by Charles Cassady
Ghost stories are common to cultures throughout the world – and throughout the year. In old Japan, the “rakugo,” a wandering spooky bard, would recount supernatural yarns called “obake” on warm summer evenings. A stated intent was to raise gooseflesh (“torihada”) on the listeners, as a sort of forerunner to air conditioning.
In autumn and October, people eagerly join “ghost tours,” visiting authentic sites of chilling regional legends and lore. Those who have done the research say that the American city with the largest quantity of supernatural guided walking tours is Savannah, Georgia, followed by New Orleans and Chicago.
Closer to home, the Hudson Library and Historical Society will host a “Spooky Walking Tour,” on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m. Registration is already underway, so be sure to sign up at hudsonlibrary.org.
In the meantime, here are some of the local rumors to raise a fright. Keep in mind that in the boo! business, actual facts are sometimes more tricks than treats, and the rise of the internet (just the latest version of tabloid media) has conjured many tall tales just for fun. Still, in the Halloween run-up, any ghostly gazetteer of Hudson should have these sepulchral shades:
The phantom auto of the Death Strip
In 1915 and 1916, the rough roads of old Hudson and Twinsburg were both frequented by a ghostly car and driver, as noted in old archives of long-gone Akron Evening Times. The undead motorist was identified, tentatively, as Fred C. Brown, an employee of the Goodrich tire company founded in Akron.
Brown was driving with the new Goodrich Silvertown tires on a Pierce-Arrow automobile in rainswept conditions, in the early hours of Oct. 14, 1914. At 2 a.m., on the brick-paved Twinsburg-Hudson Highway (later to be Darrow Road), the car overturned. A farm couple nearby found Brown, who was using his horn to call for help. Though conscious, Brown was suffering internal injuries and died en route to Akron City Hospital.
The next year, Gus Anderson, another Goodrich worker, was driving the very same Pierce-Arrow towards Twinsburg on a moonlit night. Even in those early days of horseless carriages, public water-troughs were still present. Stopping at one for refreshment, Anderson was shocked to recognize Brown, or at least an apparition of Brown, approaching him.
The ghost waved its arms and seemed to perch on the trough. Terrified, Anderson sped away. He told a fellow Goodrich driver, Harry Apple. Not long after that, on the same stretch of road, Apple also beheld the deceased Brown by the same water trough. This happened so repeatedly, wrote the Times, that “they are…planning a new night route now – one by which they can dodge the Hudson district entirely.”
More motorists allegedly spotted the “spectral chauffeur.” It seems that on occasions Brown was driving a “phantom auto.” The sightings continued up until 1916, then suddenly ceased, after a spectacular February display in which several people on the same night allegedly saw the ghost speeding along. The stretch of road favored (usually) by the ghost driver was a treacherous 10 miles through Twinsburg and Hudson nicknamed the “death strip” for the numbers of accidents it produced.
The legend of the Phantom Auto faded for more than a century, but achieved fresh internet currency when the Akron Beacon Journal revived it for Halloween 2022. Reporter Jeff Price hinted that yarns of the spectral chauffeur might have had an ulterior motive as a public-safety propaganda campaign, in the early years of automobile travel, to highlight the miserable state of Ohio roadways and need for improved paving and grading.
Was it some kind of hoax or impersonation? Or … was it not?
Baldwin Babcock House
The Baldwin Babcock House, at 49 East Main St., is a Greek Revival structure that, up until 2005, served as the Hudson Community Library and Historical Society. With a construction date of 1834, there might be numerous opportunities for a ghost to take up residence, but this is an untypical haunting.
According to stories reported by Hudson librarian and historical archivist Gwen Mayer in a 2012 Akron Beacon Journal, the mysterious odor of soup cooking has been noticed in the Baldwin Babcock House at a time when nobody in the property was doing any kitchen work. Eyewitnesses – or would that be nose-witnesses? – judged that the soup smells like vegetable beef, and the phenomenon has been going on for some time now.
Phantom fragrances are not unknown in the world of the paranormal-occult. The scent of roses is particularly associated with Marian apparitions. Heated up vegetable beef soup and its meaning, however, has yet to be listed in the grimoires or Necronomicons.
Contacted for this article, Hudson Spooky Walking Tour guide and librarian Alexandra Coley provided a few more curious and uneaseful accounts from the annals of the H Files …
George Leander Starr (1833-1920), an early Hudson settler, describes in his journals the daily travails of life in olden days. One might assume that school back then was a safer haven than it is today, but that is not necessarily so. In a diary entry dated Sunday, June 27, 1847, he describes how his teacher predicated that someone in their class was going to die.
Shortly thereafter, a student named Maria Woodin (1833-1847) passed away. Her body was buried in the Old Hudson Township Burying Ground on Chapel Street.
A vintage 1881 article from the old Hudson Enterprise newspaper details a visit from a traveling “ghost lecturer,” named Miss Florine Combes who visited the Adelphian Hall. Apparently, however, either the visit was poorly publicized, or nobody had any interest, because – as some long-ago journalist put it – “at the hour of the appointed the hall was empty, nothing but ghost present, and they were invisible. The lecturer feels that she was shabbily treated by the Hudson public.”
Adelphian Hall stood at around 160-164 North Main Street. In 1892, a fire broke out which consumed all of Main Street. There were no fatalities, thanks to a boy who ran around alerting residents (especially ones staying in local hotels), but Adelphian Hall was lost.
Coincidence? Or … ∞
On our cover (photos): This early 1920s North Main Street photo (top left) would have been taken a few years after a string of reports claiming phantom sightings along a tattered stretch of state Route 91 through Hudson. Read this and other hair-raising tales, including a ghost meeting at the long-gone Adelphian Hall (bottom right). Main Street and Adelphian Hall photos courtesy of the Hudson Library & Historical Society. Old Township Burial Ground photo by J. Stringer.