The Fallsville area, which the original residents thought would become prosperous in time, is now a wildlife area that has been the setting for legends involving spirits, murder and treasure since the 1800s, local paranormal investigator Justin Brown told The Times-Gazette.
Brown said Fallsville was founded by John Timberlake in 1810, and in 1825, the Clouser family, who played a role in a few Fallsville legends, bought land, a stone house and a grist mill from Timberlake. Brown said Fallsville ultimately consisted of three streets, a church and eight houses with a few more on the outskirts.
According to Brown, there are two main legends surrounding the Fallsville area. In one, residents of Fallsville in the 1800s reported hearing knocks on their doors on Christmas Eve, but when they answered the door, no one was there. Brown said the residents attributed the knocking to the spirit of a young Native American girl — even though they never saw anyone — who they believed was trying to show them where a treasure was hidden.
The other legend, Brown said, tells of a Shawnee man traveling through the area who was sought out by a gang of white men after they heard he had some kind of treasure. When they found him somewhere near Fallsville, he didn’t have the treasure on his person and refused to tell them where he’d hidden it, so they murdered him. This man, too, was reportedly seen in Fallsville in the 1800s on Christmas Eve, Brown said.
”The Clousers reported seeing a Native American man at the end of their lane every Christmas Eve,” Brown said. “When they saw him, he would be waving his hands and gesturing, not speaking, and it seemed to them he was trying to communicate. Native Americans did use sign language to communicate with white people in those days. They believed he was trying to tell them where he hid the treasure.”
Brown said two of the Clousers, sisters Jane and Jolene, were considered odd by the other Fallsville residents. After the Clousers saw the apparition of the Native American man, Brown said Jane and Jolene hired water dowsers to search for the legendary treasure. Water dowsing, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) states, is “the practice of using a forked stick, rod, pendulum or similar device to locate underground water, minerals or other hidden or lost substances.”
Brown said no one really knows if the dowsers or the Clousers ever found the treasure, but after Jane and Jolene Clouser wrote their wills, the sisters sealed the documents with their own blood and buried their belongings in Fallsville. Brown said people still believe that if the Clousers found treasure, it’s buried among Jane and Jolene’s belongings.
Brown said because of this part of the legend, he visited Fallsville in September 2016 in an attempt to communicate with Jane and Jolene Clouser.
“There was a black super moon, and I was like, ‘Well, maybe if the energy is high, the spirits of these Clouser girls will want to communicate,’” Brown said. “All kinds of crazy stuff happened — disembodied screams, voices, EMF [electromagnetic field] readings that we couldn’t explain.”
Brown and his team, Interface Death, have traveled the Midwest, investigating the paranormal at places like the Licking County Historic Jail in Ohio, the Madison Seminary in Ohio and the Roads Hotel in Indiana.
Brown said when he and his team investigate a location, they learn as much about the history of the area as possible so they can investigate any claims and legends. Brown said he and his team combine this historical information with physics and psychological and environmental factors in order to rule whether or not it is legitimately paranormal. Once they find information that validates or invalidates the claims and legends, Brown said they branch out and experiment to see if there are any other paranormal events in the area.
“We try to experiment outside of the original claims and see if there’s anything else to be discovered,” Brown said. ”A lot of paranormal investigators including myself do that because we believe the paranormal is such a random, unpredictable, maybe even emergent phenomenon that you have to kind of go outside the box when it comes to a rigid investigation of just claims.”
Brown told The Times-Gazette he spent three or four Christmas Eves in Fallsville in an attempt to see the apparition of the Native American man, but he never did. Neither did any other investigators who went before him, Brown said. In fact, according to Brown, the Clousers were the only people to see the man.
As for the legend of the Native American girl knocking on doors on Christmas Eve, Brown said there may have been elements of oral tradition that weren’t recorded in the book where he learned of these legends, “Buckeye Legends” by Matthew Jay Katz, as there was no information about why the Fallsville residents felt the spirit knocking on their doors was a young Native American girl.
“In my research of urban legends in general, there’s usually one section of truth and then 99.9 percent of the rest of it is skewed, blown out of proportion, or just flat out made up,” Brown said.
Brown added that people in the Highland County area, including himself and his neighbors, experience what he calls “ghost knocks” just as the residents of Fallsville did in the 1800s. Though these knocks may not come on Christmas Eve, he said they do seem to happen during the same time of year.
Brown said he suspects that the reason both Fallsville legends involved spirits of Native Americans has to do with local fascination with the cultures of this areas’ first inhabitants, mostly due to the concentration of earthworks in the area, as well as a fascination with the unknown.
“People are still deeply intrigued with Native American cultures around here. There’s already some kind of connection between Native Americans and ghosts when it comes to legends, so people gravitate to that. They enjoy that type of storytelling,” Brown said. “There’s some type of element of the unknown, especially with ancient cultures. I think the atrocities against Native Americans all throughout the Americas, especially in this area, had some type of psychological trigger when it comes to hauntings, bad omens and scary things happening. We associate the Native Americans finding justice somehow through ghostly encounters and curses. I think there’s a lot to be said about the psychology behind that.”
Brown said he believes paranormal and supernatural stories can make learning history more appealing to the public.
“To get people interested in history, you have to find something interesting,” Brown said. “If you say, ‘Look, there’s a burial mound over here. It’s being preserved. There’s all kinds of archaeological and historical information there,’ people are, like, yawning. But then you’re like, ‘Oh, I think it’s haunted, and there’s a ghost that shows up on Christmas Eve,’ and they’re there. People use stories to help them gravitate towards the history, so they learn history in a fun way.”
Brown said he believes that as a society, we need stories and legends like Fallsville’s.
“These stories excite us, they interest us, they give some element of awe to the world,” Brown said. “The brain creates mysteries, intrigue and sometimes scary things to stimulate our culture and our minds. That way, it’s not just work, home, plow the fields, go to the office every day and that’s it. Ghost stories help keep the fabric of our cultures together. They’re part of the glue.”
For more information about Interface Death and their investigations or to get in contact with Brown and his team, go to interfacedeath.net.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.