In terms of
creepiness, Towner's Woods is to Portage County what the Cuyahoga Valley
Park system is to Summit & Cuyahoga Counties...but on a much smaller
scale, of course. Classifying this park is hard. Is it
really a haunted place, or can it be written off as an urban legend and
tossed into the local oddities bin? Vague tales involving
the spirits of a Native American and vengeful pioneer widow, ghost
trains, satanic activity, and unexplained phenomena cloak this
relatively young park in a shroud of mystery.
Woods is one of four parks that make up the Portage County Park system.
Located on Ravenna Road in Franklin Township, the most notable aspect
about this park is the 2,000+ year-old Hopewell Indian burial mound
found at the end of one of the hiking trails.
Very little is
known about the history of Towner's Woods. It is a relatively
new park. The property was previously owned by the Bringham
and Towner families before they sold it to Portage County in 1973.
Before then, the land was used as a sand and gravel excavation site
and dairy farm.
building is one of this first things that visitors encounter upon
entering Towner's Woods Park. We're not sure about the
background of this building. Perhaps it was used as part
of the business of the prior owners. In any event, it looked
eerie enough to include a photo here.
On a positive note,
a water spigot and water bowl are located under the stairs
for visitors' thirsty dogs.
This is one of two
gazebos found along the trails in Towner's Woods. Tales
involving satanic rituals are tied to these locations.
This gazebo, though
eerie-looking in the photo, seems relatively harmless. In
fact, it is a popular location for prom and wedding photographs.
however, is a different matter altogether.
On the two
occasions that we visited the park, this gazebo showed evidence of
small fires inside a circle of benches. This picture was taken
from our second trip. Burnt wood is visible underneath the
bench. Interestingly, on our first trip a week before, the
bench in the front was in a different location, and the remains of a
separate fire was found further inside the gazebo.
In any event, this
does not necessarily prove the existence of any occult activity.
For all we know, the fires were probably started by a bunch of bored
kids who have no appreciation for basic fire safety.
The entrance to the
trail leading up to the Hopewell burial mound.
This photo was
taken from the foot of the burial mound. This site is actually
quite impressive, visually. From the top of the mound, one can
see Lake Pippen below.
In 1932, this mound
was excavated. Archeologists discovered the skeletal remains of 11
Hopewell Indians, along with various artifacts.
According to the
Exploration Society, one of the bodies buried here belongs to a
Hopewell princess. It is said that a guardian spirit watches over her tomb and will harm anyone
who disturbs her rest. One supposed incident occurred in the
1950's, when the guardian left strange claw marks on the car of some
teenagers who camped on this mound.
It is also said that the spirit of a pioneer
widow, who was murdered by neighbors over a land dispute, wanders these
trails along the outskirts of the park.
These old train tracks (below) run along one
of the trails at Towner's Woods. According to separate reports found
Ghost Roads and
Forgotten Ohio, a ghost train runs along these rusted tracks. On one
occasion, the mysterious ghost train almost ran over some novice ghost
While we hiked this trail,
we did hear the distinctive sound of a train passing by. Yet, no train
was visible along these tracks. Believing that we had finally come
across a truly paranormal event, we ran along the trail towards the
entrance, only to find...
...this second set of train
tracks hidden below. As it turns out, another railway runs
underneath--and adjacent to--the railway above. Approximately twenty
minutes later, our suspicions were confirmed, as another train ran through
these tracks. The train is not visible above ground. So, we can
understand why some people mistake the sounds as a ghost train.
Interestingly, upon closer
inspection, we found a barely-visible pentagram spray painted on the
interior wall of this railway tunnel.
Towner's Woods is open from dawn to dusk.
If you venture here after hours, you are considered trespassing.
The place is literally swarming with mosquitoes during the
Summer. In light of the newest reports of West Nile Virus
in this area, people are strongly encouraged to bring their bug spray and take
other precautions against those nasty critters.
One reader has
helpfully pointed out that the large building is actually an old railroad
interlocking tower. As Tom S.
writes: "These towers housed switching equipment for railroad junctions
and/or crossover points. The tower in question is BA Tower, or Brady Lake, which
was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The old railroad branch line you show
was once the Erie Railroad main line, and the other active main line underneath
it is the old Pennsylvania (now Norfolk Southern, formerly Conrail) line which
runs to Cleveland. It's still a very active line. BA Tower controlled a junction
between the two railroads."
For more information regarding the the park and
its legends, check out these websites: