Moonville Tunnel and Cemetery
Moonville Tunnel and Cemetery

Table of Contents

  1. History of Moonville and the Railroad
  2. Tragic History
  3. Ghostly Legends
  4. Dispelling Misinformation
  5. My Visit
  6. Final Thoughts
  7. Links and References

History of Moonville and the Railroad

 
Moonville on the 1902 Railroad Map of Ohio
      The story of Moonville, Ohio has its beginnings in 1856 when the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad was building west to Cincinnati. At the time, a man named Samuel Coe owned an area of land west of Athens and was looking for a way to ship clay and coal being mined on his property. Coe and the M&C struck a deal. The railroad could build across Coe's land for free. In exchange, the M&C would haul the clay and coal from there.

      Several mines opened in the area, and Moonville, possibly named after a man named Moon who ran a store in town, became a mining town.

      Moonville was never a large town, only reaching a population of a little over 100 in the 1870s. The town was also quite remote with residents typically taking a train or walking the tracks to get to the nearby towns of Hope and Mineral.

      In 1887, the Marietta and Cincinnati was purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio. Around that time, the town of Moonville began to decline. By 1900, the mines began to close. The last family left the town in 1947, and by the 1960s, the buildings of Moonville were torn down, leaving only the cemetery and railroad.

      After Moonville faded into history, railroad traffic on the route increased.
1

      On June 15, 1973, the Baltimore and Ohio merged with the Chesapeake and Ohio and the Western Maryland to create Chessie System. Train traffic was at 14 trains per day2, and the route became Chessie System's Parkersburg Subdivision between Parkersburg, West Virginia and Chillicothe, Ohio, according to the 1980 Chessie System Ohio Division timetable. On October 31, 1976, Amtrak's Shenandoah began operations between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, Ohio, passing through what was once Moonville.3 On November 1, 1980, Chessie System merged with Seaboard System to create CSX. Even though they were the same company, both railroads were operated separately. Several sources have said that the route was "dark" or unsignaled and dispatched by train orders and that in the late 1970s it was decided to install Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) to the route, which added signals by 1981.4 Citing low ridership, Amtrak discontinued the Shenandoah on September 30, 1981.5

      By 1984, trains were down to ten scheduled trains per day, and CSX began to install continuous welded rail on the route, finishing by May 1985. Just one month later in June, CSX announced that the Cumberland, Maryland to Cincinnati route over the Parkersburg Subdivision was to be downgraded from a mainline to a secondary route. The last scheduled train ran over the route on August 31, 1985.6 By late 1986, CSX stopped using the route.7 In June 1988, the tracks over the Parkersburg Subdivision were taken out with the bridges being removed soon after.

      Speculations arose as to why the route was so quickly abandoned and torn out after signal and track upgrades had been completed. It was believed that CSX was being pressured to allow another railroad, perhaps one of the western railroads, to take control of the line. As a result, it was speculated that the track was taken up to discourage that. The same reason has been given for why CSX took out the bridges along the route despite the state wanting to create a rail trail through the Zaleski State Forest.8

Tragic History

      While researching the history of Moonville, I was surprised by the number of deaths in or near Moonville that did not involve natural causes, such as heart attacks, illnesses, etc. On source said that there were more than 25 deaths from 1859 through 1986 in the Moonville area from reasons other than �natural�.
# (9 F)

      Below is a list that I have compiled from different sources.

