So what's the story with Organ Grinder Road? For starters, Organ Grinder is a stretch of Grafton Rd. (approximately 1 mile long) located out in the country between Lodge Rd. and Miller Rd. in my small hometown of Leetonia, Ohio. And depending on whom you ask, the creepy stories differ.
I only know what happened back in 1997 to a group of us girls. And as I type this today, 17 years later, my skin crawls.
Here's our story:
It was a July night and a group of us girls were celebrating my 14th birthday along with a friend of mine's (since we were both July babies). We were having a slumber party at her home out in the country. We'd heard the legends and the stories about Organ Grinder since we were old enough to want to be spooked. Like most teenage girls, we put on a brave face and claimed that none of it was real. My dad told us again about his experience and that only amped up our excitement. We decided that since it was a full moon, we should walk down 'ol Organ Grinder and see for ourselves what all the hype was about.
All of us girls wanted my dad to come along but he warned us that no one could pay him enough money to ever walk down that road. But we weren't allowed to walk it - alone in the dark - without adult supervision, either. So my mother, my older sister, and my friend's mother all stepped up and said they would come along. We stuffed into their van and made our way down Miller Road to the start of Grafton (a.k.a. Organ Grinder).
There were six of us girls, but once we got to the start of the road, one chickened out. She stayed in the van with my friend's aunt and my dad.
The rules were simple:
1. We would be dropped off at one end (Miller Rd) and we would walk as a group to the other end (Lodge Rd).
2. The vehicle (holding my father, my friend's aunt, and our scared friend) would drive ahead and wait for us on Lodge Rd.
3. My dad had it timed out and told us that if we didn't arrive in the length of time it should have taken us to walk the spooky mile, they would come to save us.
Yes, those were his exact words. Little did we know they weren't for effect.
4. And my dad stressed that this was the most important rule: If something were to happen, we had to stick together. "Whatever you girls do," he said, "DO NOT run off alone into the woods or we may never find you."
Moments - mere seconds - after those red taillights disappeared into the abyss, came headlights. At first we thought they must have turned around for something. Maybe our one friend decided she wanted to walk with us after all. But turning around would have been tricky. The narrow road hardly left room for two lanes.
Then we realized in a hurry that this vehicle that was racing down the road toward us was not ours. The high beams were blazing and from a distance it seemed like the vehicle may not even see us. Surely any normal driver seeing a group of pedestrians in the middle of the road would start to use the brakes, but it didn't. We had no idea if it was a truck, car, bus, or freight train roaring straight for us but we knew one thing for sure: It was not stopping.
The headlights were almost upon us as we all dove into the nearest ditch, splitting our group down the center as we leapt into the brush. Bodies went flying. And just like in the movies during a car chase scene where the getaway driver will hit the brakes and turn the wheel so that the car does a 180 degree turn-a-round, this vehicle did the same thing. Gravel went flying, dirt flew up into the air, and we witnessed this flurry of pandemonium from the safety of the underbrush.
It happened so fast that we all climbed back up onto the road a bit bewildered and completely terrified. I'm not sure who I grabbed on my way down to the ground, but as we stood up I felt them trembling in my arms. Or maybe that was me shaking like a leaf.
To make matters worse, we couldn't see anything. The headlights were now glaring right at us, like a bunch of deer caught in a spotlight. As we dove for cover, I did get a glimpse of an old, rickety truck. But who was behind the wheel was a complete mystery.
I'm sure it lasted just a few moments but as those seconds ticked by it seemed like an eternity. Who was this person? Why did they try to run us over? And what were they going to do next? We were trapped there. Stunned by what had just happened, frozen in fear, and at the mercy of whatever lurked behind the steering wheel. Like little sitting ducks.
Then, the door creaked open. The squeak of those dilapidated hinges cut through the silence in the night, screeching like a murderous animal. Who- or rather, what - was emerging from this truck? We could hear the footfall as one, then another leg stepped down to the road. However, the way the headlights were shining straight into our faces obscured any visual of what the man looked like. We could only see particles of dust and maybe death settling back to earth in the blazing headlamps.
And then he stepped forward. To say he looked like he materialized from a crypt instead of a truck is not an exaggeration. His stature matched his ride - old and decaying. And then we heard a click.
Some of us lunged for the woods again thinking he may be engaging a weapon. Thankfully it was only the flick of a flashlight, but it didn't ease any of the tension. The old man began shining it in each of our faces and demanded to know, "What are you kids doing on MY road."
I've never been more petrified in my entire life. Just then, my friend's mom emerged from our cluster of shaking bodies. She was a member of law enforcement and apparently her training paid off. Had any one of the rest of us been forced to speak at that point, I don't think we would have been able to choke out one syllable.
I remember her confidently stepping forward, identifying herself, and saying, "This isn't your road. It's a public road. And these girls are just out for a walk. There are adults here and we're not bothering anything."
The old man croaked out something to the effect of: there better not be any trouble or else I'll be back and you'll all be sorry.
With that warning, he hobbled back to his truck and got inside. He smashed the door shut and within an instant, floored the gas pedal and lurched straight for us again.
For the second time, we all dove for cover as he roared by us again. His taillights disappeared down the dark road and vanished into the night. We got up, gathered ourselves, dried our tears, and decided that the only thing we could do was walk down to the end of the road to meet our van. What started out as a fun, slumber party stunt had taken a terrifying twist. I don't think I've ever walked that fast before or since that fateful night. All of us were on guard. Even the tiniest snap of a branch spooked us.
We had a few minor scares along the rest of the way, but nothing compared to that ghostly old man and his ancient pick-up truck. No other vehicles ever crossed our paths and we never saw the truck again. Relief is not a strong enough word to describe what it felt like to see my dad and the rest of our group waiting for us at the end of the road.
When we climbed inside the van, my dad said they would have waited two more minutes and then they were going to send out the search party. All of us started telling the story of our near death experience involving the man and his truck.
But what's even worse? They never saw any truck.
"You guys had to," we all insisted. "It had to come right past you." There was no way they could have missed the truck after they left us at the start of Organ Grinder. The truck had to barrel right past them, too. And then when it left us in the dust, the truck had to travel past them as they were parked at the other end, waiting for us. But it didn't. They never saw another living soul on the entire road. They never encountered any other vehicles as they were driving or as they were parked, waiting for us.
It's like the truck and the man never existed.
It's been 17 years since I took that stroll down Organ Grinder Road with my family and friends. And while none of us heard any organ music that night, none of us ever walked that road again.