Ghosts of Ohio
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Lore & Legends

Boston Mills - Hell Town

Hell Town – a dark, foreboding place where ghosts, cults, and serial killers lurk. An entire town, cursed and frighteningly dangerous after dark.

Of course we were intrigued, so we visited Hell Town. You may be surprised at what we found.

LOCATION and HISTORY

Hell Town is a nickname given to the northern part of Summit County. The areas most often associated with the Hell Town legends are Boston Township and Boston Village, as well as portions of Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center Townships. These areas are often combined into one large region, which is commonly referred to as Boston Mills.

Settled in 1806, Boston stands as the oldest village in Summit County. The first mill was built in the village in the early 1820’s. Several years later, the construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal brought more people to Boston, and over the next few decades mills began to flourish in the area – most notably a paper mill. When a railroad station was constructed in the town in the early 1880s, the station was named "Boston Mills," in reference to the paper mill.

In the late 1960s, a nationwide movement began that expressed concern over the destruction of our forests. In response, President Ford signed legislation in 1974 that enabled the National Park Services to purchase land and use it to create national parks. On December 27th, 1974, hundreds of acres of land, including some within the Township of Boston, were officially designated a National Recreation Area.

Many people did not realize that this legislation gave the federal government the power to use the right of eminent domain to acquire land from private owners in order to clear the way for the national park, but almost immediately after the bill was passed, the government began purchasing houses throughout Boston Township and the surrounding area. Once the government decided to buy a property, there was no negotiation involved – the owners were forced to relocate.

Residents began leaving in droves, and entire townships were swallowed up by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. These events were so tragic that they were featured in the 1983 PBS documentary "For the Good of All." Perhaps the general feelings of the displaced homeowners were best summed up in a statement found scrawled across the wall of a vacated home: "Now we know how the Indians felt."

THE ORIGIN OF THE LEGENDS

Once the government bought a house, it was boarded up and covered with US-issued "No Trespassing" signs. The house sat vacant until the government could arrange for it to be demolished. Some of the houses were intentionally burned as training exercises for local fire departments.

With hundreds of homes being purchased in such a short period of time, the government quickly fell behind schedule in tearing them down, and it was not uncommon to drive down a street and find several boarded-up houses sitting next to the burned-out remains of others.

To a passing motorist, unaware of the events taking place in the area, it might easily have seemed as if an entire town had mysteriously disappeared into thin air. This is how rumors begin.

THE LEGENDS OF HELL TOWN

The number of stories circulating about Hell Town is so great that it would be nearly impossible to track them all. In many cases, the stories weave in and out of each other. Here are some of the more well-known legends and the true story behind each of them.

NOTE: The use of quotation marks denotes direct quotes from e-mails to The Ghosts of Ohio, various Web sites, chat rooms, and Internet bulletin boards.

GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY

Legend:
There is a government cover-up to hide the fact that they spilled deadly chemicals in the area. These chemicals have caused bizarre mutations to area residents and their children.

The Truth:
Stories regarding a government conspiracy refer to the area where the chemicals were spilled as either Butane Town, Mutane Town, or Mutant Town – the first two named after the chemical said to have been spilled and the last describing the results of the alleged spill.

Records show that there was never a chemical spill of any type in the area. These stories were most likely attempts to explain the various US Government signs on the abandoned buildings.

THE CEMETERY

Legend:
"The local cemetery is haunted by a ghost that sits on a bench and stares blankly into creation."

The Truth:
Interestingly, the ghost in this cemetery is almost always described in this precise way, with no further details offered. Because there is so little descriptive information about the ghost, it is nearly impossible to determine a story or identity that might accompany it. The home of this alleged spirit is Boston Cemetery, which – interestingly – has no bench.

Legend:
"The trees in the cemetery move."

The Truth:
This legend is another one that appears verbatim on a large number of websites, but again, no additional information is given. One e-mail The Ghosts of Ohio received claimed that members of a satanic cult caused the trees move in order to protect the cult's secrets. We found nothing of substance to support this claim.

