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Goodleberg Cemetery, Wales, New York
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Goodleberg Cemetery is a tiny little graveyard on a quiet rural road in Wales, New York. If you were to pass it without knowing the stories behind it, it would leave little to no impression, as it appears like one of the many little old family burial plots that occasionally dot the edges of fields throughout Upstate New York. Yet, this little plot of land, and the immediate area surrounding it are the focus of local legends and reported paranormal activity. The attention it has received has become more and more of a problem for locals, who now are strictly enforcing laws governing visits to the area.
There are many legends about Goodleberg Cemetery and the area around it. A number of the legends have been revealed to be false over the years. A few of the stories have some basis in fact, but have become warped through retellings or campfire tale embellishment. Other stories seem to have no basis in truth at all. Yet, there are multiple people who have claimed to witness apparently supernatural activity while visiting the vicinity.
In the area around Goodleberg Cemetery and nearby Hunters Creek there have been stories of large black dogs. Their eyes are said to shine an unearthly green and/or red as they prowl the night either alone or in packs. Also known as Barghests, hell hounds and an assortment of other names, black dogs are a traditional archetype of British folklore. The black dog is seen as a portent of death or possibly a servant or manifestation of the devil. Rarely are the tales of these beasts in Europe benevolent ones. The sightings around Goodleberg Road have led to the nickname "Hill of the Hellhounds" for the area.
The black dogs are said to move with an unnatural speed and emit howls that will chill you to the bone. Mason Winfield's
Shadows of the Western Door
relates a tale about a couple who struck one of these black dogs while driving. When they got out of their vehicle, there was no sign of the dog and no damage to the car.
Much like the superstitions surrounding black cats, the supernatural stigma surrounding black dogs has historically caused trouble for the unfortunate animals. It is part of the cause of what animal rescue workers in modern refer to as "Black Dog Syndrome." Black Labradors and other black-coated dogs are less likely than most to be adopted from animal shelters, leading to a higher percentage of these dogs being put down.
The Hill of the Ghouls
Another nickname for the area is "The Hill of the Ghouls." This is the result of claims that Goodleberg roughly translates into "Hill of the Ghouls" in German. While "berg" can mean "hill" in German, the word ghoul, itself, is an English version of the Arabic word "ghūl." Ghouls stem from Arabic folklore, not German. Goodle is a family name. Most likely, the road was named for a family that lived there and the cemetery, in turn, took its name from the road. It is also notable that there is a woman with the last name Goodell who was interred in the cemetery in 1884.
Doctor Albert Speaker & Helen Lindeman
The primary legend that is told about Goodleberg Cemetery is that of a doctor who used the cemetery and the nearby pond to dispose of evidence of his illegal activities. The doctor in the stories is sometimes referred to as "Doctor Goodleberg." This doctor is said to have performed illegal abortions out of his home right next to the cemetery. According to the tales, he buried the remains of the aborted fetuses (and the occasional mother who didn't survive the procedure) in the cemetery or sometimes threw their corpses into the pond. The stories then have the doctor hanging himself from a cemetery tree after human remains began to be dug up by animals or washed up in Hunters Creek. The story's time period varies from the 1800s through the 1940s.
The legend goes on to tell of how the doctor's deeds have resulted in the haunting of the cemetery. The dead mothers wander about the woods nearby. The shining pale forms of infants crawl amongst the headstones, making mewling cries into the darkness. The doctor himself is said to appear, sometimes hanging by his homemade noose. Some stories have him appearing like clockwork on the first Friday of every month.
It appears that the majority of the abortion doctor tale is nothing more than urban legend. In his research, Mason Winfield has revealed that there was a doctor in the 1940s who had a house near the corner of Hunters Creek Road and Goodleberg Road (a good distance from the cemetery itself). Doctor Albert Speaker served as a medical examiner in nearby Buffalo, New York. There are locals who claim that he did perform an occasional abortion out of his home; however, no official record has surfaced yet that backs this up. No newspaper or police reports stating that fetuses were being uncovered or washing up in the creek.
