Shortly after purchasing my shiny new Triumph Speedmaster, I met up with the local Rider’s Association of Triumph (RAT). I have learned a lot from riding with the seasoned group of veterans that the local RAT pack is, made some good friends, and picked up a cool motorcycle game called “Landmark Moto Tag”. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the game is played by someone going to a given location and taking a photo of their bike in front of the sign or landmark. The next person to go by that place and take a photo of their bike is “it” and has the right to place the next tag somewhere else. I’ve seen that this game is played on various message boards and rider circles (i.e. ADVrider.com), obviously rules vary depending upon the group. Needless to say, this game has taken me to interesting places, and occasionally even some good food. The weather finally broke and the stagnant “moto tag” message board came alive with new locations. Monday was sunny and 70, so there was no way I wasn’t going to hunt down some backroads and hopefully some good photos.
Camp Miami, formerly known as the Miami Military Institute (MMI). MMI was built in 1885 initially built for the Twin Valley College and Ohio Conservatory of Music but later switched to a military school. Apparently sometime around the Great Depression decreasing attendance lead to closure. At some point the property was given or purchased by a local Germantown Church and run as “Camp Miami”. It’s actually impressive to me how difficult it was to find the before mentioned information, moreover I cannot seem to find anything regarding “Camp Miami” beyond the history of the property. A few years back I was a service technician at the local cable company; I had a service call at the adjacent residence to the Methodist Church and noticed “Camp Miami” off in the distance. Promising to come back someday with a camera, the opportunity finally surfaced this week. I’m not typically the kind of person that believes in ghost stories and whatnot, but without fail, there was certainly an eerie feeling flowing out of the building. Assumedly it was the cold air blowing out of the basement, but that really didn’t make me feel any better. Knowing that I may have been trespassing, I tried to keep my visit short; the whole time waiting for the “I Am Legend” zombies to pour out of the dark cavernous windows. The building is now in significant decay; I’ve seen some pretty stunning photos of the interior on the web, but I’m not sure if I would venture to far inside considering the state of the roof at the moment. None of which do I think I would be doing solo.
Patterson Tower, also known as “The Witch’s Tower” or “Frankenstein’s Tower”. For whatever reason, the observation tower was built during the Great Depression by the National Youth Administration from stones gathered from condemned building around the Dayton area and completed in 1940. I recall a few nights from my teenage years where we would pile into the car to go out to “Witch’s Tower” in the hopes of seeing something cool. At the time, the urban legend I heard was that the tower was open in the center, apparently a couple kids had climbed the tower and someone had fallen down from the top through the hole in the center; or some other nonsense. More often than not we were more spooked by the likelihood of the cops coming by and telling us to get lost than we ever were of creepy ghost stories. That being said, apparently the truth is arguably more frightening than the legend. May 17th, 1967, Peggy Harmeson and her boyfriend “fled to the tower” to avoid inclement weather. Apparently, moments later the tower was struck by lightning, killing Peggy Harmeson and rendering her boyfriend unconscious. Today local organizations have done an excellent job keeping up the property, the tower is hardly the graffiti ridden landmark that I recall it being in the late 90’s.
Is it creepy to find beauty and art in a cemetery? Speaking of Moto Tag, cemeteries are often chosen as tags, thus I’ve been to a few on the bike. That being said, I find serenity in old cemeteries; it’s interesting to look a weathered architecture, statues, and headstones, the older the better. Dayton, especially the greater Dayton area has no shortage of old cemeteries. When riding last weekend I also stopped to take a few snapshots, which is where the plot thickens. Last Sunday my first stop was actually Calvary Cemetery downtown. You can almost see the properly from I-75, but it’s unmistakable if you’re headed downtown on Patterson Boulevard (Dixie Highway). Until recently I hadn’t the time to stop in, but on a lazy Sunday I wanted to snap more pictures of deteriorating statues and headstones. From my post last week, I was extremely impressed with the Soldier’s section, including veterans from the Spanish American War. What does this have to do with the before mentioned location? While I was somewhat skeptical of both of the before mentioned stories, as it turns out, Peggy Harmeson is actually interned at Calvary Cemetery. Coincidence no doubt, but it’s still ironic to me that a week chasing down “ghost stories” started where another story ended. Still skeptical of some sort of internet hoax, I actually found Peggy Harmeson’s headstone to prove she did exist, and did die at age 16.
It was an excellent week of riding, albeit a bit creepy at times. If you haven’t played moto tag before, I recommend finding a good forum and joining a game. If nothing else, you’ll never be in short supply of destinations, and you’re likely to find some good road food on a way. If you’re lucky, you might even find some creepy old stories.