5 Deserted and Forgotten Towns in Ohio

Written by Mike Edmisten
Updated: July 27, 2023
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Since the days of the Northwest Territory and later when Ohio was admitted as the 17th state in the United States, there have been towns that have been platted, grown, and then later dissolved. Some of these abandoned towns are all but lost to history, but others have structural remnants, not to mention fantastical legends, that have survived to this day. Here are the stories of five such deserted towns in the Buckeye State.

If you find yourself in Ohio, you may want to drive through these ghost towns!

1. Moonville

Moonville was located in Vinton County, Ohio’s least populous county, according to the 2020 census. Vinton County is located between Chillicothe to the west and Athens to the east.

This abandoned town was once found in what is now Zaleski State Forest. At 27,822 acres, Zaleski is the second largest state forest in the Buckeye State, trailing only Shawnee State Forest

Moonville’s Beginning

The town was established in 1856 when Samuel Coe donated land for a train station so he could transport coal and clay from his property. The station was part of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad system. The railroad was more than happy to accept Coe’s offer, not just because it was free but because it offered a more efficient route from Marietta to Cincinnati. 

As for the town’s name, no one knows for sure why it was called Moonville. One folktale suggests the town was named after a shopkeeper named Mr. Moon. No genealogy records have ever been found for a man named Moon in this area from the time period, so the tale of Moonville’s namesake is not verifiable. But there are also no other concrete origins of the town’s name, so a store owner named Moon is as good of an explanation as any.

The town never grew very large, with about a hundred miners and their families residing in Moonville at its peak in the 1870s. There was a school for the children of these mining families. There was also a general store in town, along with a post office, hotel, and tavern. While the town’s official population was small, miners and rail workers would often stay overnight if their train stopped at the station in Moonville. A crowded train could potentially double Moonville’s population, if only for one night. 

Moonville Trail Rail sign, Ohio

There is a trail that now follows the old path of the railroad through Moonville, including the famous Moonville Tunnel.

©Swimbound / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

The Moonville Tunnel

The railroad was the only way in and out of Moonville. No roads were ever established through the densely forested terrain that surrounded the town. For those traveling on foot, the train tracks were much easier to traverse than the rugged hills and hollows of the surrounding forest. However, hiking the train tracks was dangerous in its own right. A disproportionate number of people were hit by trains as they walked along the tracks, especially in the Moonville Tunnel.

The 255-foot-long brick-lined tunnel is still standing today. Visitors can walk through the tunnel as part of the trail system in Zaleski State Forest. Along with the intact Moonville tunnel, the only other remnants of this abandoned Ohio town are the foundation of the town’s school and the Moonville town cemetery.

Haunting Tales

Folklore abounds concerning paranormal activity in this abandoned town. There is even an annual festival built around the area’s ghostly reputation. Midnight in Moonville is a two-day event held every October. 

Legend has it multiple ghosts haunt the Moonville Tunnel, but four are purported to be the most common. 

The Engineer

This is supposedly the ghost of Theodore Lawhead, an engineer on the rail line that passed through Moonville. Lawhead died when his train collided with another in the 1880s. Paranormalists claim he has haunted the tracks ever since.

The Brakeman

Another rail worker is said to haunt the tunnel. The story claims a young man overindulged in whiskey and fell asleep on the tracks, where he was hit and killed by a train. Some visitors claim they have observed a ghostly figure waving a lantern in the tunnel.

Mary Shea

A woman named Mary Shea evidently perished on the tracks. Some people claim to have seen her ghost. They report seeing the figure of an older woman who, upon vanishing, left the scent of lavender in the air.

The Bully

A fourth ghost is said to be the specter of David “Baldie” Keeton. Keeton was a bruiser and a bully in Moonville. As the story goes, he was involved in a drunken brawl at the tavern that was atop the Moonville Tunnel hill. The next day, he was found dead along the railroad tracks. While his body is buried in Keeton Cemetery in Lake Hope State Park, visitors to the Moonville Tunnel claim Baldie’s ghost stands on top of the tunnel, sometimes even throwing pebbles at visitors below.

Whether you believe the paranormal stories of Moonville or not, the town itself is a real part of Ohio’s history. The town’s population waned as the coal mines began to close. By the 1920s, only a handful of residents remained. The last Moonville resident left in 1947, a little over 90 years after the town was founded.

The rail line was used until the mid-1980s. There is very little evidence left to suggest that trains used to roar through this forest, except for the Moonville Tunnel. The tunnel is a popular tourist destination in this sparsely populated area of Ohio. Of course, some claim that Moonville has a few former residents who never really left!

2. Boston 

No, we haven’t turned our focus to Massachusetts. We are still very much in Ohio. The town of Boston was also known as Boston Mills and Boston Township. Today, it is commonly known by a much more sinister name. This abandoned Ohio town is colloquially referred to as “Helltown.” 

The story of Boston began sometime around 1806 when surveyors from Connecticut originally settled the town. The town was the first settlement in Summit County.

The construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal in 1827 was quite a shot in the arm for this small town. New businesses opened in Boston Mills, including keel boatbuilding businesses to service canal boats. Other Boston businesses included a broom factory, a blacksmith shop, sawmills, and paper mills. 

The canal was a vital shipping route until the early 1860s, when it was supplanted by the railroads. The canal was used as a water supply for towns and industries until 1913, when floods destroyed large parts of the canal. 

The end of canal shipping could have been the end of Boston, but the town became a stop on the Valley Railroad. With this new access to shipping and commerce, the town continued to thrive through much of the nineteenth century. The twentieth century would bring big changes, though.

Abandoned "Helltown" barn, Ohio

This abandoned barn dates back to the days when Boston was a thriving Ohio town.

©Andrew Borgen / CC BY-ND 2.0 – License

Eminent Domain

The town began to decline in the early-to-mid-1900s. The Boston post office ceased operations in 1957. Then came the creation of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974. President Gerald Ford signed legislation that allowed the National Park Service (NPS) to use eminent domain to secure properties for forest conservation, the creation of wildlife sanctuaries, and the like.

One of the first uses of this authority was seen when NPS exercised eminent domain to secure farms, homes, and urban properties in the Boston area. Many of the town’s remaining residents vehemently opposed this move, but they could not stop it. 

Owners were paid for their properties, although many believed they were unfairly compensated. Others received no compensation at all because they could not meet the proof of ownership standards required by the government.

The recreation area that was created in 1974 was reclassified as a national park in 2000. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park.

Fall foliage in Cuyahoga Valley

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is breathtaking, but its origins are controversial.

©Kenneth Keitfer/Shutterstock.com

The Ghostly History of “Helltown”

The paranormal reputation of Boston equals and may even surpass that of Moonville. Folktales abound regarding spirits, occultist activity, and even a federal government coverup. 

The Church

There are widespread claims that a church near Boston was actually a place of occultic rituals and satanic worship. People point to the apparent upside-down crosses on the building as a sign that the church was not what it seemed. However, inverted crosses were common architectural features of the Gothic revival style of the period. The building is occupied by Mother of Sorrows Parish, a Catholic church that is still in operation today and has no connection to the unfounded rumors attached to its building.

Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, Boston ("Helltown"), Ohio, 1910

Notice the cross on the steeple is not inverted on the “satanic” church building in this photograph from 1910. The modern steeple also features a standard cross.

©National Archives at College Park/ Public domain – License

Stanford Road

The whispers of occultic activity are not limited to this church building, though. Stanford Road is also rumored to be home to satanic and occultic rituals. People are warned not to explore the road lest they disrupt one of these rituals and never return.

Stanford Road was closed as a cost-cutting measure in the region’s transportation budget, but rumors persist that the number of supernatural car crashes along the road actually perpetuated the closing. 

An abandoned school bus used to sit on the side of the road. Even though it has been removed, legend has it that you can still hear the laughter and screams of children along this road. There are also robed apparitions purported to haunt this old strip of road, along with a ghostly hearse with one headlight that drives along Stanford Road.

Stanford Road has several unofficial nicknames, including “The Road to Nowhere,” “The End of the World Road,” and “The Highway to Hell” (although it is probably not the one the hard rock band AC/DC sang about).

Abandoned Stanford Road, Ohio

Stanford Road has been closed to vehicles for many years, but the road still draws tourists and ghost hunters.

©Andrew Borgen / CC BY-ND 2.0 – License

Crybaby Bridge

“Helltown” also has the legend of Crybaby Bridge. According to lore, a distressed mother threw her newborn off the bridge. The legend states that if you cross the bridge, you can hear the baby’s cries. Also, if you stop your car on the bridge, tiny footprints will become visible around the vehicle. 

"Helltown" Crybaby Bridge, Ohio

If you travel this bridge, listen for the “crying baby” that gives the bridge its common name: Crybaby Bridge.

©Andrew Borgen / CC BY-ND 2.0 – License

A Toxic Coverup?

As if all the supernatural legends weren’t enough, there are also rumors of a government coverup. Some claim the federal government seized the area’s land to cover up a toxic chemical spill. As a result of the spill, there were rumored sightings of mutated humanoids lurking in the area. The famous Peninsula Python was also supposedly mutated by the chemicals. This snake was reported to be up to 19 feet long and as wide as a car tire.

As with most urban legends, there was a kernel of truth that birthed these stories. There was a private dump owned by the Krejci family until NPS took ownership of the land. Only after NPS secured the land was it discovered that the area had been used for unregulated chemical dumping. The Environmental Protection Agency found thousands of drums of toxic chemicals on the land. The companies responsible for dumping these chemicals were charged with cleaning up the site to the tune of over $50 million. NPS declared the project complete in 2020.

The legends of “Helltown” continue unabated. Along with those mentioned above, there are also rumors of a haunted slaughterhouse, an evil man living in a local church basement, axemen prowling the woods, and more. 

3. Tadmore

Tadmore was located in what is now Taylorsville MetroPark in Vandalia.

