Aug 10, 2007
DAYTON — Shea Willis, who will move her businesses, Ravenwood Café and Ravenwood Gallery, to "The Triangle Building," 233 Main St. in Dayton, says the building is haunted.
Willis, lead investigator with the Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society, says she saw proof one night when she walked into the bank’s old vault.
"As soon as I stepped across the threshold, as soon as I walked into the vault space, the light cut off," she said. "When I walked out, it went on again."
Willis thinks spirits feed on an electric field in the vault.
Why are they there? Often, she says, a particular place can be haunted by some dramatic event in the past.
She thinks she knows what that event may be for the building, which has been a bank, variety store, clothing store and storage space.
The building’s original tenant, The Bank of Dayton, met an unhappy fate.
In October 1929, the stock market crash led banks all over the country to go under at the start of the Great Depression.
The Dayton Bank survived the crash, but was rocked only a few months later when it was discovered that bank employees had been embezzling money, according to an Oct. 25, 1930, news report in the Daily News-Record.
Cashier Noah R. Crist and his assistant Elizabeth Coffman stole $36,800 by fudging numbers, reported the paper.
That’s about $4.4 million in today’s money, according to measuringworth.com.
Crist and Coffman, the only two employees of the bank, were sentenced to 7½ years in prison.
Crist, 62, was a pillar of the community, the newspaper said, having served as treasurer of Shenandoah College, the town of Dayton, Specialty Harness Company and the Dayton Creamer and Ice Corp.
Coffman, 42, had been discovered a month earlier than Crist and had initially confessed to committing the crime by herself, producing a set of false books.
Both pleaded guilty and received their sentence within a half-hour from Judge H.W. Bertram.
"Miss Coffman showed an air of indifference while in the court room," the paper reported. "Crist appeared as though in a daze. There was no display of emotion by either prisoner."
After the embezzlement came to light, negotiations stalled with Planters Bank of Bridgewater, which was planning to merge with The Dayton Bank.
The Dayton Bank went out of business in 1930 and the town was without a bank until 1957, when a new one opened across the street, said Willis.
"A lot of people lost a lot of money," said Willis. "When you’ve got that kind of negative energy it leaves an imprint."