The most notorious haunted place in Belmont County is associated with the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area, north of I-70 at the western edge of the county. Much of the area surrounding the tiny towns of Holloway, Sewellsville, Hendrysburg, and Morristown is taken up by this reserve, which features some seriously unusual visuals for this part of the country. The bald hills and rocky cliffs, dotted with scrub brush, seem more western than mideastern. There are patches of more typical woods, and Piedmont Lake runs through the middle of the whole thing, as you can see in the map below.


A wide variety of ghosts and other creatures of the night are said to roam Egypt Valley, but the primary legend from which the others probably evolved is well known and time-honored in Kirkwood Township: the restless ghosts of Thomas Carr and Louiza Catharine Fox, respectively the first murderer hanged in Belmont County, and his victim.


It's a ghost story with an unusually firm basis in historical fact. Louiza Fox was a thirteen-year-old girl in 1869, when she lived with her family in this corner of the Ohio Valley. Back then Belmont County was sparsely populated and extremely remote. Aside from businesses catering to travellers on the National Road, just about the only industry in the area was mining coal.

Louiza was being courted by Thomas D. Carr, a "notorious character" and local coalminer, when she was still an adolescent. He had met her when she'd come to work as a domestic servant at the home of Carr's employer, Alex Hunter. He wanted to marry her, and her parents apparently consented, but Louiza's parents later broke their promise and the wedding was cancelled. Their minds were changed by Carr's reputation and propensity for violence, as well as the fact that he was much older than she.

Thomas Carr had been born in Sugar Hill, West Virginia--just east of Wheeling--on March 6, 1846. He enlisted in the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the age of fifteen by lying on his papers and saying he was four years older. He hadn't seen much action when he was captured later that year at Cheat Run, WVA, and held for a time in a Confederate POW camp. He was released in time to serve a little more before the end of the war, after which he lived and worked in Tuscarawas and Harrison Counties.

Carr was enraged when he learned that Louiza wanted to end their engagement, so on the night of January 21, 1869, he waited behind a fence corner on the road she took home from work. Eventually she walked by with her little brother Willy. Carr approached them and sent Willy on home while he talked to his ex-fiance. He kissed her goodbye, then slit her throat with a razor and stabbed her fourteen more times. He finally deposited her body in a ditch nearby. That night he spent in a coal bank while the Foxes, alerted by Willy (who saw the whole thing from a distance), got a posse together to search for him.

Carr made a halfhearted suicide attempt the next morning by slashing his own throat and even trying to shoot himself, but it wasn't enough to do the job. When he was found and arrested his wounds were treated.

An "intensely exciting" five-day trial ensued, conducted before Judge Way. Carr, who was apparently a pretty scary character, laughed when his death sentence was read aloud and said he did "not care a damn if it was to be tomorrow." In his sentencing, the judge described Carr as "petulant, ill-natured, irritable, of a nervous temperament and possessed of a heart fatally bent on mischief."

On March 8, 1870, while waiting to be hung, Carr made a full confession, which included the admission that he'd murdered fourteen other people in his life and attempted at least five. If true this makes him a fairly prolific serial killer, but it's presumed that he was exaggerating to some degree. His confession was published in pamphlet form and widely read throughout this part of the state. He checked on the gallows as it was being built, doing acrobatics on it. Interestingly, before his death sentence was carried out, he entertained two teenage girls who had big crushes on him--murder groupies. He gave them copies of his picture and rings and told them they would meet in heaven. His execution took more than a year to happen because of "a legal technicality" which earned him a stay. Finally, on March 24, 1870, Thomas D. Carr became the first person legally hung in Belmont County.


Louisa Catharine Fox's narrow gravestone provides this epitaph for the girl:

LOUIZA CATHARINE
Daughter of John E. & Mary A.
FOX
Murdered by Thomas Carr Jan. 21, 1869
Aged 13 years 11 months and 13 days

Her body lies in Salem Cemetery, a pre-Civil War cemetery in the middle of Egypt Valley with several legends of its own. It's said that unmarked graves there belong to witches. Another legend states that if you walk around the graveyard six times, you will disappear. To see more of the Salem graveyard, click here.


Louiza Catharine Fox is the ghost most often reported to be wandering the Valley. She tends to linger near her marker, crying, or walk to the spot, just a mile away, where she lost her life. Today that spot is at the top of a small rise on one of the winding, unpaved township roads which twist through the Valley. In the summertime a car on these roads will kick up a huge cloud of gritty dust. When Katydid and I visited Egypt Valley in search of the haunted spots in July of 2003, we found it very difficult to navigate the roads, which apparently have names but are almost universally unposted. Then we asked for directions and met Shelley, an extremely nice and helpful lady from Hendrysburg. She offered to direct us there by leading the way in her car. First she showed us Salem Cemetery, which is on Salem Ridge Road, and then she showed us where the murder site is, on Starkey Road.


The place where Fox was murdered is marked by a small plaque, surrounded by grass that's mown regularly. People have even created a driveway of sorts by simply pulling up off the road and parking. Shelley told us that she had led another group to the same places just a week before.


You can read the plaque in the picture above. It's something like a historical marker, though it was put here by a private monument company rather than the state of Ohio. People leave flowers, stuffed animals, and other trinkets here from time to time. When we visited, there were two burned-out candles and a red hair band below the plaque.

People visit this place in the hope of contacting Louiza Fox herself, or perhaps Thomas Carr, whose spirit is also said to walk. He was buried on the grounds of the county courthouse in St. Clairsville, where he was executed, but that hasn't stopped him from visiting the place where he spent the final days of his murderous life.

As horrific as the Carr-Fox murder story is, it's not the only ghostly occurrence associated with Egypt Valley. Close to the murder plaque is the site of another ghostly occurrence: a phantom house. It appears to visitors with seven red candles in the windows, but always fades away when approached.

Other stories center around a cemetery which borders the preserve near a lake with a steep ledge--Circle Cemetery. Supposedly a dozing truck driver wrecked into this graveyard and lost his arm when his truck rolled on it. Although the trucker lived, his arm was never found, and the story says that the trucker's severed arm now roams the cemetery, apparently using its fingers as legs like Thing from the Addams Family. You can hear its skittering walk on still nights. You might also hear the "devil dogs," which are not U.S. Marines but rather actual evil canines which may or may not guard the cemetery. I wonder how the severed arm avoids getting picked up by one of the devil dogs.


With all these scary stories, the Egypt Valley has to be counted as one of Ohio's scarier places. The thought of poor Louisa Catharine Fox roaming the woods at night is awful enough, but the homicidal specter of crazy old Thomas Carr is even worse. If you happen to come across either of them and make it back alive, please let me know about it.


Several people have written to me to share their experiences in or knowledge of Egypt Valley and its haunted cemeteries. Click the icon above to read some of what they have to say.




Salem Cemetery
New Philadelphia Times-Reporter: "19th Century Love Story Has Happy Ending"


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Sources

Baker, Jon. "19th Century Love Story Has Happy Ending." New Philadelphia Times-Reporter, November 18, 2002.

Caldwell, J.A. History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio. Wheeling, WV: Historical Publishing Co., 1880.

McKelvey, A.T. 1903 Centennial History of Belmont County, Ohio. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1903.