What can you say about a place called Hell Town? Like the guy in the commercial says, with a name like that, it has to be good. Right?

Well honestly, it's hard to say. "Hell Town," while one of Ohio's most famous horror/supernatural legends, is also the most confusing one I've come across. It's a good example of the way folklore can get really complicated and convoluted.

There's no single haunted farmhouse here, no headless train conductor or ghostly children running around in the woods. Hell Town is home to six or seven separate legends, each with dozens of variations. All of which has led this area in Boston Township to be grouped as one haunted site and given an evil-sounding name.

First of all, some directions: to find Hell Town, it helps to know where the Brandywine Ski Resort is. Look it up. When you pass the resort, take the first street on your left. You'll pass over railroad tracks and a small, old bridge. Pass Main Street and keep going straight to find Hell Town. It's actually the northern part of Summit County, encompassing several towns, including Boston, Boston Township, Peninsula, Sagamore Hills, and Northfield Center Township. The area is often referred to as Boston Mills. The Summit County Hell Town should not be confused with the Richland County Helltown, which is a real place named by the original German settlers; apparently the word "hell" means "light in color" or "clear" in German.

And now, the legends...


"MUTANT TOWN" and "MUTANE TOWN"

These are two alternate names for Hell Town. The excellent website Ghosts of Ohio did an impressive job of researching the Hell Town stories, and concluded that the area was first called "Mutant Town" when the federal government bought up the land in the area in 1974 to create the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. They boarded up most of the houses they bought and put US Government "No Trespassing" signs everywhere because there had been a chemical dump in the area. So naturally everyone assumed there were slimy mutants wandering around murdering people.

"Mutane Town" seems to be a simple misspelling of "Mutant Town," although I once received an e-mail which assured me that there had been a butane plant in the area, which somehow led to this name. Unfortunately, that's not true. Neither is it true that there was a chemical spill in Boston Township.

THE SATANIC CHURCH

This one goes along with allegations of satan worshipping made against the entire town. I've heard that all the people in the area worship satan (really, though, who doesn't?), and that there are animal mutilations and satanic symbols all over the place.

All of which leads to the church, which is called Mother of Sorrows in the real world. Supposedly, black masses are conducted here, and there are supposed to be upside down crosses all over the building. As it turns out, the upsde down cross shape is just a feature of gothic revival architecture. You have to think they could have been a little more careful when they were building the place.

THE CEMETERY

Lots of ghost stories from the scary cemetery, which is said to be terrifying, and the home of a ghost who sits on a bench and stares out into space. From what I hear, though, there's no bench, and the cemetery is pretty ordinary. Lately the Boston locals have installed floodlights at the cemetery and patrol it regularly, so if you're going up there, be careful.

THE SCHOOL BUS

This one has some creepy elements. A haunted school bus with all the seats removed is said to sit at the edge of the woods in Hell Town. Legend has it that the kids it was hauling on its last trip were killed by a crazy killer/bunch of crazy killers. They say sometimes you can see either the kids or their killer/killers inside. If it's a single killer, he sits in the back, smoking a cigarette. I must say that's a pretty cool element.

However, as the reliable Ghosts of Ohio discovered, the truth is much more ordinary. A guy who was repairing his home lived in the old bus with his family until they could move into the house. The bus has since been towed away.

THE END OF THE WORLD

A steep, winding road with a sudden stop is called "the end of the world" road. It's actually Stanford Road. Nothing too supernatural here, although you'll hear some weird rumor or another occasionally. Apparently there is a good dropoff near the road which creates the illusion that you're driving next to a much larger chasm.

THE HEARSE

Legend has it that you'll be chased by a hearse if you go to Hell Town. A local guy did own a hearse for a while, but I doubt he chased very many people with it--although that does sound like fun. I've received e-mails from people who claimed to actually have been chased by the spectral hearse, which then disappears. Maybe they mistook another car for the hearse.

THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE/FUNERAL HOME

There's a slaughterhouse not far from the cemetery--or so they say. The Ghosts of Ohio website reports that it's just part of an old barn. Over time it acquired a reputation as a haunted slaughterhouse where you would see faces if you looked through the windows at night.

People also call this building the "abandoned funeral home," but it's not. I actually have been inside an abandoned funeral home, which you can see here if you're interested.

THE ABANDONED HOUSE

There probably are real abandoned houses still remaining in Boston Township, since they used eminent domain to take so many and then demolished them. I've heard a first-hand report about one, and also that the local boarding house is mistaken for one.




So there you go. As I said, I owe a great debt to The Ghosts of Ohio and the guy who runs it, James Willis, for researching much of this stuff. With the amount of material I get on Hell Town, you'd think there'd have to be something to the story. Just an entire town emptied out by eminent domain is pretty creepy, but with all those other stories it's no wonder so many kids go there.

With that said, the locals have gotten pretty pissed about all the people "investigating" their little corner of the state, so be careful if you go out there. It seems to be especially hot right now (a Cleveland Plain Dealer article on the topic ran on October 30, 2001), so you might want to wait a while. I don't see any harm in poking around there at night, though, and I plan to at some point.

What conclusions can we draw? Well, the stories are all easily explained, so it's probably not a particularly supernatural place. But the presence of so much discarded junk from the Recreational Area takeover, as well as the tendency of the area to fill up with fog, make it a creepy place. And it's certainly a fascinating (if confusing) bit of local folklore.




Ghosts of Ohio: Hell Town
Ohio Lost: Hell Town
Creepy Cleveland: Hell Town
Legends of Hell Town
"Does Hell Town Really Deserve Its Name?" - Plain Dealer article


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