In the mid-1800's a strange thing happened in the densely wooded countryside near Athens, Ohio: a family of Spiritualists rose to national prominence by communicating with the dead.

Jonathan Koons, the patriarch of the family, started out an atheist who tried to expose fraudulent Spiritualists. When he attended a seance performed by a neighbor's daughter, however, he was convinced that she was for real. The rappings in response to Koons's questions ("many of which were asked mentally") convinced him that she was for real.

After the seance, the spirits followed Koons home. He began performing automatic writing, and eventually got the other eleven members of his family in on the action. First the spirits told his eldest son Nahum to construct a table and place it in a private room for their use. The Koonses built a sixteen-by-twelve foot cabin and put the table in it, along with paper and pencils.

After this the spirits wrote out a shopping list which included musical instruments, toys, and guns (I am not making this up). They fired their guns, played otherworldly music, and drew pictures of orbs and things like that, all without the aid of living human beings.

A Dr. Everett arrived to investigate the Koons farm occurrences on May 11, 1853. He later recounted his eighteen-day stay in his book Communications from Angels. He described hearing the spirit beings play supernatural music and even shook hands with a few.

As their popularity grew, the Koonses' neighbors grew suspicious. Although the message Koons brought back from the spirits was a popular one--that Jesus Christ was the son of God, etc--and he never charged for any of his seances, the residents of Millfield were upset by what many of them considered Satanic activity. Their house was attacked by angry villagers, fire was set to their crops and their barn, and their children were beaten up. Eventually Koons left Athens county to begin "missionary wanderings." What became of the family is not known.

Today, the place where Mt. Nebo was located is merely a three-way intersection on Peach Ridge in Athens County. Nothing remains. I visited it in July of 2000 and saw only the triangular patch of grass above. Interesting history, though--and maybe some of the "spirit beings" are still hanging around.

Incidentally, I have been told that I visited the wrong spot. The intersection of Mill Creek Road and Sand Ridge is another possibility for the old location of Mt. Nebo.

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Sources

Everett, Lawrence. Ghosts, Spirits, and Legends of Southeastern Ohio. Haverford, PA: Infinity Publishing, 2002. pp. 27-29.

"Mount Nebo." Athens. November 2, 1871. pg. 3.

"Spiritualists Wrong, Mt. Nebo Not Closest to God." Athens News. May 17, 1975.