Updated: Oct 21, 2020
A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about crybaby bridges. One of the bridges I talked about was in an area of Ohio known as Helltown. The stories of this place were so crazy, I had to look into them further, and what I found was very interesting. Here is the story of Boston Township, Ohio....better known as Helltown.
Boston Township was officially established in 1811. It’s located in the Cuyahoga Valley in northern Ohio, about 20 miles south of Cleveland. For over 150 years, the township survived and thrived. It had its ups and downs, of course, just like most places. But in the 1970’s, things really started to go downhill.
Over the years, the township, much like other areas of the world, had become increasingly more industrialized, and some residents worried that new technologies meant nature wouldn’t be preserved. In 1971, a congressman named John Sieberling introduced the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area Act in an attempt to preserve the valley’s natural beauty. In 1974, the bill landed in front of president Gerald Ford. Ford initially wanted to veto the bill, but political pressure ultimately convinced him to pass the act.
In 1975, the real trouble for Boston Township residents began. The original proposal called for park services to purchase just 26 to 30 homes in the area, but park superintendent Bill Birdsell ended up buying 378. People weren’t legally required to move, but many residents, some of whom had lived in the area their entire lives, felt like they were no longer welcome and would be pressured or even forced to leave. Birdsell wanted the government to buy moreland in the area, and even talked about building a visitor's center on private property.
By 1989, the government had bought over 17,000 acres of private property. The area’s population decreased by 30 %, but tension between the remaining residents and the park service only grew. The area wasn’t officially “redesignated” as Cuyahoga Valley National Park until 2000. By this point, the government owned over 80 % of the township. Abandoned houses were either bulldozed, boarded up or burned as part of firefighter training regimens.
Today, Boston Township thrives, but large chunks of it sit abandoned and crumbling. And with the abandonment came rumors, speculation and, eventually, urban legends.
The first story is one I’ve already covered: that of the crybaby bridge. To recap, a mother threw her baby off the side of the bridge and, if you perform an elaborate ritual, your car motor will turn on my itself and the exterior will be covered in handprints. If you’re interested in hearing more that story or others like it, I’ll leave a link to that video in the description, and probably at the end of this video.
The next story is actually more of a conspiracy theory. There were rumors of a chemical spill in the area, which led to stories of mutants, presumably former residents of the town who had been affected by the spill. This story immediately made me think of Wes Craven’s cult classic The Hills Have Eyes, as well as the more recent Chernobyl Diaries. I couldn’t find any solid evidence of a chemical spill in the area, but many people believe the government is covering up both the spill and the mutants.
Some of the most prominent stories involve Satanic activity in the area. Members of a Satanic cult supposedly use an abandoned funeral home in town to carry out their rituals. Stanford Road has been nicknamed ’The end of the world’ because of one point where it seems to drop off completely when going up a hill. Rumors quickly spread that a Satanic cult and/or serial killer was in the woods and would kill anyone who ventured through. The nearby Mother of Sorrows church has upside down crosses carved into the exterior, leading to more rumors of Satanic activity — though upside down crosses are apparently pretty common in Catholicism as they serve as a symbol of the crucifixion of Peter. If you don’t know the story, Peter was a disciple of Jesus. When he was executed, he supposedly requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy of dying in the same way as Jesus. There isn’t any solid evidence to back up this claim but, regardless, an upside down cross isn’t necessarily evidence of Satanism.
And, of course, there are the paranormal stories. Boston Cemetery is apparently home to a ghost who sits on a bench and stares blankly into space. (But as many people who have visited Helltown will tell you, there’s no bench in that cemetery.) Other rumors include a hearse with one headlight that chases visitors through town, and ghostly faces in the windows of the old slaughterhouse. There are also stories of trees moving on their own, an abandoned school bus that crashed and killed everyone on board, and orbs and odd fluorescent lights around town.
Perhaps the strangest legend of Helltown is that of the so-called “peninsula python.” This mutated snake was said to have escaped from a traveling circus years ago and now lives in the woods of Helltown, eating people and their pets. Nobody has been able to capture the creature — or see it. But if it does exist, maybe it can eat that serial killer and keep explorers safe.
As I researched Helltown, one thing I noticed was an unusual fixation with debunking the legends. Some sources went so far as to ask people not to talk about them online at all. And I have to ask why. Sure, they're sensational, and probably based more on rumors and speculation than truth. But you could say that about most urban legends. I wonder why people are so interested in the truth when it comes to this particular town. Is it because of the unfortunate story behind the town’s abandonment? Or is it something else? Whatever the case, several commenters I’ve come across online claim the area has a heavy police presence due to vandalism and trespassing. So explore at your own risk, especially at night.
So what do you think of the Helltown story and urban legends? Have you ever been there, or somewhere similar? Let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in abandoned towns, I have a book called The Revenantscoming out in July. The story follows four teenagers who visit an abandoned town destroyed by a chemical spill…but things go horribly wrong. Click here for a link to more information as well as to pre-order the ebook.
All photos in public domain, owned by me or protected under Fair Use. (https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/what-is-fair-use/)