Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Our encounter with the Steubenville Ghost was very surprising because we didn’t believe in such phenomena. If I had imbibed, or been by myself, I would probably have turned to some professional for help after the experience. I say we, because I was not the only participant.
The late Clarence R. Coulter, who’s family still reside in Akron, Oh. and I owned Halbert and Coulter Construction Co., Inc. in Wheeling W.Va. Early morning of December 30, 1948 he drove his new Hudson as we went into a small factory at 1817 E. High Ave. in Youngstown, Oh. It was an unusual day for that time of year in northeast Ohio. It was an overcast day with temperatures in the forties. I give you this because records can verify the accuracy of my memory.
About 11:00 am. in the office of Storm Sash, Inc. a radio announced an extreme cold front was approaching carrying extremely hazardous icing conditions. It warned everyone to get off the roads and streets shortly.
We went to a little greasy spoon nearby and prepared to leave earlier than planned to try to beat the severe weather. We concluded our business and left about 2:00 pm. As we proceeded south on Market St. we came to the south edge of town and Schotts Restaurant on the east side of the street. It was a well-known establishment that was only closed and torn down a few years ago.
Neither of us was smart enough to be too afraid, and we were both great optimists. We couldn’t resist a feast. We ate with no drinks. We had parked about 20 feet from the front door. As we stepped out of the door, we almost fell on the predicted glare ice, so we held onto the car fenders and anything else for support to keep from falling. We were agile and very active young men.
We saw no traffic moving. We entered his car and sat there debating if we should try to find some place to stay. Since New Years Eve was the following day, we preferred to be home in Wheeling for it. We decided since we were experienced drivers in inclement weather, and no traffic was moving, if we proceeded at 20 or 25 miles per hour and slid into something, we might bend a fender, but unlikely to be injured, so we decided to go home.
We proceeded south on Route 7 and already to the point where it turned east to East Liverpool, Ohio. There we encountered two emergency vehicles crawling along. There were no others moving until we next traveled through the small town of Steubenville and came to our place of encounter. The temperature had plummeted and was now biting cold.
About some twenty miles south of Steubenville on the old highway, we came to a place flat and even as a floor. At the north end of it the Ohio River turned east maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 mile, then south a ways, then turned back west to the highway. There had been a town there on that low plain but it was washed away in the Great Flood of 1936.
As we entered this plain from the north, we saw a string of maybe six cars entering it and approaching us from the south end. After passing only 2 moving vehicles in about 3 hours, this struck us as very strange. Suddenly, the lead car moved over and back again on this very straight road. Those behind did the same in a serpentine line. We remarked that maybe an animal was down or something had fallen onto the road that they were trying to avoid hitting. When they came to us, they passed us making a sloshing, drumming sound as if they were in heavy water on the pavement. This eerie sound seemed weird to us since the road was smooth glare ice.
We proceeded and came to that place where the strange maneuvering had occurred, and a woman in a white gossamer gown with a veil over her head put up her hand to stop us. We thought she was dressed in a wedding gown. There was a lot of crime activity in the Wheeling, Steubenville, Pittsburgh triangle we were in. We thought she might be there to stop us for robbery, as we looked prosperous. But no one would be out there with others lying in a ditch for that kind of activity in the bitter weather conditions we were in.
Clarence steered gently into the left lane. Man or beast could not have stood to move quickly on that uncleared, untreated glare ice. When she saw we were trying to pass her by, she floated smoothly and quickly over into the left lane. Fearing we might hit her, we steered back into our right lane as she quickly glided or floated back to it and stood in front of our approaching car. It was either hit her or stop. As we stopped before striking her, she moved back on the berm of the road and we came to a complete stop with her standing by the right hand door where I sat. We were confused and scared, but completely lucid and in control. I rolled the window down about 4 or 5 inches. She sounded like someone in a complete alcohol or drugged stupor as if her tongue was very thick. She leaned down and her face was may be 18 inches from mine. She asked if we were going to Steubenville. She kept repeating it and I said “any fool could see that we just came from there”. Clarence leaned forward to see her past me, and tried to get some sense out of her. I was sure I was going to see here in a police lineup for identification, so I stared intently at her face looking for any marks or features whereby I could positively identify her.
I suddenly realized she was featureless. There were dark spots where there should have been eyes, nostrils and mouth, but she was like smoke. In back of her to the west against the foot of the hill, a house had been recently built. As we were both staring into her face, someone turned on a light in the front of that house, and we saw it – through her.
We were suddenly very scared. He was a semi-pro fighter, and I was not a coward either. I was afraid she might enter the car. I’ll never forget my exact words as I cranked the window closed, “let’s get the hell out of here”. We went spinning our tires out of there to a night club/bar down the road at maybe Tiltonsville or Yorkville. We slid into the lot, stopped by the front door, as there was only one customer there. We clung to the car to the steps, entered where I called the Ohio State Patrol and told them someone should investigate. If that was a human being we left there, it would be a terrible thing to have done. Hearing no news, I called the patrol office two days later. The dispatcher laughed me off the phone saying they received no such report. I replied they had, since I gave it.
In 1961, I moved to Topeka, Kansas. During the course of business, I met an Air Force Staff Sergeant based here at Forbes Field. I don’t remember his name. In a conversation I began to tell him about the forgoing experience. Before I mentioned the name of the town as I related the event, he pulled on his pipe and said “that was the Steubenville Ghost”. Somewhat surprised, I asked how he knew about it. Since I hadn’t yet mentioned that she wanted to go to Steubenville. He said, “matter of fact, I was reading about her just last week“. She is one of the phenomena many people still discuss. I asked if he know anything about her. I don’t believe I ever referred to her as the Steubenville Ghost before that time. He said the most general or plausible explanation was this. In downtown Steubenville on the west side of the main street sits an old small frame church. I believe it was a Congregational or Episcopalian Church. He asked if I remembered that church. Of course I did. He said the prevailing wisdom was that she was a young lady near Rayland, Ohio, dressed up and in a buggy at that point on her way to that little mid-town church for her wedding. Maybe a riverboat whistle, something spooked her horse which bolted and threw her from the carriage where she struck her head on a rock and was killed.
I told him I often thought of returning to see if I could meet her again. Maybe we should have given her a ride. He said I had better be glad we hadn’t. He said he didn’t know if it was true in this case, but that there were reports of similar incidences where the apparitions were given a ride and those who gave the ride disappeared to never be seen again.
This is all I know of this phenomenon. After all these years and the former roadway having been made into a divided 4 lane, maybe she doesn’t appear now. But I would really like to know the whole story. Maybe what I’ve given here will fit into other known pieces.
This was submitted with no request for credit or even a name, but as it seems like a personal account, if anyone knows who wrote it, let me know so I can credit them. I’d heard of the “Steubenville Hitchhiker” before from here, so this is either a true account of someone’s experience with an established local legend, or fiction inspired by this classic “vanishing hitchhiker” ghost story.
Heh, that didn’t take long. I KNEW this sounded familiar, and upon further investigation, it’s posted here as well. I assume whoever submitted got it from here, and no credit is given there either, so… perhaps we will never know.