One of the strangest cases of spirit manifestation occurred on Mt. Nebo in Athens County, Ohio, in the 1850’s during the Spiritualism movement. This movement ran from the 1840s to the 1920s where home circles sprang up all across the U.S. and people gathered to experience contact with the spirit world. They believed that spirits could communicate with the living by way of written messages, rappings, manifestations, trance-speaking, spirit-photography and music.
Such was the case at Mt. Nebo in the home of Jonathan Koons.
Koons, a farmer, was a self-proclaimed Atheist who began an investigation into the claims of Spiritualism when the movement showed up in his area. He traveled around to experience various seances, but during the course of his questioning at one seance, he inquired as to who in his own family might be mediums. To his surprise, he was the one by lot, and the events following transformed him into a believer.
Thereafter, Koons became a writing medium. A total of eleven family members also discovered they had gifts for spirit contact. Soon, a spirit instructed Jonathan’s oldest son, Nahum, that his father should build a table and place it in a room for the exclusive use of the spirits. A 16’ x 12’ single-room log cabin was built as a spirit room on Mt. Nebo, and on a table inside, Jonathan Koons placed paper and pencil. To his amazement, writings began appearing on the paper while no one was allowed in the room. Later, the spirits requested other items: musical instruments (a trumpet, accordions, bass and tenor drums, tambourines, guitar, banjo, harps, and bells), toys, paint, and even a pistol. Groups of people would meet in this room to experience invisible entities using these props. Along with messages written on paper, reports were that the spirits would:
- Blow the trumpet and speak through it
- Fire the pistols in rapid succession
- Place toys in peoples’ hands
- Draw celestial orbs and scenery in paint and pencil
- Play loud music
- Form solid hands with which to shake hands with those in the room
As the Koons spirit room gained popularity, people from all over the country were drawn to it and made the difficult journey to Mt. Nebo. One such person was Columbus, Ohio, physician, Dr. J. Everett who documented events he witnessed in his book, “Communications From Angels: A Book for Skeptics.” Dr. Everett recorded spirit lectures that were presented to the group. One spirit was noted as an “ancient angel” and called himself Oress, Servant and Scholar of God.
Jonathan Koons kept this “Spiritual Headquarters” on Mt. Nebo until 1858 when he left for the West.
Perhaps the greater question is not so much “how” the events in the Koons spirit room happened but “why?” According to the entities themselves, Dr. J. Everett reported that they were:
“. . . commissioned and vested with authority from the heavenly world to prove to our race the existence of angels or spirits and their capability of satisfactorily demonstrating this fact to our senses to preclude the possibility of collusion or mistake and banish forever all doubt and skepticism as to the reality and truth of the present existing phenomenon.”
Although the Spiritualism movement was known to have been heavily seasoned with money-making possibilities, the Koons family are said not to have made money from their experiences. Is it fraud, legend or truth? Yet the Koons family were not the first to have entered the “Twilight Zone” of Mt. Nebo. It has a history of spiritual events.
Mt. Nebo was considered sacred by Native Americans and no hunting was allowed there. It was the site of important tribal funerals, and ancient stone altars were found on its peak. Medicine men from various tribes carried out rituals there to their gods, but Native American legend also credits Mt. Nebo as a product of witchcraft. They believed it to be hollow and supported by a ring of stone with powerful magic performed in the depths of it.
In the early 1800s, Mt. Nebo was used by covens of witches in Athens County. Black and white magic cults flourished through 1850, but mysteriously died out. The appearance and disappearance of cults continued on through the years, notably in early 1900 and 1940.
In 1870, Mt. Nebo was purchased for $250 by Eli Curtis. Joined by William D. Hall and Dr. Chauncy Barnes, who was considered the “Great High Priest of Spiritualism” in that part of the country, the trio helped to organize a community called “Morning Star” on the mount, dedicating it
“. . . to the Lord of Hosts . . to be used expressly for spiritual purposes and for a place to form a nucleus around which the City of New Jerusalem is to be builded (in time).”
A tabernacle, modeled after King Solomon’s Temple, 60 ft. wide and octagonal in shape with a door or window on each side and a cupola was begun. But it was never finished on the inside due to lack of funds. The community disbanded in 1875 when Barnes left the country. The tabernacle was torn down and removed in around 1893.
Today, Mt. Nebo is private property and access is restricted by no trespassing signs. But you can read a copy of Dr. Everett’s account of the Koons spirit room here at the State Library of Ohio Rare Books.
From the Ohio University Library, Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections:
”Mt. Nebo” is Rich in Occult Tales,” Columbus Dispatch, Sunday October 28, 1984, November 2, 1971 Article B-1 [FP40]
“Mt. Nebo” Peters, Athens County (1947) pp248-249 [FP3]
“Mt. Nebo: Cultists ‘Crest,’” by Bruce Jorgensen, p. 28
“When the Mediums Became Large” by Lisa Swickard, Zig Zag, October, 1998