Beware The Spirits Of Moonville Tunnel!

Moonville Tunnel

Near Zaleski, Ohio

The Legend:

A brakeman haunts the tunnel

Haunted Place-Haunted Train Tunnel-Moonville
Ghost hunting for a haunted place? Here’s a haunted place in Ohio to check out. . .

No trains have passed through the towns of Hope, Moonville or Ingham for well over twenty years but nearly hidden behind years of thick forest growth, the old Cincinnati and Marietta Railroad tracks still run noiselessly through this section of southeastern Ohio. But the locals here in Vinton County say the railway tracks aren’t the only remnants of the iron furnace days still hanging around. In fact,  stories tell of a railway brakeman that haps by the old Moonville Tunnel in the dark of night. Countless witnesses state they have seen a man dressed in engineer clothing and carrying a lantern. Some have even taken pictures at the tunnel when no one is around, only to find the image of man standing at the far end when they process the images.
Moonville Ghosts-The Background Research

So were there actually any deaths in or near the tunnel which would add any credence to the ghost of  the Moonville Brakeman? Actually, there have been more than a few deaths near the tunnel. Here are just a few. Check out some of them below:

I counted over 25 deaths near Moonville between 1859 through 1986 due, in part, to the railway. These do not include deaths due to “natural” causes, for example, Cliff Coe (who was one of the family members of the original landowners) died of a heart attack inside the depot in May of 1899. Or the many Coe children who did not make it past the typical childhood diseases for their time. There are certainly many more that I could not substantiate through newspaper accounts, personal archives of community members or other legitimate sources.

Jumping the Train
1876- 13 year old Henry Shirkey tried to jump a train in 1876 and his left leg was crushed just below the knee. (Vinton Record, 17 Feb 1876).

The McArthur Enquirer, of last week, says: As we go to press this (Thursday) afternoon we learn that Henry Shirkey, the youngest son of John Shirkey, of Vinton Station, was severely injured by jumping from a box car of a freight train going West about one-fourth of a mile west of Vinton Station, at a quarter past 4 |o’clock on Wednesday evening, and died 20 minutes before 6 o’clock this (Thursday) morning.  (Athens Messenger, 2/17/1876)

1880 – James Hood dies jumping off the train near Moonville:

James Hood, aged about thirty, a resident of Zaleski, while returning from Athens on the fast line on Friday, attempted to jump oil the train one quarter mile east of the depot, and opposite his home. In doing so he was thrown about twenty feet against a post, and his neck broken. He has been in the habit of jumping off trains at this point in order to save walking back from the depot. He leaves a wife and three children. (Athens Messenger, May 20, 1880)

1907  – Allen Albaugh dies jumping a train

Luhrig, O., Sept. 4.—The badly mangled body of Allen Albaugh, a middle aged miner of this place, was found under some underbrush near Moonville Saturday . . . .  Albaugh, accompanied by his brother got on a passing train and started for Zaleski.. It is supposed that he staid on the train until a tunnel was reached, and that he was knocked off in some manner. When the body was found, one hand was cut off.. . (Athens Messenger and Herald, September 1907)
Mike Shea Relates it this way in August of 1961 – Allan Albaugh was drinking and hopped a train at Zaleski with a jug of whiskey. No one heard from him. They found him dead this side of Ingham near Bear Hollow. Mike Shea smelled him one day and Frank McWhorter and a one eyed fellow found him when attracted by the smell. He was full of maggots, been dead several days. Mike Shea, 1961


Brakemen falling under wheels –

1859 Unknown Brakeman

Brakeman on the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad fell from the cars and was fatally injured. “ . . . Due to “too free use of liquor . . .”(McArthur Democrat, March 31, 1859)
1873 McDevitt

A brakeman of the accommodation named McDevitt was caught between two colliding platforms and had both legs and one arm horribly mangled. . . McDevitt survived his injuries only a short time. The deceased we learn was about 21 years of age, and leaves u widowed mother . . . (Athens Messenger, July 17, 1873)
1876 – Michael Molboro

Michael Molboro is killed on the Marietta and Cincinnati Line. Eight years later his brother, Thomas, a brakeman is killed on the same track. (Vinton Record, 14 February 1884 via hidden ohio map and guide)


Walking the tracks –

1873 Unknown Woman killed on Tracks

1873 While we delayed for a few minutes at Moonville on last Monday we heard reference to the instant killing of a woman in the deep cut near that town the day previous by the morning express. . . (Athens Messenger, October 16, 1873)

1905 Mrs. Patrick Shea killed on Tracks

1905 Mrs. Patrick Shea (in her eighties and a grandmother of Michael Shea) was walking the Moonville to Hope and while crossing the trestle was struck by a train. Her leg had to be amputated and she died from the shock. Recalled by Michael L. Shea.

Amos Kennard

Amos Kennard by accident, stepped in front of a train -Recalled by Michael L. Shea.

1912 Charles Ferguson

Charles Ferguson -struck by train. He was waiting to cross the railroad tracks when the train broke in two. One part passed him and without looking, he stepped on the crossing and was struck by the second part. Recalled by Michael L. Shea.

1920s Rastus Dexter

Miner who was killed near the tunnel by the train.


Train wrecks.

 1880 Frank Lawhead, Engineer Killed in Train Wreck

Near King’s station in this county on Thursday last, Engineer Lawhead and Charles Krick, fireman, both of Chillicothe, were instantly killed by collision of freight trains, which, we are told, was the result of a mistake of train dispatcher. The trains were totally wrecked. . . (Athens Messenger, Thursday November 11, 1880)

1938 Charles Landrum, Engineer Killed in Train Wreck

A heavily loaded Baltimore & Ohio Railway double-header freight train crashed into a faill of rock at 111:57  p.m. Monday night killing the engineer on one of its two engines. The mishap occurred six miles cast of Zaleski between Hope and Moonville . . . (The Portsmouth Times, December 27, 1938)

So who is the real Moonville Ghost?

Our best guess it is none other than Frank Lawhead. The timing and the description from pictures and sources seems to fit.
He died in 1880 and before the first sighting:

The ghost has been seen since 1894. In fact, a write up in the Chillicothe Gazette states:

1895 A ghost (after an absence of one year) returned and appeared in front of a freight at the point where Engineer Lawhead lost his life. The ghost is seen in a white robe and carrying a lantern. “The eyes glistened like balls of fire and surrounding it was a halo of twinkling stars” – Chillicothe Gazette, 17 Feb 1895

 He fits at least one of the descriptions:

He has been described as:  1) Man wearing an engineers cap and suit walking near the far end of the tunnel. There are also pictures taken in the tunnel to substantiate this – see below. If so, it could be either Frank Lawhead killed in 1880 or Charles Landrum killed in 1938. Since the ghost has been seen since 1894, it is most likely Frank Lawhead.

2)  Also described as  a black figure standing nearly 8 feet tall with a white beard, fiery eyes glistening like balls of fire and a lantern. Rastus Dexter could fit this description if he was a couple feet taller. He was a black miner in the community (Bill Ross, a local to Moonville related this in 1959 – Tom Dexter (Rastus’ father) was a slave in Virginia and ran off during the Civil War and settled near Waterloo Forest on what is now know as the Dexter Farm. However, the timing is off for Rastus. The ghost was first seen 26 years before he was killed by a train.

3)  People have heard trains, felt “strange” in the tunnel. One couple on our tour said the girl felt something touch her shoulder when they were there once.


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).