Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beaver Creek's Ghost Town

Hambelton Mill image from Ohio Barns

Hey, if you're in Youngstown and head south to East Liverpool, you'll run into Beaver Creek State Park. And though it's a sweet piece of land, with the creek and trails and all the other good stuff, it's really known as spook central in southeastern Ohio, and especially the area around Spruceville.

Fittingly, Spruceville is a ghost town. It started out in 1837 as a canal town, built to serve the needs of the Beaver and Sandy Creek Canal. The canal opened in 1848, but wasn't the success it was planned to be. A dam burst, seriously damaging the canal, and the railroad took advantage to skim the business.

The canal never recovered, closing in 1852, and the hamlet soon followed. It was completely deserted by 1870. But some of its residents never moved on.

The most famous ghost tale is that of Esther Hale. She was engaged to be married to a soldier, and when the big day arrived, Esther put on a white gown and waited for her beau, who never showed. Some say the man died in action, while others claim he got cold feet.

Hale refused to give up hope. She sat in her house day after day, still wearing her gown and awaiting her fiance. She never changed a thing in her home, and eventually it got kinda messy inside, but she would chase away anyone that came over to help her clean up or get on with her life.

Hale also used to walk the town, a forlorn sight in her tattered gown, looking for her AWOL significant other.

The guy never did show, and she passed away from a broken heart. Legend claims that Hale reappears every year on August 12, the day of her planned wedding.

It's said that if she brushes your skin, you will die on the spot and her skeletal figure will rejuvenate. Others who claim to have seen the misty lady in a white dress say that she does nothing but sadly keep her eyes on the ground.

She's usually seen at Hambelton Mill, one of the two remaining structures from Sprucetown days, or its bridge. Locals claim to have seen her in the headlights of their car, and some say that their cars will sometimes stop running when they pass the old mill.

Gretchen's Lock is haunted by its namesake, Gretchen Gill. Hans (or Ed) Gill came to America from his native Holland (some say Ireland; at any rate, it was from across the pond). Gill was one of the engineers who helped design the locks used on the canals. He brought along his young daughter Gretchen, his wife being departed and buried in the old country.

Gretchen contracted malaria from the mosquitoes, which seem attracted to canal-building and its standing pools. She died, and her last words were "Bury me with my mother."

Her father temporarily buried her in one of the locks. When his job was done, he raised the casket and caught a ship home with his daughter's remains. But for poor Gill, if it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. The ship sank during the voyage, and the bodies of he and Gretchen were never recovered.

Gretchen's luck wasn't much better. Not only did she not join her mom, but she's trapped in the lock that served as her resting place. Legend claims that a young woman in a long white dress walks along the canal, screaming at anyone who comes close. Others say she just sobs.

It's said that you can only see her on the anniversary of her death, August 12th. So hey, if you're looking for a two-for-one spook sighting... But there are others.

It's alleged that Esther Hale has to share Hambelton Mill every Christmas Eve with a lady Quaker preacher whose ghost appears then and writes the word "Come" on the stone walls.

Jake's Lock is spooked by Jake, who worked on the canals as a night watchman, making his rounds with a lantern. One dark and stormy night (sorry, I had to work that in) Jake died when he was struck by lightning while walking the canal.

Local lore claims that he still makes his nightly rounds, and you can see his lantern moving down the canal, and reflecting on the water. Jake's a little shy, though. It's been reported that whenever his presence is nearby, no camera will work.

The other remaining standing Sprucevale building is believed to be haunted by a young boy who hung himself from the rafters. The legend says the spirit doesn't like company. Some who have walked inside claim to have been chased off by his unseen presence. (Scratch the standing part; one of our readers wrote in and said that the building has been demolished. No word on whether the surly little specter is still around, although they did leave a historical plaque to mark the spot.)

Beaver Creek State Park is also home to a spook known simply as the Mushroom Lady. She fell in love with a guy that didn't love her. Ms. Mushroom lived in the woods and was familiar with all the local veggies and herbs.

One night, she ran across him and his flame. She took a pot of mushroom soup to his home, for him and his honey. Yah, you guessed it - it was made of poison mushrooms. If she couldn't have him, no one could. They died quickly, and she buried their bodies in her garden.

The Mushroom Lady is said to still roam the woods. Some claim to see a woman in black moving through the trees, and others have seen a shadowy female in photographs they took in the park.

And add a celebrity spook to the cast - Public Enemy #1, Pretty Boy Floyd. He often passed through East Liverpool and stayed at the Conkle Farm. The coppers found him there, and shot him down as he tried to escape through a farm field. His ghost has supposedly been seen around the area, and many people have captured his voice on EVP recordings.

So if you're ever in East Liverpool with nothin' to do...


Anonymous said...

Very good info, but I just wanted to add that the building the little boy supposedly hung himself in has been torn down. All that is left is a piece of the foundation, and a historical marker.

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, Anon. I added it to the post.