Moonville Tunnel

Woman (probably Hungarian) coming home along railroad tracks in coal mining town, company houses at right, Pursglove, Scotts Run, West Virginia
This is an image from a West Virginia coal mining town along railway tracks and would have been much like the town of Moonville in the 1800s. Courtesy, Library of Congress.

It was all about the adventure of life for those who lived in Moonville. They came from near and far to work and play and live out their lives. Moonville was once scarcely known as nothing more than one more tiny coal mining and railway boom town among hundreds just like it in Southeastern Ohio. But for those who lived there, it was home.

There was never more than a hundred people living in the tiny town from 1856 to the 1940s. And by the early 1950s, the only things remaining were a few abandoned houses and a lonely stretch of railway between Marietta and Cincinnati.


Now the old roads are overgrown with poison ivy and greenbriar. The sandstone foundations are nearly hidden beneath scrubby brush. It is hard to tell anybody was even here at all. The entire idea a town even existed in this little patch of State of Ohio forestry land would, most likely, be buried in time along with those who lived and worked there if it wasn't for a few local legends still hanging around. And it would be those handful of ghost stories keeping Moonville very much alive and full of adventure for another hundred years.

A young brakeman, an engineer, a woman crossing the tracks and a murdered man have all contributed to keeping Moonville from fading into oblivion. People have found themselves walking the same paths those from the sleepy town of Moonville once trod more than one-hundred and fifty years before. They come to see what these legends are all about - to find out if they can defy logic and touch a bit of the past.

But where did it the ghost stories begin?




          Moonville Tunnel  

It was the loneliest stretch of railway from Cincinnati to Marietta. In the 1800s, the land around the town of Moonville was covered in forestland for as far as they eye could see. There were sparse pockets of cleared land from the iron furnaces, small farms and coal mines, but traveling these tracks by train was like careening down a highway in a fast car at a hundred miles an hour and turning off the lights. It was dark and desolate and difficult to see. The engineers had to watch for cows and deer, chunks of trees and water flooding over their path. Add the tree canopy above that literally hugged the railway bed so it was like one, huge tunnel of black and you had a place all engineers simply dreaded to pass. That was Moonville.

And such was the night the most famous Moonville ghost story began. It was a chilly night on  November 4th, 1880 and Engineer Frank Lawhead was heading his train down the tracks, staring into the blackness, watching the nothingness go by. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And then, out of nowhere, came a light . . .

Click here to find out how the ghostly light killed Frank Lawhead. . .