The Moonville Railroad Tunnel Ghost Bill Knell

Most people don"t think of Ohio as a very haunted place. But that"s an incorrect assumption. Some of the scariest and most haunted places in the USA are located in Ohio. One of those places is an old railroad tunnel near what used to be the town of Moonville. The town was located in Southeastern Ohio and today, if there were anything left of it, would be a part of Zaleski State Park. The nearest town I could find on the map would be Hope, a short distance to the northwest.

Born in the mid-1850"s, Moonville reached it peak in the 1870"s with only 60-100 residents. It was a small mining community with a saloon, post office, school, railroad depot and store. By the late 1940"s the town was dead. Today, no houses or buildings remain standing.

The Moonville Railroad Tunnel lies about 500 yards from the town. The last train used the tracks there in 1986. Since then, the tracks and a fifty foot trestle over Raccoon Creek that separated Moonville from the train tunnel have all been removed.

The Moonville Ghost story begins with the death of a railroad worker over one hundred and forty years ago. According to a regional newspaper article dated 3/31/1859:

"A brakesman on the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad fell from the cars near Cincinnati Furnace, on last Tuesday March 29, 1859 and was fatally injured, when the wheels passing over and grinding to a shapeless mass the greater part of one of his legs. He was taken on the train to Hamden and Doctors Wolf and Rannells sent for to perform amputation, but the prostration of the vital energies was too great to attempt it. The man is probably dead ere this. The accident resulted from a too free use of liquor."

Railroad workers in trains running on that line started to report seeing a ghostly man who would stand on the tracks and wave a lantern causing the train to stop. He might be in the tunnel, just outside or on the tracks leading to or from the structure. For a time, railroad engineers stopped their trains in case it was a real person warning them of impending danger. But after a while they got so used to the apparition that they ignored it and kept going. An article from the Chillicothe Gazette dated 2/17/1895 states:

"The ghost of Moonville, after an absence of one year, has returned and is again at its old pranks, haunting B&O S-W freight trains and their crews. It appeared Monday night in front of fast freight No. 99 west bound, just eat of the cut which is one half mile the other side of Moonville at the point where Engineer Lawhead lost his life and Engineer Walters was injured. The ghost, attired in a pure white robe, carried a lantern. It had a flowing white beard, its eyes glistened like balls of fire and surrounding it was a halo of twinkling stars. When the train stopped, the ghost stepped off the track and disappeared into the rocks nearby."

People hiking through that area still report seeing the ghost, but it"s not the only one they see! The reputation of Moonville has been added to over the years by more events with possible supernatural ramifications.

The railroad didn"t leave much room for error when it built the tunnel and four surrounding trestles. The tunnel is just fifty yards long and barely wide enough for the trains that once ran through it on a single track. The trestles were just wide enough for the tracks placed on them and most were long spans. If you happen to be walking on any of the trestles around mid-span when a train came, you would either be hit by the train or have to take a long deadly plunge into a very shallow creek. Numbers vary, but most people who have taken the time to go through area newspapers claim that at least five to ten people were killed in just such a way. The last person killed on one of the trestles was a ten year old girl walking the tracks in 1986 when a CSX train hit her. Shortly after that the line was shut down and more then a few people have seen her ghost!

Hikers that travel along the old track bed and stop for the night to camp out have also reported seeing the ghosts of an older woman who died on a trestle, a prospector, a worker that died in the local mines and one who perished while working at the Hope furnace that still exists in the State Park. But the stand-out spook in all this is still the original Moonville Ghost. Even those who visit the tunnel in broad daylight have reported seeing the apparition standing in dark corners of the structure waving his hideous lantern!

In July of 1977 a B&O freight train was headed west through the Moonville area. Near midnight, an inexperienced engineer saw a man standing on the track and swinging a lantern. Just before he could brake, a conductor told him to ignore the man and wait. He had already been through this many times before. At fifty miles an hour, the lights of the engine shown on the man and flowed through him. The figure then vanished!

New horror stories involving Moonville have joined the old ones. In addition to the original lantern ghost and those of various people killed on or near the tracks; not so ghostly, but equally frightening stories have surfaced of missing hikers, mutilation deaths and teen suicides.

Supposedly, a number of people who were set to hike the old railroad bed through the Moonville area were never seen again. People who sought out the tunnel ghost vanished in the presence of their friends, only to be found days later having been murdered and horribly mutilated. Several Teens are said to have committed suicide in or near the tunnel for no apparent reason. These stories come from the late 1980"s and 1990"s.

Although I have been unable to substantiate the stories of missing hikers, mutilation murders and teen suicides near the tunnel, the original Moonville Ghost and his spooky friends make up for any horrific exaggerations that might exist in the area. They do have actual histories to back them up and have been seen by enough credible witnesses to be considered real. Ironically, the small nearby cemetery that"s no longer used and holds the remains of many of Moonville"s residents is probably the least haunted of all the places in that area!

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