In the southeastern Ohio town of Lake Hope sits the MOONVILLE TUNNEL. This long forgotten railroad tunnel is one of the only remaining remnants of a small mining town that thrived for a short time. The town of Moonville was born in the late 1850's when the Marietta and Cincinnati railroad was built to transport the coal and iron out of the Ohio mines. Moonville was never a big town, at its height, there were probably never many more then 100 residents, and almost all of them were exclusively miners and their families. There was a row of houses along the railroad tracks, a sawmill, schoolhouse, post office, general store, and a saloon. In its early days the residents of Moonville worked in the Hope Furnace nearby, but later on they turned almost exclusively to mining underground. The coal and iron was then used in the Hope furnace, where weapons and artillery for the Union Army were made during the Civil War.

By the turn of the century the coal mines were closing and the town was dying. The last family left in 1947, by the 1960's all of the buildings were gone. The tracks have recently been removed along with the trestle that used to cross raccoon creek.

The Moonville tunnel is about 50 yards long and is very narrow, trains would go through at full speed and have very little clearance on each side.
Many accidents supposedly happened in the tunnel, so naturally, many legends have made their way into the local folklore. Some legends are based on historical facts and some have probably been exaggerated throughout the years. The most well-known story is that someone who worked for the railroad, possibly an engineer or a brakeman was crushed under the wheels of a train. It's been said that he was a conductor murdered by a vengeful engineer who asked him to inspect underneath the train and then started it up. One source even said that he was trying to get the train to stop because Moonville was in the grip of a plague and was running low on supplies. A newspaper article from the McArthur Democrat on March 31, 1859 featured this Moonville story; "A brakeman on the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad fell from the cars near Cincinnati Furnace, on last Tuesday March 29, 1859 and was fatally injured, when the wheels passing over and grinding to a shapeless mass the greater part of one of his legs. He was taken on the train to Hamden and Doctors Wolf and Rannells sent for to perform amputation, but the prostration of the vital energies was too great to attempt it. The man is probably dead. The accident resulted from a too free use of liquor."


hope furnace


In 1895 the Chillicothe Gazette published this article: "The ghost of Moonville, after an absence of one year, has returned and is again at its old pranks, haunting B&O S-W freight trains and their crews. It appeared Monday night in front of fast freight No. 99 west bound, just east of the cut which is one half mile the other side of Moonville at the point where Engineer Lawhead lost his life and Engineer Walters was injured. The ghost, attired in a pure white robe, carried a lantern. It had a flowing white beard, its eyes glistened like balls of fire and surrounding it was a halo of twinkling stars. When the train stopped, the ghost stepped off the track and disappeared into the rocks nearby."

Other accounts of the Moonville ghost tell the story of seeing a swinging light in the tunnel.....but upon closer inspection, realizing that nobody was holding it.

There were at least four deaths near the tunnel, including a young girl who was killed by a passing train on the nearby trestle while going to visit a lover

On a humid & sweltering September day in 2001, we made the trip to Lake Hope. We rented a campground at Lake Hope State Park for only $26 and were provided with a tent (already setup), fire ring, picnic tables and a lantern. We built a fire and made dinner while darkness approached. We headed out to the tunnel around 9:00pm. It took us about 25 min to get to there, we drove down the long gravel road and parked next to where the tracks used to cross. We shut the headlights off and were struck by the total darkness. After gathering together our gear, we walked along the path where the tracks used to lay. We were deep in the backwoods of Ohio, civilization seemed far removed and the stars shone bright. We walked a short distance until we came upon the edge of the ravine where the train trestle used to cross Raccoon Creek. We stumbled down the side of the ravine and walked along the giant stone pillars that held up the trestle. We crossed the small river on a path of slippery rocks and made it up the other side and back onto the train path. We could see the Moonville tunnel through the darkness just ahead. The tunnel was much larger than we expected and was very overwhelming. We walked around the tunnel for about an hour, we didn't see any supernatural beings but it was a very intense experience. On our way out of the tunnel we passed a couple of other groups of people coming in, so this must be a popular place. After the walk back to the car, we drove the short distance and checked out the tiny and isolated Moonville Cemetery.

In May of 2002 we rented a cabin in Hocking Hills. In the afternoon we drove down to Lake Hope and photographed the tunnel in the daylight hours, Raccoon Creek was swelled from the recent rain, so we took the alternate path (to the left of the road-just before the bridge)

1873 Railroad map


Take Route 278. Going south, once you pass the lake, make the first possible left. This will be onto Wheelabout Road, (aka Township Highway 18). The road forks right away, stay to the left and follow this narrow gravel road several minutes until you cross Raccoon Creek on a one lane bridge. Immediately following this bridge, you'll see the gravel path where the railroad tracks used to cross the road. It's a straight gravel path in going in both directions. Park here and walk down the path to the left. After a short walk you will come to the torn down trestle. Go down the steep incline right next to the old stone pillar. At the bottom you can cross the creek on a rock path and then climb up again. Continue walking down the path and the tunnel is just ahead. To get to the cemetery, continue down the road a short distance and take the branching path off to the right. It winds around up to cemetery. If you dont want to (or can't) cross the river, there is a path just before the bridge that runs along the river and up to the tunnel