Athens News article
From The Athens News, September 7, 2004


September 7, 2004
By Nick Claussen

A new book by Athens resident John Kachuba tells the story of some of the spookiest places in Ohio, including several spots in and around Athens County.

"Ghosthunting Ohio" is part of a series of books, "The Haunted Heartland," that Kachuba is writing for Emmis Books in Cincinnati.

The book details specific sites all over the state that are known for ghost stories or eerie events. Athens County, though, received a whole section of its own due to the county's many stories and legends.

Kachuba details how Athens County has been recognized by the British Society of Psychical Research as one of the most haunted places in the world, and how the county was featured on the Fox TV television special, "World's Scariest Places."

"Modern psychic researchers believe that the Athens area contains an extremely active vortex -- a portal between our world and the spirit world that allows spirits to easily travel between these realms," Kachuba writes.

He goes into great detail about Mt. Nebo, one of the highest points in the county, and its relevance to Athens' supernatural fame. According to the book, in the mid-1800s, spirits told Athens resident John Koons that all eight of his children were gifted mediums and that he should construct a spirit house for them. He built that house on Mt. Nebo in Dover Township, and Kachuba relates several stories of spirits at the house. According to the book, the spirit manifestations made news nationwide, and people flocked to Mt. Nebo for several years to see them.

Kachuba discusses several interesting things about Mt. Nebo, including how later a group tried to create the new City of Jerusalem on the hill, and how a spirit that claimed to be "Jesus of Nazareth" visited them.

The book includes an interview with Athens historian Ray Abraham and his thoughts on the ghost stories of the county. It also tells the story of the ghost of a hangman who purportedly haunts Simms Cemetery, the ghost of a runaway slave who is said to roam the halls of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house on East State Street in Athens, and the ghost of the railroad brakeman who is said to still stagger after his train at the Moonville tunnel near Lake Hope State Park.

The book's cover features a picture of the Ridges, and Kachuba also discusses the legends associated with the former mental hospital grounds. He takes special care to treat the Ridges and the people who lived there with respect, however.

Other places in the area mentioned in the book include Lake Hope State Park, the Inn at Cedar Falls near Logan, the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, the Levee House Cafe in Marietta, The Castle in Marietta and the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe. Kachuba discusses ghost stories and legends from all over the state, and said it was fun researching each of the items in the book.

"Athens was easy," he said, adding that Ohio University's Alden Library has numerous materials on the ghost stories of Athens and that Abraham was also helpful. Kachuba visited each place that he wrote about in Ohio, looking at each spot objectively and talking to the people who had either seen the ghosts or knew stories of the ghosts.

"I was interested in the stories of the people," Kachuba said. While he hoped to see something spooky or eerie, he believes the real story is contained in the legends and how the people of each area feel about them.

"At the same time, I'm not sure I'd like to see something," he admitted.

Nearly all of the spots that he wrote about are public places that ordinary people can visit, he said. Simms Cemetery and the sorority house in Athens, as well as a few other places, are not public, however.

During his visits to all of these places, Kachuba did not see any ghosts in particular, but he did have some eerie experiences. On a few occasions, he took pictures of haunted areas, and when the pictures came back, he said, they had orbs and other things that he couldn't explain.

In talking to people around Ohio, Kachuba said he cannot be sure that they saw ghosts, but he is sure that they experienced something, and he's interested in their experiences. Many others are also interested, he added, as his book is already attracting attention, and he has been invited to take part in several events in October (close to Halloween). The Ohio Department of Tourism is also interested in his book and may want to market Ohio's haunted spots as another way to attract tourists, Kachuba said.

Kachuba already has written two books, "How to Write Funny" and the co-author (with his wife, Mary A. Newman) of "Why Is This Job Killing Me?" He plans more books on ghost legends from states in the Midwest for the "The Haunted Heartland" series and is also planning a book for 2006 on ghost hunters from across the country.

Kachuba writes short stories and novels, and he teaches part-time in the English Department at OU. "Ghosthunting Ohio" is already for sale in on-line bookstores and should be available in local stores soon.

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