As told presented in WSYX’s Ghosts of Columbus and Beyond,
and Haunted Ohio [affiliate link] by Chris Woodyard.
The Moonville tale is one well known to the students of Athen’s resident university “Ohio University” home of the Fighting Bobcats. The town of Moonville today is a ghost town, and yes the pun was intended. If in fact if my sources are correct, not even a building is left standing. It sprang up a 100 years or so ago to house the workers and their families of the local iron furnaces. The old B&O Railroad runs through the area in what is described as one of the most desolate sections of the old railway. What does remain is the old railway tunnel with the town’s name embedded in the brick which covers the entrance to the tunnel. With an atmosphere like this one you couldn’t help but find a ghost.
The most popular form of the tale is that a conductor of the B&O Railway was having a torrid affair with the wife of one of the engineers. The engineer became enraged when he discover out what his wife was doing with his fellow co-worker. On a dark night the engineer lured the conductor off the train on the pretext that something was wrong with one of the undercarriages of one of the cars. The conductor crawled under the car in question to inspect it for damage. The jealous and enraged engineer then climbed in to the locomotive and gave the old steam engine a full throttle. The conductor hearing the trains familiar rumbling attempted to extract himself from under the now moving train. His attempt as you can guess, failed. The poor hapless man was decapitated, and the engineers revenge on his co-worker realized.
The ghost description is that of a african american man around eight feet tall looking as if he is walking about on stilts. He has a miners oil lamp on his forehead, and can be seen staggering down the tracks on dark nights. Others have seen the more expected headless spectre carrying a lamp walking along the railway searching for his head. Some report just seeing a lamp either green or red in color bobbing up and down the tracks and adjacent woods. The poor mans screams imploring the train to stop can also be heard on some dark quiet nights.
Another variant of the story is that a brakeman had been playing card late one evening and became very drunk. He staggered out on to the tracks after the game had long ended waving his lantern in a vain attempt to stop a passing locomotive. The train ran him down cutting off his head. This one sounds more believable, but the jealous engineer version is more popular.
The last one is either a variant or a separate story all together. It involves a young girl who was struck and decapitated. No explanation of how her demise was achieved is told. Maybe she was caught in the Moonville Tunnel, or on one of the four trestles along the railway, and simply could not get out of the speeding trains way.
The location of this site is in the Zaleski State Forest in Vinton county. The tunnel lies several miles east of Lake Hope on the old B&O railway. I would advise asking one of the locals for directions, or invest in a good county map if you are interested in finding the exact location. My county map shows Moonville which surprised me. The old railway is shown running across Hope Road which is just south of Lake Hope off of Route 278. Moonville is just to the east, just follow the old railway to the tunnel. Here is a link to Rich Moeckel site at http://www.geocities.com/richemt911/ which has detailed information on this area.
This post, including photos and commentary, originally appeared on James A. Sheets’ site.