The Buffalo Ridge Crematorium (Observatory)

Drawing of the Planned observatory

The story of the crematorium in the woods along Buffalo Ridge is the most popular of the legends associated with the road. This crematorium allegedly was a haven for satanic rituals, including human sacrifice. It’s said that many of the bodies that were supposed to be cremated here were instead thrown out into the woods, or into a so-called bottomless lake nearby. Was there an evil purpose for this? Laziness on the part of those working at the crematorium? That part was never explained. At some point it exploded, throwing debris all over the woods. What caused the explosion? Most say it was the hand of God himself, wiping out the evil Satanist.

There is something in the wood there, but not a crematorium. What’s there is the beginning of an observatory that was being built in the late 30’s, but was abandoned after construction began, due to lack of funds. The building was supposed to be built using materials salvaged from the original Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce building, which was destroyed by a fire in 1911. There is a large amount of debris scattered in these woods, aside from the actual ruins, as this is where the rest of the debris from the original building was dumped. It’s worth noting that 6 people were killed in the fire that destroyed the chamber of commerce, maybe the spirits of those killed are connected now to this debris? Heres the full story, from the book “A Brief History of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society”, copyright 1985 – Cincinnati Astronomical Society.

       From 1896 to 1910, Dr. Delisle Stewart served as an assistant astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory of the University of Cincinnati. Research at the observatory during this period centered on the classical stellar measurement techniques. Stewart attempted to persuade the observatory’s director to apply the then new astronomical research tool, astrophotography. Stewart’s interest in astrophotography was intensified by his Harvard training and his previous two years service at Arequipa Observatory, Peru, where he photographed the southern skies. Stewart eventually lost his job over his persistent attempt to persuade the Cincinnati Observatory to adopt astrophotography.

Stewart’s response to his rebuke was to establish a new astronomical society with the goal of building anew observatory dedicated to astrophotographic research. The Society’s name, Cincinnati Astronomical Society, was borrowed from the original CAS, 1845-1870. This was the first professional astronomical society in America. Its telescope and assets were donated in 1870 to the city of Cincinnati. The city subsequently donated the assets to the University of Cincinnati (and its then new Cincinnati Observatory) from whence Stewart was dismissed.

An unusual event occurred in Cincinnati in 1911 that affected, initially positively but eventually negatively,Stewart’s plan to establish a new observatory. The city was rightfully proud of its Chamber of Commerce building that was designed by the famed architect Henry Hobson  Richardson. The building  received world wide recognition for its beautifully carved, expansive, Romanesque arches. The edifice was destroyed by fire in 1911. Since Stewart was a lover of Richardson’s work and the city loved its Chamber of Commerce Building, Stewart found a way to turn this disaster to his advantage. He offered to build his new observatory based on the architectural plan of the Chamber of Commerce building. The new observatory would then be faced with the Richardson granite stones that were salvaged from destroyed building.

The citizens responded to Stewart’s concept by generously donating services to transfer the huge Richardson stones to a temporary storage site and by buying bonds that were issued by CAS. Sufficient funds were acquired within three years of the fire that CAS acquired 142 acres of land in Miami Heights/Mt. Zion (the current CAS location) for the new observatory site about twenty miles west of Cincinnati. The site’s principal selection criterion was its distance from the city’s light pollution, a problem that then prevented the inner-city located Cincinnati Observatory from performing adequate astrophotography.

All of the solicited funds were consumed in financing the transfer of thousands of tons of the massive Richardson stones from the original downtown site, to their temporary storage site, and finally to Miami Heights/Mt. Zion. The largest stone weighed 27,500 pounds. For the next twenty years Delisle Stewart begged wealthy Cincinnatians to purchase the remaining CAS bonds in order to raise the required funds. Finally, by the end of the 1930’s, sufficient funds were obtained so that the observatory’s construction could begin.

The architects designed a two-story observatory building that included a large central dome and two side domes–each mounted on the end walls. The building’s main floor was designed to include offices, a reception hall and museum of astronomy, a lecture hall, classrooms and the Richardson Memorial Collection. The second floor was to have a library, reading and study rooms photographic dark rooms with separate rooms for plate storage, spectroscopic and photometric laboratories, and rest rooms for the night observers. The  domes were to house two large reflecting telescopes and one large refractor telescope. As with icing on a cake, the observatory would be faced with the famous Richardson granites. Assuredly this would be a magnificent facility, one in which the Cincinnati Astronomical Society and the city would be proud.