March 29, 1859
  • A Marietta and Cincinnati brakeman fell from a train near Cincinnati Furnace. He was taken to Hamden where he died. (McArthur Democrat, March 31, 1859)10
18??
  • 18-year-old Raymond Burritt was killed in a mine explosion.11
1873
  • A 21-year-old brakeman named McDevitt was crushed between train cars and died shortly afterwards. (Athens Messenger, July 17, 1873)12
  • A woman from Mineral (a few miles east of Moonville) was killed on a trestle one mile east of the Moonville tunnel. (Athens Messenger, October 16, 1873)13 14 15
1876
  • Michael Molboro, a Marietta and Cincinnati brakeman, was killed in an accident. (Vinton Record, February 14, 1884)16
  • 13-year-old Henry Shirkey lost one of his legs jumping off a train one quarter mile west of Vinton Station and died. (Athens Messenger, February 17, 1876)17
1880
  • James Hood, who lived between Moonville and Zaleski (west of Moonville by train), was killed while returning home from Athens. Rather than take the train all the way to Zaleski and then walk back to his home, he would jump off the train by his house. On this occasion, he was thrown twenty feet into a post, breaking his neck. (Athens Messenger, May 20, 1880)18
  • Engineer Frank Lawhead and fireman Charles Krick were killed when two Marietta and Cincinnati freight trains collided head on near Moonville. (Athens Messenger, November 11, 1880)19
1884
  • Thomas Molboro, a Marietta and Cincinnati brakeman, was killed in an accident. His brother Michael had been killed in a similar accident in 1876. (Vinton Record, February 14, 1884)20
1886
  • David �Baldie� Keeton got into a fight one evening in the Hope-Moonville Saloon. He was found murdered along the tracks the following morning.21
1890
  • 4-year-old Albert Stillwell choked to death on a .22 cartridge. He is buried in the Moonville cemetery.22
1905
  • According to her grandson Michael Shea, Mrs. Patrick Shea was hit by a train while crossing the trestle over Raccoon Creek and later died from her injuries.23
  • According to Michael Shea, a man named Amos Kennard was killed when he stepped in front of a train.24
1907
  • Allen Albaugh was killed after he hopped a freight train near Luhrig and fell off near the Moonville tunnel. (Athens Messenger and Herald, September 4, 1907)25
1910
  • 6-year-old Bessie Stillwell died from burns received when a hot cup of coffee was spilled down her back. She is buried in the Moonville cemetery.26
1912
  • Charlie Ferguson was killed when he crossed the tracks after waiting for a train and was hit by some freight cars that had broken loose from the rear of the train.27 He is buried in the Moonville cemetery.28
1920
  • Miner Rastus Dexter was returning home when he was killed by a train in the Moonville tunnel.29
1936
  • A man was murdered at the inn in Moonville.30
1938
  • Baltimore and Ohio engineer Charles Landrum was killed when his freight train struck a rock slide six miles east of Zaleski between Hope and Moonville. (The Portsmouth Times, December 27, 1938)31
1945
  • Baltimore and Ohio employee George Gilpin was working on the trestle in Moonville over Raccoon Creek when a load of ties shifted and killed him. (Athens Messenger, October 15, 1945)32
1986
  • Shortly before the route was abandoned, a 10-year-old girl was killed by a CSX train on or near the trestle in what used to be Moonville.33 According to the October 29, 2010 episode of the TV show My Ghost Story (season 1, episode 8), the girl was a Girl Scout on a hiking trip who apparently tried to beat the train across the trestle.
      It has been rumored that there had been a smallpox plague in Moonville at one time and that a man had tried to stop a train for help and was killed.34 However, no source that I have found has ever mentioned any name for the man supposedly killed as well as any dates for the outbreak or when the man was killed. Because of that, I believe that the story of the smallpox outbreak is likely a myth.

      Of the deaths listed above, five can be called isolated incidents. The others were all related to the railroad going through Moonville.

      Railroading in the 1800s was dangerous work, especially for a brakeman. Before the air brake was invented, if an engineer wanted to stop a train, he would apply the locomotive brakes and whistle for the brakemen in the locomotive and caboose to apply the handbrakes on each car. Going over the tops of each car on a clear day was difficult enough. At night when your only light is a lantern or in bad weather when snow, ice, or rain makes surfaces slippery, the job was especially dangerous. Even when on the ground, being a brakeman was difficult and dangerous since before automatic couplers, a brakeman had to stand between cars as they came together to couple them by hand.

      Collisions and derailments, especially in the early years of railroading, were common. It has often been said that safety rules and regulations on railroads were written in blood.

      With the train-related deaths that were not railroaders, Moonville�s location seemed to play a part. With the town�s remote setting, people often used the railroad to walk to the nearby communities. This meant possibly going over one of the four trestles in the area or through the Moonville tunnel. The trestle in Moonville over Raccoon Creek was fifty feet high. The tunnel is fifty yards long, narrow, and built on a slight curve.35 With the curves and hilly terrain, it would be difficult to hear an approaching train until it was too late. With the exception of the 1986 incident, railroad-related deaths seemed to disappear with Moonville.

