Our interest in ghost stories continues in Columbus, and this is especially true around Halloween, which is now and has been for some time a golden opportunity to tell scary tales.

Our interest in ghost stories continues in Columbus, and this is especially true around Halloween, which is now and has been for some time a golden opportunity to tell scary tales.

It seems to me that some of this interest is cyclical. I can recall about 30 years ago when bus and walking tours highlighting the ghosts of Columbus first were offered by the Columbus Landmarks Foundation.

The tours were immensely popular, combining ghost stories with architecture and historic preservation. The combination worked well because there previously had been nothing quite like it in the city.

Over the next several decades, the tours continued to sell well during the Halloween season but -- in the hallowed American tradition -- competition developed and Columbus soon had a lot of ghosts indeed in late October.

In the recent past, ghosts and ghost tours have become popular once again. Each generation should find its own understanding of these timeless stories of people and places that do not lend themselves to our common understanding.

To put it another way, one does not have to take tours or read books about ghosts in order to stumble across them occasionally.

Perhaps an example of what I mean is in order.

I have been working with the Columbus Landmarks Foundation off and on in one form or another for more than 30 years and, in the interest of full disclosure, am currently its executive director. Over the course of that time, I have given a lot of ghost tours. And as a rule, I have not encountered a lot of ghosts.

But every rule has an exception.

Let's be clear at the outset. I don't believe in ghosts. And over the years, I have been in some really spooky places and never seen much of anything resembling a ghost. With the exception of the fellow in the fog at the North Market.

First, let's give a little background. When Columbus was laid out in 1812 to be the new capital city, the four "proprietors" of Columbus offered land and money to induce the Ohio General Assembly to come here. In return, these men hoped to make their fortunes selling lots to people who wished to live here.

For a number of reasons, early churches in Columbus did not generally have a cemetery on the lot surrounding the church. Rather, a town cemetery was needed. To that end, John Kerr came to the rescue.

Kerr was one of the four proprietors of Columbus. In 1813, Kerr donated a couple of acres for a cemetery on relatively high ground immediately north of the town's limits at what is now Nationwide Boulevard. Over the years, the North Graveyard grew in size and became the main cemetery of the new borough and then city of Columbus.

Kerr was a remarkable fellow. He is sometimes viewed as a rather laid-back and forgettable clerk who happened to donate a cemetery plot to Columbus. He was much more than that.

Born in Ireland in 1778, Kerr emigrated to America and, like a lot of people, sought his future in the Ohio Country. Eventually he decided that Columbus was the place to be. Settling here with his small family, he became actively involved in civic affairs and served as the second mayor of Columbus.

And then in 1823, at the age of 45, he died of "the malarial ague."

Over the years, North Cemetery came to stand in the way of progress. With the opening of Green Lawn Cemetery in 1848 and the coming of the railroads to Columbus in the 1850s, public pressure began to build to close the cemetery. In the 1850s and 1860s, many people were removed from North Cemetery and reburied elsewhere.

Many, but not all.

By the time the cemetery was closed in the late 1870s, the graves of a number of people simply could not be found. One of them was Kerr. Over the years, a ghost story about Kerr began to be told of a man sometimes seen in the area dressed in clothing of another era. He seemed to be seeking something, but no one could ever come close to him.

The North Cemetery became the location of the North Market and a retail and commercial area grew up nearby. The North Market still occupies the site and so, too, does the ghost of Kerr.

On a cold and foggy night in October many years ago, I was returning my car after conducting a tour of the area. As I neared the corner of Vine and Park streets, I saw a man in the mist perhaps a few yards ahead of me. He was dressed in the formal clothing of the 1820s and seemed to be on his way to meet someone. When I reached the corner, one could see some distance and there was no one there.

Perhaps it was Kerr. Perhaps it was not. It is that uncertainty that brings us back again and again to the ghosts of Columbus. Perhaps it always will.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.