Vinton County Ohio Ghosts and Hauntings - Moonville Tunnel
Near Zaleski, Ohio
The ghost of an engineer, a brakeman, a woman hit by a train and a bully haunt the tunnel.
A short note: We always make it clear to check with local authorities before going to all the areas that we list. Although Moonville Tunnel land is owned by Vinton County and the land around it, run by the State of Ohio Division of Forestry, the locals that run the rail/trail directly at the tunnel are “openly hostile” towards ghost hunters and other people that want to enjoy the area hiking . . so make sure you follow the rules. Get written permission if you want to specifically go to the tunnel and you do not know the proper times. Be wary of anyone accepting money for use of the tunnel after hours-this is not typical protocol for public land use.
The Legend: A brakeman haunts the tunnel
The area where the town of Moonville once stood was the most remote section of track along the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad. It was dark and foreboding, huge trees lined either side, their branches reaching downward making a long tunnel just above the tracks. There was forestland for miles. Few towns managed to exist here for more than a couple decades-the land was too hilly for anything more than coal mining and the only flat places were bought up by railway companies to set their train tracks on. Houses were usually tacked up against the steep Appalachian hills, nothing more than shacks and outbuildings. But tiny towns popped up along with the coal mining and iron furnaces like Ingham, Hope and Zaleski. And Moonville.
Engineers hated this rough patch of dark railway. It was akin nowadays to driving a car down a lonely stretch of highway at one-hundred and ten miles an hour and turning out the lights. It was difficult to see anything in the train's path - logs, flooded water easing over the tracks from Raccoon Creek, deer or people and other trains. Sometimes they collided here. . . .
Ghost hunting for a haunted place? Here's a haunted place in Ohio to check out. . .
No trains have passed through the towns of Hope, Moonville or Ingham for well over twenty years but nearly hidden behind years of thick forest growth, the old Cincinnati and Marietta Railroad tracks still run noiselessly through this section of southeastern Ohio. But the locals here in Vinton County say the railway tracks aren't the only remnants of the iron furnace days still hanging around. In fact, stories tell of a railway brakeman that haps by the old Moonville Tunnel in the dark of night. Countless witnesses state they have seen a man dressed in engineer clothing and carrying a lantern. Some have even taken pictures at the tunnel when no one is around, only to find the image of man standing at the far end when they process the images.
Moonville Ghosts-The Background Research
So were there actually any deaths in or near the tunnel which would add any credence to the ghost of the Moonville Brakeman? Actually, there have been more than a few deaths near the tunnel. Here are just a few. Check out some of them below:
I counted over 25 deaths near Moonville between 1859 through 1986 due, in part, to the railway. These do not include deaths due to "natural" causes, for example, Cliff Coe (who was one of the family members of the original landowners) died of a heart attack inside the depot in May of 1899. Or the many Coe children who did not make it past the typical childhood diseases for their time. There are certainly many more that I could not substantiate through newspaper accounts, personal archives of community members or other legitimate sources.
Jumping the Train
1876- 13 year old Henry Shirkey tried to jump a train in 1876 and his left leg was crushed just below the knee. (Vinton Record, 17 Feb 1876).
The McArthur Enquirer, of last week, says: As we go to press this (Thursday) afternoon we learn that Henry Shirkey, the youngest son of John Shirkey, of Vinton Station, was severely injured by jumping from a box car of a freight train going West about one-fourth of a mile west of Vinton Station, at a quarter past 4 |o'clock on Wednesday evening, and died 20 minutes before 6 o'clock this (Thursday) morning. (Athens Messenger, 2/17/1876)
1880 - James Hood dies jumping off the train near Moonville:
James Hood, aged about thirty, a resident of Zaleski, while returning from Athens on the fast line on Friday, attempted to jump oil the train one quarter mile east of the depot, and opposite his home. In doing so he was thrown about twenty feet against a post, and his neck broken. He has been in the habit of jumping off trains at this point in order to save walking back from the depot. He leaves a wife and three children. (Athens Messenger, May 20, 1880)
1907 - Allen Albaugh dies jumping a train
Luhrig, O., Sept. 4.—The badly mangled body of Allen Albaugh, a middle aged miner of this place, was found under some underbrush near Moonville Saturday . . . . Albaugh, accompanied by his brother got on a passing train and started for Zaleski.. It is supposed that he staid on the train until a tunnel was reached, and that he was knocked off in some manner. When the body was found, one hand was cut off.. . (Athens Messenger and Herald, September 1907)
Mike Shea Relates it this way in August of 1961 - Allan Albaugh was drinking and hopped a train at Zaleski with a jug of whiskey. No one heard from him. They found him dead this side of Ingham near Bear Hollow. Mike Shea smelled him one day and Frank McWhorter and a one eyed fellow found him when attracted by the smell. He was full of maggots, been dead several days. Mike Shea, 1961
Brakemen falling under wheels -
1859 Unknown Brakeman
Brakeman on the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad fell from the cars and was fatally injured. “ . . . Due to “too free use of liquor . . .”(McArthur Democrat, March 31, 1859)
A brakeman of the accommodation named McDevitt was caught between two colliding platforms and had both legs and one arm horribly mangled. . . McDevitt survived his injuries only a short time. The deceased we learn was about 21 years of age, and leaves a widowed mother . . . (Athens Messenger, July 17, 1873)
1876 - Michael Molboro
Michael Molboro is killed on the Marietta and Cincinnati Line. Eight years later his brother, Thomas, a brakeman is killed on the same track. (Vinton Record, 14 February 1884 via hidden ohio map and guide)
Walking the tracks -
1873 Unknown Woman killed on Tracks
1873 While we delayed for a few minutes at Moonville on last Monday we heard reference to the instant killing of a woman in the deep cut near that town the day previous by the morning express. . . (Athens Messenger, October 16, 1873)
1905 Mrs. Patrick Shea killed on Tracks
1905 Mrs. Patrick Shea (in her eighties and a grandmother of Michael Shea) was walking the Moonville to Hope and while crossing the trestle was struck by a train. Her leg had to be amputated and she died from the shock. Recalled by Michael L. Shea.
