Ghostly Past

Published 9:48 am Friday, October 9, 2009

In Ironton’s glory days as an industrial leader, it was common for travelers to stop by the area to do some wheeling-dealing, make some money and then spend it. But to stop by just to look at a coffin?

It sounds an unlikely scenario, but one that Lori Shafer, local author and librarian at the Briggs-Lawrence Library, now documents as the truth in her latest book, “Ghost Stories of Lawrence County.”

As Shafer tells it, Andrew Ellison, scion of one of the area’s leading iron families, requested that on his death he be buried in an all-iron casket. His family agreed, placing the unique box on a hill in Hanging Rock overlooking the Ohio River. Ellison’s family was part of the conglomerate with Robert Hamilton and John Campbell that created the area now known by the acronym — Hecla or Hamilton, Ellison, Campbell Land Association.

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“It became a tourist attraction and people on the boats going from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati would stop at Hanging Rock and go up to see this coffin,” Shafer said. “The boats were getting delayed so they went to the family and said please move it.”

They did, all the way to Cincinnati.

That is just one of the stories, whether history, myth or folklore, that Shafer has collected for her second book about Lawrence County.

She will have a book-signing at the Proctorville branch of the library at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

Shafer got the idea for her book from her days spent at the genealogy department of library where family history sleuths would come in and start talking about strange phenomena happening at their homes or offbeat tales they had discovered.

“It got me interested and thinking someone should write these stories down,” she said.

Besides unique tales about the county’s history, Shafer has gathered a collection of UFO sightings and ghost stories like a now defunct clubhouse on onetime Olive Street (now Park Avenue) with a deadly room and window that attracted a ghostly visitation.

As far as being a believer herself, Shafer won’t discount the reality of a supernatural.

“I think there is something out there. I have seen many people who have had these things happen,” she said. “But I didn’t try to prove or disprove. These were just stories I wanted to save.”