116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The story about “Tillie haunting Linn County cemeteries has been around since the 1960s, though the details change depending on who’s telling the story.
One of the more well-known Halloween stories has Tillie haunting Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. The most common version says Tillie, a young Czech girl, died while her parents were passing through Cedar Rapids and that she wanders the cemetery with a candle, trying to pull people into a mausoleum.
The story was traced back to a groundskeeper who made it up to scare a gullible co-worker.
However, Tillie Krcmar, a 10-year-old Czech girl, is buried in the potter’s field section of City Cemetery. The Krcmar family lived in Cedar Rapids and lost two of their children to diphtheria in early 1893.
Another story has teenagers spotting the spirit of Matilda Morrow Ovington in Marion's Oak Shade Cemetery in the 1960s. This Tillie, the third wife of Thomas Ovington, a merchant tailor in Marion, was 88 when she died in 1917. She lived in Marion 65 years and had seven sons, five of whom died in infancy. She is buried near the cemetery’s original pioneer section, surrounded by her family.
Cemetery keepers have noted that cemeteries are only “haunted” by the living, and that sneaking around at night can dangerous, with tripping hazards and possible trespassing charges. They advise visiting during the day for walking and research purposes.
Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org