The Old McDaniel Hermit Place: Odd Apparitions and Missing Persons

Lucasville, Ohio (image courtesy of Google Earth)
In December of 1896, Scioto County, Ohio would see one of its oddest, and least explainable, reports of an apparition. While presented as a sort of ghost story, it doesn’t fit your typical haunting. In fact there are some elements that seem more akin to modern Bigfoot sightings, such as late night screams and vocalizations, and others that seem to indicate an abduction or disappearance.
You can’t even begin this story without addressing inconsistencies in the early reporting. While some sources list the story as first appearing in the December 14, 1896 issue of the Portsmouth Times, a review of microfiche in the local history department of the Portsmouth Public Library reveals the story actually ran in the December 16 issue. If only this were the end of the confusion, but this story leaves more questions unanswered than answered. What we do know is that the events of the evening in question began at the home of a Mr. Henry Crowe. In addition to Henry, others in attendance that evening included Flora Crowe, Henry’s brother Frank Crowe, Frank’s son James Crowe, an “estimable young belle of Scioto County fame” named Clara McCorkle, and at least one other unnamed man. After an evening of singing, playing, food, and revelry they departed for home, not more than a mile and a half from Henry Crowe’s home.
About a half mile from home, however, while climbing a hill they encountered “a strange and weird apparition of immense size”. The group was so startled and afraid that they never could rightly describe what they saw, only that in their fear they departed with great haste and one individual of their group, the unnamed man who took flight first, was not seen again that night or the next day, prompting them to offer a reward for any information concerning his whereabouts. This despite the fact that they attempted to follow after and locate their friend. The paper notes that “(t)hey reached home about morning, almost scared unconscious and suffering from nervous excitement”.
This was not the first time, according to the report, that strange things had occurred in the area. The lands nearby the “Old McDaniel Hermit Place” had been the location of “weird cries and frightful sights” in the past. Reports from past tenants included being awakened from their sleep by “groans and death like agonies” and seeing “headless men roam about the yard during the hour of midnight”, and as a result the home had “been unoccupied for seven or eight years”. As a result it had the reputation of being haunted and home to “those same blood-curdling and thrilling sights”.
It would be easy to chalk it up to a night of revelry and overactive imaginations were it not for the disappearance of the conveniently unnamed young man and the offer of a reward for information on him, or the fact that Frank Crowe was so shaken by the events he attempted to organize “a company of ‘brave men’ to find out what (the apparition) is and its wants.”
But if we don’t accept the stories of headless men and moaning spectres at face value, what is it that the Crowe family and their friends encountered that evening? Students of Bigfoot lore will immediately recognize aspects of the case that bring that mythical beast to mind. In addition to the “immense size” of the apparition, the reports of “blood-curdling” screams and cyclical nature of the sightings, occurring as they were “at intervals”, will be familiar to those who have studied Bigfoot vocalizations and the potentially migratory nature of the beasts that seem to make them show up in some areas at regular intervals, perhaps in search of seasonal food items as they become available. As for the disappearance of the unnamed man, the story of the late Albert Ostman, a Canadian prospector who claimed to have been abducted and held for six days by a family of Bigfoot in 1924, might come to mind. Others will be reminded of the modern phenomenon of UFO abductions and may find the story of the “apparition of immense size” harkens more to encounters like the Flatwoods Monster; and the area between Lucasville and Minford, Ohio, where the McDaniel Hermit place was said to be, also has another tale of UFO sightings and strange entities associated with it. Still others may remember the story of David Lang, the Tennessee farmer who disappeared into thin air, in full view of his wife, children and two other witnesses as he strolled across a field in 1880, never to be seen again.
While we may never know if Ostman was telling the truth, if the Lang story is real or a hoax, or exactly what happened to the Crowe family that night in 1896, strange and unexplained things continue to happen to this day. They continue to carry certain similarities, whether attributed to Bigfoot, UFOs, or ghosts. They continue to draw our interests and fascination. So, next time you are out at night, alone or in a small group, keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to what is happening in the dark and hidden places around you. You never know when you might see a headless man, or hear the sound of blood-curdling screams piercing the night.

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(A previous version of this story ran in The Scioto Voice newspaper as part of the River Valley Myths & Legends series.)


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