Diary of a Wannabe Ghost Hunter
Everyone has a ghost story, whether it’s their own or a freaky thing that happened to a guy they know. The members of the Ohio Exploration Society are no different, only this group of paranormal hobbyists searches for the unexplained all over the state. They let me tag along on a muggy night in early September as we explored one of the most notoriously haunted places in Southern Ohio — Moonville Tunnel — where legend holds a brakeman killed by a train in the late 1800s still swings his lantern back and forth in an attempt to stop the oncoming train. OES founder Jason Robinson, as much a historical tour guide as ghost hunter, claims he’s seen the yellow light. Though real encounters, he adds, are rare. ohioexploration.com — Beth Stallings
We arrive at a small gravel pull-off in the dense forest of Vinton County, where cell phones read “no service.” We hike, single file, about a quarter mile to Moonville Tunnel.
My adrenaline is rushing and I jump when Robinson points to the tunnel down the path. In the fading sunlight, the gray and white stones and surrounding trees look devoid of color. Creepy.
Pausing about halfway through the gravel-filled tunnel, Robinson turns and points to a rock near the entrance — that’s where a shadowy figure was once caught on camera, he says. He then shows me a device that takes electromagnetic readings. A spike in the number or drop in temperature is an indicator there could be something around. He’s seen it as high as 1.8 on this meter. This evening it will reach 2.7 — a thrilling moment until we realize it’s picking up lightning in the distance.
We’ve been silent for minutes. Ghost hunting involves a lot of waiting, I discover.
We leave the tunnel and set out looking for the second ghost — a lady struck by the train in 1905 while crossing the now long-crumbled trestle, who’s rumored to walk in mid-air. Robinson speaks to her, asking for a sign. Cicadas humming in the distance are the only answer.
It’s nearly pitch-black dark. We’re standing on the far end of the tunnel, staring at the red screen of Robinson’s EMF reader. He encourages a spirit to touch it. Despite a slight drop in temperature, nothing happens.
Gravel moves. Are those footsteps? Robinson asks if anyone saw a scan of light coming from behind us. Lightning maybe? There’s a squeak, followed by a bat streaking across the sky.
Completely dark, we shift to the center of the tunnel. Fear drained from me, I’m extremely hopeful something will happen. A tug on my ponytail. A touch on my arm. My eyes begin to ache as they strain for signs of light at either end of the tunnel. For a second, I think I see a blue flash of light. More lightning bugs?
There’s a faint shuffle of gravel that sounds like footsteps. Three of us hear it, and we go deathly silent.
In a last-ditch effort, I speak to the ghost for the first time: “Won’t you at least say goodbye?” Goosebumps rise like a wave over my forearms — the first chill I’ve felt all night. Was that an answer? Guess I’ll have to come back to find out.
For Novice Hunters
After my first foray into ghost hunting, here are four tips I have for first-timers:
- Bring a flashlight. It is dark, after all.
- Talk at a normal level. You wouldn’t want to confuse a whisper with a ghostly presence.
- A voice recorder never hurts. The pros say sometimes spirits’ answers to questions are audible only this way.
- It’s a false assumption to think spirits only roam during the night, we’re told. The proof: a picture of a shadowy figure in broad daylight lingering near the end of the tunnel, Robinson says.
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Thank you to Beth Stallings and Carrie Sosnowski for joining the OES for an investigation of Moonville Tunnel and including it in Beth’s article for the October 2015 issue. Another thanks to Michelle Schrader for allowing Columbus Monthly to use her photo of a shadow person at Moonville Tunnel for this article.