on February 11, 2008
I happened upon "Weird Ohio" at an Amish store and naturally started leafing through it. It looked so interesting and professionally put together, there was no way I could walk out of the store without it (paying full price -- 20 bucks -- which you don't have to do here at Amazon).
Ohio is a land of lush, deep forests interspersed with great cities like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinatti, as well as smaller cities like Toledo, Dayton and Akron. The Eastern side of the state is part of the Appalachian Plateau with nice rolling hills, whereas the Western side is part of the Till Plains and is relatively flat, a great place for farms. The Southern and Southeastern parts of the state are bordered by the mighty Ohio River, whereas the North is part of the Eastern Great Lakes Lowland with 310 miles of coastline on Lake Erie.
Unlike "Weird Pennsylvania," which unfortunately focuses mostly on the Eastern side of that great state, "Weird Ohio" provides a balanced overview of the weird elements of the Buckeye State.
Let me emphasize how attractive and professionally put together "Weird Ohio" is. The book features colored photos or illustrations on practically every page; and many pages have two or three such items. This, of course, makes it a great coffee table book. But a full 60% is text, written with an informative and entertaining flair. This naturally makes it a perfect bathroom book, which another reviewer rightly points out.
As to be expected, "Weird Ohio" addresses the weird elements of the state -- creatures on the loose (lions, panthers, Bigfoot, the Mothman, etc.), ghost stories, crime stories, heroes, urban and rural legends, unexplained phenomena, ancient mysteries (like the great Serpent Mound), oddities, etc. If these types of items trip your trigger "Weird Ohio" is a must.
I live in NE Ohio about ten miles from the border of Pennsylvania and I was happy to see a local mysterious site mentioned in the book -- "Five Points." This area is a mere ten minutes from my house and involves numerous ghostly stories. My wife took three girlfriends to Five Points on Halloween night during her senior year in High School; she told them a couple of the creepy stories, including one of a lunatic woman who had escaped the sanitarium and wanders around the woods in a white asylum gown. At that point a big leaf hit the windshield and all the girls started screaming in terror! Anyway, I visited Five Points recently with my wife and I can see why this rural area of dark forests and winding roads would give birth to such spooky myths; we went by the "insane asylum" and noticed it was, in actuality, a nursing home (then again, who knows what it was years ago?).
I was disappointed that the book doesn't mention Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, known as Nelson Ledges or just "the Ledges" locally. It belongs in "Weird Ohio" simply because there's no place on earth like it. It's an amazing area of cliffs, ledges, crevices, waterfalls and caves hidden in the lush forestry of NE Ohio just south of Route 422. If you're interested, allow me to share with you a true tale that happened at the Ledges years ago when I was 15 years old:
On a nice summer day three friends and I decided to hitchhike up to the Ledges, which was about 25 miles away. Although we ended up walking at least 10 miles of the journey, some guy with long hair and a big old car stopped to pick us up when we were a mere two miles from the park. He had his girlfriend in the front seat with him and told us to just jump on the hood. This man was a lunatic! He was barreling down the road at 55-60 miles an hour with four young guys on the hood with almost nothing to hold on to (I held on to the edge of the hood by the windshield)! We made it to the Ledges and we all jumped off the hood. The guy got out of the car and went into the restroom, which was an outhouse made of big concrete blocks painted tan. The next thing we know we hear this blood-curdling scream and one of the large entrance walls of the outhouse came tumbling down in a mist of dust. There was the crazy driver, with no shirt on, crouched and flexing his notable muscles like the incredible Hulk. It was unbelievable, to say the least. One of my friends screamed, "He must be mad at us -- run!!", obviously thinking we accidentally broke something on his car like one of the windshield wipers. So we all bolted up into the Ledges to hide while the other dozen people in the parking lot dispersed in fear as well. The crazy dude jumped in his car, did a couple donuts in the gravel and sped off down the street. When the coast was clear we all came down from our hiding places and the people in the parking lot ran over to us to ask who the crazy guy was. We didn't know, of course; he just picked us up hitchhiking. We were all left in a state of astonishment.
Only about a dozen people were there to witness these events, but it's a true story and obviously belongs in a book like "Weird Ohio." Maybe if the authors catch wind of it they can include it in the revised edition.
BOTTOM LINE: "Weird Ohio" is a must for Ohioans and former residents who have a taste for the out-of-the-ordinary. It makes a perfect coffee table or bathroom book. Its professional presentation and entertaining text make it worthwhile even for folks who rarely (if ever) visit the Buckeye State.
Another reviewer complained that the book offers no detailed maps or instructions for finding the various areas. This is not a negative point IMHO as the authors obviously didn't want to burden the book with such details. "Weird Ohio" reveals the general location for each item and leaves it up to the reader to gather more detailed information to locate these places; that's what the Internet's for.
ADDENDUM (July 11, 2010): Last September ('09) my wife and I accidentally discovered the Longaberger basket-building shown on the cover of the book, which is on Route 16 East of Newark. We also saw the (much smaller) basket of apples at the main plant further down the road. The building's worth seeing if you're in the area.
However, the most impressive discovery from Weird Ohio is the mysterious Moonville Tunnel, located 40 minutes West of Athens in SE, Ohio, just East of Lake Hope State Park. The book devotes no less than five full pages & pictures to this strange piece of architecture literally in the middle of nowhere. The tunnel was built in the 1850s to access the small mining village, which has since become a ghost town with no buildings now standing, the last inhabitants leaving in 1947. Several websites are devoted to this eerie tube-in-the-hill, if you want to check it out.
Anyway, my wife and I finally made it to the tunnel on Wednesday, July 7, 2010, and it was just an all-around fun & amazing experience. We made it there in the ealy afternoon; it was sunny, the heat was sweltering and the mosquitoes were out of hand (so be prepared if you go). My wife refused to go into the tubular shaft due to the many creepy stories but I went all the way through and back. Incidentally, the far side of the tunnel looks better than the front side if you're taking photos; and the acoustics are awesome, so bring a guitar or sing if you plan to come out. Afterward we went to nearby Lake Hope for a swim & picnic and then to the spectacular Hocking Hills region, which is just 30 minutes West (the trail from Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave is magnificent!). Highly recommended.
After the experience I couldn't help thinking that this cool subway deep in the wilds is being wasted. It should be part of the State Park system for easy & safe access so people can enjoy it, especially since Lake Hope State Park is just a couple of miles away. Why not link it to the park? I've since found out that there are plans to make the tunnel part of a rail-trail in SE Ohio, which also includes another (less impressive) tunnel, the King Switch Tunnel, made of timber. The governing organization, Moonville Rail-Trail, Inc., also hopes to eventually extend the trail eastward to New Marshfield and beyond.
The good news is that one day soon this weird abandoned relic in the middle of nowhere will be easily accessible to the general public via the rail-trail.
on April 15, 2008
I started reading this book at a friend's house (even though I'm pretty sure it's just a coffee table book), and when I got home I knew I had to buy it. It's so interesting! I love all that stuff, knowing about hauntings, histories of places, paranormal encounters, I find it so interesting. So if you have these interests, definitely get it, you will love it, it's a good book to just pick through. If you don't, I'm not sure how much you will like it, but you will most likely find something from your area in Ohio, which makes it all the more interesting.