Legend:
Boston Cemetery contains the graves of a large number of children who were all killed in a bus accident.

The Truth:
As with any cemetery, there are children's graves in Boston Cemetery, but none is the result of a bus crash. This legend was likely started in an attempt to tie the cemetery to the legend of the school bus (see below).

**NOTE: Ohio cemeteries, gated or not, close at dusk. If you are inside a cemetery after dark, you are trespassing. Due to recent vandalism in Boston Cemetery, the area is now patrolled on a regular basis. If you are caught inside Boston Cemetery at night, you will be arrested.

THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

Legend:
"There is an abandoned house in the woods where one light always appears in the upstairs window."

The Truth:
There is actually a house in Boston Township where a light stays on all night. It's the local hostel – a lodging house for young travelers. The light stays on since it accepts guests 24 hours a day. The house sits some distance off the road, but it is not in the woods. There are several signs posted that direct travelers to the hostel, including one right at the end of the driveway.

Interestingly, right around the time that these signs were posted, the legend of the "light in the upstairs window" began to cite the "school bus house" instead of the hostel.

THE SCHOOL BUS

Legend: A whole busload of children were slaughtered in the woods by a serial killer, a band of serial killers, an escaped mental patient, several escaped mental patients, or a group of Satanists or cult members (depending on the storyteller).

The bus is still there, although all the seats have been removed. Sometimes the bus fills up with the ghosts of the murdered children, each one sitting in his/her ghostly seat. Sometimes the ghost of a man ("the killer") smoking a cigarette is seen at the back of the bus. Other times, only the children's screams and/or laughter are heard coming from inside the bus.

Locals have attempted to tow the "cursed" bus away, but each time they have tried, some mishap occurred that often resulted in injury or death. Eventually, they decided to leave the bus there.

The Truth:
Prior to the 1974 buyout of the town, a family bought a house that was in dire need of repairs. Since the house was not in livable condition, the family needed a temporary place to stay nearby while they made the repairs. They decided to bring an old school bus onto the property and live in it until repairs were completed. In order to have more living space, they removed the seats from the bus. When the government bought the property, the family had no use for the old bus and it was left behind.

The local government has since had the bus removed, since area residents have registered complaints about the large number of people searching the woods at night looking for the "cursed bus.”

Note: This is also why there are abandoned cars, farm equipment, etc. scattered across the area. In most cases, non-working machinery was simply left behind.

THE CHURCH

Legend:
Local churches are used as a cover for cults:

  • The church is never open for mass, no matter what time you go there.
  • There is an evil man who lives in the basement and guards the church against outsiders. He refuses to let people see his face and hides if you try to look at him.
  • "A group of devil worshippers own the church."
  • "There are always candles burning in the church, even at night."
  • "The church has upsidedown [sic] crosses all over it."

The Truth:
There are, in fact, two churches to which these legends refer: Boston Community and Mother of Sorrows. Of the two, Boston Community Church is the one that is more often the focus of the legends, particularly the ones involving the "man in the basement."

The basement of Boston Community Church houses classrooms and offices. Chances are that any man spotted in the basement was a church employee, understandably startled by having strangers peer in at him – perhaps startled enough to jump out of the way.

The reference to seeing lit candles inside the church at night may be true. Many religious centers allow members of their congregation to light candles in memory of departed loved ones. These candles are often permitted to continue burning even after the ceremony.

Mother of Sorrows is the church alleged to have upside-down crosses hanging from it. The crosses are actually design elements in the church's gingerbread trim, which occur quite frequently in the gothic revival style of architecture.

Both churches are listed in local directories, something that would be unlikely were they affiliated with a secret cult. You can see the listing for Boston Community Church by clicking here. In addition, you can see a photo of Mother of Sorrows church by visiting Explore Peninsula and taking their virtual Heritage Tour. The link entitled "Main Street - South" is where you will find the photo of the church. Both churches display crosses in the traditional manner.

