Near East Liverpool, Ohio

When most people think of ghosts, they think of a haunted house or an old mansion, but outdoor locations often become just as haunted as actual structures... and sometimes the ghosts that can be found there are even more frightening... like the three which haunt this state park.

In the early part of the 1800's, a network of canals were built to open up the Ohio Territory to points from the east by way of water passage. At Beaver Creek State Park, there still exists a part of a canal system from the 1830's. One of the locks is called "Gretchen's Lock" and is named after a young girl who died here many years ago.

She was part of a family of Dutch immigrants and her father was the engineer who built the lock. He had brought his family over from Holland and while they were here, his daughter Gretchen contracted malaria and died. She passed away on August 12, 1838 and went to her death with fever and hallucinations, raving about returning home to Holland. Her father decided they would do just thought when his job was completed and he temporarily had Gretchen's coffin placed inside the lock itself.

Some time passed and the family finally planned to sail for home. The coffin was removed and the family traveled overland and boarded a ship for Holland. Strangely, none of the them ever made it back to their native land... the ship was lost during an Atlantic storm. Gretchen has returned however.... but not to Holland. her ghost has been seen walking along the lock that bears her name on the anniversary of her death.

Another lock here is just as haunted. It has been dubbed "Jake's Lock", taking its name from the former keeper of the lock. Jake went about his duties each night, lantern in hand, until the fateful evening when he was out in a storm and was struck by lightning. Today, Jake has been seen still roaming about the lock at night, as if still carrying out his duties. Witnesses claim to have seen his lantern bobbing along at night. It has also been reported that whenever Jake's presence is nearby, no camera will function.

As time passed, the canal era in Ohio boomed in the 1880's and then faded away. Today, the area where Beaver Creek State Park is located is nothing but ghost towns and deserted locks. One of the forgotten towns is a place called Sprucevale and it is accessible only by foot or horse path. There is nothing left of the place except for the remaining walls of an old mill and the ghost of a woman named Esther Hale.

Esther was engaged to be married back in 1837 and one August morning the date had been set and final preparations had been made. She waited patiently for her lover to appear and after several hours, she sent someone out to look for him... but he was gone.

Heart-broken, Esther retreated to her bedroom and closed the curtains, where she slowly went insane. All the rest of the summer, Esther never took off her wedding dress and she never took down the decorations in the parlor and did not remove the cakes and fine foods. She walked through the house like the ghost that she would someday be. When her friends tried to convince her to eat something or change her dress, she attacked them like an animal. Eventually, they just left her alone.

Finally, about four months later, someone noticed that Esther's door was banging open in the wind and notified the sheriff. He and the doctor entered the house and found Esther slumped over and dead. She had simply starved to death, still wearing the bridal gown. They buried her just that way, wearing the dress that she had treasured so much. It has been said that Esther has returned from the grave, still clad in her bridal gown and still searching for her lost lover. She haunts the bridge over Beaver Creek, waiting there on the anniversary of the wedding that never happened.... looking for a victim to take her place. It is said that if she touches you, she will become young and beautiful again, but you will wither and die.

Local people claim to have seen the skeletal figure appearing in the headlights in front of their car and some say that their cars will sometimes even refuse to run as they pass the old mill.

East Liverpool is located along the Ohio River on the eastern border of Ohio. It is about thirty miles south of Youngstown. The state park is located about eleven miles north of town on Highway 7.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor

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