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Kaleidoscope: A look at some creepy places, mostly around Ohio (WITH PHOTO GALLERY)

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published: August 17, 2016 1:00 AM
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My third tour (in early July) of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield got me thinking about some of the supposedly haunted, or at least the most creepy, places I've visited in my travels.

Another reason for my reflection was news I learned recently about the demolition of the 130-year-old or so Mudhouse Mansion, a long-abandoned and spooky farmhouse northwest of Lancaster which I've driven by.

The reformatory is listed as the No. 1 most haunted place in the United States in a book titled "America's Most Haunted," written a couple of years ago by Eric Olson of Aurora and native Clevelander Theresa Argie.

So I decided to put together a list of some of the most scary places I've been. I've never had any ghostly or paranormal encounters at any of these so-called haunted places. Someday, it might happen, though.

I haven't ranked the locations from most to least scary; it would be difficult to do so.

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/ Moonville Tunnel. Near Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County south of Nelsonville.

A narrow dirt road runs near the abandoned railroad tunnel on the edge of the tiny ghost town of Moonville. The road runs for miles before coming out on a state route, and there are few homes along the way.

Visitors must park along the road and walk several hundred yards to the tunnel, which I did one Saturday. The railroad was built in the 1850s and abandoned in the 1980s. A rail trail now passes through the tunnel.

The site attracts young people -- many who are students at Ohio University in Athens -- and some go there at night. I'd never drive down that road and walk through the woods to the tunnel at night.

A handful of people, some of whom were train crewmen, were killed in accidents near the tunnel. They supposedly haunt the area. Lights from lanterns like those carried by conductors are sometimes seen in the tunnel.

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/ The Trinway Mansion (also known as Prospect Place), just north of Dresden in Muskingum County. I've driven past it several times, and toured the restored 29-room brick home in July 2015.

It was built in the late 1850s by abolitionist George Willison Adams. It has a widow's walk or cupola on top from which the beautiful surrounding farmland can be viewed. An ivy-covered brick barn is nearby.

A little girl who fell to her death from a second-story balcony in the late 1800s is said to haunt the house, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. One legend is that a slave bounty hunter was murdered in the barn by farm workers.

/ Franklin Castle. In the Ohio City area of Cleveland, not far from the West Side Market, is a creepy vacant mansion built in the mid-1800s, at which several visitors have experienced unexplainable goings-on.

/ Athens Lunatic Asylum (now called the Ridges and owned by Ohio University) in Athens. A mental hospital operated from 1874 to 1993 on a ridge overlooking the Hocking River, OU campus and city.

It housed thousands of mentally unstable people for over 100 years. Based on the Kirkbride plan of mental health treatment, the main building was designed by Cleveland architect Levi T. Scofield, who also designed the Ohio State Reformatory.

The complex is sprawling, with a massive main building stretching more than 800 feet and several other buildings. Three cemeteries hold the bodies of patients who died there.

In the late 1970s, a patient wandered off into an abandoned part of the building, and her body was found on the floor more than a month later. A stain caused by the decomposition of her body remains there; maintenance crews have been unable to scrub it away.

Billy Milligan, an Ohioan who became the first person to successfully use multiple-personality disorder as a defense in a court of law, was a patient at the facility, where many transorbital lobotomies were performed in the 1950s. He died in 2014.

Athens is sometimes called the most haunted town in America because of a variety of unexplained occurrences over the years.

/ Haserot Angel. It marks a plot of graves where Haserot family members (of Northern Haserot Co. fame) are buried in Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery. By far one of the creepiest examples of graveside sculpture that I've seen.

/ Cemeteries are spooky places. I've visited large to tiny ones all over Ohio, including Lake View, Glendale in Akron, Erie Street in Massillon, Westlawn in Canton, Standing Rock in Kent, Wolfe in Haydenville, Mound in Marietta and Marion.

Some are creepy; others are quite beautiful and serene. Marion Cemetery contains a mysterious revolving granite ball on top of a grave. It has moved several inches from its original position over the years.

Outside of New Philadelphia, where I grew up, is a tiny burial ground where the Rehobeth Church stood from the mid to late 1800s. Legend is that one grave contains the remains of a warlock. My dad and drove by the cemetery many times when I was a kid.

The story goes that the man's head was separated from his body and placed at his feet. Each year the head moves closer to his shoulders, and when it eventually reattaches, he will rise from the dead. It's an astounding urban legend.

/ Egypt Valley. On the western edge of Belmont County is an area of reclaimed stripmine land, where some of Ohio's biggest shovels uncovered coal. I drove down an isolated road through the valley once, and was intimidated.

There are no houses for several miles. Along the road is a marker near the spot where a young girl was murdered in the 1800s. She is buried in nearby Salem Cemetery. Her murderer is said to have been the first execution by hanging in the county.

I've never been to the cemetery, but it's reported that an old oak tree there was used as a hanging tree for many years. It also is said to be haunted by witches buried there, plus "devil dogs."

When I drove through the valley, I became concerned that I'd never get out. I thought of scenes from the movie "Deliverance." In fact, I think of that movie each time I venture into a wilderness by myself.

/ Lady Bend Hill. At the southern edge of Egypt Valley along Route 40 (old National Road) is a spot called Lady Bend Hill, where a ghostly image of a woman in a white dress has been seen. One story goes that she was riding a horse looking for her lost lover when she was decapitated by a low hanging branch.

I've driven down the hill several times when I lived in Belmont County and since, but have never encountered the ghost. I've never driven the road at night and don't plan to.

/ Rogue's Hollow.

In the 1800s, this valley just outside Doylestown in Wayne County was a coal-mining community frequented by outlaws and thugs.

Chidester Mill has been restored and is operated as a museum. It's said to be haunted by the ghost of a former worker who died when he fell into the water wheel.

Near the mill is a "crybaby" bridge. There are many of these around the country.

The legends are that mentally disturbed women threw their babies off the bridges into the water, or horse-and-buggy or motor vehicle tragedies involving children occurred there, and the crying of children can be heard on quiet nights.

I've been at the Rogue's Hollow bridge and a couple of other so-called crybaby bridges, and have never heard anything more than birds chirping or fish splashing in the creek. Again, I've never been there at night.

/ Squire's Castle

in the Cleveland Metroparks' North Chagrin Reservation. It was a gatehouse built in the 1890s by Feargus Squire, and was used only for a couple of decades before being abandoned.

The ghost of Mrs. Squire is said to haunt the structure. She fell down, broke her neck and died inside. Her husband was so distraught that he never completed the planned main house.

/ Lafayette Hotel along the Ohio River in downtown Marietta. I've stayed there once, and tried to book a room on a couple of other visits to the city, but it is a popular place and rooms are hard to come by.

Marietta is another Ohio city which is considered one of the most haunted. Weird things reportedly happen in the Lafayette, which occupies the site of a previous hotel which burned down.

Apparitions have been spotted in the basement and in restrooms, and guests have reported their clothes move from one place to another in their rooms during the night.

The night I stayed there, I feared a ghost would make off with my wallet, so I put it under my pillow! It was still there when I woke up the next morning, and none of my clothes moved.

/ West Virginia State Penitentiary. Like the Ohio State Reformatory, this former prison is open for tours, and is very creepy. It operated from 1876 to 1995.

Its Wagon Gate building was where executions by hanging once took place, and its electric chair is in the prison's museum. It was one of the most violent prisons in the U.S.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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