hole turned out to be a stone-lined pit measuring about 4 x 6 x 11 feet deep and was literally filled with bottles. Unfortunately most of them were too new. The first nine feet yielded only machine made items. At the nine and a half foot level we hit the flood layer. In January of 1913 the Little Miami River overflowed it banks in a historic flood that put the entire town under water. The receding waters left a deposit of silt and mud in the outhouses of this period. This benchmark layer served as a reliable method of determining the age of this particular hole. The layer itself was 8-12" thick and contained no artifacts. Immediately below the clay we found out first bimal bottles. Most were uninteresting, clear, prescription bottles.

About this time Mrs. Thomas came out with her camera and began taking pictures of us in the hole. She was very excited about the whole affair and as we talked she began to tell us more about the house, which she said had been built in the early 1 870s. It was then while we were taking a break that she told us about the ghost.

When first viewing the house Mrs. Thomas said she had a peculiar feeling that something was telling her to buy this house. In the early morning of the day they first moved into the house she thought she heard someone calling her name or calling to her. No one else was awake. As she sat up in bed she could see into the living room and saw what she described as two apparitions. These appeared as mist or smoke-like figures. One was tall and the other short. They appeared to be talking to one another. She got out of bed and moved to the doorway. At one point they noticed that she had been watching them and they began talking to her. They indicated that they had come in the spirit of love and would not harm her. The tall one said he had been a carpenter and had built, lived, and died in the house. Mrs. Thomas, somewhat taken aback by all this, became scared when the ghost-like figures started towards her. She screamed and motioned them away. They disappeared.

Later that same morning, Mr. Thomas developed breathing problems, nearly died and was rushed to the hospital. Mrs. Thomas is convinced the ghosts appeared to warn her of this impending disaster. While she said she has not seen the ghosts again, noises are often heard.

The Thomas' rent out the second story of their home to a young lady who also claims to have seen the ghost. Both report hearing footsteps on the stairs, which are blocked off to separate the two living quarters. The renter described how upon coming home one evening she found the doorway to the stairs, which had been nailed shut, open -the same stairs on which they both report hearing footsteps at night. The two women were very convinced of what they had seen and heard.

We decided that whatever lay below the flood layer in the outhouse had belonged to the original owner (our tall apparition). What we found was quite surprising. There were the usual household artifacts: ten jelly jars, 2 vanilla bottles, a broken wide mouth kitchen crock and a number of wax seal fruit jars, several 1858 masons, one baby bottle, a Parlor Pride stove polish and a broken imported crockery gin bottle. It was the medicines that were so unusual. The following is a partial list of the items found:

Aker's English Remedy
Dr. King's New Discovery
Chamberlain's Pain Balm
Piso's Cure for Consumption
Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery
Kickapoo Indian Oils
Kickapoo Cough Cure
Kickapoo Indian Sagwa
A.J. White's Kiskane
Cocoa Mariani
4 local druggist bottles
Foley's Honey and Tar
Castoria bottles
Electric Bitters
Davis' Vegetable Pain Killer
Aker's Blood Elixir
S.B. Hartman Peruna
R.R.R. Radways
Kemp's Balsam
One minute Cough Cure
Keasbey and Mathewson
Warner's Safe Kidney Liver Cure
Kilmer's Kidney Liver Bladder Cure
Century Catarrh Cure
Kickapoo Cough Cure
Kickapoo Indian Sagwa
South American Nervine
Tonic Stomach and Liver Cure
Hall's Catarrh Cure
ColtsfootExpectorant
Pasterine
Lydia Pinkham's VegetableCompound
Lightning Hot drops
Floraplexsion
Cures Dyspepsia and Liver
Complaint and Consumption,
Searles Athlophoros
Salvation Oil
Bull's Cough Syrup
Scott's Emulsion
Neuralcine
Hood's Sarsaparilla
Doyle's Hops Bitters
Five Drops

The hole contained numerous examples of many of the above mentioned medicines, as well as dozens of small pill bottles, and in excess of one hundred unembossed clear prescription bottles. Someone had been very sick, possibly with consumption (Tuberculosis) and probably died in great pain judging from the many pain killers and cure bottles. I began to get an uneasy feeling digging in this hole.

While we were unearthing this treasure trove of medicinal potions, we heard this loud crash. A baseball came out of nowhere and smashed into the window of Pete's truck. This seem liked a bad omen and made us all a little nervous. We gathered up our finds refilled the hole and left.

Before leaving, I had mentioned to Mrs. Thomas the idea of an article for the bottle magazine. I returned the next week to interview her in hopes of getting more information. When I asked her about it she said that the ghost had told her it did not want an article published and she refused to talk about it anymore.

I began to write this article back in May of 1987. Within a few weeks, Ted had fallen off a roof and broke his elbow, and I was in the hospital for a back injury. When I got back around to it, the article I had begun writing had disappeared. No amount of searching located it. It seems to have simply vanished. I guess I took this as a final warning and forgot about the whole idea of publishing this story until last week when I was cleaning out a drawer searching for an address, I came across the article. Hopefully you'll hear from me again.

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