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The Moonville Tunnel

In 1856, the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad company was looking for a route to lay their new railroad line between Marietta and Cincinnati, Ohio. A man named Samuel Coe would offer them a solution.

Mr. Coe told them that he would allow them to build the line through the land he owned in the Hocking Valley for free, with the stipulation that he would be able to use the rail to haul coal and clay off the land at no cost. The railroad would accept the offer, and within a few short years the tiny town of Moonville would be born.

Moonville was never a very big town, it was barely a town at all, but it did have a post office starting in 1857, with George Arms being the first postmaster. The name of the post office would change several times over the years,

  • In 1858 it would become Big Sand Furnace.

  • In 1863 it would change back to Moonville.

  • In 1865 it would become Hope Furnace, where it would ultimately stay until the town fizzled out.

The population of Moonville would peak in 1870 at just over 100 residents, before slowly declining until the last family would leave in 1947.

Today, Moonville is a little-known tourist attraction and a hot spot for ghost hunters. There are several supposed hauntings in the area, and many people have reported spooky activity when they have visited. A lot of things I research for these legends wind up being nothing more than hot air, with no actual history to back up the ghost stories, but Moonville is a bit different. There are several legends, many of which have some pretty decent documentation behind them.


Baldy Keeton

Known better as "The Bully", the ghost of Baldie Keeton is said to hang around the tunnel itself, throwing rocks at people and just generally causing a ruckus. The story goes that Baldie was kind of a mean drunk and would often get in fights at the bar with people when he was drinking (which was often). One night he tried to start a fight with a group of guys and got thrown out of the bar. He was jumped by that same group of men as he made his way home, and was thrown off the top of the tunnel, sustaining injuries that would ultimately cause his death.

The truth though, based on newspaper accounts I was able to find is that David "Baldie" Keeton was struck and killed by a train while walking home from a court appearance in Zaleski. The only way in and out of Moonville was the tracks, so it isn't surprising then that he would have been walking along them. 


The Lavendar Lady

The story here is a little vague, which is typical of many ghost stories. People have reported sightings over the years of an older woman walking along the path. When spotted, she crosses the trail and falls off the side, disappearing before she hits the ground. Upon her disappearance, the air starts to smell of Lavendar, making it one of the more pleasant reported hauntings.

I couldn't find any names attached to this story, though there are reports of several women dying on the tracks over the years.

The Brakeman

This spirit supposedly wanders the area, being spotted from time to time. No name is ever given, making it hard to pinpoint exactly who this could be.

Being a brakeman for a rail company was extremely dangerous and many men were killed over the years, not just in Moonville but all over the state and country. One possible name I found for this haunting is an M.Davit, who was killed in an accidental collision in 1873.


The point is usually made with this story to mention the brakeman was drunk. That was almost always the case, especially in the winter when the brakemen (and probably many others) would drink to stay warm. This may have contributed to many deaths, but there isn't really a stat to prove that. 


The Engineer

This is believed to be the spirit of an engineer that day in a head-on collision near the tunnel. When it comes to trains colliding, there was no such accident in the Moonville tunnel, but there was a head-on collision at Kings Station, about 2 miles northeast of the Moonville tunnel.

On November 4, 1880, two trains collided, killing Engineer Frank Lawhead and Fireman Charles Krick and injuring 9 others. The cause of the accident appeared to be the failure of the dispatcher to notify the east-bound train to wait to pass as the west-bound train was ordered to run through.

Sightings of a ghostly figure began around 1893, with a newspaper article from 1895 mentioning freight no.99 west-bound being stopped by a bearded figure in a white robe, carrying a lantern. The engineer, Mr. Charles Bazler, reported the figure had glowing eyes and a halo of stars and said it ducked off the track as the train came to a stop. While it sounds like this was most likely a person dressed up and pranking the trains (not sure why they would do that, but it seems like the most likely cause) the surprising part to me is that it was reported by the rail company. Obviously, the engineer would need to report that he had been stopped but having a report in the paper adds some credibility to this one for me that they did see SOMETHING.


There were many other deaths in the area over the years that could have resulted in some lesser-known ghost stories, but these are the most well-known. I didn't expect to find as many newspaper stories as I did, more because the town wasn't really around for that long and in reality, there aren't any more tragic tales here than in any other area around the state. I personally think that the reason for the tales being around is more due to the fact that the area is so remote and is quite spooky to visit at night. I have been to the Moonville Tunnel on many occasions, at all hours of the day and night and have never experienced anything paranormal or supernatural, but maybe the ghosts just avoid me because I look scary or something.

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