Amos Kennard by accident, stepped in front of a train -Recalled by Michael L. Shea.
1912 Charles Ferguson
Charles Ferguson -struck by train. He was waiting to cross the railroad tracks when the train broke in two. One part passed him and without looking, he stepped on the crossing and was struck by the second part. Recalled by Michael L. Shea.
1920s Rastus Dexter
Miner who was killed near the tunnel by the train.
Falling asleep on tracks:
Levi Sales was hit by a train after drinking too much and falling asleep on the tracks.The Vinton record., June 04, 1874 states:
July 16, 1874 Fireman killed in train wreck
Falls from Bridges/Train Tracks -McArthur Democrat., January 15, 1857, Image 3
1880 Frank Lawhead, Engineer Killed in Train Wreck
Near King's station in this county on Thursday last, Engineer Lawhead and Charles Krick, fireman, both of Chillicothe, were instantly killed by collision of freight trains, which, we are told, was the result of a mistake of train dispatcher. The trains were totally wrecked. . . (Athens Messenger, Thursday November 11, 1880)
1938 Charles Landrum, Engineer Killed in Train Wreck
A heavily loaded Baltimore & Ohio Railway double-header freight train crashed into a faill of rock at 111:57 p.m. Monday night killing the engineer on one of its two engines. The mishap occurred six miles cast of Zaleski between Hope and Moonville . . . (The Portsmouth Times, December 27, 1938)
So who is the real Moonville Ghost?
Our best guess it is none other than Frank Lawhead. The timing and the description from pictures and sources seems to fit.
He died in 1880 and before the first sighting:
The ghost has been seen since 1894. In fact, a write up in the Chillicothe Gazette states:
1895 A ghost (after an absence of one year) returned and appeared in front of a freight at the point where Engineer Lawhead lost his life. The ghost is seen in a white robe and carrying a lantern. "The eyes glistened like balls of fire and surrounding it was a halo of twinkling stars" - Chillicothe Gazette, 17 Feb 1895
He fits at least one of the descriptions:He has been described as:
Man wearing an engineers cap and suit walking near the far end of the tunnel. There are also pictures taken in the tunnel to substantiate this - see below. If so, it could be either Frank Lawhead killed in 1880 or Charles Landrum killed in 1938. Since the ghost has been seen since 1894, it is most likely Frank Lawhead.
Also described as a black figure standing nearly 8 feet tall with a white beard, fiery eyes glistening like balls of fire and a lantern. Rastus Dexter could fit this description if he was a couple feet taller. He was a black miner in the community (Bill Ross, a local to Moonville related this in 1959 - Tom Dexter (Rastus' father) was a slave in Virginia and ran off during the Civil War and settled near Waterloo Forest on what is now know as the Dexter Farm. However, the timing is off for Rastus. The ghost was first seen 26 years before he was killed by a train.
People have heard trains, felt “strange” in the tunnel. One couple on our tour said the girl felt something touch her shoulder when they were there once.
And pictures and video have been taken in the tunnel, including these below:
Interesting Photographs taken by Nicholas Viltrakis at Moonville Tunnel. Click for larger view. . .
Look at lower right edge at the far end of the tunnel.
This is an enhanced view of the image at the right end of the tunnel.
The original photo as submitted by Michelle Schrader. Here is her story: "
I was camping at Lake Hope and I fully intended on visiting the Moonville Tunnel while I was there. I had previously visited the tunnel before this particular visit. I went with two other friends in the middle of the day last fall, at the beginning of October. We took a bunch of pictures, I was using my digital camera. I did not notice that there was a "figure" in the picture until I downloaded it on to my computer when I got home. Upon magnifying the shadow, it appears to be a manly looking figure. It gave me complete chills. I have shared the picture with lots of people, and we are all baffled. There is no reasonable explanation for the figure. It does go along with the legend of the tunnel, though. Apparently, based on the story that I have heard, there was a brakeman that was killed in the tunnel, and if you look at the figure, it appears that his leg is missing from the photo, you can see right through his leg. Creepy, huh? "
Click for larger view:
Actual Newspaper clippings:
Deaths at Moonville Tunnel:
Athens Messenger, July17, 1873 Moonville brakeman killed
Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel, November 10, 1880 Train Wreck
Athens Messenger and Herald, September 1907
Portsmouth Times, 1938
Athens Messenger, Monday Oct 15, 1945