The town was once a critical shipping and transportation hub in Ohio. At its peak, the National Road, the Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal, and the Dayton & Michigan Railroad all ran right through Tadmore. In the mid-1800s, it would have been difficult to imagine a town better positioned for continued growth and development than Tadmore. However, that would not continue into the twentieth century.

Flooding along the Great Miami River was a continual problem for the town, but the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 was devastating. The Miami Conservancy District constructed much-needed dams in 1922 as flood controls, but the damming essentially marked the end for Tadmore. 

Visitors to Taylorsville MetroPark can see the stone pillars that served as bridge supports for this once bustling town, but little else remains of Tadmore.

Of course, like many abandoned towns, there are also rumors of the paranormal. While the legends of Tadmore can’t touch those of Moonville or Boston, some purport that if you traipse the former grounds of Tadmore at night, you may see ghostly smokey shadows and possibly even some shimmering buildings.

The Miami and Erie Canal, now the Anthony Wayne Trail, as seen from a bridge at Ford Street in Maumee around 1900. A mule team and driver are on the left banks and a canal boat is in the water. Tracks for the Clover Leaf Train are on the right bank.

The Miami and Erie Canal was critical to the growth of Tadmore.

©Toledo-Lucas County Public Library / Public domain – License

4. White Water Shaker Village

White Water Shaker Village was built in Hamilton County, 22 miles north of Cincinnati. The village was a communal village built by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as “Shakers.” It was one of 24 such villages founded in the United States from 1787 to 1824.

Life as a Shaker

The early religious settlers found the area to be fertile with abundant forests and flowing streams. At its height, the village featured a meeting house for worship, along with offices, barns,  milk houses, corn cribs, a mill, smokehouses, and more. 

The Shakers of this Ohio village sold handmade brooms and mats. They also sold seed, fruit, sorghum, wheat, and livestock to fund their village. Individual property ownership was forbidden. Rather, all proceeds of the village’s agricultural endeavors were shared communally. 

Struggles began to mount for the village in the years following the Civil War. The Shakers lived by a strict moral and religious code. Shakers practiced celibacy, so the only way their movement could continue was through proselytization. However, as society evolved, the stringent moral standards of the group held less appeal for the general populace. 

In addition to changing social mores, the industrial revolution made mass-produced goods cheaper and more accessible. Demand for handmade goods, such as Shaker brooms, declined. 

A fire in 1907 further harmed the waning community. The Shaker school was closed in 1910. The last two Shakers left the village in 1916.

Meeting House at White Water Shaker Village, Ohio

The Meeting House at White Water Shaker Village still stands today.

©Jose M Kozan / Public domain – License

Preserving the Village

Some of the buildings burned or collapsed, but many still survive. Great Parks of Hamilton County purchased much of the land where the village once stood in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Work to maintain and restore the remaining buildings is currently underway, headed by the non-profit organization Friends of White Water Shaker Village. Their website has information about ongoing renovations and updates, as well as a calendar of events for the public.

5. Egypt

No, we haven’t been transported to Africa. Egypt was located in Ohio’s Belmont County in what is now the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area

There were a handful of residents in the early 1800s, but Egypt reached its peak in the middle of the century. This farming and railroad town had a school, general store, train station, and post office. Much of the town’s land was later sold to the coal mining industry, and the small town of Egypt vanished rather quickly.

However, as with many deserted towns, there are ghost stories that live on. Louiza Catharine Fox, an Egypt resident, was engaged to Thomas D. Carr, a veteran of the Civil War. Louiza’s parents became increasingly concerned with Carr’s violent temper. They eventually intervened and broke off the engagement, which enraged Carr.

Carr waited beside a road that Louiza frequented. Carr stepped out of the shadows when she passed by that evening with her brother. He kissed Louiza and then slit her throat in plain view of her little brother. Carr was arrested and convicted of the murder. He was the first person to be hanged in Belmont County in 1870.

Haunted Cemeteries

This story is itself factual, but the resulting ghost stories are quite fantastical. It is said that Louiza still haunts Salem Cemetery on Salem Ridge Road. Visitors claim to have seen her crying next to her grave.

The Old Egypt Cemetery, about a mile from the Salem Cemetery, is reported to be haunted by a truck driver who died in a crash near there. He lost his arm in the crash, which was never recovered. Supposedly visitors to the cemetery have heard fingernails tapping on the gravestones of the cemetery. The cemetery is also said to be guarded by “devil dogs” that howl at night.

Old Egypt Cemetery, Ohio

Old Egypt Cemetery is one of the very few remaining reminders of Egypt, Ohio.

©GiMortal5 / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

More Abandoned Ohio Towns

These five abandoned towns are far from the only ghost towns in the state. There are also the deserted villages of Fallsville, Newville, Oreton Station, Sprucevale, Vinton Furnace, and others. As time marches on, some towns and cities will thrive while others will surely join the ranks of Ohio’s abandoned towns. What stories, both factual and mythical, will emanate from those towns? Only time will tell.

Summary of 5 Deserted and Forgotten Towns in Ohio

NumberTown
1Moonville
2Boston
3Tadmore
4White Water Shaker Village
5Egypt

The photo featured at the top of this post is © ChristopherM / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License / Original


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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