(Orig. Published 10/25/2004)
Mostly hidden among a tree-covered, glacier-carved landscape, Tinker’s Creek remains largely untouched by human hands. Some of those who have attempted to settle this land barely left a trace of their own existence. Today, many visitors to this area have reported strange occurrences–eerie sounds, lights and shadows; the uncanny sense of being chased away…even followed.
Is Tinker’s Creek haunted or cursed, as some say? And if so, then why?
Understanding the mystery of Tinker’s Creek first requires a look back at its history. And its history is quite mysterious indeed.
Historical records prior to the twentieth century are sparse. An Ottawa tribe resided on the land sometime prior to 1786. It is not known how long the Ottawas occupied the land, but what is known is that that they suddenly abandoned their huts and left the area. Their escape may have been due to encroaching white settlers from New England, or from growing hostility by other nearby Native American tribes. Or perhaps… from something else.
In the late Spring of 1786, a Moravian mission came upon the abandoned Ottawa settlement. Fleeing persecution, the Moravians–led by David Zeisburger and John Heckewelder–decided to make this part of the Cuyahoga Valley their home. They named the land Pilgerruh (German for “Pilgrim’s Rest”). The Moravians planted crops and built cabins and a church. They did not intend to make this their permanent home, but something happened while they were there to cause them to leave even sooner. Wrote Loskiel, one of the missionaries, “[The] missionaries were not concerned as to their own safety. If that alone had been the point in question, they would not have hesitated a moment to return to the Muskingum. But they dare not bring the congregation committed to their care, into so dreadful and dangerous a situation.”
A nearby tribe recommended they stay at Pilgerruh, but for reasons unknown the Moravians decided to move on as quickly as possible. Only ten months after they had settled at Pilgerruh, and as soon as Spring broke in 1787, the Moravians gathered for a prayer on the banks of the nearby creek and walked away.
Ten years later, in 1797, members of the Connecticut Western Reserve Land Company arrived to survey the land for permanent settlement by pioneers from New England. There, they discovered the ruins of the Moravian ghost town. They renamed the area Tinker’s Creek, after the survey team’s principal boatman, Joseph Tinker.
Unfortunately for Tinker, the curse of Pilgerruh would continue. Shortly after leaving Tinker’s Creek, on his return to New England, Joseph Tinker drowned, along with two companions.
Since its official establishment, Tinker’s Creek has enjoyed an uneasy history. Few white settlers actually resided in Tinker’s Creek, and instead settled in nearby Bedford and Northfield Township.
However, when these settlers had to bury some of their first dead, they chose an isolated, out-of-the-way plot of land located atop a hill in Tinker’s Creek. Although it is not confirmed that this cemetery used to be the burial ground for the Ottawas, it has historically been referred to as “Old Indian Cemetery.” That cemetery is now commonly known as Tinker’s Creek.
Also known as Terra Vista Cemetery, Hillside Cemetery and Pilgerruh Cemetery, this burial ground is the site of accounts of an evil dark shadow figure (could this be the same figure reported at Top of the World?), ghostly phenomenon, and even occult activity.
In the Northwest section of the cemetery, this strange circle of headstones was found. Some say it resembles the crude shape of a pentagram, although it did not appear so to this observer.
This broken tombstone marks the grave of a Comstock family pioneer, believed to be one of the first white burials in this cemetery. He died in 1810 at the age of 40.
While his name is mostly illegible, the inscription near the bottom reads:
Adieu, to all things here below,
Vain world, I leave thy fleeting toys.
Adieu to sin, fear, pain and woe,
And welcome bright eternal joys.
Early settlers did not have the benefit of an undertaker at this time. Instead, as Pamela Kendall writes, “[A] log was cut and split, the two halves hollowed out, and the body placed inside. The two halves were then put back together, and sealed with wooden pins.
As was common at this time, many pioneer family members died young. Here, the children of the Campbell family are buried, including Robison (who died September 10th, 1855, age unknown), Julia A, (who died October 8th, 1860 at age 2), and Frank (who died October 9th, 1865 at the age of 15).
One reader reported hearing the faint laughter and giggles of children at this cemetery, and has felt the presence of children watching her from beyond the surrounding trees.