On August 21, 1948, Helen Lindeman, the wife of a dentist in Kenmore (30 miles Northeast of Wales), went missing. The 38 year old woman left home to perform some shopping and never returned. In late October of the same year, two body parts (a forearm and a kneecap) were discovered on Hunter's Creek Road. Authorities believed the remains belonged to the missing housewife. A week later, a woman's torso was discovered in Ischua (nearly 40 miles South of Wales) and a head in Riceville (nearly 30 miles Southeast of Wales). The head had been partially eaten by animals and was identified by it's dental work as Helen Lindeman by her own dentist husband.
Weeks prior to the body parts being discovered, in early October, Dr. Albert Speaker passed away. The newspaper listed his cause of death as being a heart attack and not suicide. Shortly before Halloween, someone set fire to Speaker's house, but failed to burn it down.
According to a later newspaper report, a house on Hunters Creek Road was searched shortly after Mrs. Lindeman's disappearance. The story states that the owner of the house died in early October and that there was a fire at the house later. Was the searched house Dr. Speaker's? Why did someone try to burn the house down?
Apparently, the following Spring, a body of a man was found in the Hunter's Creek ravine behind the house. The body seemed to have lain there throughout the winter. In the years following, another two women would be murdered and dumped in other areas around Buffalo, New York. This led to them being referred to collectively as the "Lindeman Murders", though there really was no connection between the crimes. One woman, murdered 22 miles away in Cheektowaga, was discovered to have been killed by her husband. The other woman who got lumped in the "Lindeman murders" category was the victim of a sex crime in Hamburg (20 miles away).
The murders have no real connection to each other beyond a few circumstantial details. It is possible that all of these gruesome events became tied together in the public mind and possibly through retellings mutated into the stories of "Dr. Goodleberg" the abortionist. There are also tales about Dr. Speaker being involved with a mafia family. This in turn seems to have led to stories of the mob burying victims in the cemetery. There doesn't seem to be any solid evidence to support either of these stories either.
Also, it would seem that it would be far more discrete to dispose of bodies by burying them in the woods between Hunters Creek Road and Hunters Creek itself. It seems unlikely that an abortionist or the mob would travel up to a half mile away so that they could bury bodies so close to a road, with very little in the way of cover to block their activity from view. Almost all of the burials in the cemetery were performed in the 1800s, with the last couple apparently being interred in 1926. It would have been noticeable for the ground to have been disturbed with illegal burials roughly 20 years or more after the graveyard had ceased regular use.
There are many claims of witnessed supernatural activity beyond the ones already mentioned. Besides the infants and "Doctor Goodleberg", there have also been reports of other apparitions in and around the cemetery. A "White Lady" is spotted at times wandering about. Other apparitions are said to be of men in 19th Century clothing; one dressed in finery, the other a laborer with tools in hand.
Reports from various witnesses include strange lights and low-lying fog appearing after day. Aural manifestations witnessed include the faint sound of music, moans, babies crying and the occasional scream. There is a story circulating about a team of paranormal investigators who returned to their vehicle and discovered it covered with the handprints of unseen children. Often, visitors have experienced the feeling of being watched and the sensation of cold spots. There are also reports of photographic anomalies and whispered voices appearing in photos and recordings taken at the cemetery.
Once again, there are stories of the first Friday of every month being a sort of trigger for various supernatural activity within the cemetery. Though, to have paranormal events occur on that regular of a schedule and at the levels being described really pushes the realm of believability.
The Goodleberg Cemetery Curse
Another legend associated with the cemetery is that of a curse upon it. According to one story, anyone who vandalizes a grave or removes anything from the cemetery will suffer misfortune and possibly death. There is a story about someone removing a piece of a gravestone and eventually returning it, due to the stone giving off odd sensations. Ironically (and unfortunately), stories about the curse have probably encouraged vandalism from teens making misguided demonstrations of bravery.