Ghostly Legends

      The ghost stories surrounding Moonville began in the early 1890s. According to the February 17, 1895 Chillicothe Gazette, westbound train #99 was just east of Moonville where the 1880 head-on crash occurred when the crew spotted a figure in white waving a lantern. Bringing the train to a stop, the crew saw the figure step off the tracks and disappear.
36

      In 1993, the Athens Messenger told of a story about some Ohio University students seeing the light of a lantern in the tunnel.37

      Popular belief is that the mysterious light is one of the railroaders who died in the area between 1859 and 1884. There has been speculation that the light is Rastus Dexter, but he died in 1920, well after the sightings in the 1890s.

      Other spirits seen have been the figure of a man on the hill above the tunnel and the figure of a woman in white. People have also reportedly heard a train, felt strange, and have been touched in the tunnel.

      According to legend, when the signal system was upgraded in 1981, a westbound signal was installed 150 yards from the east portal of the Moonville tunnel. There were no signals at that location for eastbound trains. It has been said that crews were to stop in that area if the signal was red and to ignore anybody waving a lantern or flashlight.38

Dispelling Misinformation

      In doing my research into Moonville prior to actually going there, I wanted to try to separate fact and fiction to find the truth regarding the stories surrounding the Moonville area. Having been into trains since I was two years old, I decided to look into the railroading aspect of the stories first.

      To start out, I looked at two Chessie System Ohio Division timetables that I had been given when I was a kid.

1980 Chessie System Ohio Division Timetable

      According to the July 1, 1980 timetable, the route did have Automatic Block Signals (ABS) in place and was dispatched by train orders (instructions given to crews for the movement of trains), contrary to the widespread claims of the line being "dark" or unsignaled.

      Basically, an ABS signaling system only tells crews if the section of track ahead is occupied or not. It does not tell them how far they are allowed to safely move trains, which is where the train orders from the dispatcher comes in.

      In the case of the Parkersburg Subdivision, train orders were given to crews at Parkersburg, Grosvenor, West Jct., and Chillicothe. The speed limit for freight trains over the route in the Moonville area was 50 miles per hour. The circuitry for the signals was configured so that eastbound trains were superior to westbounds. In other words, if two trains were approaching a siding from opposite directions, the westbound train would be directed into the siding to wait for the eastbound to pass. The westbound crew would then use controls on the signals to clear their train to move west. This prevented the possibility of two opposing trains having to stop for each other on a single-track section of the route, which sounded to me like a signaling system known as Absolute Permissive Block (APB). Switches for the sidings were also manually lined by the train crews.

1981 Chessie System Ohio Division Timetable

      With the August 1, 1981 timetable, the instructions for Automatic Block Signals were gone. Train order offices were now only at Parkersburg and Chillicothe, which were where trains were given clearance to run over the subdivision. Sidings at Cole and Zaleski were removed. The siding at Canaanville was lengthened from 5,220 feet to 8,490 feet. The siding at Mineral was lengthened from 4,092 feet to 7,510 feet. The double track between Byers Jct. and West Jct. was shortened to a 9,500-foot siding at West Jct. A radio channel was also assigned to the route. With Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) in place, the dispatcher could line switches and signals, communicate directly with the train crews, and see where the trains were on the route.

Photo courtesy of
Railroad Photos of Southern Ohio.
      The picture to the left is of Kings Tunnel, the other tunnel east of Moonville on the Parkersburg Subdivision. Taken in July 1977, it shows that there were signals on the route prior to 1981. It also shows an arrangement like what was claimed to have been installed at Moonville in 1981 with a signal (for only one direction) for trains heading towards the tunnel.

      With this picture and the fact that the 1981 timetable made no mention of a "special" signal at Moonville, I was suspecting that the signal, if it existed, had a normal explanation. Plus, telling train crews to ignore somebody giving them a stop signal sounded too much like it was from the 1979 ABC TV movie Disaster on the Coastliner.

      In mid-May 2012, I joined the
B&O Southwestern Railroad List Yahoo group. I asked about Moonville and got some confirmation on what I had read in the Chessie System timetables.

      Since the 1920s, the entire route had been signaled with Baltimore and Ohio color-position light signals. The signals, as I had suspected above, had used Absolute Permissive Block (APB) signaling, which overlays on Automatic Block Signaling (ABS) to provide protection against opposing traffic. While dispatched by train orders, the route was not considered "dark" or unsignaled. The system was upgraded in 1981 to CTC (known as Traffic Control System with Chessie System).

