Haunted Heartland Tours in Canal Fulton
All evening the moon keeps cowering behind ectoplasmic clouds, but Sherri Brake’s lantern lights the way.
The paranormal investigator and author pauses on a darkened dock to round up the 50+ people who came to Canal Fulton to take a tour with her. With all Brake’s minions gathered, the historian and storyteller begins a tale about a canal worker whose boat stopped at Lock 4 back in the 1800s.
“Basically he went a little crazy,” Brake says, slowly swirling her finger in a “cuckoo” sign next to her head. “He had heard he was going to be losing his job because trains were coming through. He went postal on a canal boat. He grabbed some kind of caustic acid, picked up the barrel and flung it amongst his co-workers. Then dumped the rest of this acid on himself. Nobody died immediately. That acid ate down through their skin, down through their muscles, into their bones. They died a horrific death. It is said that if you go down to Lock 4 Park at night, and you sit and you wait and you listen, that you can hear the cries and the moans of the men.”
This was all part of one of Brake's quick-to-sell-out Haunted Heartland Tours. Owned and operated by Brake, the West Virginia-based haunted history tour business offers several 90-minute walks in Ohio and West Virginia, as well as overnight ghost hunts in abandoned penitentiaries and asylums.
“It’s the blend of the dark history that people appreciate,” Brake explains in her smooth, soothing voice, while mingling with guests. “Some of our stuff sells out in 15 minutes. It’s amazing.”
After meeting at the corner of Canal and Market, the first stop on the Canal Fulton walk is the house of Dr. Dissinger, who tried advancing his medical knowledge by robbing fresh graves and performing autopsies in his basement.
Next up, the Sullivan house. It was built in 1881 as a residence and soon after turned into a mortuary. Now it's the local library, but the building still has the bricked-up remains of its crematorium in the basement. Visitors have reported smelling Mr. Sullivan’s cigar smoke, seeing shadow figures and photographing white mists.
The march continues to the banks of the Ohio-Erie Canal, where influenza, cholera, infection and injury claimed many of the canal workers who carved the waterway out by hand.
“These poor workers could not afford burial in proper cemeteries. So what would happen is their co-workers would get a shovel, dig a shallow grave along the bank where they had been working and place the body in the grave.”
The tiny town’s macabre chronicles continue. The red-light district catered to those rough-hewn canal workers and suffered from their course nature. Teeming with cheap sex and booze, the whole area was notorious for violent murders. A body chute leading to a mortuary could help those with enough money get rid of the “evidence.” Of those who made it to the Old Pioneer Cemetery, many went into unmarked graves.
The $15 walking tours promise ghoulish stories, historic locations and the chance to investigate the paranormal. EMF (electromagnetic field) meters and dowsing rods were demonstrated by Brake and handed out to both believers and skeptics.
The event manages the appeal of being based in reality and having the extra chill-factor, yet it keeps its chills at a PG-13 rating for the wimpier Halloweeners.
Brake’s paranormal pedigree is extensive. She has authored three books on regional haunted hotspots and has been documenting paranormal investigations for more than 25 years. She has worked on camera and off with The Travel Channel, PBS, A&E and the SyFy Channel.
Brake explains that her need to explore the afterlife comes from a scientific grounding.
“Albert Einstein had a theory that energy could not ever be destroyed. It just changes shape or forms. The human body has energy in it. It has an electrical impulse in our brain and in our heart, our spine, everything…If we die, where does that energy go to? Many paranormal investigators believe that that energy in the body is the soul or the spirit… Do we end up as a glowing ball of light, an orb? Are we reincarnated? Do we go to heaven? Do we go to hell? Nobody really knows. The laws of physics—something has to continue on.”
To see more of our ghostly tour of Canal Fulton, click through this photo gallery. Some of our images contain orbs, so when you look at each photo, investigate it closely. Do you think we've captured something ghostly?
For more information on Haunted Heartland Tours, visit http://www.hauntedhistory.net/.