Alum Creek State Park
The Alum Creek reservoir located north of Columbus in Delaware county encompasses nearly 3,400 acres of water. It’s part of the Ohio Valley Flood Control, and it’s a popular destination for central Ohio families in the summer. During the warm months, on any given day you can spot dozens of motorboats, fishing boats, skiers, sailboats, and swimmers near the beaches. It’s a very lovely place to spend an afternoon.
But like most things, Alum Creek has a dark side. The reservoir was created between 1970 and 1974, a result of the federal Flood Control Act of 1962. The dam that holds in the water was built by the Army Corp of Engineers, who also oversaw the preparation of the reservoir valley. Part of the construction included the demolition of the old village of Cheshire, and there was a very old cemetery located in town. Nearly 1,500 graves had to be moved a few miles away to the New Cheshire Cemetery.
In a page right out of the movie Poltergeist, the engineers failed to move all of the bodies to the new cemetery. Whether this was due to negligence or as a cost saving measure is something we’ll probably never know, but every so often a coffin or remains will wash up on the beach.
The first such grisly event was in 1991. Metal coffins were discovered by members of the Army Corp of Engineers, washed up on the beach after a drought lowered the water level. Human remains were found in the caskets.
In 2009, eleven more coffins appeared, ten made of wood, one metal like the previous finds. Two men exploring the shore discovered the coffins and called the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Human remains were discovered in six of the caskets. The Army Corp of Engineers were tasked with surveying the area and trying to determine if there are yet more coffins waiting to be found, as well as attempting to identify the remains for proper burial. Some of the remains were dated as being less than fifty years old.
This would be horrific enough with just the coffins randomly appearing, but there’s another layer to this story. Ohio is one of several states that was home to the prehistoric Adena culture. The Adenas were also known as Moundbuilders, and several of their man-made mounds can be found in Ohio. Many of their mounds were used for burials, though not all. Seven mounds were located in the valley that was flooded to create the reservoir.
Archeologists had already excavated six of the seven mounds, and they did not believe them to be burial mounds. However, the seventh mound was never examined, and could have been a communal burial site, submerged beneath the placid waters…for now.
UPDATE: I have discovered a bit of a connection to this story I didn’t expect – I have relatives who were buried in Cheshire Cemetery. While I doubt they were some of the ones washed up, it’s still fascinating to discover that such a weird story has a personal connection.