      There was no "special" signal at Moonville. The nearest signals to Moonville were about two miles to the west and one mile to the east. One member of the Yahoo group said he had walked the route in the Moonville area both when it was in operation and after it was abandoned, and there was no signal just east of the Moonville tunnel.

      The 1984 laying of welded rail on the route was not considered a massive upgrade. The route had reached its routine maintenance window. While it seemed like the route was "quickly" abandoned afterwards, it actually had numerous factors working against it, namely that only four through trains a day used the route by 1985. It was also in 1985 that CSX installed the southeast transfer track at the interchange in Fostoria, Ohio, allowing trains from the east on the former Baltimore and Ohio to turn south onto the former Chesapeake and Ohio for Columbus and Cincinnati. There was also no competing railroad interested in taking over the route.

      That is quite a bit different from what I had been reading online since the mid-1990s. The downgrading of the route also sounded like what happened on Conrail's former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline through my hometown of Bucyrus around that same time. Traffic on that route began to get diverted onto the former New York Central route between Toledo and Cleveland, which had been much better maintained. The former Pennsy route was single-tracked and then re-laid with welded rail in 1983. By the late 1980s, Conrail had downgraded the route, and Amtrak was looking to reroute the Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited west of Pittsburgh.

      What happened with the route through Moonville was common at the time as railroads, having gone through a series of mergers in the 1970s and early 1980s, began looking to sell off or abandon routes to trim expenses. After the Parkersburg Subdivision was abandoned and the tracks were taken up in 1988, the bridges were probably removed to eliminate any liability should somebody decide to hike the old route and accidentally fall off one of the bridges.

      So why has there been so much bad information (railroading-wise, at least) in regards to Moonville? I believe it has to do a lot with how some people either don't understand railroad operations and signals or think that they do and end up passing along bad information.

      Some people also do no research into the information they pass along.

      In her book Haunted Ohio (1991, Kestrel Publications), Chris Woodyard tells of a Baltimore and Ohio conductor who was having an affair with an engineer's wife and how the engineer supposedly killed him by running him over with a train. This story has been spread around as the basis for the Moonville ghost stories for years. However, Miss Woodyard took this story from F. A. Morgan's book Hants and Hangings: Stories of the Odd, the Bizarre, the Sensational in Area Early History and Folklore (1976, Quaker City: Home Towner Printing) and still refers to the route as the Baltimore and Ohio and in use, even though it had been abandoned and pulled up by CSX for three years.

      In 1997, Chris Woodyard again fueled the urban legends regarding Moonville in Haunted Ohio IV (Kestrel Publications). She refers to the trestle over Raccoon Creek as still standing, even though it was removed nine years earlier. She also said that swimmers dove off the trestle into Raccoon Creek, despite the bridge being fifty feet high and the creek being shallow. She also retells the October 28, 1993 Athens News Messenger story about the tunnel and the Ohio University students seeing the light of a lantern. Miss Woodyard also shows in the book how she doesn't check stories she writes. She tells of two women supposedly seeing Lincoln's funeral train east of my hometown of Bucyrus at the Parcher Road crossing. However, that would be impossible since Lincoln's funeral train went from Cleveland south through Crestline to reach Columbus. It didn't turn west and go through Bucyrus. Most likely, if the two women did see anything, it was a freight train stopping outside of town to avoid blocking crossings. Noticing that the women had stopped, the engineer would have possibly turned off the headlight since the train was stopped.

      With the amount of misinformation I had dug up so far with the railroad history of the route, I was beginning to wonder how far fetched the rest of the claims were.

My Visit

      I decided to make a trip to Moonville on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Never having been there before, I had printed out copies of directions from a couple websites as well as Google Maps. Since I couldn't convince any friends to go along, I decided to go during the day so that I could find my way around easier. I also admit that I was a little nervous since I wasn't sure what to expect.

      The trip down was uneventful although on the way, my Jeep's air conditioning decided that it needed recharged. While tolerable, I was quite warm when I got down to the area.

      Thanks to the Street View feature in Google Maps, I was able to easily recognize my turns on the way, which was a good thing as the roads once I got off US 33 were quite hilly and curvy.