The effect of the Great Depression took its toll on CAS and its observatory. Construction of the basic outline of the building was completed, and the basement was finished to a degree that the CAS members could use the area for a meeting room. However, the Society lacked the funds to complete the project.

With the death of Dr. Stewart in 1941, the Society lost its driving force. There was no one left with the ability of desire to make another effort to raise the required funds, and somehow, to complete the building. It was ironic that the Richardson arches, which had inspired the construction concept, proved to be its undoing; not a single block of granite was raised into place. The granite stones remained strewn around the observatory site, mockingly tombstone like.

So while there was never anything nefarious here, the scattered debris throughout the woods explains why the supposed crematorium is said to have exploded. It certainly looks like something blew up back there. It is now a known hangout for teens and thrill seekers, but there’s no proof or evidence of satanic rituals, other than the stories that get passed along. I will say venturing into those woods at night takes balls. It’s pitch black, and every noise you hear becomes, in your head, someone moving among the trees. But still, if you decide to venture back to the ruins, use caution! You never know who, or what, may be waiting for you there. The woods there are the property of the Hamilton County Park District, so don’t enter without getting permission first.

2014 update:

Most of the remains of the observatory have been removed or buried, so what you see pictured below no longer exists. Click HERE to see.

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14 thoughts on “The Buffalo Ridge Crematorium (Observatory)

  1. Where did you find these old photos???? I’ve lived on this road my whole live. (down by gum run buffalo intersection) I was just up there today with my dog checking the place out. I’ve noticed some construction going on back there over the past few weeks and today saw that the park is currently filling in the hole and planting new trees. One time when i was a kid my father and I went to the “Cleves Museum” (which no longer exist) and saw a book with these exact photos in it. It was neat to see them, i was about 12 at the time and always wondered what the placed looked like while being built. It’s nice to see them again. Cool stuff man! I’m not sure what ever happened to that book after the museum closed, I assume it was given to the library across the street.

    1. The pictures are from the book “A Brief History of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society”. This is probably the book you remember seeing. The downtown branch of the library has a copy of it, but you arent allowed to check it out. It’s in the rare books department.

  2. So I went up looking for these ruins with a couple friends and my dad and there is no structure there at all. It’s totally gone.

  3. In my Mt. Zion time, late 60’s, the cement platform still covered the basement. There were maybe 8 concrete columns, on it supporting a concrete roof over one corner of the platform. Long fall if you went over the edge. Downstairs, the cubicles, were still there, 2 levels. And an odd, deep fireplace. Looked like a coffin would go in. (creamatorium?) You could see the screen at The Dent Drive-In, way in the distance. One spooky place!

  4. I went to this location with my older sisters when I was about 9 yrs old in 1964. We followed the trail from the road and found the ruins. I remember it looking just like the picture in the center of the bottom row. All of those square chambers I imagined to be seperate cremation ovens. The story at the time is that is was a crematory that was used during the civil war. The whole area was supposed to be haunted. It was daylight when we went and I was terrified. It felt very creepy and I was glad when we left. There was a big rock near the trail entrance that had “You kill em and we chill em” spray painted on it.

  5. I’m sorry to say this but most of this article is wrong it is a observatory being built from the parts of the old post office they were building this and the land was known to erode so they had to move it to the area of what the new observatory is located it was never had plans of being an crematory 15 years ago the base of the observatory tower was up and abandoned but it was later destroyed and filled with rubble this article is a lie and it was only a observatory being built no crematory and no doctors where there it was never finished the proof is through three generations showing there children so this whole article is BS but it is still rubble from this there was and never will be true info on this being a crematorium because it was never was a whole lie

    1. If you read the article and not just the title, you’d know that the whole thing is about the fact that there was never a crematorium there.

  6. I remember visiting this site as a teen, and yes, the same story was passed a around that a crematorium had once been there and it had exploded. This was back in 1976, there were still many pieces of concrete and marble strewn about. I remember picking up a small piece of it, which I have to this day!

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