The Death of Robert Carr
On June 21, 2003 around 11:30 at night, 19-year-old Robert Carr of Hamburg, New York was struck and killed by a passing vehicle on Hunters Creek Road. Robert was part of a small group of ghost hunters that had pulled over along the road and had gotten out of their vehicle to head down Goodleberg Road on foot to investigate the cemetery. The driver sped off after striking Carr with her truck.
The following morning, the driver, Debra Saddleson (age 44) turned herself in to the authorities for the hit and run. She admitted to having been out drinking prior to the incident. She plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. She was sentenced to a year in jail for the crime.
The death of Robert Carr has further fed into the stories of Goodleberg's curse, despite the fact that he hadn't been to the cemetery yet that night. He was roughly half a mile away when he was struck.
Other Claims About Goodleberg
There are tales that the area around where the cemetery sits was once sacred to the local Native Americans and may in fact, have served as a Native American burial ground. Research turns up little to support these claims and it seems to be largely based on conjecture due to the presence of a hill near a running creek. While these conditions may have been ideal for Native Americans, that is no guarantee that they actually used the spot. It would be far more telling if there had been artifacts of Native American culture discovered in the soil.
Other tales have the location being used for satanic rituals, voodoo and witchcraft. There are stories about neighbors discovering rings of stones or circles burned into the earth in the cemetery following a night of hearing chanting. The circles are likely the result of fire pits used to warm up partying teens who had just finished skinny-dipping in the nearby pond, as well as a place around which to imbibe alcohol, sing songs (chanting?) and tell spooky stories about the graveyard.
Vandalism and Trespassing
Unfortunately, the attention that has been brought to Goodleberg Cemetery by the legends and tales of hauntings is also destroying it. The site has drawn teenagers and other rowdy partiers since the 1970s. Almost all of the cemetery's gravestones were toppled and broken by vandals by the mid-1990s. In mid-April of 2000, a six-foot deep hole was dug by the gravestone of 11-month-old May Agnes Doster (buried in 1895). It appears that the infant's remains weren't disturbed during the desecration of her grave.
Neighbors of the cemetery had complaints with people holding bonfires on the site and sounds of chanting or partying at late hours. Starting in the 1990s, the neighbors also had complaints with groups of ghost hunters prowling about the cemetery after hours on a frequent basis.
Ultimately, all of this disruption, disrespect and vandalism led to the town of Wales strictly enforcing the cemetery's visiting hours. Visiting hours are from 8 am to sunset and anyone caught trespassing or loitering in the area outside of posted hours is being prosecuted for it. The problem with teenagers, tourists and paranormal investigators has also led to the road being declared a no parking zone for half-mile or more on either side of the cemetery. The neighbors have posted no trespassing signs on their properties up and down the road. The authorities have been known to post officers at the location on or around Halloween to deal with anyone seeking a holiday thrill.
It is highly recommended that anyone visiting the cemetery observe all posted signs and be on their best behavior during their visit. You could wind up with your vehicle towed or worse...getting yourself arrested if you don't.
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October Visit to Goodleberg
(11/02/08, 07:29 PM UTC)
I first read of Goodleberg Cemetery 8 years ago in Shadows of the Western Door by Mason Winfield. It was the story that stuck out the most to me becau...
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Web site for author and "supernatural historian" Mason Winfield. Winfield specializes in writing about paranormal places and events in Western NY.
Wikipedia: Goodleberg Cemetery
Wikipedia entry for Goodleberg Cemetery in Wales, New York.
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Photo of Goodleberg Cemetery from the road. Note the rowdy teenagers near the back of the cemetery.
A row of toppled gravestones at Goodleberg Cemtery in Wales, NY.
This gravestone has been pinned back together and set in concrete in a repair attempt.
The pond where "Dr. Goodleberg" is said to have dumped the remains from his illegal abortions.
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