There is a stain on the top floor of the Athens State Hospital in the shape of a woman - Margaret Schilling - who died there nearly thirty years ago. Margaret’s story is shrouded in myth; some say she was a deaf mute who hid from the staff when they were vacating the hospital and ended up locked in the upstairs wing, unable to call out for help when she saw it was too late. The truth seems to be that she was simply a woman with profound mental disabilities who managed to lock herself in a ward which had been used for infectious patients and had been abandoned for years, on the top floor of ward N. 20. She disappeared on December 1, 1978. It wasn’t until January 12, 1979 that they found her, dead on the floor of heart failure, probably due to exposure in an unheated ward during the coldest part of winter. As she was dying, oddly enough, she took her clothes off, folded them neatly beside her, and laid down on the concrete floor.
Weeks later, her decomposing body was found lying on the floor next to a window. When authorities attempted to move her body, they found that it had made a permanent stain in the outline of the woman’s body on the concrete floor. It seems as though the stain had been caused by the combination of her body naturally decaying, coupled with its position in front of big bay windows that allowed the sunlight to shine down on her. Despite constant scrubbing, the stain would not come up. Even more, people walking past the asylum at night would sometimes see the ghostly image of a woman staring down at them from the window where the body was found.
It is true that her body left a stain. You can still see it today. People sometimes leave flowers and other trinkets around it. Some say that Margaret Schilling’s spirit wanders the building at night. They say that other patients, especially those who died at the hospital, also wander the building at night. Rumors about patients shackled in basement torture chambers add fuel to the legends.
Tours of the Ridges are a popular Halloween event in Athens—so popular, in fact, that they had to cancel one year’s tour because of the unmanageably huge turnout. Other parts of the grounds are off limits, however.