The Moonville Tunnel in Vinton County (photo by Laura Watilo Blake)

10 Spooky Scares in Ohio

From the ghostly lore surrounding the Moonville Tunnel to the paranormal tours at the Ohio State Reformatory, these destinations will get you in the spirit of the season. 

Moonville Tunnel 
This landmark sits along a former railroad line in Vinton County that was active for over a century and holds several ghostly tales. 

Deep in Zaleski State Forest, partially obscured by the overgrowth, lies one of Vinton County’s most mystifying landmarks: Moonville Tunnel. Built in 1856, it was part of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad, a line that trains used to transport iron and coal out of the region. Ownership of the railroad changed hands several times over the years, and it eventually ceased operations in 1987.

Today, the route trains once followed is a roughly 10-mile rail trail that passes through the forests of southeast Ohio. Many visitors to the area, however, are immediately drawn to the tunnel thanks to local legends and lore about ghosts that haunt the site.

Many of the supposed specters are said to be former miners and railroad workers who met their untimely demise on or around the tracks. Curious visitors can hope to catch a glimpse of The Engineer’s swinging lantern, smell the sweet floral fragrance of The Lavender Lady or even have a run-in with The Bully.

Caleb Appleman, executive director of the Vinton County Visitor’s Bureau that organizes the annual Midnight at Moonville event (Oct. 14 this year), says a visit is interesting even if you don’t believe the ghostly tales. 

“Ultimately, whatever you’re expecting to find,” he says, “whether it’s ghosts or nature or history, [is what] you’re going to get out of your trip there.” Hope-Moonville Road, McArthur 45651,


The Frankenstein Experience at Haunted Mountain | Chillicothe
Experience Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on stage at Chillicothe’s Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre. Scioto Society CEO Brandon Smith produced an hour-long show featuring 10 actors and special effects. The production runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in October, and showgoers can add to the experience with a laboratory-themed escape room, 30-minute haunted trail, tomahawk throwing and horror film screening.

One the the oddities at Cleveland Curiosities in Lakewood (photo courtesy of Cleveland Curiosities)
Cleveland Curiosities | Lakewood 
In 2018, Clement Kunkle’s lifelong hobby of pinning bugs and collecting medical antiques found a home in Lakewood in the form of a brick-and-mortar store called Cleveland Curiosities. Thanks to community support and intrigue, the shop has now expanded to showcase more of its eclectic and fascinating items. While most items in the shop are for sale, including animal taxidermy, uranium glass and even ethically acquired human bones, the expansion has allowed for more permanent displays with informative signs, which fits the store’s mission of education and appreciation of all things weird. 13775 Madison Ave., Lakewood 44107, 216/777-0257,

Kids at Haunted Village at Heritage Village Museum in Sharonville (photo courtesy of Heritage Village Museum)
Haunted Village at Heritage Village Museum | Sharonville 
Walk the pathways that connect the collection of historic 19th-century structures at Sharonville’s Heritage Village Museum, and explore a Haunted Village featuring a Gothic-style haunted house, witches’ home, pirate ship and more while meeting storytellers along the way. This family-friendly event packs only a slight fright and costumes are encouraged. Oct. 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, 6–10 p.m.;

One of the scares waiting inside the Lewisburg Haunted Cave (photo courtesy of Lewisburg Haunted Cave)
Lewisburg Haunted Cave | Lewisburg
Explore this haunt in a cave 80 feet below the Preble County village of Lewisburg. Named the world’s longest haunted house by Guinness World Records in 2010, this experience offers a frightening 45-minute walk- through. For the less adventur- ous, there are mine-wagon tours that highlight the history of the cave. Sept. 15–Oct. 28. Visit website for schedule.

Exterior of Fremont’s Sandusky County Courthouse at dusk (photo courtesy of Sandusky County Historic Jail & Dungeon Tour)
Local Haunts 
Delve into hidden history with these tours.

Hidden Marietta Tour Co. | Marietta
Pull back the curtain on historic Marietta, and prepare to encounter a world of paranormal surprises. Believers and skeptics alike enjoy events such as ghost treks on this historic southeast Ohio city’s Front Street as well as both guided and self-guided tours of the 1859 Anchorage Mansion.

Sandusky County Historic Jail & Dungeon Tour | Fremont
This century-old dungeon below the Sandusky County Courthouse in Fremont is an ideal destination for history buffs with an affinity for the supernatural. Visitors can wander the dark halls underneath during specially scheduled public and group tours that include a visit to a museum housed in the attic of the courthouse.

Queen City is Haunted Tour | Cincinnati
Prepare for chills and frights during this immersive ghost-hunting experience that takes visitors through the southernmost part of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Explore this collection of historic buildings that includes Memorial Hall and the Emery Theatre, and keep an eye out for one of many spirits rumored to haunt the streets.


Spooky Ranch | Columbia Station
Rockin’ R Ranch, a working equestrian ranch in Lorain County, hosts an Old West Pumpkin Fest each autumn. Once night falls, it becomes the realm of Spooky Ranch, a haunted trail and hayride featuring actors and animatronics delivering good, old-fashioned frights. Sept 23–Oct. 31. Visit website for schedule.

Person touring Mansfield’s Ohio State Reformatory with a flashlight (photo courtesy of Ohio State Reformatory)
Tours at the Ohio State Reformatory
This former prison in Mansfield has a long history and an interesting afterlife, but the most fascinating part may be what still resides there.

(Editor’s Note: The Ohio State Reformatory’s tour route is adjusted from Sept. 4 to Nov. 17 for the Blood Prison Haunted House setup. For more information, visit and

The towering, castle-like walls of the Ohio State Reformatory haven’t held prisoners since 1990, but it is said that some of its former residents still haunt the landmark. Director Frank Darabont used the closed prison as the setting for his 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption,” sparking a local effort to preserve the impressive building, which was built over 24 years and completed in 1910. 

The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society bought the building for a dollar in a 2000 auction and since then has worked to clean and restore it, opening it to the public for historic, paranormal and Hollywood tours. The paranormal tours are especially popular in late November and early December, and the reformatory offers three: public ghost hunts, private paranormal investigations and ghost walks. Like many historic places, the reformatory is believed to be a hot spot for paranormal activity. 

“A lot of prisons, a lot of hospitals, a lot of facilities like that hold a lot of energy because of the emotions,” says Kathy Feketik, the reformatory’s paranormal program manager. “There’s activity because of the emotions that were left behind.”

Those participating in these tours can hope to expect a multisensory experience. Hearing footsteps or voices, seeing apparitions and smelling pipe tobacco are just some of the encounters reported over the years. 100 Reformatory Rd., Mansfield 44905, 419/522-2644,

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