The gravestones of Thomas Mann (right), who died in November 1837 at the age of 46, and his wife, Ruth, who died 7 years later, in March 1844 at the age of 27. Interestingly, although Mr. Mann’s tombstone is sadly vandalized, the image of a face appears on the lower right section of his tombstone.
The tombstone of William Moses (right), who died on July 18th, 1822 at the age of 60. To the left is the gravestone of his daughter, who died January 13th, 1811 at the age of 21.
The “orb” in front of her gravestone is actually a bug caught in the flash of the camera.
As large as this cemetery is, very few tombstones remain. It is speculated that Tinker’s Creek cemetery was also used as a mass grave site for Irish canal workers who died from malaria and other diseases while digging the Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1820’s around Tinker’s Creek. Many surrounding townships and villages would not–or for financial reasons, could not–accept the bodies for burial in their cemeteries. As a result, many of the canal workers were buried in pauper’s graves, or within the walls of the canal itself. Around Valley View, some those workers were also buried in the old Valley View Cemetery, since destroyed by highway development in the 1970’s.
One of the settlers who did choose to live in Tinker’s Creek was Edmund Gleeson (also spelled “Gleason”). Edmund built his homestead and farm on Dunham Hill, which lies near the intersection of Canal and Tinker’s Creek Roads. Unfortunately, Edmund died shortly thereafter. His cause of death is not known, although his wife quickly remarried, to James Cleveland. Edmund, along with some other members of his family, is buried in a small family cemetery plot on the hill behind the house.
Some people claim that the Gleeson farm and house are also haunted. As reported on Forgotten Ohio, strange lights are sometimes seen in the upper floor windows of this house. Also, a cross-dressing, female pig farmer used to live here, but no paranormal accounts have been connected to her. She was just “weird.”
As for the Gleeson farm, the legend becomes even grislier. The barn was the site of an actual suicide, by a young man whose body was found hanging in the barn in 2002.
There are also rumors of a suicide pact, but it is unclear whether it involved the Gleeson property or another abandoned home nearby.
While we felt that there were a couple websites that sufficiently covered Tinker’s Creek, many readers insisted that we feature it here. We honored the requests, researched the history and legends, and conducted an exploration on October 23rd, 2004. While the research turned up some interesting facts, our exploration cannot confirm or deny the existence of any paranormal activity. The hike to the cemetery was certainly exciting (or maybe it was the lack of oxygen from our smoker’s lungs after hiking the steep, rugged trail that caused us to be so breathless). The cemetery itself was quite beautiful, especially on that autumn day, although we were disappointed to see so much damage caused by vandalism. Words cannot describe the sadness felt at history being so unnecessarily lost, simply because of the acts of a few bored kids.
While walking the grass trail to the cemetery, I heard what sounded like a hoarse grunt coming from the high weeds surrounding us. It most likely was an animal, so I certainly didn’t want to disturb the natural peace. Also clearly audible from atop the hill were the sounds of traffic and other hikers around us. The natural acoustics can certainly play with one’s imagination, especially on the hill. Overall, the cemetery was peaceful, but definitely had some creepy elements which cannot be denied. Most of that can be attributed to the fact that this cemetery is in an isolated location, in the middle of the woods.
As for the Gleeson property, the most trouble we ran into was a deer that abruptly walked into my path. It should be noted that the Gleeson home rests on a steep hill, and Canal Road runs behind it. At night, it is easy to see how the headlights from passing cars can shine through (or reflect off of) the windows, creeping some people out.
Night trips are not recommended. While most of the property is owned by the park system, and no hours are posted, law enforcement routinely patrol the area and are quick to jump on anyone who may be trespassing, especially at night.
For information on the history of Tinker’s Creek, check out these resources:
The Early History of Cleveland–An e-book published by the Western Reserve Historical Society, this was the first book published on Cleveland history. Contains an extensive account (including reproductions of journals) by Moravians and early settlers. Written by Charles Whittlesey in 1867.
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Historical Collections of Ohio (1849)
History of the Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery (John B. Hudgeon, 1967)
Tinkers Creek State Park
The First Hundred Years of Northfield Township (Pamela Kendall)
Memorial To The Pioneer Women Of The Western Reserve (1896)
Reference Guide to Cuyahoga County Cemeteries