Haunted Cemeteries of Lafayette and Dayton

Investigated by:
Chris Mead
Aaron Perkins
Bo Hargis
Chris Hargis
Cliff Sullivan

      It all started with a friend of a friend. He grew up in Lafayette, Oregon, and had a story to tell about a certain graveyard where he and his high school friends would go to drink. This cemetery had the grave of a witch who had been hung to death sometime before 1850. Before the execution, the witch cursed the people who hung her, threatening that the town would burn to the ground three times. The central portion of the town has burned to the ground twice since then.

      One time when they were drinking, he and his friends started to get a little bit rowdy, yelling and throwing things. Suddenly, the ground over the witch’s grave began to push up and a monstrous looking woman clawed her way up out the ground all covered with dirt and rotted from the grave. She did not hesitate, but went straight after the teenagers, chasing them around graves and making awful noises. They sprinted almost a mile through the woods without looking back before they reached the safety of the road. She chased them most of the way.

      Apparently this happened to other people too, we were told to ask anyone in town- they all know about it. It made a nice campfire style ghost story, and we decided to look into it. Searching on the Internet, we found disturbingly similar story from someone else at Shadowlands Haunted Places Oregon Index.

"Lafayette - Lafayette Cemetery - The witches' grave is haunted by the witch that was hung. Before she died she cursed the town and said that the town would burn to the ground 3 times. So far it has burned completely to the ground twice. If you go to her grave at night, usually you can see her standing around, or walking through the cemetery. Many people have reported being chased by the witch, and some still have scars on their backs from being scratched. The marks look like razor blades have been sliced down their backs. This is all true and factual, Just ask anyone that lives or has lived in that town."

      We started checking out all the cemeteries in the area, looking for the right one. We checked often with ‘Anyone’ in Lafayette and nearby Dayton, and the tales began to grow and spread to more and more places and more and more stories. ‘Anyone’ eventually led us to 5 different places (there are more, some weren’t very interesting at all).

      Everyone in town agreed that someone had cursed the town to burn to the ground three times. Some say it was a witch who was hung, some say it was her son. The most specific story details a snowy day in the early 1800s, when a man was found dead in his home. Investigators found clear footprints in the snow leading to the nearby home of another man, who lived with his gypsy mother. On this evidence, he was convicted at an outdoor trial, held at under The Liberty Tree. Shortly thereafter, he was hanged on gallows enclosed by a tall fence. Before the hanging, the old gypsy woman warned the justices that if they followed through with it, the town would be cursed to burn to the ground three times. No one knows her name today. In the first two fires that burned the town of Lafayette, any court records that had been kept were destroyed.

Hopewell Community Church Cemetery

      The cemetery at the Hopewell Community Church just off of Lafayette Highway is the graveyard rumored to hold the witch’s grave. When we finally wrestled clear instructions from the friend who saw her, this was the place. It doesn’t match the descriptions given in his original story of being a mile off the road and deep in the woods, but hey, they were a bunch of drunk teenagers, what did they know. It is well maintained and people are still being buried there. We thought we were on the right track when we spotted a garlic wreath over the door of a nearby Hopewell store, but the two employees didn’t speak any english and couldn’t tell us what it was there for. We felt very much like we were about to be the stars of some Grade B Horror movie, about to go back to the cemetery in the middle of the night. Cliff asked what the garlic was for and the clerk pointed outside into the dark and said something we didn't understand. We asked if they had vampires in the area and the clerk said "No... no, no, no." Reassured, we asked for a bathroom and he walked us out to the telephone in front and pointed at it. That made us nervous all over again. We didn’t spend much time at the Hopewell Cemetery, but didn’t see or hear anything strange while we were there. It didn’t have the secluded feel of an place where teenagers would feel comfortable drinking.

The Odell Cemetery

      The Odell Cemetery was started in 1853 for friends and family of John Odell. It has not been used since 1941 and has become overgrown with a forest of large trees and ivy. There is a cement building on the site called the Ebeneezer chapel which is pretty well run down. At a store in Dayton, we were told that there is supposed to be a bottomless pit somewhere hidden in the ivy. We didn’t know it was supposed to be there until after we had already visited the cemetery. Lucky for us we didn’t find it.

      The cemetery is right on the road, and there isn’t any place to park. We ended up parking right along the road and got in trouble for it when we tried to leave (the local police officer was worried that we were moving into the cemetery- apparently he had been watching us from his car for a long time).

      We did some audio recordings at the Odell Cemetery, and took lots of pictures. Playing back the recordings, we heard many things that could pass for moans and groans, and a disembodied voice saying "Yes" (download Yes.wav at right) in the middle of a long stretch of silence. The recorder had been placed at one end of the cemetery, we were at the other (within sight, but not close enough to be heard by the recorder). For some reason, the moans and potential voices don’t sound very good on computer, but when we blunder into something worthy of an outtake reel, it comes across perfectly (Chris Hargis and Cliff Sullivan met something in the Lone Fir Cemetery in the middle of a dark night... download outtake.wav at right).

The Odell Cemetery

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The Odell Cemetery
The Odell Cemetery

Dayton Cemetery

      The cemetery just south of Dayton was used to bury a lot of children from a county run orphanage nearby. Some of the graves date back to the 18th century and are very ornate. There is supposed to be a lot of supernatural activity there, but we felt more creeped out by the people who lived in the trailer home only a few feet from the graves. It’s kind of strange to walk through a wide open space in the dark, hundreds of feet from the nearest tree or tall tombstone, and get a spider web in your face. That happened to two of us- not that it’s paranormal by any means, but it certainly is weird.

Lafayette Masonic Cemetery #3

      Masonic Cemetery #3 is past a gated road up a hill, and deep in the woods. It is occasionally maintained, and fits the descriptions given in the witch’s grave story better than any other cemetery in the area. It would be a teenager’s drinking paradise. The trees in the cemetery are spectacularly gnarled and who knows what they’ve been feeding on all these years. Ivy and blackberry bushes creep into the cemetery from the edges, overtaking some grave markers on the outskirts. Nobody seems to mind, although it looks like someone mows the grass there occasionally.

Masonic Cemetery #3
Masonic Cemetery #3
Masonic Cemetery #3

The Pioneer Cemetery

      The most visited cemetery in Lafayette, and the one that gives everyone the spectral vibe, is the Pioneer Cemetery. Most people pointed us there when we asked about haunted cemeteries in Lafayette, we visited it several times. The original Pioneers buried there are inside a small fenced plot within the larger cemetery. It seems too wide open to be haunted, with an orchard on one side and a housing development on the other. Relatively new homes hide the dark history of the place... one house just down the street, now belonging to Marv, used to be the home of The Hangin’ Tree. There, only blocks away from the Cemetery, at least three convicted prisoners were hung. The previous owner of the property cut down the tree for firewood, but people still know it was there, just ask anyone.

      One man in town had a story to tell about a late night when he accidentally drove his truck into the graveyard and knocked over a bunch of tombstones. He went back the next morning to see how much damage he had caused and all the headstones were back in place, upright and unbroken.

Pioneer Cemetery
Pioneer Cemetery
Pioneer Cemetery

Sources: ’Anyone’- locals who crowded into one of the two bars at quitting time, the Lafayette Historical Society (only open on weekends), several people who happened to be in their yards when we drove by, a woman with her daughter walking down the street, and clerks at several convenience stores.

Photos: Chris Mead
Audio: Chris Hargis
Text: Chris Mead