“I’d like to just forget it ever happened,” he said to me, shaking his head. But I pressed on.
“Dad, everyone wants to hear what happened to you. You can’t let my readers down.”
And while I was home in Ohio for a family wedding over the past weekend, I sat down with my notebook and began to take down his words as he told his famous story one more time.
It happened back in the 1960s. What you’re about to read is a true story. I wasn’t there, obviously, but I know my Dad well. He doesn’t believe in hocus pocus, ghosts, or things that go bump in the night. But he is scared to death of that road. I’ve never seen him scared of really anything in all my 31 years on this earth, but whenever he talks about what happened to him that night and that mile-long stretch of country road, his goose bumps are visible.
The night started like many nights did for my dad and his best buddy. In their early 20s, they hung out at a bar called The Hotel (which back then was located where Leetonia, Ohio’s only Laundromat and Car Wash now stand). The Hotel burned to the ground some years later, but that night those two friends concocted a scheme that didn’t end as they had planned.
My dad and his friend decided they were going to hop on their motorcycles and get to the bottom of a strange light that appeared only at night in the middle of a field on a section of Grafton Rd between Lodge Rd and Miller Rd (which earned its haunted nickname: Organ Grinder Rd). Stories have been told that late at night, you could hear organ music playing in the distance and some people have even claimed that it came right through their car speakers. Legend also has it that if you stopped at one section of the road and looked back into the woods, you’d see the outline of three people hanging. My dad never experienced the music or saw any images of anyone hanging, but he probably wouldn’t still be so shaken up to this day if that’s all that he encountered.
"This mysterious light," he said, "would appear to illuminate a window (as if on a farmhouse or barn), yet in the daytime there was nothing there. Nothing. Just plain open grassy field. Yet at nighttime, there was the light in the window way back in the field."
So that evening, they set out from The Hotel to investigate. Two young rebels, bound and determined to see just what caused this mysterious glow. They went alone, just the two of them and their bikes. They drove down Organ Grinder and gazed back in the field. Sure enough, there was the light.
They decided the easiest entry into the field wouldn’t be directly from Organ Grinder Rd because there was too many dips and rough terrain to navigate, not to mention too many wooded areas. Instead, they picked a spot to enter off of Miller Rd. and they were going to drive back to the area where this light seemed to originate.
My Dad said they made a plan:
1. They would ride at a slow pace and without their headlights so they could sneak up on whatever was making the light. I asked my Dad, looking back all these years later if that seemed like a smart idea in the pitch dark of night and he replied, “Nothing about going on that road is a good idea.”
2. At the first sign of trouble, they were to flip on their headlights and that would be a signal to the other driver that they needed to turn around and get the heck out of there as soon as possible.
They entered the field as planned and my dad was riding closest to Organ Grinder (which would be parallel to them on the left). A cluster of woods lay all along their left-hand side and my dad rode closest to the tree line. He said they were both slowly moving along the mostly flat area but then they began to gradually drop down a slight slope in the field. He vividly remembers that it was a summer’s evening. But as they continued down this decline, the temperature began to drop almost immediately.
Out of nowhere, it happened. All of a sudden something grabbed onto the back of my dad’s leather jacket and pulled him backwards.
“It wasn’t a human-sized hand. It felt like it took hold of most of my back. I felt the smack and then the grip and it started pulling me back. The momentum of the bike was pulling the bottom half of my body forward but this thing- this hand or whatever it was- had a firm grip on my jacket. I had the jacket zipped up or it might have pulled it right off of me. I knew I couldn’t let go of the bike, though. I literally was hanging on for dear life. And as I kept a death grip on my handlebars, my front tire started to lift off the ground. It all happened so fast but I kept thinking, this thing is going to pull me off or flip the bike. So as I kept hanging on, my hand kept pressing on the handlebar throttle.”
“The throttle was almost fully opened up so you can imagine how loud of a revving my bike was making and going nowhere. By this point, my friend had kept riding along and was now ahead of me, not realizing that I was hung up by whatever was latched on. But he heard my motor rev up and immediately flipped his headlight on and turned the bike in my direction to come back the way we came.”
“And it was like it just let go. I literally rocketed ahead, flipped on my light, and turned my bike around to see what was there. But nothing was. Nothing. And my friend’s headlights had swept the entire field and he saw nothing. But we floored our bikes back toward the road. I mean, we were moving! I just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as we could. Full guns a-blazing speed.”
“We came flying out of the field and landed back on Miller Rd and almost wiped out on our bikes we were going so fast. We took a few seconds to right ourselves and then we flew east down Miller Rd, made a left onto Leetonia Rd and as fast as our motorcycles would go, we headed back into town.”
“All the while I was driving back, I was thinking to myself: What just happened? I tried to rationalize it in my head. Ok, maybe I got caught on something? But nothing was in this wide open field. And if it was something in the field, it would have had to hit me first in the front to catch me up on the back as I drove past it. And why didn’t I see anything when we spun our bikes around? Nothing was out there. But something grabbed me. And then just like that, it let me go.”
“We hadn’t spoken a word to each other yet and we never stopped until we got back into town. We turned into an ice cream parlor/gas station (that now has become Leetonia’s only gas station in town) and turned off our bikes. We started getting off our bikes and my buddy finally asked what had happened.”
“I don’t know what the hell happened, but something grabbed me,” my dad remembers telling his friend.
It was at that time that some of their friends were out cruising and pulled into the parking lot, too. They parked and got out of their vehicles and my dad remembers one girl saying, “Oh my god. Look at the handprint on your back.”
“My jacket was dusty from riding, but you could see it. Picture how it would look if you stomped a boot onto a dusty floor. That’s what the handprint looked like, except it was on my back. And it was big. You could clearly make out the fingers and maybe a thumb. It encompassed the largest part of my back. It was right there. I know you can’t see it anymore, but I can picture it like it was yesterday. I don’t even like touching this jacket. Let’s put it back,” my dad said as I was busy taking pictures of the infamous leather jacket.
“Everyone wanted to go back out there that night and search for whatever it was. But there was no way. I just kept staring at that handprint and wondering what would have happened if I would have let go of the handlebars.”
“The story spread like wildfire and people were coming from all around to look at the jacket and go out onto Organ Grinder themselves to see what would happen. Here’s the crazy thing: The light in the mysterious window was never there again after that night.”
“A few months later, a bunch of us piled into about a dozen cars and went out onto the road. I still don’t know why I went out there again. I guess I felt like there was safety in numbers or something. But we all parked our cars along the road, locked the doors, but kept the windows cracked just a little so that we could hear what was going on outside. Again, at the first sign of anything, we were all going to turn on our headlights and blast our horns to alert everyone.”
My dad said that he remembered someone yelling, “What the hell was that?!?!”
Then as soon as he heard the shouting, something hit the back of his car hard enough that it rocked it. Everyone got out immediately to see what had happened.
“There was no dent, no scratch, no paint missing, no animal tracks on the ground, no blood, no hair, no nothing. But above all the ruckus, you could clearly hear something thrashing back through the forest. I mean, it was moving fast. We couldn’t see anything that night, so the next morning we all came back out to the same spot. I’m not kidding you when I say the foliage was so thick, you would have had to get on your hands and knees and crawl through that area because there was so many brambles and branches and trees that you couldn’t walk through it. So how could something move through? But whatever was out there that night, it was flying through those woods like a jet.”
I had been taking notes this whole time while Dad rehashed those nights on Organ Grinder Rd. and he was visibly shaken all over again. I asked him to put the jacket on so I could get one last picture of him wearing it.
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