By Denice Rovira Hazlett
Unidentified flying objects. Strange land structures. Intriguing underground tunnels. Things that go bump in the night. These and other things will be topics of public discussion at the Holmes County Historical Society’s Mysterious and Unusual Places in Holmes County.
Have you ever encountered a UFO? Ever stumbled upon a Sasquatch? Or maybe there’s an unusual building or land feature on your farm that you’ve always wanted to tell someone about, but you weren’t sure who. Then you’re the perfect candidate to attend the Holmes County Historical Society’s (HCHS) free program, Mysterious and Unusual Places in Holmes County, on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 pm in the meeting room of the Holmes County District Public Library in Millersburg.
Mark Boley, director of the HCHS, says he’s excited about the event and hopes people will come not only to listen to mysterious tales, but also to tell a few of their own.
“When the program committee met to plan things for the year, we tried to come up with ideas for programs that are not only informative, but create curiosity for people, because history can be boring if it’s not done right.”
Boley said the HCHS has investigated some unusual sites in the area, like the 2,500 year-old Adena Indian mound on the apex of Oak Hill Cemetery, the spooky legends of Panther’s Hollow, the glacial gold of the Doughty Creek, the ancient trees of Troyer’s Hollow, and the mysteries of the Murray Tunnel and Stony Crest, but he’s sure there are other things they don’t know about–and should.
“In the past, we’ve had reports of UFO and Bigfoot sightings, so we decided to throw it all together for one event,” Boley said.
The evening is also intended to elicit audience participation, giving opportunities for guests to share odd events, sites or sightings, beginning with a panel discussion highlighting things like Stony Crest, an unusual series of underground tunnels near Holmesville reported in the 1925 Holmes County Farmer-Hub.
“In our research, we’ve discovered there was once an Indian mound on top of that area, but it was removed in the 20’s,” Boley said. As far as the rock-lined tunnels and caverns, though, no one knows why they exist. “There are a lot of legends about it, and there are a lot of unusual features around the area. In fact, we have a letter from a woman who was in her 90’s at the time it was written who said she used to walk through the tunnels to school when it was raining.”
The reason the site is so unusual, Boley said, is that the mound builders–the Adena and Hopewell Indians–weren’t tunnel-diggers. So if there was a mound atop the tunnels, which came first? And why? The answers might never be found, since now, most of Stony Crest is no longer intact, largely damaged by those trying to investigate it.
The Murray Tunnel is another mystery, a man-made underground structure in southwest Holmes County extending 40 feet into a large, arch-ceilinged chamber. The fascinating part of the Murray Tunnel, Boley says, is the stones used to create it, so huge and perfectly placed. What methods could have put them there without the use of large machinery. Archaeologists and historical groups visiting the site not only disagree on the structure’s purpose, but it’s age, too. Some estimate it at 500 years old, while others have pegged it at nearly 5,000. Some contend it was a religious site, and others believe it was a storage facility for a whole colony, though Boley believes it’s much too elaborate for that. Like Stony Crest, there are other features in the area, including cairns–large surface-structures that can be seen by satellite–and underground cavities and caverns that could have all been part of a bigger picture.
But structures won’t be the only topics at the HCHS event. Unusual sightings will also be discussed. Take, for example, the possible UFO incident about fifteen years ago that left a 1/2″ deep, 7″ wide, 45′ diameter depression in a Monroe Township’s family’s front yard, though not a sound was heard except the unusual barking of the resident dogs. Others have seen objects with bright lights, flashing lights, and no lights at all. In fact, Boley himself has a tale to tell about his own close encounter, a silently hovering triangular object blocking out a building-sized area of bright stars on a moonless night south of Millersburg.
Boley anticipates that this event will spark enough interest to create an ongoing series. After all, he says, this land and its history go a long, long way back.
“A lot of time, the focus in Holmes County is on Amish and Mennonite history, but what’s more fascinating to me is what happened before that.”
For more information on the event, contact the Holmes County Historical Society at 330-674-0022.