      After passing Lake Hope, which was a beautiful part of the drive, I found Wheelabout Road and then began looking for Shea Road, which I had heard was easy to miss. It was actually quite easy to find. Wheelabout Road made a curve to the right, and Shea Road branched off straight ahead at the start of the curve. After passing a small farm on Shea Road, the road turned into Hope-Moonville Road.

      That's when the drive turned interesting.

      Rather than a paved back road like I was used to, the narrow road was dirt and stone. It was also quite spooky at times, especially when meeting other vehicles. With lots of tight turns and steep hills, I kept my speed down to about fifteen miles per hour. I didn't see any guardrails along the road, which was scary as there was no shoulder, just a dropoff that was often a steep hillside. When meeting another car, I would get over as far as I could and stop to let the other guy past. It was literally like I had driven back into another era on this road.

      Finally, after what seemed like forever, I came around a curve and saw the road bridge over Raccoon Creek ahead. Just before the bridge on the left were a pulloff area and the two trails going around the north side of the Creek. After crossing the bridge, the road went up a hill and crossed the old railroad right-of-way with pulloff areas on both sides of the road.

      Even though I had reached my destination, I continued on as I wanted to first visit the Moonville cemetery, which was just ahead to the south. Not long after passing the right-of-way, the road split. To the left, the road continued along the river. To the right, a narrow drive climbed up the hill parallel to the road below for a ways before disappearing around a sharp turn to the right. Not knowing if my Jeep would make it up the drive and not wanting to back down, I carefully turned around and went back to where the railroad used to cross the road and parked at about 1:15PM.

      Getting out of the Jeep, I was instantly attacked by a cloud of mosquitoes. I quickly ran to the back of the Jeep, got out the Off clip-on repellant, and turned it on. It had no effect. I got out the Off Deep Woods and sprayed my arms and legs. Almost instantly, the mosquitoes were gone.

      As I changed into an old pair of boots that I'd brought along, a car pulled in with three kids who looked like college students. I actually recognized them from when I'd stopped for lunch at a rest area on US 33 near Rockbridge. They went down the old right-of-way towards the tunnel. I grabbed my camera and headed down the road to the cemetery at about 1:30PM.

About halfway to the drive of the cemetery, I stopped for a few pictures to capture the remoteness of the area. This is looking north towards Moonville. Same location looking east into the woods. Same location looking south. After going up the long drive, I made it to the cemetery. Once there, I realized that not only would my Jeep have been able to get up the drive but that there was plenty of room to turn around in.
Wellington Coe Unknown grave. There was a name on the marker, but I couldn't make it out. Unknown grave. William Stillwell (April 20, 1827 to May 5, 1876)
Sarah Ann (Lentner) Stillwell (October 24, 1830 to August 21, 1905)
Unknown graves. Ideline Jones (July 5, 1874 to July 15, 1874) Unknown grave.
Benjamin Jones (May 22, 1832 to February 24, 1912)
Rachel (Stillwell) Jones (June 12, 1842 to April 1, 1914)
Cliff Coe (1844 to 1899) Lovisa Coe (1843 to 1885) Cemetery overview.
Cemetery overview. Unknown graves. Somebody with a sick mind obviously thought a cemetery was a good place for graffiti.
On the way back to Moonville, I took some pictures on the driveway leading to the cemetery. This is looking up the drive towards the cemetery entrance. Looking up the hill towards the cemetery. Looking down the drive towards the road. Looking through the woods along the main road down towards Raccoon Creek.
A few more pictures along Hope-Moonville Road looking through the trees towards the river. In the third picture, you can see how if a vehicle went off the shoulder of the road it would be in trouble as there is a big dropoff along the road.
Looking north in what used to be Moonville. This is where the railroad used to cross the road. My Jeep was parked on what used to be the old right-of-way. Had the tracks still been here and in service, I would have been in big trouble. Looking west from the former crossing location. While the trail continues west, it obviously doesn't get used much. Looking south from the former crossing location.
Looking east from the original crossing location down the former right-of-way towards where the trestle crossed Raccoon Creek. Looking back at the Jeep as I head down the trail. This is where the tracks used to cross Raccoon Creek. What surprised me when I got there was that the original bridge abutments and support columns were gone. New bridge abutments are in place. It looks like a new bridge might be in the works for this part of the trail. Looking south from the trail at Raccoon Creek.
This is the rocky foot bridge that many people use to cross Raccoon Creek. It didn't look as stable as I remembered in pictures online, and with water coming over it in some places, I decided to play it safe and not cross here. Another view looking south from the west side bridge abutment. Another view of Raccoon Creek from the bridge abutment. Looking across Raccoon Creek.
Another view across the river. The tunnel portal is just barely visible to the left of the center of the picture. Looking back up at the old right-of-way. The bridge abutments are noticably lower than the original trestle, probably to shorten the length of the bridge and save on costs.

