Beaver Creek State Park

Beaver Creek State Park in Columbiana County is home to two ghosts who haunt locks in the abandoned 1836 canal which runs through the park. The canal supported an entire town called Sprucevale until railroads took over and made the canal obsolete around 1852. Today Sprucevale is a ghost town and the only permanent residents left there are--appropriately--ghosts.

Gretchen's Lock is haunted by Gretchen, the daughter of Dutch engineer Gill Hans, who built the lock. Gretchen was so homesick for Holland that she died on August 12, 1838 raving about home, from malaria, caused by the hordes of mosquitoes around the stagnant lock. After the Hans had his daughter entombed in the stonework of the lock until he could arrange to have her sent home. The boat went down in the Atlantic, though, so Gretchen was stuck haunting the lock which bears her name. She can be heard crying and occasionally seen walking along the lock.

A common variation on this tale has Gretchen an infant when she died. Her father accompanied her back to Ireland to be buried, but the ship went down in the Atlantic, and she haunts the place in the lock where she was entombed before attempting the journey.

Which ever story you accept, Joshua Cox's story is enough to make you think twice about dismissing the Gretchen legend out of hand. Here's his account of what happened to him near her lock on October 1, 2005:

Last night, on the way back from Mountaineer, I decided to take a few of my friends down to see old Gretchen at the lock. I thought it would be a typical trip down Sprucevale Road. When we came across the one lane bridge we saw a light, which looked like a candle. As we got closer we saw a person in a long white dress, who appeared hooded or veiled. We didn't get the chance to listen for screaming because we overpowered it with our own screams. The source of light was directly in front of their face. We aren't sure if it was a ghost or some bored teenagers playing a prank. Whatever it was it scared us beyond belief.

The other haunted lock, Jake's Lock, is haunted by Jake--big surprise. He was a night watchman who patrolled the lock with his lantern. One night he was struck by lightning and fell into the canal. He can still be seen doing his rounds with his lantern. Sometimes his lantern can be seen under the water which still runs through the lock. It's also said that when his spirit is around, cameras won't work.

Also haunting Beaver Creek State Park is the Mushroom Lady, who wanders the park. According to legend, she killed the man she loved and his fiancee with poison mushrooms in a stew. Her bones were found buried in the park years ago. She is said to show up in photographs from time to time.

And then there's Esther Hale, the bride who was left at the altar by a husband who may have been killed in the service but may have just chickened out. Esther went crazy; she never removed her wedding dress, and was found dead in it not long after. Today she's said to haunt the park, especially on August 12, which is her anniversary. Her touch is said to be deadly.

The boarded-up Hambleton Mill is supposed to be haunted by a Quaker preacher who, surprisingly, may have been Esther Hale herself. Instead of August 12, this ghost pops up ever Christmas Eve and writes the word "COME" on the wall. Insert your own dirty joke here.

One of the few buildings remaining from the Sprucevale days (besides the mill) is a windowless brick house which is home to the ghost of a young boy who hung himself from the rafters. He's very territorial, according to legend, and will scare off anyone who trespasses in his building.

Here's a report of a ghostly sighting from the Sprucevale area:

I recieved a telephone call from a friend last night who was riding through the park that is on Sprucevale Road. He said he saw a woman with a lantern in a white old fashioned wedding gown across from the mill at the bottom of the hill, and she was screaming wildly for "Jake" and holding her lantern at eye level. They slowed and asked her if she needed help and she just kept screaming and shrieking for Jake! They went home and then back down and she was still there. They said when they were coming down the hill they could see her lantern through the trees. And when they stopped that time, driving slowly past her, she still was screaming, and you could hear something else in the woods that sounded like it was coming from behind the mill--they couldn't make out any words, just sounds. They were very scared but not sure if she was a ghost of Esther Hale or someone goofing around due to the fact that it is Halloween season and all. But it was still creepy! She never acknowledged that they were there she just looked at them but never answered when they asked her if she needed help, she just kept screaming. He was on his cell phone with his wife while the woman was screaming and she heard the shrill voice too. But no one knows if she was a real ghost or a real fake!

Jennifer from Malvern gives a description of the place's various hard-to-define weird ambiences:

My husband and I hike and kayak there all the time. The Gaston's Mill end of the park is a beautiful, bright, cheerful place, but I must admit, the feeling is very different at the Sprucevale/Gretchen's Lock end. It always seems darker and cooler, though it's no more heavily shaded. The air of the place is much more repressed and, though this sounds very cliched, it actually does feel almost like you're being watched from all sides. The thing that I find most unsettling about the area, though, is the fact that it's always much quieter and the air is much more still there. It's definitely noticeable...the absence of bird sounds and things. I've never actually seen anything there, but I cannot deny the strange aura of the place. My husband, and even our friend Jim, who is a total skeptic, agree.