In the previous post reference was made to one Denman Duncan as an early explorer of the Antioch Bone Cave.
Unfortunately, Duncan’s name became familiar due to far less auspicious activity.
In the introduction to the Yellow Springs Historical Society 2001 reprint of Harold Igo’s ghost stories local historian Don Hutslar outlined the basic story:
“The one story which I do some knowledge about is “The House of the Fiery Ferns,” No. 6. The Yellow Springs News of 17 September 1915 carried “The Tragic Death of Denman Duncan,” noting some details not in Igo’s account; the Court transcript is still available, as well. Haines (correct spelling) was employed at Carr’s Nursery but was regarded as a man of mean temperament and given to drunken fits during which he would beat his wife. Duncan felt sorry for Mrs. Haines and, according to Court records, would do small favors for her. In any case, whatever the cause, Haines entered Duncan’s apartment, while Duncan was reading Les Miserables (fascinating detail!), and struck him with a hatchet, then throwing the hatchet into the pond which more-or-less still exists in the gorge beside the former Bryan High School. Haines was convicted of second degree murder and committed to the Ohio State Penitentiary on 4 November 1915 for life (plus costs of $82.74). He was sent to the London Prison Farm ten years later and paroled 21 December 1925 and pardoned in 1927. The Duncan murder, in effect, created Bryan High School; John Bryan was asked to clean up the two cottages remaining from the old Yellow Springs House hotel, so he presented the entire property to the village for a new high school site. The present Community Center stands on the site of the old hotel; the shelf to the north between the Center and the gorge was the location of Duncan’s cottage apartment; the stonework in the gorge is a reconstruction by the W.P.A. in the 1930s of the forty year old lake and ponds.”
The arrest report is fascinating, both for the details and for the language used:
“…one, Lewis Haines, then and there being, in and upon one Denman Duncan, then and there being, did unlawfully, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice, make an assault in a menacing manner, with intent him the said Denman Duncan, unlawfully, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice, to kill and murder; and with a certain hatchet, which he, the said Lewis Haines, in one of his hands then and there had and held he, the said Lewis Haines, him, the said Denman Duncan, in and upon the head of him the said Denman Duncan, then and there being, then and there, unlawfully, purposely and of deliberate and premeditated malice, did beat, cut, bruise and strike, with the intent aforesaid, thereby then and there giving to him, the said Denman Duncan, one mortal wound of the length of three inches and of the depth of two inches, of which said mortal wound, he, the said Denman Duncan, then and there instantly died; and so the affiant, upon his oath as aforesaid, says that the said Lewis Haines, him, the said Denman Duncan, in the manner and by the means aforesaid unlawfully, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice, did kill and murder.”