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.

Towner's 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.

This imposing 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.

 

This gazebo, 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 Ohio 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 at 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 hunters. 

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.

 !WARNING! 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.

UPDATES

8/5/04:  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."

RESOURCES

For more information regarding the the park and its legends, check out these websites:

The Portage County Hauntings section of Ohio Exploration Society
Ghost Roads of Ohio
The submissions section of Forgotten Ohio
The Portage County Parks and Recreation website