Moonville Tunnel and Hope Furnace

Investigation Date:  September 18, 2010

Location:  Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County

Hope Furnace coordinates:  39° 19′ 55″ N, 82° 20′ 25″ W 39.331944, -82.340278

Moonville Tunnel coordinates:  39° 18′ 24.12″ N, 82° 19′ 16.68″ W 39.3067, -82.3213


Weather Conditions

Avg. Temperature         66° f

Dew point                            50° f

Avg. Humidity                  75

Precipitation                    0.0 in.

Barometric pressure    30.18 in.

Wind                                      0 SSW

Solar X-rays                       normal

Geomagnetic Field          quiet

Moon                                      waxing gibbous

76% of full


A History of Hope Furnace

(taken from historical markers at the site)

Although a small village today, Zaleski was once a booming town of 1500 people. With 15 saloons,

seven general stores, three churches, two doctors, two newspapers, a school, a Masonic lodge, two

brickyards and a flour mill, it was the largest and most prosperous community in Vinton County during

the height of the Hope Furnace. But life for most workers of the Hope furnace was anything but

prosperous. Most furnace employees lived in hope, a company town of about 500 residents that sprung

up around the furnace. Like many company towns of the era, the furnace provided housing and paid

workers with script from the company store. Company store merchandise was overpriced and the script

was worthless in other stores. While the ironmaster, storekeeper and company secretary lived well,

most iron workers lived in small, dirt-floored log houses.

Charcoal iron production in Ohio was centered in the Hanging Rock Iron Region, a geographic area

extending from Hocking County to the Ohio River and including portions of Northern Kentucky.

The region encompassed an 1800 square mile area that was rich in deposits of iron ore and limestone

and was covered by a forest that supplied the raw materials for charcoal. The first furnace was built in

1826. Business in the Hanging Rock region blossomed in the 1850’s, and the area became Ohio’s first

chief industrial center. Much of the iron produced here was used to build the nation’s growing railroad

system. The railroads, in turn, provided transportation for iron exports, linking the hills of southeast

Ohio to distant markets that could be reached by way of the Ohio River or the Great Lakes. By the

1860’s, sixty-five furnaces were located in the region.

The Hanging Rock blast furnaces varied little in their design. They resembled flat-topped pyramids built

of sandstone block. The narrow furnace top rose 35 to 40 feet from the broad base. Inside the

sandstone blocks was a lining of bricks made of clay mined nearby. The necessary ingredients,

including chunks of iron ore and limestone, along with charcoal for fuel were dropped into the open top

of the furnace. Tall wooden buildings on stilts surrounded the furnace, providing easy access to the top

of the furnace and a convenient dry place to store the charcoal.

After the charcoal was ignited, air was forced through openings at the base of the furnace into beds of

sand where the hot liquid iron was molded into blocks called “pigs.” Blast furnaces produced an

average of 3000 tons of iron a year. This “pig iron” was loaded onto railroad cars for shipment to

foundries in Cincinnati and Cleveland, to the east coast, and even to Europe.

Hundreds of men labored cutting timber, working the furnace and driving teams of oxen hauling iron

ore to the furnace. To fuel the furnaces, the forests were repeatedly cut, and the wood converted to

charcoal. Each furnace required cutting 300 to 400 acres of timber annually to keep up with the

demand. Charcoal was produced from this timber. The wood was placed onto a pile 30-50 feet in

diameter and 25 feet tall. The pile was then covered with a mound of dirt and the timber was burned for

3-30 days, turning the wood into charcoal. These charcoal fires were tended 24 hours a day; so much

wood was required for this process that surrounding hillsides were almost completely stripped of their


Stimulated by a need for munitions during the Civil War, the demand for iron produced by the Hanging

Rock furnaces increased. During the Civil war the Hanging Rock iron makers provided iron for cannons

and other military equipment used by the Union Army, including the iron plate that sheathed the army’s

famous iron-clad warship, the Monitor. After the Civil War, larger and more modern furnaces were built

elsewhere, and the smaller furnaces of the Hanging Rock Iron Region could not compete. By the

beginning of the 20th century, the once prosperous industry had all but disappeared. The town of Hope

was abandoned when Hope furnace closed in 1874.

The last of the furnaces closed in 1916, but their legacy lives on in the stone towers scattered over the

landscape of the Hanging Rock Iron Region and the imaginations of those who visit them.



Workmen at the Hope Furnace often worked long, tedious hours. Legend has it that one of these men still frequents this location even in death. Foul weather plays a main theme in the alleged haunting. The story goes that on one stormy night a watchman at the furnace lost his balance and fell inside to his death. Other variations of the story have the watchman witnessing lightning strike a nearby tree or actually being struck by lightning before falling into the furnace and meeting his demise.

People in the area claim to have seen a light in the area, perhaps the watchman’s lantern, swinging back and forth. Others claim to have seen the actual ghost of the man carrying his lantern around the furnace.

Witnesses say that the apparition will vanish if lightning is in the area. However it is interesting to note that he is most often seen during storms.


