When Urban Legends Become Reality: Ohio's Post Boy Road is Haunted Thanks to a Freak Hunting Accident

When Urban Legends Become Reality: Ohio’s Post Boy Road is Haunted Thanks to a Freak Hunting Accident

Post_Boy_Ghost

Almost anywhere you go, there are towns, streets, and locations with unusual names telling long-forgotten stories. That’s certainly the case with a rural road, hollow, abandoned railroad tunnel, and vanished whistle-stop in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, all sharing the same seemingly random name: Post Boy. If you believe the creepy local legend, the name comes from a young mail carrier who was murdered there long ago and now haunts the area. But this isn’t a simple case of a colorful urban legend overshadowing a mundane truth.

This time, the tale is a true story.

19th Century photograph of a rural road near Newcomerstown, OH.

Late 19th Century photograph of a rural road near Newcomerstown, OH.

Back when Ohio was a new state and still nothing more than a sprawling wilderness on the frontier, small towns dotted the landscape, connected by old Indian trails turned into simple roads and stagecoach routes. The employees of the US Post Office–often young men with riding experience–delivered daily mail on foot and horseback along the network of crude roads; upon arriving in town, they would blow a horn to announce the mail’s arrival. This particular part of Ohio was serviced by the Coshocton-Freeport mail service route spanning approximately 40 miles.

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Returning from Freeport on horseback with a saddle-bag of mail, 20-year-old William Cartmill was completely unaware that anything dangerous awaited him at the county line on September 9, 1825. Lying in wait behind the bushes there was John Funston, a 21-year-old, farmer carrying a rifle for “hunting”. William Johnston, a traveler who had kept pace with Cartmill, stopped just before that point to refill his canteen in the nearby creek when he suddenly heard a shot ring out, followed by a horrible scream. He ran to the scene only to find Cartmill shot in the back and bleeding from his mouth, dead. Funston approached him, feigning ignorance, and suggested they split up to alert any nearby neighbors.

Funston vanished, leaving Johnston to be arrested for suspicion of murder. A search of ever young man in New Philadelphia finally led to Johnston’s identification of Funston as the man he saw at the scene. “That’s the man!” he cried when he saw Funston. “You are a liar!” screamed Funston, but he could not cover up the identifiable scar on his hand. Funston was arrested on the spot. A $10 note missing from Cartmill’s body was traced to Funston who used it to pay for rifle repairs. A trial was set for November 16, 1825. Within two days of testimony and deliberation, Funston was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

On December 19, 1826–the day before his public hanging–Funston attempted to hang himself in his cell using his suspenders, only the snapped under the weight of his stout body. Severely bruised on his head from the botched suicide, Funston gave his full confession to Judge Harper, telling him that he thought he was shooting a horse trader named Smeltzer who was taking that very same road with a large sum of money. (John Smeltzer was delayed for three hours, sparing his life.) In fact, he had known Cartmill and was shocked when he realized his mistake.

That following cold, rainy day, John Funston was escorted to the wooden gallows in front of a huge crowd around noon. (It was so cold and wet that some spectators later died of exposure.) His last words, standing on the gallows with a noose tight around his neck, echoed the remorseful demeanor he displayed for the crowd: “Oh! May God have mercy on me.” By 2:00PM, his lifeless body dangled at the end of a rope, ending the only public execution ever in the history of Tuscarawas County. John Funston’s tale would go on to be told in a popular ballad of the time.

The place where Cartmill breathed his last breath became known as Post Boy Hollow, along Post Boy Creek on Post Boy Road. The tiny nearby village also gained the name of Post Boy. And when the Cleveland & Marietta Railroad laid track through this area, it built Post Boy Tunnel.

A postcard view of a train emerging from Post Boy Tunnel.

Postcard view of a train emerging from Post Boy Tunnel.

Since that day in 1825, locals have whispered that William Cartmill didn’t exactly rest in peace. In true style of the often-cliched idea of a mail carrier not allowing anything to keep him from his rounds, the ghost of William Cartmill is said to still try to deliver mail along his route on Post Boy Road, stopping at houses and the old tavern he had once used as his exchange point, though it now serves as a private residence. It’s said that shortly after his death, Cartmill made an appearance at the tavern, appearing to several witnesses before fading away in front of their eyes.

But that’s not all the strangeness to be found near Post Boy Hollow. In July 1982, a woman was out berry picking in late afternoon near Post Boy Tunnel when a rock was thrown at her from the woods. Her children, who were nearby playing, denied throwing it. When a second rock flew at her, they decided it was time to leave. As she left the tracks, she witnessed a “half-man half-ape creature standing 10 feet away in the woods looking at them.” The 7 or 8 foot tall, black-haired Bigfoot-like creature may be the same one seen again by members of the same family in that area just three years later.

Built in 1872, Post Boy Tunnel was abandoned in 1976 and remains heavily flooded most of the year.

Built in 1872, Post Boy Tunnel was abandoned in 1976 and remains heavily flooded most of the year.


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22 Comments

  1. Jake

    07/15/2015 at 5:29 PM

    This is a cool local folklore story. Well-written and engaging. Thanks!

    • donna cavender

      07/20/2015 at 10:50 AM

      The story is true, as I used to own the little farm where the postboy was killed…on Postboy Rd.

      • Nathan

        07/20/2015 at 11:29 PM

        i went to postboy road by kedigh hollow road – is that near
        where it happened? i didnt know where to pull off the side of the
        road and sit there

  2. Lance

    07/17/2015 at 9:36 PM

    I live about 20 miles south.does any one know if the area is accessible to look around at all.I would like to check it out but certainly don’t want to get in trouble for trespassing.

    • Ken Summers

      07/18/2015 at 5:36 PM

      As long as you steer clear of private property and private homes unless you have permission from the owners, you should be fine. It’s a public road, after all.

    • Jimmy

      07/19/2015 at 5:08 PM

      I know someone bout 100 yards away in farm house prolly get u back there his name is Billy nice fellow

    • Penney Ross

      07/20/2015 at 1:02 PM

      My mother and step-dad live in the big brick house and his children live all around them. It’s beautiful land up there but if want to go exploring there just knock on the door they are all good people. You may even get a
      Tour guide if they are not busy! Mr. Brandon loves to talk.

    • Donna

      07/20/2015 at 8:29 PM

      Lance, the area is accessible, and the tavern which is now a private residence is about a 1/2 mile from the corner of Postboy Rd, and the railroad tracks, which are no longer there… but the tunnel is. The tavern was rebuilt in I believe 1857, as the original burned to the ground… but even that home has a tale or 2. Supposedly there is still a bullet lodged in the livingroom wall from a fight back in the 1800’s. Good luck and enjoy…

  3. Jimmy

    07/19/2015 at 5:09 PM

    I grew up jus miles from there been in the tunnel a bunch as kids I’ve never seen any thing but who knows

    • Billy stull

      07/19/2015 at 7:41 PM

      Yes I live not far from it on the post boy road side and you can still just walk down the old railway road and get to the tunnel ….we was just back there not long ago and it was awesome to see.Go to my face book page and I posted pics….

    • Chuck

      07/21/2015 at 11:39 AM

      We use to go to the tunnel all the time in summer it was so cool there. I remember ice cycles even in the early summer; have been there when it started flooding not back for years. Maybe some time when I get back home I will walk those tracks again back to the tunnel.

  4. gail

    07/19/2015 at 5:14 PM

    I have lived on Post Boy since I was 5 years old- We grew up and my father still lives in the house that was the tavern many years ago. I Had never heard the story of a haunting.

    • Donna

      07/20/2015 at 8:31 PM

      Gail, do you live on Postboy Rd today, in the old home near where the tracks were? It’s down the road from the tavern..

      • gail

        08/03/2017 at 7:06 PM

        I Still live on Post Boy beside my dad who lives in the old Booth Tavern about 1 1/2 miles up the road from the track line.

    • lorie

      07/21/2015 at 6:39 PM

      was just out that way and was told that the train tunnel goes under Knights Ridge not post boy. still could not find it some one tell me where it is. one person down this road but the amish had built a house and closed the road.

      • Ken Summers

        07/23/2015 at 9:47 PM

        Post Boy Tunnel was the name of the tunnel. A lot of things along railroad lines are named for the nearest town. Moonville Tunnel doesn’t pass through Moonville itself, either. It’s “the tunnel on the way to Moonville”, which is the best way of thinking about those sorts of named places.

      • Gabe

        10/29/2015 at 9:14 AM

        See my post below, if the censor approves it. You are correct though, it goes under Kings Ridge Road (not Knights), just East of Johnson Hill Road. Zoom in close in Google Maps (map view, not Earth view) and you’ll see gray lines marking the old train tracks. The tunnel was 944′ long and Kings Ridge sits directly on the middle of the tunnel.

        https://www.google.com/maps/@40.2413255,-81.5940087,18z

        • Gabe

          10/29/2015 at 9:25 AM

          …correction, 964′ long.

  5. Emily

    07/19/2015 at 6:52 PM

    I live on a road that turns on to post boy… It’s so awesome to hear the true story! Thank you for writing this. I remember having hunted hay rides with my family and friends that we would put on and we would tell that story and go down that way. This area has a lot of stories to tell and I hope to see more like this.

  6. Ruth

    07/20/2015 at 12:04 PM

    My friends, sisters and I would walk the railroad tracks to the tunnel and catch a a release salamanders there and collect fossils. Once, we had to climb the banks to avoid a train coming through.

    On another note, I have had small rocks thrown at my feet in the woods of Tuscarawas County and didn’t know what was doing it until years later.

  7. Sharyn Marang Dana

    07/21/2015 at 10:20 AM

    I look forward to visiting this site when I come back home as I descend from the Cartmill family. I’ve heard the story but never been to the site.

  8. Gabe

    11/05/2015 at 2:30 PM

    Just curious if this will post. I had another, very detailed post about the Tunnel, but for some reason it won’t post but if I try to repost it, I’m told, “This post already exists”.

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