(Orig. Published 8/12/2004)
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 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.
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.
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.”
For more information regarding the the park and its legends, check out these websites:
10/28/04: Eskimo Tailor writes of mysterious underground tunnels hidden near Towner’s Woods. Note: Please heed the warning at the end of this submission. Assuming the tunnels are still in existence, they are likely to be very dangerous:
I went to school in Kent and lived at Brady Lake for a year and often poached the trails at Towners Woods at night on my mountain bike. I never experienced anything strange there. However, if you follow those tracks in towards Kent, you can find some really freaky stuff.
There is an old turnstile maybe a mile Northeast of Kent. In that area while riding one day, a friend of mine and I found an opening in the ground to an underground tunnel. Supposedly these tunnels run all the way into Kent and I don’t have any reason to doubt it. I actually got into a similar tunnel under one of the buildings on campus one night.
Anyway, there was strong evidence of cult activity at this particular opening. First, there was a crude noose hanging from a tree near the opening. Then, my friend and I, like a couple of idiots decided to go into the tunnel. We found some plastic to burn as a torch and went inside. We headed up the tunnel, which is probably only about 3.5 feet high, in a Northeast direction, back towards Towners Woods. We went maybe 30 to 40 feet and the tunnel opened up into a room full of milk crates and wooden spools for tables and chairs. There were candle remnants and plastic vampire teeth everywhere.
I warn everybody that these are very old tunnels and there is most likely a very good chance of collapse, so be careful, and don’t go alone.