Ghost stories capture the imagination of the reader perhaps more than most, and local ones even more so. A ghost story is more fun to read when you are familiar with an area, its history, its lore, and landmarks. During the spring of 1904, the south side of New Philadelphia made the papers when two alleged ghost sightings occurred on the south side’s Goshen Road within a month or so of one another.
Charley Hammersly (1833-1911) and Jack Strickmaker (1862-?), both residents of the south side (then known as Blake’s Mills), were on their way home from work in early April 1904. Both men labored in the various industries on the south side during their lives, working at times in the lime kilns, brewery, and coal mines in the area. It was just getting dark as the the two men were walking home along Goshen Road, past the mill and mill pond nearing town. As they approached the mill pond the two men stopped dead in their tracks.
According to the newspaper account of the encounter, Charley and Jack saw a figure that was either wearing all white, or glowing white, rise from the mill pond. As the two men watched, the hair on their body felt as if it was standing straight up and for a moment the men were frozen in place. The two then let out a “terrific whoop” and ran as fast as they could, not stopping until both men were in their homes. Apparently this was not the first time an alleged ghost had been seen in the area, though the newspaper claimed it had been several years since the last sighting. One theory was that the ghost was associated with a purported murder that took place on the spot and that the mill pond had covered over the murder site.
A month later, south side resident John Heidy (1855-1943) was travelling along the Goshen Road on horseback about a half-mile south of the mill pond where the previous witnesses had seen their apparition. Heidy, like the other two witnesses, had worked in a variety of jobs on the south side over his lifetime including coal mining, teamster and handling odd jobs. It was, again, nearing dusk, when the Heidy had his encounter with a “strange phenomenon.”
This time the ghostly figure appeared as a dark, manly form that looked to be floating around in the air along the roadside. According to Heidy, this was not the first time that he had witnessed this particular figure. He claimed that he had seen it on three other recent occasions as well. Heidy stated that he always saw the “ghost or what ever you may call it” in the same spot along the Goshen Road. Heidy, upon seeing the figure, stopped his horse and approached it only to have in vanish in thin air before he could reach it.
According to the newspaper accounts of Heidy’s experience, the ghost on Goshen Road had been making an appearance off-and-on for nearly 35 years. The theory about the origin of the specter allegedly witnessed by Heidy was similar to that seen by the other men, a long-ago murder. However, the details of the murders were different. Heidy’s ghost was allegedly murdered in a school house that was burned down to cover the tracks of the murderer. Needless to say, no effort was made by the newspapers to confirm either of the potential origin stories or track down other witnesses.
It is very possible, given the claims of three men who said they had seen it, that many more residents south of the Tuscarawas River believed they had witnessed the Goshen Road ghost at one time or another. Not every person was as keen to speak with a newspaper reporter about their alleged experiences. Regardless, during the spring of 1904, the Goshen Road ghost was active enough to sell a few extra newspapers.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.