      With water coming over the rock foot bridge in places and my carrying all of my gear, I headed back to the Jeep and headed back across the road bridge, arriving in the pulloff area about 2PM. After getting a few pictures, including a couple of Raccoon Creek from the road bridge, I got my gear and headed down the path leading along the river bank.

      Along the path were some beautiful scenes that I wish I'd gotten more pictures of, but the ground was a little muddy in several places, which prevented me from setting my gear down to get my camera out. Also, there were some places where the path was a little tricky. The river had carved into the bank and caused as couple places to start to crumble away. Some water runoff in these areas made the remaining path slick. Walking the path alternated between making a good pace (and keeping ahead of the mosquitoes) and having to tiptoe to keep from slipping and possibly going for a swim.

At the pulloff north of the road bridge over Raccoon Creek, this is one of the two trails around the north side of the river to access the tunnel. Looking south at the road bridge. The trail closest to the river bank on the left. You can tell how dusty the road is by the dust trail left by a van that just passed me. Looking east from the road bridge over Raccoon Creek. Looking west from the road bridge over Raccoon Creek.
Looking back at the trail along Raccoon Creek. Looking across the river. Another view of the trail as it turned away from the river. After climbing an embankment, the trail came out at the old right-of-way. This is looking west towards Raccoon Creek.
Turning around, I got my first look at the Moonville tunnel. A couple views of the former trestle location. Another view of the rocky foot bridge across Raccoon Creek.
Looking down from the east bridge abutment. Looking north from the east bridge abutment. Looking up at the old right-of-way to the east. West tunnel portal.
West portal. Looking through the west portal. Looking west through tunnel just inside the east portal. Tunnel repair plaque from 1903-1904.
Looking out the east portal. East portal.
Rocky hill surrounding the east portal. Looking east at the old right-of-way. An old telephone pole lays on its side above the tunnel.
While some of the bricks are missing, the Moonville name is still above the portal. Looking west through tunnel from inside the east portal. A look at the graffiti on the north wall of the tunnel. It's sad that some people can't respect what isn't theirs. Looking out the east portal.
Looking west through the tunnel from inside the east portal. At about the middle of the tunnel, somebody had built a campfire at one time. Looking out the east portal from about the middle of the tunnel. Looking out the west portal from about the middle of the tunnel.
Looking east through the tunnel from inside the west portal. Looking out the west portal. Looking east through the tunnel from inside the west portal.
Various pictures around the outside of the west portal.
More various pictures around the outside of the west portal.
Looking through tunnel from inside the west portal. Looking out the west portal. Looking through tunnel from inside the west portal. Looking out the east portal.
Looking west through tunnel from inside the east portal. Around 3:15PM, I headed east down the old right-of-way, taking a couple pictures of the east portal while it was in sight.
Looking east down the old right-of-way. About 3:30PM, I came to the end of the trail where the railroad used to cross a branch from Raccoon Creek. The original bridge abutment and support columns are still in place. Looking at the trees growing up between the bridge abutment and support columns, it's hard to believe that this route has been torn up for only 24 years. When I first arrived at the former bridge location, I heard a noise down along the river. Looking through the trees, I saw what initially looked like a figure in white. At first I thought I was seeing the lady in white that I'd heard about, but the "figure" spread its wings and flew off down the river. It was a large crane.
Looking west at the old right-of-way and a 15-minute hike back to the tunnel. Needless to say, the tunnel was a welcome sight to see on my way back. Looking through tunnel from inside the east portal.
Looking through the tunnel from inside the east portal.

