Lake Hope Furnace
Quietly nestled within Lake Hope State Park are the remains of an old iron furnace. The crumbling walls of the furnace are evidence to the structure having long been out of service. But still stories abound of a lonely watchman who still shows up for work on dark, stormy evenings.
Simply standing in front of the Lake Hope Furnace brings back images of times long since past. The furnace was in operation from 1854 until sometime in 1874 during a time when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. A quick survey of local maps from this time period show an abundance of these types of furnaces, as well as many small towns that sprung up nearby. As time went by, however, these furnaces become obsolete and were closed down, turning the surrounding towns into ghost towns. However, the area is still rich with stories of the spirits of workers who never abandoned their posts (see Moonville Tunnel). Legend has it that one of these workers still makes his rounds at the Lake Hope Furnace.
The purpose of the Lake Hope Furnace was to process the iron ore that was gathered from the area’s sandstone bedrock. The furnace operated 24-hours a day and records show that at the height of its operation, the Lake Hope Furnace was churning out close to 15 tons of cast iron a day. In order to ensure the furnace continued operating at night, watchmen were employed to tend the furnace fires. These watchmen were also responsible for keeping an eye on the engine house and to also protect against people falling into the furnace. It is said that at night, these watchmen would light lanterns to aid them in making their rounds, which often took them up along a platform at the top of the furnace.
Regarding the fateful night in question, there are several versions of what actually happened. One version says that the night was particularly rainy and stormy. The watchman, while walking along the platform with his lantern, slipped in the darkness and fell into the bubbling ore inside the furnace. Another version has the man being frightened by a bolt of lightning, causing him to fall. But perhaps the best-known version of the story, and the most romanticized, has the worker battling his way through a fierce storm in order to make his rounds. The watchman refused to be kept from his rounds and wouldn’t wait for the impending storm to pass over. As he made his rounds, lightning flashed around him, creeping closer with each strike. As the story goes, the watchman was finally struck by a bolt of lightning and then fell into the furnace. While it is impossible to determine if the man was killed by the bolt of lightning or the ensuing fall, all concerned agree that not even death has been able to keep this watchman from making his rounds.
It is said that on particularly stormy nights, the ghostly watchman returns to make his rounds. There have been dozens of reports of a dark figure carrying a lantern walking along the top of Lake Hope Furnace. Some have said that the figure continues pacing back and forth across the furnace until lightning strikes close by, which causes the figure to disappear... until the next stormy night.