The tiny, isolated mining town of Moonville sprang up in the deep woods of Vinton County, Ohio, in the 1850s when a railroad was built through to Cincinnati. It may have been named for a man named Moon who owned a store in the town. Its population of mostly coal miners and their families swelled to around 100 by the 1870s. The residents also worked at the many iron furnaces in the area where weapons were manufactured for the Union Army during the Civil War.
These days, however, nothing is left of Moonville except its cemetery, but the Moonville tunnel is still standing just before the rails reached town. It was built for the trains to travel through a ridge after traversing two trestles over Raccoon Creek. A visit to the all-brick tunnel revealed that it is curiously curved ever so slightly and is an engineering marvel. It is this tunnel which is a haunted place for paranormal researchers to visit. An eerie light is sometimes seen moving around in it.
The story of the Moonville tunnel goes like this. Someone on the tracks was killed by a train, either a brakeman on a freight train or a person walking through the tunnel. Who it was that was killed is unclear due to vague newspaper accounts of the day as well as legends which spun the facts. Actually, the tunnel and the trestles were dangerous places to walk and several people were killed attempting to do so. However, the main story about the haunting is that someone dressed in white is seen walking and swinging a lantern in their hand. Sometimes, only the light is seen with no one carrying it.
The train tracks have long since been removed and the trail left by them is used by horseback riders and hikers. The Moonville Rail Trail Association was established in 2001 to preserve local history and promote the use of these trails. An article entitled “A Horse-High View” by Neil Shaw describes horseback riding on the Moonville Rail Trail.
However, a word to the wise is needful. The hiking path from the road to the Moonville tunnel is lined with the largest patch of poison ivy that you may ever encounter. Beware not to come in contact with it.
To get to the Moonville tunnel from U.S. Route 33 going south, exit at the business district exit for Nelsonville. Go around the roundabout into Nelsonville and turn right onto Route 278 towards Lake Hope State Park. After passing Lake Hope, turn left onto Wheelabout Road. Stay straight on this road to Shea Rd. (Twp. Rd. 3), then to Hope-Moonville Rd. (Twp. Rd. 18). These are gravel roads, and you will eventually come to a one-lane bridge. Park before going over the bridge. The hiking path to Moonville goes into the woods along this side of Raccoon Creek. If you cross the bridge, the way in is treacherous due to having to cross the creek and go up the embankment to the tunnel.