The OES visited Moonville Tunnel on April 6, 2002. Moonville is located in Vinton County along Raccoon Creek in the densest wooded area in Ohio. This was also the case in 1856 when the Marietta-Cincinnati railroad was scouting locations for its rail line in southeastern Ohio. A man named Samuel Coe offered a large portion of his land to the railroad company for free as long as the rail line was routed through his land in order to haul out coal and clay. The railroad agreed to Coe's offer, as it reduced the amount of distance to Cincinnati. Several small towns popped up including the mining town of Moonville, named for the man who operated the town store, Mr. Moon. The coal mined around Moonville was used to supply many of the furnaces in the area, including nearby Hope Furnace. Moonville reached its peak in the 1870s when a little over 100 people lived there. Rail traffic increased in the 1880s when the line was bought by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but the town itself began to decline. The coal mines began to close in the early 1900s as the resources were all used up. The last family left Moonville in 1947 and all of the buildings were gone by the 1960s. The rail line was abandoned in 1988 and the rails were pulled up. Today the only remnants of Moonville are the tunnel and town cemetery, although there are currently plans to transform the line into a bike trail.
There are several legends and ghost stories surrounding Moonville Tunnel. The first story is the most popular and familiar in relation to the tunnel. On a dark night in the late 1800s, a brakeman was killed by a train. The brakeman was drunk after playing cards with some others and decided to walk through the tunnel to either get back to his home or his post. A train approached the tunnel and the brakeman attempted to stop the oncoming train by swinging his lantern back and forth. His attempt did not work and the brakeman was hit by the train, decapitating him. His ghost is said to haunt the tunnel, frantically swinging his lantern back and forth for eternity. In fact, the railroad had to install a signal at Moonville in 1981 because so many trains were going into emergency mode when they saw the ghostly lantern frantically waving. Wokers were informed not to pay attention to any lantern or flashlight signals and only use the signal.
The second legend involves a young lady who was going to visit her lover in Moonville in 1905. She was struck and killed by a train as she crossed the train trestle that spanned Raccoon Creek. Her ghost is said to roam the old train trestle looking for her head. Since the trestle is no longer there, we are not too sure where she would haunt today. Perhaps she floats along where the trestle used to be, but there have been no reports of such activity.
The oldest of the legends claims that a conductor was having an affair with an engineer's wife. This enraged the engineer, so as they were going through Moonville, he stopped the train and asked the conductor to check a brake line underneath the train. When the conductor crawled under the railcar, the engineer kicked the throttle causing the train to lurch forward. The conductor was killed instantly. Another version of the story states the conductor accidentally fell from the train. In either case, the conductor's ghost has been sighted since the 1890s.
There were several other deaths at or near Moonville over the years. One man who was involved in a fight at a local saloon was attacked on his way home along the tracks. He was left to die on the tracks close to the tunnel. His body wasn't found until the follow morning after having been run over by several trains. Another man named Charles Ferguson waited for a train to pass before he crossed the tracks. Little did he know some of the train's cars had somehow uncoupled. He was struck and killed by the second half of the train. The last death was in 1986 when a 10-year-old girl was struck by a CSX train on the trestle that crosses Raccoon Creek.
Moonville's legends have inspired a bluegrass song, orchestra piece, and a fictional horror story. America's most entertaining bluegrass band, The Rarely Herd, wrote a song entitled Moonville Brakeman. That same year, Scott Michal composed an orchestra piece entitled The Ghost of Moonville Tunnel. It has been likened to The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Bald Mountain. You may listen to both songs in their entirety below. In early 2009, a fictional book entitled An Incident At Moonville: The Conductor's Revenge, by William M. Cullen was released. The fictional horror story was based on the history of Moonville. The OES and our experience at the tunnel as described below was cited in Chapter 20 through one of the characters in his preservation report for a school project. In the fall of 2013, the Moonville Tunnel was featured in an episode of Haunted Highway. Two OES members were interviewed on-camera about their experiences at the tunnel for the show. A clip from the show with our interviews is included below.
