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Hauntings: Swamp of Satan

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Swamp of Satan

While some may joke that Ohio is hell on Earth, local lore suggests that the Devil may have once taken up residence in the Buckeye state. If this really is the Devil's stomping grounds, it looks like hell has finally frozen over.

by Chris Rawson

Did the Prince of Darkness once reside in northwest Ohio? If local history has anything to say about it, there might be a strong case for that claim. Although you won’t find Lucifer’s exact street address in the local telephone book nowadays, there are a few historical speculations that he might have had a swamp settlement.

Before Ohio became a state in 1803, the northwestern part of the state was completely covered by a low, wet swamp, later referred to by white settlers as The Great Black Swamp, due to the dark murky waters. The area, 40 miles wide by 120 miles long, was made 20,000 years ago by a migrating glacier and was a true hassle for the early pioneers. Living in the area was impossible, and traveling through the area was extremely risky for those brave enough to face wolves, snakes, and biting flies that carried cholera, typhoid and malaria. Even local Ottawa and Shawnee Indians did not even reside in the swamp and only used it to hunt. Although no human could tolerate the swamps deadly elements, it might have been the dreadful yet ideal place for the likes of Satan.

According to the Pioneer Scrap-book of Wood County Ohio, originally printed in 1910, an area of swamp known as the "Devil’s Hole" was the suspected location of these mysterious happenings. In 1811, as General and later president William Henry Harrison and his troops made their way from Sandusky to Ft. Meigs in what is now the present town of Perrysburg, they were stopped in their tracks near present day Bowling Green Ohio by the impassible swamp. Harrison, very aware of the dangers of getting stuck in the swamp, sent an unnamed scout to survey as much as he could and report back to him. The scout then set out and after a few hours became lost in the swamp. After a full day of fearfully struggling through this "man-trap", he eventually found his way back to his original trail. When asked of his whereabouts, the fearful scout said he had got lost in the "Devil’s Hole". Although the name was born, the legend of Devil's Hole was far from finished.

In 1859, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law that required citizens of Northwest Ohio to participate in draining this great swamp of standing, disease-infested water. However, with the Civil War looming in the southern states, little progress came to draining this deadly area. It wasn’t until the late 1860s that Northern civil war soldiers were commissioned to survey the area and find the most sensible routes to create crude wood plank roads to aid in the massive overhaul expected for the landscape.

According to local lore, a survey team of six men was commissioned to survey and document an area 11 miles north of Bowling Green, Ohio presently known as "Devils Hole Road". The men were adequately prepared for the uncertain journey with compasses, tents, and survival equipment and the best medicine for the swamp’s many diseases. However after what should have been a 3-day round trip journey, the men were never heard from again. Obviously very concerned for the survey team, the general in charge commissioned another smaller team to find the whereabouts of the first survey team. The second team was dealt the same fate. Gone, without a trace. Could both teams have got stuck in the "Devil’s Hole" and were unable to escape?

Another incident of the mysterious area appeared in the September 1872 issue of Bowling Green’s Sentinel newspaper. According to the article, a group of marauders on the run from the law might have hid out near Devil's Hole. The article says that "Buried in the heart of the dense woods some miles to the northwest of this place, known as 'Devil’s Hole', two men recently discovered a small, low built shanty, covered with bark and entirely obscure from the vision of man or beast by the dense undergrowth, at no greater distance than ten paces. It is off from any road and there is a single path leading to and from it. Just behind it, a hole had been dug for water, and near it are troughs cut in a log as if for the purpose of feeding horses." "…Everything about it denotes that the utmost precautions of secrecy have been taken. From its location and other circumstances, persons living nearest the locality are suspicious that it is a rendezvous or stopping place for horse thieves." However, no human was ever found to be actually living there. Was it simply a horse thief drop spot or a drainage ditch to hell?

Finally, in the fall of 1992, I was driving home one early evening from my freshman classes at Bowling Green State University to Perrysburg, when I spontaneously decided to take the alternative to I-75 and drive down Route 199. The drive was going just fine until I reached the intersection of Route 199 and Devil's Hole Road. Suddenly without any warning, a quick flash and a loud bang in front of me made me jump out of my seat. I almost flipped the jeep into the 15-foot deep drainage ditch next to the road. I brought the Jeep to a stop and got out to investigate. I was amazed at what I saw. A piston from my engine had actually shot through the hood of the car and went flying into the deep ditch beside me. The Jeep engine was smoking and the car was completely ruined. It took a good 10 minutes before a passerby stopped and promised to notify someone to come out with a tow truck and rescue my car and me. Was this the work of a crummy mechanic that helped me work on my Jeep, or was it something much more evil?

Coincidence? Maybe. Regardless, Devil's Hole Road might be noted as the Great Black Swamp’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Even local history professors at B.G.S.U were unaware of any history of Devil's Hole Road. Tina Amos, secretary of the History Department, said that although the professors are unaware of any stories about Devil's Hole Road, it is a bit noteworthy. "The only thing I know about Devil's Hole Road is that they have a very difficult time keeping the road signs up -- they're a popular item for dorm rooms, etc. Apparently they have now painted the name onto the bridge abutments," she said. Needless to say, Devil's Hole Road still remains a local legend niched in local history as an unexplained phenomenon.

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