Did you know that Peninsula is Satan’s playground, and that the streets are teeming with mutants because the government covered up a deadly chemical spill?
Hey, it’s on the internet. Must be true.
“Beneath its charm, say the locals, is something darker,” claims one of many websites spreading the word.
“According to some, the entire town is cursed. Rumors of evil rituals, disturbed hauntings and even government cover-ups plague the town.”
A church in the center of the village features an upside-down cross, clear evidence that black magic is afoot.
Adjacent Boston Township offers a winding road, since closed, dubbed the “Highway to Hell” because it claimed a “supernatural number” of lives, as well as an abandoned school bus in which numerous children were murdered.
The entire 44264 area is known as Helltown, we are told.
Peninsula Mayor Douglas Mayer is not amused. It’s not that he has no sense of humor — he has a good
one — but this kind of internet
garbage is attracting disruptive thrill-seekers from as far away as Columbus, sometimes in tour buses.
Mayer and the rest of the townsfolk are so tired of the intrusions and vandalism that anyone who sets foot in a Peninsula cemetery after dark is being slapped with a $250 fine.
“If you want to learn what Helltown is, come down some night and come to our cemeteries,” Mayer says. “We’ll call the police and you’ll get a $250 fine. Instantly.
“You think you’re coming down here to have fun and have a couple jokes with your buddies, but everyone in the car — everyone — will leave with a $250 fine.”
The Peninsula Police Department has jurisdiction over the village and Boston Township, so it can nail intruders at both Cedar Grove Cemetery in town and Boston Cemetery, the primary target of outsiders.
Mayer, 62, is a part-time mayor who by day works as an assistant road supervisor for Boston Township. The cemetery vandalism steams him even more because it is occurring in the area where his relatives have lived since the Civil War.
“The stones that they damage are historical stones, the old sandstone ones, the old limestone, that are almost impossible to repair,” he says.
“Some are from the early 1800s. They’ve been snapped two or three times now. …
“Some of them have actually been stored in a building because we can’t afford to have them broken again.”
He says a few groups of vandals, lured by the area’s “black magic” internet reputation, have performed sacrifices with reptiles.
But graveyards aren’t the only “attraction” in the evil land of Peninsula.
Sitting in his modest office last week after his daily shift with the township, Mayer pulls back a window blind and points across the street to a Catholic church.
An upside-down cross on the front of the church near the steeple has been billed as a symbol of the occult.
“All it is, is Gothic decorations,” he says with a sigh. “It has nothing to do with nothing. That’s how far people have stretched this whole thing.”
Among the other allegedly creepy locales:
•?Crybaby Bridge. It’s on Boston Mills Road by Riverview Road, near the railroad crossing.
Police Patrolman Eddie Westfall, 53, is a native of Cuyahoga Falls who has been on the force since 1991. Even he couldn’t resist giving Crybaby Bridge a go.
”Supposedly,” he says, “if you park on the bridge, turn the ignition off and put the car in neutral, you’ll hear a baby crying.
“I tried it,” he admits with a laugh. “I tried at night. I never heard anything. Never heard a word.”
There’s not a shred of evidence that anyone ever threw a baby off the bridge.
•?Stanford Road, aka “The Highway to Hell.” It is a twisting road near Boston Cemetery that gradually builds to a huge hill, which drops off dramatically right after it crests. You could get a car airborne there without much effort.
The internet insists Stanford Road was closed because of an inexplicably high number of car crashes induced by “hordes of robed figures that patrolled the road.”
The road is indeed closed, about a half a mile into it from Riverview Road, well before the hill, with multiple signs and a barrier. There’s also a no-parking sign, so don’t think you’re going to park there and hike back without getting your car towed.
Stanford was closed in the mid-1990s because the big hill suffered major erosion that would have required costly repairs.
As for the eerie “hearse with one headlight” and the abandoned school bus, where you can hear both “laughter and agonized screams” from the kids who were slaughtered by a serial killer or mental patient — well, a quirky area resident did buy an old hearse and did gut an old school bus (neither is still around). But no kids were murdered.
•?The Chemical Spill Cover-up. “Rumors began to circulate of a chemical spill cover-up as sightings of mutant humanoids and other beasts became prevalent,” we are told.
This is one of several Peninsula legends that contains a strand of truth that has been hopelessly twisted.
It was not a spill, but a dump — 47-acre Krejci Dump, which straddled Boston and Northfield Center townships where Interstate 271 crosses over Hines Hill Road.
A “cover-up?” Hardly. More than $60 million was spent to clean it up, and the Beacon Journal has written literally 101 stories about the project just since 1985.
When the National Park Service was acquiring land for the park, officials thought they were buying an ordinary dump. But after the 1980 purchase, they discovered an environmental nightmare, a place crammed with an incredible array of toxic chemicals.
Starting shortly after World War II, big companies with major operations in Northeast Ohio — Ford, GM, Chrysler, 3M, Waste Management and Chevron among them — dumped all kinds of horrible stuff there.
Fortunately, the dump’s owner, John Krejci, maintained detailed records, so half of that $60 million bill was paid by Ford and GM, with most of the rest coming from six other companies.
The cleanup was expected to take a few years. It took two decades.
How much stuff had to be trucked away? In 2012, the Beacon reported the material would cover a football field to a depth of 173 feet.
Says the mayor, “They started removing the waste and found ravines that hadn’t been there.”
Asked whether he has encountered many mutants walking the streets of his village, Mayer replies, “No. But we have some characters.”
One of those characters was no doubt responsible for an annual celebration based on the next legend.
•?The Peninsula Python, aka “a monstrous snake slithering around town, waiting to capture its human prey.”
This one contains a significant element of truth. During the summer of 1944, “a circus train was coming through the area,” Mayer says. “It crashed and a snake got out, and it was seen by a couple of farmers.
“The funniest thing about the ‘Peninsula Python’ is that it was never seen in Peninsula. It was in Boston Township.”
A group of people did go out hunting for it, though, and the python has turned into the village’s unofficial mascot.
One resident built a huge model snake, “about 30 to 40 feet long,” Mayer says. “They walk it from down here up to the library, and it sits outside overnight.
“They call it ‘The Python Parade.’ I call it ‘The Walking of the Snake.’?”
Thus far, the fake snake hasn’t managed to coil itself around any human prey.
This year’s walk: July 17.
Peninsula doesn’t publicize the funky parade to the outside world, but the townfolk wouldn’t mind if you attended. Just don’t ask about Helltown.
And by all means, don’t sign up for a bus tour.
“We’ve had to turn away chartered buses that want to do tours in the cemetery because of this whole nonsense that people are reading,” Mayer says.
“Our police department meets them down there and says, ‘If one person steps off, here’s my ticket book. Who wants a $250 tour?’?”
The mayor certainly doesn’t dislike the concept of tourists, most of whom patronize the scenic town’s little shops and restaurants. He just doesn’t want outsiders to patronize hallowed ground.
“It’s sad. We’re trying to restore our old veterans monuments down there [in Boston Township], trying to keep the cemetery the way the community wants it, and we’ve [had to put] fences around it. We have to lock it every night and unlock it every morning. That’s not what you should have to do with your cemeteries.”
None of this was happening until about 10 to 15 years ago, Mayer says. But now, thanks to the internet, it’s “constant.”
“When I’m out working in the summertime, mowing roads, doing whatever, at least once or twice a day someone will stop and ask me how to get to Helltown.
“And I give them directions. ‘It’s over in Bath. It’s actually a village.’?”
We laugh, but he’s not joking.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31