There may be something to the hauntings at Moonville. We obtained very high electromagnetic field (EMF) readings within the tunnel during some of our visits. Our first attempt to record for electronic voice phenomena (EVP) failed when the brand new microcassette tape mysteriously snapped in half near the middle of the tunnel. If there was something there, it sure didn't want us to hear it. In June of 2003, we returned to Moonville hoping to finally record some EVP. We were not let down. Not only did we capture a few strange occurrences on audio equipment, one of our members actually witnessed the ghostly lantern for himself while others witnessed a dark, shadowy figure at the west end of the tunnel. The group also experienced lighting changes in the tunnel, becoming slightly darker for brief instances of time, despite it being a clear night. A female member had extreme cold-chills and photographs taken near her showed strange blue balls of light. A voice said, "I got you," as she was recording EVP.
We returned to Moonville Tunnel with a documentary crew on October 19, 2004 around 6:30 PM to conduct a paranormal investigation. The tunnel was unusually dark when standing at its center due to a dense fog that had rolled in. After walking the entire length of the tunnel and not recording anything out-of-the-ordinary on the EMF meter, we decided to stand in the center of the tunnel with the lights out. A few minutes passed as we stayed quiet in an attempt to record EVP. The group heard a sound come from the west end of the tunnel that was most likely water dripping from the ceiling. As everyone was looking in that direction, OES Founder Jason Robinson looked to the east end of the tunnel and saw a dim light...almost like candlelight. He informed the group of eight people about the light, but as with many things paranormal, the light disappeared as soon as everyone turned to look.
As the group stood looking toward where the light had been seen, there was a sudden scuffling sound of someone or something coming down the hill just outside the tunnel to the east. Then very distinct footsteps walked to the middle of the gravel path and began sprinting directly toward the entire group. At first, thinking it may be someone playing a prank, two people immediately turned on their flashlights and shined them in the direction of the running. The running sound immediately stopped, but nothing was seen. Robinson and the head of the documentary crew walked to the end of the tunnel, not seeing the source of the running sound. There were, however, other signs of paranormal activity taking place. When the two reached the end of the tunnel, the temperature dropped a measurable 10-15ºF to 40ºF and the EMF meter was at the top of the scale and did not budge. There was a very thick static electricity feeling in the air and the fog had become so thick it allowed for only about five feet of visibility. As the remainder of the group arrived at the tunnel's end, a very strong smell of musk cologne overwhelmed everyone. The thick fog, the coldness and the smell dissipated after about one minute. An EVP captured by the documentary crew stated, "Come closer," just before the running noise began. It was truly one of the most intense moments the OES has experienced while conducting an investigation.
We decided to make yet another trip to Moonville Tunnel during the night of October 9, 2010. The tunnel had become quite a tourist destination as there were multiple groups of people cycling in and out of the tunnel on a regular basis. Some individuals had even built a camp fire inside the east end of the tunnel. With all of the activity from the living, we did not have high hopes of witnessing anything out-of-the-ordinary. We were wrong. We decided to walk about 100 yards down the track bed from the east end of the tunnel. While standing there recording for EVP, four out of five people present witnessed a small bright blue ball of light fading in and out along the ridge above and to the north of Moonville Tunnel. We thought perhaps it could be starlight being occasionally blocked by tree branches. However, two OES members witnessed the light smoothly move south about 10-15 feet, stop and disappear. A few minutes later, another member saw the light move to the north about 10-15 feet in the same manner. Four of our members witnessed the light come slightly further down the hill, blinking in and out. We do not believe the light to have been a flashlight since there was no beam cast from it. It would be almost impossible for a person to walk the area as quickly and as smoothly as the light moved due to thick foliage and uneven terrain. We were recording video during this time, but was unable to capture the light on the recording. EVP recordings done during this trip netted the "Oh God" recording below.
Below are the photographs we took while at Moonville Tunnel. There's also a fully interactive 360º panoramic photo from within the tunnel, EVP recordings that were recorded at the tunnel and videos of possible paranormal activity taken in or around the tunnel. Website contributor Michelle Schrader sent us a remarkable photo showing a possible apparition at the tunnel taken in October 2004, which is around the same time we experienced our most intense moment at Moonville Tunnel. The photo is included below, but click here for her full story, along with other stories sent in to us by contributors.