- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - When twilight fell on Mogadore, the village became a dark, eerie place. Something waited in the shadows.

A lot of kids would have told you the town was haunted in 1959. They glimpsed strange things at night and exchanged bizarre stories by day. For several months, a nervous excitement cloaked the community.

People called it “The Ghost of Mogadore.”

The three-officer police force was inundated with spectral sightings, particularly along a lonely stretch of Saxe Road. Carloads of teens from Summit and Portage counties rolled into the village to search for the undead.

“Bunches of the kids have been coming into town for weeks seeking to trap the ghost,” Mogadore Patrolman Grant Saunders told the Beacon Journal in 1959. “We’ve talked to at least 75 kids over the last two months.”

Hauntings were nothing new in Mogadore. The town had a long, proud history of scaring itself silly. In the early 20th century, a similar frenzy seized the community.

“The village is in the throes of a ghost scare,” the Canton Morning News reported Nov. 14, 1906. “Many people are willing to take oath that they have seen something that caused their hair to stand on end. No two tell the same story, but all agree on one thing, and that is that they saw what they believe is a ghost.

“Everyone who saw the alleged ghost gives the same description of it. It has long hair, hanging down the back from the head. Over the head is thrown what appears to be a black shawl. The body is covered with the blackest of black robes, which trail along the ground.”

A laborer for the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway reported seeing the ghostly visitor along the tracks one frightening night: “I thought it was a woman and stepped aside to let her pass. Just then, the strange thing began to vanish. For a moment, I stood still and looked on in astonishment. Whatever it was, it did not run or offer a word. It simply vanished, and within 3 feet of me.”

Many of the 1959 sightings occurred near an abandoned house hidden among the twisted trees of rural Saxe Road. One evening on the outskirts of Mogadore, a man holding a large camera flagged down a carload of young sightseers from Suffield Township. He told the boys he was a Beacon Journal photographer and hoped to get a picture of the ghost at the old house down the road.

He explained that he had seen the phantom once before and tried to punch it, but his fist went through the body like it was made of mist. The man wanted to get photographic proof that the entity existed. Would the boys like to go along and see a ghost?

Of course they would. That’s why they were in Mogadore for gosh sakes. Within minutes, the Suffield teens found themselves creeping up toward the dark old house behind the shaky beam of a flashlight as the photographer had instructed.

Imaginations ran wild at night. Innocuous objects suddenly looked sinister in the gloom. As the boys trudged along the driveway, they paused. Was that a noise? No, it couldn’t be. They walked a few more steps and paused again. They definitely heard a noise. It was coming from behind a tree.

To the astonishment of the boys, a white spectral figure emerged, waving its ghostly arms. The youths scattered. One of the kids ran into a fence, snagging his clothes. Then, unexpectedly, the teens whirled around, faced the menace and began to throw rocks.

Now the ghost was startled. Pelted by stones, it fled up the driveway and into the abandoned house.

The boys rushed to the Mogadore police station, where a dispatcher radioed for help. Patrolman Saunders and Portage County deputies Russell Phillips and Ernest Dobbins converged on the Saxe Road house.

They didn’t see any ghosts, but they did notice a blinking flashlight on the side of the road. Two men and a woman were working on a car with the hood up. The car’s battery had died.

One man appeared to have white shoe polish smudged on his face. The patrolman looked inside the car trunk and discovered a white bedsheet and a white helmet.

Boo! This ghost had been busted.

Pranksters Richard Hamilton, 29, of Mogadore, and Thomas Baumgartner, 21, of Akron, admitted conspiring to scare teens at the house. Baumgartner wore the ghost costume and Hamilton posed as a newspaper photographer and played carnival barker, luring an audience to the house. Baumgartner’s wife, Judith, didn’t participate, but watched the fun from a safe hiding place.

They hadn’t counted on children arming themselves with rocks and pelting the ghost when it jumped out. Baumgartner slipped out a back window of the house and ran through the underbrush, tearing his sheet on a barbed-wire fence.

The ghostly crew would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that darned car battery sputtering at the most inopportune time.

The two men were charged with misdemeanors of disturbing the peace and fined $50, although $30 was to be suspended if they behaved themselves for a year.

“Crime - even ghosting - doesn’t pay,” Ravenna Municipal Judge James France told the pranksters. “You’re lucky no one tested your ghost outfit with a .38 caliber slug. Ghosting sounds like a whale of a lot of fun but it’s a pretty serious business.”

Mogadore Police Chief David R. Bauer closed the case on “The Ghost of Mogadore.”

Patrolman Saunders figured the spooky stunt must have been performed at least 30 times on unsuspecting kids for several months. However, Hamilton and Baumgartner steadfastly maintained that they had pulled the hoax on that one night only.

Wait a minute.

If they weren’t the ones scaring kids on other nights, who had done it? Could it have been the REAL ghost?

Judge France couldn’t resist smiling at the thought.

“Wouldn’t it have been a terrible thing if both ghosts had arrived at the same time?” he told the pranksters. “You would have scared each other to death.”

___

Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, https://www.ohio.com

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