      Throughout the time I'd been at the tunnel, I saw a lot of people coming through in groups of two to six or so. Most came through, walked to the east end of the tunnel, and then left. Some went down the old right-of-way to the east of the tunnel. Some groups had little kids, some too young to walk. One family even brought their dog, who happily went trotting right through the mud at the east end of the tunnel.

      At one point a little after 4PM, there was a lull in the visitors, and I tried to set up the camera to record some video in the tunnel from the east end. Below is the result.


      Some more people came through about ten minutes after trying to start the video. Even though I'd stopped recording, I did take some pictures down the tunnel in an attempt to catch something on camera. Once it was quiet again around 4:30PM, I made a second attempt at a video, trying to ask some questions to see if I could get any results.


      Again, more people came through to see the tunnel, and I relocated to the west portal, where I took some pictures.

A couple pictures of the west portal.
Looking east through tunnel from inside the west portal. Looking out the west portal. Looking east through tunnel from inside the west portal.

      Once it quieted down again around 4:50PM, I recorded another video. This time, I again asked some questions, going through the list of non-natural deaths from the area and even got out one of my flashlights to give stop signals and highball signals to see if I would get any response.


Several pictures looking through the tunnel from inside the west portal.

      With the sun starting to go down and knowing I had a bit of a hike back to the Jeep, I headed back around 5:30. Once back, I put my gear in the back, switched back to my shoes, put my muddy boots in a trash bag to keep mud from getting all over everything, and drove back up to where the tracks used to cross the road. I then headed back to the west end of the original trestle location.

Looking across Raccoon Creek at the former tunnel location. Looking south from the bridge abutment. Another view of the rocky foot bridge. The woman in the green shirt was fortunately okay. One of the big rocks rolled as she was crossing, spilling her into the water. Last view across Raccoon Creek towards the tunnel.

      After soaking in the scenery one last time, I headed back to the Jeep and headed home, taking off around 6:15PM and turning on the 4-wheel drive to better control my Jeep on the rough road. On the way home, I saw how dirty the back window was and tried to clean it with the wiper, but that only made it worse.

      It had been a fun trip, despite the mosquitoes. I had gotten out and away from the stresses at home. I got to see some beautiful scenery and get some inspiration for future paintings. And I got to explore some of Ohio's and railroading history.

      But I hadn't had any paranormal experiences.

Final Thoughts

      At no time during my visit to Moonville did I see, hear, or sense anything unusual. One of the other visitors who had been there several times before had even asked me if I'd seen anything. When I told him that I hadn't, he was actually surprised. When I got home, I went through the pictures and video from my camera, but nothing unusual showed up in them.

      Of course, there are a few possibilities as to why I didn't experience anything during my visit.

  1. There are no ghosts in Moonville.
  2. Tales of ghosts in Moonville have been exaggerated.
  3. Moonville is haunted, but conditions were not right during my visit to experience anything.
  4. The haunting has ended.
      Ghost stories surrounding Moonville have been circulating for well over a hundred years. The stories have reached a legendary status, and we will probably never know exactly when or how the stories began.

      While in Moonville, I noticed a few things that could explain some of the things that people have reported in Moonville.

      Some people have reported feeling cold spots or uneasiness in the tunnel. While there, the temperatures outside of the tunnel were in the low 90s. Inside the tunnel, the thermometer I had with me was reading about 73 to 75 degrees with the west end of the tunnel being slightly warmer with the sun shining on that end. At times while at the east portal, I did feel an occasional cool breeze come through the tunnel. Some people could get a chill from that and think it's a cold spot. As far as feeling uneasy goes, it is a dark tunnel, which could cause some people to feel uncomfortable. Add in the possibility of not being used to being deep in the woods or in a tunnel or cave, and a person could easily get a creepy sensation.

      Something else that I noticed in Moonville was how sound easily travels and can get distorted, at least in and west of the tunnel. While at the east end of the tunnel, I could easily hear people out at the road, coming across Raccoon Creek, or up the trails along the river. Vehicles driving down the road made a kind of white noise effect. In the tunnel, every sound seemed to be amplified and echoed throughout. You can hear this in the videos I recorded in the tunnel. East of the tunnel, it was amazingly quiet.

      Granted, this doesn't explain every experience that people have claimed to have had in Moonville. It doesn't explain the lady in white, the figure seen on the hill, or the light of a lantern in the tunnel.