THE HEARSE

Legend:
If you go past the "Road Closed" signs, you will find a house in which a creepy man (or, in some stories, a family) lives. The man drives a hearse and will chase you away if you get too close to his house. In some versions of this legend, the hearse has only one headlight:

  • "A hearse with one headlight chased us through town."
  • "We tried to follow the hearse, but it vanished at the end of the road."

The Truth:
There is a bit of truth to this legend. According to Randy Bergdorf, curator/historian of the Peninsula Library and Historical Society, there was a Boston Township family that owned a hearse at one time, though they only used it at Halloween.

However, it is impossible to drive past the "Road Closed" signs. The gates across the road are locked tight, there is a creek running alongside the road, and the area is heavily wooded on both sides. A hearse would not be able to navigate this stretch of road.

THE END OF THE WORLD

Legend:
Evil awaits all those who drive this road at night:

  • The road is possessed and there have been many fatal car crashes on it.
  • "An evil force will try to take control of your car and force you to crash."
  • If you drive to the End of the World at night, a group of robed Satanists will surround your car and form a "human chain" in an attempt to trap you there.

The Truth:
Stanford Road is a twisting road with a steep incline. At the top of the hill, there is a sudden drop down the other side. Motorists looking for a cheap thrill began driving up Stanford Road at very high rates of speed. As their car crested the hill, the illusion of driving off a cliff (or the end of the world) was created.

Considering the amount of reckless driving that has taken place on Stanford Road over the years, it is no surprise that there have been several fatalities. It’s unlikely that they were caused by any paranormal activity.

Stanford Road is one of the infamous "dead-end roads" (see below), and cults and murderers are naturally part of its lore. There is no evidence, historical or otherwise, to back up these claims.

THE HIGHWAY TO HELL

Legend:

  • A serial killer with an ax has been butchering motorists who travel this road at night. Police are unable to apprehend him.
  • "Don't drive down the Highway to Hell at night! There are crazy people who hide in the woods and will jump out at you!"

The Truth:
This road is actually the same one that takes motorists to the End of the World. The Highway to Hell legend is a classic example of how urban legends form: start with a harmless activity, add some tried-and-true horror elements, and give the place a creepy name – a perfect urban legend.

THE DEAD-END ROADS

Legends:

  • If you go past the “Road Closed” signs in Hell Town to the end of the dead-end street, you will find a creepy cemetery.
  • There are two roads that dead-end for no reason. The roads both continue. The Satanists put up road closed signs up to keep you from going down to their hideouts.

The Truth:
Boston Cemetery sits at the end of Main Street, a paved road without any "Road Closed" signs on it. Driving down Main Street towards the cemetery is very much like coming to the end of a street in a subdivision. The road simply ends at the entrance to the cemetery.

Stanford Road has two “Road Closed” signs on it and, as the photo above shows, the road does continue past the signs. When Stanford Road was in full operation, it cut through several townships. Over time, a portion of the road reached such a state of disrepair that traveling on it was unsafe. Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center Township each owned a portion of Stanford Road and were both asked to make the necessary repairs to the road. Neither one was willing to bear the financial burden of bringing that portion of the road up to code or to shoulder the liability should someone get hurt on the road in its current condition. The simplest solution was to close that portion of Stanford Road.

In order to successfully close the damaged section of Stanford Road, barricades and "Road Closed" signs were placed at both ends, effectively creating two dead-end streets. The fact that there are two places where Stanford Road dead-ends into "Road Closed" signs, along with the abandoned houses that dot the landscape, lends itself very easily to the propagation of rumors.

THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE

Legend:
"You will see ghostly faces if you look inside the windows of the slaughterhouse."

NOTE: This photo was taken with a telephoto lens while standing in Boston Cemetery. Please do not trespass onto this owner's property.

The Truth:
There never was an official slaughterhouse in the Boston Mills area. Remember, this was not your average town – it was a mill town.

The building that is referred to the "old slaughterhouse" sits next to Boston Cemetery and is actually part of an old duplex built for tenants from the neighboring mill. The old building sits next to a more modern home – the contrast between the two buildings accentuates the run-down appearance of the duplex.

The duplex has been acknowledged for its historical significance and is part of the National Historic District. It stands as one of only two houses in the entire US that the Park Service has sold back to private ownership.

