From the desolate stretch along route 278 through Lake Hope State Park, it’s hard to imagine a town of furnace worker shacks, a general store, a post office, and a tiny schoolhouse. Until you notice the crumbling monster of the old furnace shoved into the valley floor. Not much more than a fortress of thick stone slabs, bent iron, and a smattering of black, shiny rocks of slag remain to remind us of the past.
During the mid-to-late 1800s, the drive to pull raw iron ore from Southern Ohio’s fertile sandstone soil and turn it into iron brought mining, railroading and iron blast furnaces. There was Zaleski and Mineral, Ingham and Hope – all filled with workers and their families, eking out an existence working in the mines or at the furnaces to make a simple living. However, it’s the furnace by Lake Hope that remains haunted.
Whispers have always told of a night watchman for Hope Furnace who stumbled into the fiery stack. He burned to death almost instantly, not even a scorched bone to be found among the charred cinders at the bottom of the pit. The man’s name still remains a mystery and no newspaper article about his death can be found. However, it would not be uncommon for the furnace operators to hire a nameless tenant of a neighboring town or a vagrant passing through to work in their company. Most were immigrants working for little more than enough food to get them by day to day. But the mysterious worker is said to be seen with an orange lantern still strolling across the top of the furnace on rainy evenings. He is seen as nothing more than a shadowy figure traveling as if walking on air where the old buildings once connected to the furnace.
Now known as the Night Watchman, a bright light can be seen bobbing up and down by the furnace. If you wait long enough, tales say the light moves quickly toward you, faster than any human could run.
If you’d like to explore the Hope furnace, from State Route 93-Take State Route 56 to State Route 278 south-following the signs toward Lake Hope State Park. The iron furnace will be on your right.
Please note: Always check with park staff to see when and where you can hunt for these ghosts. Because of the danger of many areas like the cliffs at Hocking Hills after dark, the trails close at dusk.