      Of course, it is entirely possible that the ghost stories have been made up or that things have been misidentified as ghosts, such as the crane I saw along the river, for example.

      But what if there are ghosts in Moonville? It's possible that some people have had experiences and that the stories have been exaggerated over the years. Perhaps actual sightings of ghosts in Moonville are actually rare events.

      It's also possible that conditions were not right for seeing anything during my visit. For example, the stories of the light in the tunnel seem to have occurred in the evening or at night. One site that I read said that stormy weather seems to trigger it. I had made my trip on a clear sunny day. Also, there were times when I was being attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, which could have distracted me from sensing anything unusual. It's also possible that I wasn't there long enough to experience anything. I've never heard of ghosts appearing on cue. Of the five hours that I was in Moonville on my visit, only about half of that time was at the tunnel. Something could have made an appearance when I wasn't there, or, like I mentioned above, I might not have been there at the right time of day. I also may not have been in the right state of mind. I had been doing a lot of reading on Moonville prior to the trip. It's possible my mind wasn't clear enough to be able to perceive anything unusual.

      It's also possible that there were too many people coming through the tunnel. Imagine that for some reason you're caught between this word and the afterlife. You try to make contact with visitors, but they scream and run, litter/vandalize your surroundings, or act like the paparazzi. Would you make an appearance to just anybody who came by? I wouldn't.

      There is one other possibility as to why nothing unusual happened to me at Moonville. It's possible that the haunting has ended. There have been numerous instances where a haunting will stop when changes have been made in the environment, the spirit's business is finished, or the spirit simply moves on.

      Do I think Moonville is haunted? I'm undecided.

      One trip, in my opinion, is not enough to make a determination. I wish I would have had an EMF detector in addition to my camera and thermometer. Granted, I'm going to hold off on another visit until after the new bridge, if that is indeed what is going in, is finished. Trying to carry a lot of gear down the trail along Raccoon Creek is just way too difficult.

      The one feeling I had about my visit to Moonville was a sense of sadness. At one time this small town had been an important part of many people's lives. Now that nature has reclaimed the area, it's as though the town didn't exist. Unless a person knows what to look for, what remains of even the old right-of-way can be easily missed. The tracks and trestles may only have been gone for a little more than twenty years when I visited Moonville, but, looking at the former trestle location east of the tunnel, it looks like it has been much longer. What is really sad is the trash, all of the graffiti in the tunnel, and the spray-painted tree in the cemetery. To me, that's just a complete lack of respect. To me, cemeteries are sacred. They are people's final resting places. The markers I saw in the cemetery aren't the only graves there. Several graves no longer have markers. To see that somebody spray painted the tree was sickening. In the tunnel, there were several empty beer cans scattered about. I enjoy a good drink from time to time, but I honestly don't know why somebody would need alcohol to enjoy the beauty of the area.

      If you visit Moonville, please don't litter or do anything disrespectful. The cemetery and tunnel are testimony to the town and people who lived and worked in the area. They are a part of history that has been all but forgotten. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and the chance to look at the past.

      If you are fortunate enough to visit Moonville and see a ghost, treat him or her with kindness and tell them hello. Remember, they were living people at one time, and for whatever reason, they have decided to stay around.

Links and References

Websites:

Moonville, Ohio
Wikipedia entry on Moonville.
Moonville Tunnel
Brief history of Moonville, the haunting stories, a look at the cemetery, and directions to Moonville.
The Moonville Tunnel
History of Moonville, the stories, and directions.
Moonville Tunnel
Pictures, some inaccurate information, and directions.
Ghost of Moonville
Where I first heard of Moonville. Has history of Moonville and the railroad line with false information mixed in.
Moonville Tunnel
A look at the deaths in the Moonville area as well as some of the paranormal claims.
Amtrak's Shenandoah
Wikipedia entry on Amtrak's Shenandoah, the only Amtrak train to pass through Moonville.
Moonville Rail Trail
Homepage of the Moonville Rail Trail Association.
Railroad Photos of Southern Ohio
Pictures of railroad routes through Moonville and the surrounding areas.
B&O Southwestern Railroad List
Yahoo group.

Books:
Haunted Ohio
Chris Woodyard, 1991, Kestrel Publications
Haunted Ohio IV
Chris Woodyard, 1997, Kestrel Publications

Kevin L. Wagner

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