THE FUNERAL HOME

Legend:
There is an abandoned funeral home next to the cemetery. Candles are often seen burning in the windows at night and "cult members" will chase you away if you try and get to close to the building.

The Truth:
The building some call the abandoned funeral home is the same one others say is the old slaughterhouse (see above).

CHILDREN OF THE CORN

Legend:
There is some connection between Boston Township and the movie Children of the Corn:

  • The movie was filmed in Boston Township.
  • "Satanic" props from the movie were left behind by the production crew and are now being used by area Satanists.
  • The movie was based "on reallife [sic] events that took place in Hell Town".

The Truth:
The original Children of the Corn, released in 1984 by New World Pictures, was filmed in Whiting, Iowa. Sequels to the film were shot at various locations throughout California. By 1983, around the time that the original Children of the Corn was being filmed, the National Park Service had already been acquiring land for almost nine years. Special permission from the Department of the Interior would have been required in order to film a movie in the area.

There no truth to the statement that the film was inspired by actual events that took place in Boston Township. The film was based on the Stephen King short story of the same name that appeared in his collection of short stories, "Night Shift." And in both the King story and the original film, the setting was Gatlin, Nebraska.

Subsequent movie releases were all set either within the town of Gatlin or in "nearby cities,” but never outside Nebraska.

"SATANIC ACTIVITY" WARNINGS

Legend:
Local authorities warn motorists not to travel through Boston Township at night due to "satanic activity" in the area.

The Truth:
In an effort to curb the trespassing and vandalism that is taking place, Boston Township trustees have asked the Summit County Sheriff's Office Department to tell individuals to "move along" should they be found loitering in certain areas at night, including near the cemetery.

GHOSTLY AAA

Legend:
"There is a crybaby bridge there and it's said that if you bring an extra set of keys, park on the bridge, turn your car off, lock the doors and walk away with the keys just sitting inside when you come back the car will be covered in dust with little footprints all over it and the car will be running, but still locked."

The Truth:
This particular legend incorporates some classic ghost-related urban legend elements, most notably the references to a crybaby bridge and the footprints left on the car.

Crybaby bridges can be found throughout the US, and The Ghosts of Ohio's database contains references to at least 18 such bridges in Ohio alone. Rumors of ghostly prints appearing on your car are a common element in this urban legend. In most cases, however, the prints are handprints. This is the only reference to ghostly footprints that we know of. Ohio sites where this phenomenon has been reported include Gravity Hill and Gore Orphanage.

CONCLUSIONS

The Ghosts of Ohio uses equipment such as infrared video and film, electromagnetic field detectors, and non-contact thermometers during our investigations. We incorporated some of this equipment during our investigation of "Hell Town" and also conducted extensive library research and interviewed various area residents.

Everyone loves a good ghost story, and it’s always fun to give your friends a scare. Please remember, however, that if you are sharing stories of Hell Town with others, you are no longer merely providing entertainment; you are spreading rumors and lies that are causing people to trespass, vandalize, and disrespect Boston Mills’ residents’ general right to privacy.

If you currently maintain a website that contains some of the above-mentioned stories, we respectfully request that you consider removing them. As we have mentioned, the vast majority of these urban legends have been spread via the Internet. Sadly, a small segment of those who read the stories are more interested in a cheap thrill than they are in discovering the truth. Their actions have become an unfortunate reflection on everyone involved in the field of paranormal research.

We do agree with one thing: there is an odd feeling throughout Boston Township and the surrounding area. It's not caused by anything supernatural, though. It's a certain sadness that comes with thinking about the residents of this area sitting helplessly by while neighbors, friends, and family members were forced from their homes. And if those painful memories are not enough, residents are now being told that they live in Hell Town and having their privacy invaded at every turn. This is why the vandalism and trespassing need to stop.

Although we can't change what has happened to these people in the past, we can offer them hope for the future.

Special thanks to Randy Bergdorf for his invaluable assistance with this article.



© 2008 The Ghosts of Ohio