The story of Margaret Schilling, ‘The Lost Lady’ may be one of the region’s most compelling ghost stories. In 1978 Schilling was a patient at the then century old Athens Lunatic Asylum. Margaret, who was a seemingly trusted patient, was allowed to walk freely around the grounds of the large facility but on December 1st did not return to her room. Margaret was declared missing and staff searched the property. Days and eventually weeks passed and still no sign of Margaret. Then on a cold January day, some six weeks after she disappeared, the body of Margaret Schilling was finally located after multiple searches of the grounds. Staff members began to smell an odor emanating from the vicinity of abandoned ward N20. After entering the room and moving some boxes a maintenance worker found her naked body beyond a locked door, her clothes folded and neatly stacked on a nearby window sill. After authorities were called in to remove the body, workers were tasked with cleaning the large stain which had permeated the concrete floor beneath, they scrubbed for days but were unable to remove the apparitional outline. To this day, some four decades later, the ghostly impression remains. A haunting reminder of Margaret Schilling’s body on the floor of the former asylum.
Since Margaret’s death and subsequent closure of the asylum, the building where her body was found has been renovated and now houses both the Kennedy Art Museum and student housing for The Ohio University. Interestingly enough, in November of 2008 a forensic team tested the residual material on the stain and determined it was caused by human decomposition.
To this day stories of hauntings and ghostly encounters abound with students at the university. One popular account tells of a former student who had broken into the abandoned asylum prior to the renovation and spent some time in the room where Margaret’s body was found. Rumor has it he touched the stain and became haunted by her spirit eventually committing suicide.
It seems Margaret Schilling has left her mark on the institution, in more ways than one.
Ohio Department of Health. Ohio, Death Records, 1908-1932, 1938-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010
Newkirk, Greg. This Haunted Ohio University Building has a Secret Corpse Stain Where a Body Lay Dead for an Entire Month. August 5, 2016. Weekinweird.com
Stone, Allison. The Mystery of the Ghostly Stain in the Attic of the Athens Lunatic Asylum. March 7, 2016. Pictoral/Jezebel.com
Zimmermann B.S., Carolyn M., Laskay M.Sc., Ünige A., and Jackson Ph.D., Glen P. “Analysis of Suspected Trace Human Remains from an Indoor Concrete Surface.” Journal of Forensic Sciences, Volume 53, Issue 6. October 27, 2008.