“The fact that there’s a highway to hell and only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers” _Anonymous.
Hello, all! It’s been a minute since I’ve written a blog about my thoughts and experiences as a paranormal enthusiast. I’m not sure why I tapered off a few years ago. I think maybe I felt like the whole ghost hunting shtick was just that. Everyone who was considered significant in the field was doing the same over-worked routine. No one seemed to be concerned with real evidence as long as there were real ratings for their TV show. Orbs, possessions, and dramatics, oy vey.
Then I took a trip to Maine this summer and went on a Stephen King tour. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I highly recommend SK Tours if you’re a King fan and find yourself near Bangor. I don’t want to go off onto too much of a tangent here. I don’t want to turn this article akin to one of those internet recipe sites where you have to find out all about how the author’s children like Dumbo and Graceland before you get the actual recipe for peanut butter brownies. Suffice it to say, I got inspired to write again. This time about my experiences as opposed to all the worn-out paranormal topics. Stephen King – you da man. So, let’s take a trip to Helltown.
I, like I’m sure most paranormal enthusiasts, am often researching ideas for spooky places to visit. Ghost towns, in particular, have always piqued my interest. I like the prospect of poking around in abandoned houses, imagining the people who lived there, wondering what I would do if I had to leave my homestead for whatever reason. I’d come across Helltown in many of my online explorations. Umpteen times I’d thought to myself that going to Helltown would be a fun day trip. Heck, it’s only about an hour away from me in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I could just jump in the car and go. And with only two days left on summer break before I had to return to school, that’s precisely what I did.
Helltown, of course, is not this town’s real name. Back in the ’70s, the federal government gave the National Park Service the power to appropriate land in order to preserve forests. Originally part of Boston Township in Summit County, Ohio, Helltown was the nickname given to an area of land that was claimed by the National Park Service. Residents were forced to move, and their houses remained abandoned within the perimeter of today’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Soon after, urban legends about Satanic cults and chemical spills surrounded the area. Although these appeared to be just scary stories that often accompany creepy old buildings, I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself.
Rebel Yell by Billy Idol was playing on the radio when I started up my car. It made me feel about as badass as a middle-aged white woman who’s going on a road trip to a haunted location could get. I had found an online article entitled “How to Get to Helltown,” and the directions were, in essence, “go to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.” I put the address in my GPS and naively hit the road. As it turns out, the park is roughly 51 square miles. But my world wide web directions said I could park at the Blue Hen Falls trail and that’s what I did. I put a pen and paper for notes in one front pocket, keys in the other, my phone for pictures in one back pocket, and mosquito repellent in the other. I’m not all that afraid of being bug-bitten, but I am slightly worried about serial killers. I may be a self-proclaimed badass, but I am still a woman traipsing solo in the woods. Any Ted Bundy-esque fellow creeping by me was going to get some OFF! in the peepers.
As it turned out, I was not in the woods long enough to be stalked. I traveled a few trails and saw the small but beautiful Blue Hen Falls. The enormity of the place made me quickly aware, however, that I was searching for a needle in a haystack. I decided to hike back to my car, (where my reading glasses were) and look for some more precise directions to Helltown’s location. I found some, but I also found this nugget of information: all the old houses had been torn down in 2016!
“What?!” was my first thought. Followed by denial’s own, “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” For some reason, however, I believed this new article’s directions, so I followed them to the park’s Boston Store Service Center. The center appeared to be a restored old farmhouse with a wrap-around porch. I admired it quickly, then went inside with only one question in mind. Normal nature-admiring families were talking with park staff and browsing through park-themed items in the gift shop. I’m not so good at being normal, so I blew past them to the counter and asked the clerk where I could locate the abandoned town in the middle of the park. She had the audacity to tell me the same thing the internet article had – the buildings had been torn down.
I left feeling deflated, and more than a little annoyed at myself for not researching more thoroughly. I decided to seek consolation by getting some homemade coffee-chocolate-chunk ice cream at the store across the street, which was quaintly named Trail Mix. Then I drove around a bit and found what I believed to be the road that used to lead to Helltown. It looked like all the pictures I saw online, anyway. I noticed a cemetery, too, but I think I’ll do some careful research and see if there are any local legends tied to it before I investigate. I may go back. After all, the words of an internet article and a store clerk are just two strikes, right? I’m not out yet.