Helltown is one of the most legendary areas of Ohio. It wasn’t always called Helltown and that is not its official name, but the legends surrounding the now-abandoned town make Helltown a far more appropriate name.
The area known as Helltown is located in the northern part of Summit County. Officially called Boston Mills, it was settled in 1806 and is the oldest village in Summit County. Construction projects brought settlers, and a railroad station installed in the 1880s made the town thrive.
In 1974, President Ford signed a legislation that allowed the National Parks Service to buy the area and turn it into a national park. Unfortunately for residents, this gave the government the chance to claim eminent domain and take possession of the land. The idea was that they would raze the town and turn the area into a national park. Residents had to leave immediately, leading to graffiti that read “Now we know how the Indians felt.” However, the government being the government, they didn’t really get around to knocking down all the structures, so many streets would contain rows and rows of abandoned homes with “No Trespassing” signs, seated next to the burned-out remains of homes that had been used in fire department exercises.
It is easy to see how legends and ghost stories grew around a town that looks like it had been abandoned in the middle of the night.
One of the most common tales is the cursed school bus. Out in the woods is a broken-down school bus with all the seats removed. Depending on who tells the story, the children on the bus were killed by either a serial killer, an escaped mental patient, or a cult. Some stories would place the ghostly children inside the bus, sitting in their assigned seats, motionless. Others claim you can hear their cries coming from the school bus shell. Some say that people have tried to dispose of the bus, but it always ended in grievous injury or death. In reality, the school bus was used as temporary housing for a family who bought a house that was undergoing some repairs. When the government bought the land, the family left the bus behind. Eventually, the government had the bus hauled away after locals complained of ghost hunters searching the woods for the abandoned bus.
As with any town, churches are a strong source of creepy legends. There are two churches within Helltown: Boston Community Church and Mother of Sorrows, but the legends never specify which church. Some say there is an “evil” man in the basement who prevents people from entering the church, and won’t let people see his face. Others say that “devil worshippers” own the church; there are candles burning at all hours; it is never open for mass; and that there are upside down crosses used as decoration.
And then there are the roads in Helltown. There are two roads that dead-end for “no reason.” Both roads have signs that say “road closed,” even though the continue off into the distance. Legends say that Satanic cults put up these signs to keep people out of their secret hideouts. In reality, the two dead-ends are just opposing sides of Stanford Road. The street fell into disrepair many years ago, making it unsafe to traverse. Two different towns own portions of the road – Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center Township – but neither could afford to repair the road. Because it was a liability, it was safer just to close it.
Stanford Road is also sometimes called The End of the World or the Highway to Hell. It is a twisting road with a steep incline – so steep that when a car crests the top of the hill, from some angles it looks like the car is driving off a cliff. Some stories say that the road is evil, will take possession of your car, and cause fatal accidents. It is more likely that thrillseekers were experimenting with the incline and crashed on their own. Other rumors claim that robed Satanists will form a “human chain” around your car to prevent you from leaving; a serial killer lives in the woods and butchers drivers with an axe; or a ghostly hearse (sometimes with one headlight) will chase you.
Another rumor persists that the residents were driven out due to a chemical spill. Abandoned buildings and “No trespassing” signs put up by the US government fueled these rumors, which often said that chemicals in the area caused mutations in the local children. The chemical spill is also said to have created the Peninsula Python, a monstrously huge python that is said to reside in the woods. There is no evidence this python exists.
Unfortunately, there may be some truth to the chemical tales. The Krejci family owned a private dump not far from Helltown. The Krejci Dump was part of the park that was created in 1974, though the National Park Service didn’t acquire the land until 1985. They thought it was just an old junkyard, but park rangers started reporting strange odors, leading to headaches and rashes. One man became physically ill while collecting old bottles. The Environmental Protection Agency ran tests, and discovered that there were a number of toxic substances in the area, emanating from thousands of drums of chemicals dumped by major companies. The site was closed, and a massive cleanup operation got underway.
Other legends include: an abandoned house in the woods with a light on at all times (it’s not abandoned; it’s a hostel); a ghost who sits on a cemetery bench and stares blankly (there is no bench in the cemetery); trees in the cemetery move (allegedly caused by Satanists who cursed the trees to disguise their location); allegations that the cemetery or other parts of the town were built on native burial grounds; an abandoned slaughterhouse and/or funeral home that is said to be haunted (this is the same building, and it was never a slaughterhouse or a funeral home); and that 1984’s Children of the Corn was filmed and/or inspired by Helltown (it was actually filmed in Iowa).
Nowadays, Helltown isn’t as creepy as it once was. The area is part of what is now known as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. It was designated a national park in 2000, and as such, abandoned structures have been restored or demolished, and the creepy ruins of the past are all but wiped away.