It's a good thing, this passion for the bizarre, especially for the 26-year-old Columbus born and bred Henderson, whose Weird Ohio (written with James Willis and Loren Coleman) has become a statewide best-seller, copies of it finding homes on coffee tables and in bathrooms from Sandusky to Steubenville.
Weird Ohio (Sterling Publishing, $19.95) is an integral part of the Weird U.S. series, the brainchild of Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. They found Henderson through his Web site, forgottenoh.com, which was started in 1999 while Henderson was working at the student union at Ohio State.
The forgotten Ohio site focuses on Henderson's specialty — abandoned buildings, haunted places and weird bits of Ohio history, interests he developed in childhood.
"Our apartment complex, on the west side of Columbus, bordered on an old golf course and, we eventually discovered, a Civil War graveyard with half-buried stones. I've always loved ghost stories and hoped to see something supernatural for myself — though I never have," he said.
After being tapped as one of Weird Ohio's go-to guys, Henderson was able to focus on his most well-documented hauntings, including the most impressive abandoned buildings and places long forgotten.
His personal favorite varies, but when pressed, Henderson chooses the Moonville Tunnel legend.
"It's centered around a very sturdy brick railroad tunnel which passes through a wooded ridge in rural Vinton County," Henderson said. "It's all that remains of the mining town of Moonville, where there were once miners' homes, a boarding house, a train station and coal mines.... The tunnel is about as inaccessible and rural as anything in this state, and its ghost story is at least 150 years old. They say that a ghostly signalman had his legs cut off by a passing freight, and haunts the tunnel, waving his lantern.
"Finding (the tunnel) in the middle of the night was the thrill that really addicted me to hunting down the dark and obscure in local history."
Henderson's knowledge about scary, lost places and his tenacity in digging out information about the under-explored has made him a sought-after public speaker. Weird Ohio builds on a reputation begun with his Web site, which led to Henderson's first book, Forgotten Columbus, published in 2002.
He's just completed a book tentatively titled Ohio Hauntings, which he describes as an encyclopedic compendium of Ohio ghost legends.
"I don't really believe in ghosts, so I tend to approach it as folklore, and as such I like to think that my work doesn't go madly off in all directions," he said.
He does, however, love following the roads less traveled and the trails long ignored, seeking out the stories told in whispers, keeping them alive for future generations of ghost-seekers and the lovers of all things weird.
Contact Laura Dempsey at (937) 225-2403.