The history of Scioto County and vicinity doesn’t lack from that of unexplained stories. The Ghost Story or The Legend – usually surrounding some tragic event is forever spun from generation to generation. As a Boy Scout it was always eerie to hear ghost stories, while setting around a roaring campfire – at Camp Oyo (located on Rt. 125.) Listening intently about the mysterious appearance of a blue light that was often seen traveling through the camp. The light signals the presence of a ghost, the storyteller would share. We would be told that on certain nights the light would float throughout the camp and gaze through cabin windows. The belief was that it was the ghost of a Native American chief who once lived there. Another version that was told – is that there was a certain field that scouts camped at overnight, never to be seen again. Of course this happened when the mysterious blue light would appear.
There are many ghost stories that abound within this area and are told by many. The Webster dictionary defines that a ghost story involves ghosts or ghostly circumstances, intended to be suspenseful and scary. Then we have the good old fashioned haunting; by those who have passed on and left us and unexplained tales of woe.
Since hauntings have common features and you could maintain that even if no ghost is seen, its presence is felt. We can imply that logic – only if we are starting from the viewpoint that a haunting must imply the presence of a specter that is visible.
It is significantly better to rely on the evidence that is before us, rather than on mere cultural tradition or is it? From the scientific view, there must be evidence, plain and simple. From the point of view of some paranormal groups; hauntings don’t require the presence of an apparition. Various hauntings rarely have them – as it has been reported. Though apparitions are occasionally seen, there is no forthright evidence from serious analysis that they are ‘spirits’. All that a story can usually say for sure is that human figures are sometimes seen. Making the tale being shared; believed or not – only in the mind of the beholder lies the answer.
Here are a couple stories that have been told over the years that contain apparitions. In the eighteen-hundreds travel through the county was hard and time consuming. Various modes of transportation consisted of horse, mule, wagon or plain old walking. Salesmen would travel from one side of the county and back again many times, following different routes. There were those that would just walk and do their business in remote areas. There was a man that made his living as a tinker (one who mends pots and pans, etc.) This man might have been following the Ohio River to the scattered settlements along the river. The story goes that the tinker was on his way carrying his wares and tools up into the Twin Creek area (Rt. 52 west from Portsmouth.) There were a few customers up that way that he most likely wanted to call on. Hopefully a meal would be offered, as walking produce’s a hearty appetite. While walking the paths along the lower part of Twin Creek, could he have been counting money he earned? A lonely walk for sure and not knowing what might be lurking around the next bend. No one knows what happened on that lonely walk, but the results – the tinker not reaching his destination. The body of the tinker was never found and many months went by with no sign of the tinker. Then a grisly discovery of human bones was made and given a proper burial, was it the tinker? (No money found among the bones.) It was told that most likely the discovery was that of the tinker who disappeared. No one knows how he died or by whose hand (robbery most likely.) What folks have said over the years – is that he haunts that area of the creek he had been following. On some nights a shadowy figure can be glimpsed along the creek, carrying a bag and in the twinkle of an eye it disappears. Is it the tinker? Perhaps it is? Looking for his money?
If you continue up Twin Creek as far as Rt. 125 and hang a left you will be close to Mount Unger Road. It is across the county line in Adams County. Located on that road is Mount Unger Cemetery – Local legends say Mount Unger Cemetery is visited by the spirit of a man who hanged himself here after having murdered his wife. When the moon is full the local folk claim you might see that man hanging. Take a walk through the cemetery and maybe you’ll get a close look! My advice is to – “keep on going!” So then – Are ghost stories relevant to history, I think so – as it is a part of the Appalachian culture.
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: email@example.com