A History of Moonville Tunnel

(taken from

In 1856, the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad (M&C) was pushing through southeastern Ohio to reach Cincinnati. William Cutler, the owner of the fledgling railroad, was having financial problems and was looking to streamline and conserve money while building the railroad.

A man named Samuel Coe convinced Cutler to build the railroad on his large property for free, in exchange for a favor. The railroad would be routed through Coe’s land in order to haul coal and clay off of his property. This move saved the railroad a great deal by reducing the amount of distance to Cincinnati.

Several coal mines sprang up, and it was found that there was a rich supply of it in the immediate area. Soon the mining town of Moonville was born.

Moonville never was a big town, with a peak population in the 1870s of a little over a hundred. It is thought to be named for a man named Moon who once operated a store in the town. The town was isolated in the woods and far away from any other towns; people had to walk the tracks to get from there to the nearest towns of Hope or Mineral. Vinton County is currently the least populated and most heavily forested county in Ohio; in those days it was even more wild and inhospitable.

Walking the tracks was incredibly dangerous, and was made even more hazardous by two long trestles in the area and the long Moonville tunnel. One trestle stood over Raccoon Creek less than 50 yards (46 m) away from the tunnel mouth. It is estimated that by 1920 alone, 5 or 6 people lost their lives on the bridges or within the tunnel. The last fatality was in 1986, when a 10 year old girl was struck by a CSX locomotive on that trestle directly in front of the tunnel.

In 1887 the M&C was bought out by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). It quickly became part of a vital line from St. Louis to Washington, DC. Train traffic increased dramatically, while the town entered a decline from which it never recovered. By the turn of the century the coal mines slowly started to be used up and closed down. The last family left town in 1947; by then the town itself was abandoned. By the 1960s all the buildings were gone and there was little to mark the site, other than the town cemetery and the tunnel.



There are several stories of ghostly activity related to the Moonville Tunnel. One account takes place in the 1920’s and tells of a drunken miner heading back home after a long night of drinking. Passing through the tunnel he saw a train approaching and waved his lantern in an attempt to get the train to stop.

Some claim to see the ghost of the miner, a tall black man suspected to be a Mr. Rastus Dexter, in the area in his miner’s garb carrying a lantern.

In addition to the supposed demise of the miner and the deaths in the aforementioned history of the tunnel, there are several other accounts of ghosts linked to tragic occurrences at the Moonville Tunnel. In 1905, a woman is alleged to have been killed on the tracks and is said to appear dressed in white. In yet another story, a man identified as Charles Ferguson was killed in a freak accident. After waiting for a train to pass, Mr. Ferguson proceeded to cross the railroad tracks. Unbeknownst to him a back portion of the train had become uncoupled from the front half. The laws of physics state that “an object in motion stays in motion.” This law reasserted itself as Mr. Ferguson was struck by the second portion of the train in the midst of his crossing.

Another story involves a man returning home after a conflict at a local saloon. Apparently he was stalked and waylaid by attackers. His body was found the next morning after having been run over by several trains.

Perhaps the most well known tale is that of the “headless conductor”. Witnesses claim to see a headless man in a railroad uniform carrying a lantern. It is said that sometime in the mid to late 1800’s a conductor was having an affair with the wife of a railroad engineer. At some point the engineer discovered his wife’s infidelity. One fateful day the engineer stopped the train and called the conductor over. Claiming engine problems, he asked the conductor to go underneath the train and check the brake line. As the conductor made his examination the jealous engineer hit the throttle, causing the train to lurch forward, killing the hapless man. There have been numerous alleged sightings of the conductor since that time.


The investigation

The Fringe team began its investigation at the Hope Furnace. The area was pretty quiet except for an occasional hiker or camper. The team heard several slight noises and noticed some slight movement in our peripheral vision. We have no evidence to suggest that these occurrences were paranormal in nature.

It is more than likely that wildlife or distant passersby were the cause of anything we may have noticed at this location.

After a time the Fringe team moved on to the Moonville Tunnel. Access to the tunnel is gained via a hike over rocks and through woodland which is bounded by a stream. The tunnel measures approximately 255 feet and has only one point of access at this time. The bridge over the stream that connected the tracks on both sides of the tunnel is no longer present. The location is visited quite frequently as evidenced by the abundance of graffiti present on the tunnel walls. The team did not see any lantern light other than that from team members and other pedestrians. It was quite eerie, however, to watch the lantern light play upon the tunnel from the opposite end. The area is relatively quiet. After a sufficient amount of time the team called it a night.



This investigation produced no evidence of any unordinary activity and EVP analysis produced nothing of note. As most sightings at the Hope Furnace seem to occur during inclement weather we can not necessarily refute the sightings of apparitions. While we can not dismiss the claims of previous witnesses, we also can not substantiate claims of paranormal activity in this area. Based upon this one particular investigation we must rate this case as a “CPI O”


Prepared for Fringe Paranormal by Don C

2 thoughts on “Moonville Tunnel and Hope Furnace

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: