I stumbled on your website a few days ago, and having grown up in Painesville, I thought I’d pass on a few stories.
Like so many other idiot kids in the early 80’s I made the trek out to the Melonheads at least a dozen times. It’s been interesting to read other reader’s contributions and see how the story has evolved over time. Why is the old dairy barn that marked the turn-off for Melonheads never mentioned, has it been torn down? The bridge didn’t have a reputation as a cry baby bridge back then, but you could score dope there some Friday nights. There was an occupied house on one side, and a much smaller, abandoned house across the road. That was known as Doc Crowe’s shack. The front door opened to a view of the back door directly across the house, and one time, a guy I went to school with snuck out there and hung a scarecrow in the back doorway just to scare everyone. The shack was burned down in 1982 by vandals if memory serves right.
The story I heard in high school was pretty standard – Doc Crowe lived in the 1880’s, had a couple of kids with birth defects he kept hidden away and after his death, they went feral, hiding in the woods, interbreeding. The shame of their defect was so ingrained they would chase off anyone they found out there alone. (So we always went by the car load!)
The tale of the witch’s grave was already in full force, and the place so creepy we never disturbed her rest. How come no ever mentions the spring out there? The park system put in a pipe line back in the 70’s, you could go out there and fill jugs for free. The stuff was so amazing tasting I’ve always been surprised no one started bottling and selling it in the last ten years. And just a few miles from Melonheads was Gravity Hill, an optical illusion once featured on the TV show That’s Incredible! in the mid-70’s. You could put your car in neutral and it would appear to roll up hill which was cool as heck.
In college, I did a paper on the legends of the area for a folklore class, and dug up some interesting stuff. The historical society was such a small scale operation at the time, I was never able to mine their library, but the old Morley library in Painesville had a few pieces in their archives. One claimed that when the first white settlers arrived in the area, they found the natives would not live on or travel across Little Mountain fearing the evil spirits that lived there. Another talked about how Little Mountain was the site of several resorts featuring “water cures” from the local spring waters, starting in the 1850’s. It was briefly popular for rich, young people from Cleveland to summer there, but within 20 years all the resorts had folded. The last building was claimed by the forest by the 1880’s leaving no trace. And the name Crowe? It’s not an old Lake County surname, so he couldn’t have lived too long ago.
Also found was a legend from the 1950’s and early 60’s about a woman who was set to marry (possibly a Morley) when her fiancée ran off with her younger sister. Like some deranged Miss Haversham, the bride went a little nuts. It’s said the groom left her because her sister was cuter, so the woman tore apart her face, leaving horrible scars. Only her father and her doctor ever saw her face again, she rarely left her home, and wore a brimmed hat with a very dark veil, even in her house. Turned out my mother use to cruise by this woman’s house when she was in high school, hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman in the window – and my friends and would pass this house on our way to the Melonheads 25 years later! Really makes you wonder what is going on in the area……from Native American fears to the Avery murders, there has been a lot of creepy activity in and around the Little Mountain area.
I went looking for the house of the veiled woman a few years ago but wasn’t able to locate it again. There was so much new construction, I don’t think I missed it – it was razed for a new subdivision. I was hoping to show it to my then preteen nieces who were in from out of state and into spooky stories at the time. Instead I took them to Rider’s Inn.
I bought a copy of Haunted Ohio the day before and read the entry on Rider’s Inn (Tavern) to the girls while we ate. While I had always heard the place was haunted, I didn’t know Miss Suzanne was considered a protective ghost. The owner’s partner spotted the book and offered us a tour after our meal. It’s a nice place. Built in three sections, it consists of the original rough tavern which is now the left wing with much of its original character intact, the main building, and a dining room addition that makes up the right wing. During renovations, it was discovered the beer cellar under the old tavern was larger then originally thought. Painesville was a known passage point to Canada for run away slaves, and it’s now thought the tavern was a way station on the Underground Railroad.
Having stood at the top of the stairs Miss Suzanne is alleged to have fallen down to her death I can say the story is bull. Her husband broke her neck and staged the fall. It’s such a tight, cramped, circular staircase that even owning that she was probably a very small woman by modern standards, I can’t see how she could have made it more than 2-3 steps before getting wedged up against the walls. Unless her new, greedy husband followed behind, kicking her to the bottom. The staircase now leads to the kitchen.
Our guide was adamant that he did not believe there was a ghost at the Inn. But he did tell us during renovations back in the early 80’s the local police driving by noticed the front door was open. Investigating, they found a fire in the basement and saved the building. Not knowing the history before that day of Miss Suzanne opening the door, I told him of coming back to Painesville once in ’95 or ’96 and seeing a front door wide open (there are 2, one in the tavern, one in the main building) around 1 am. Actually I was really ticked at the time – I was tired and just wanted to get to my parents so I could sleep and now the world’s stupidest burglars were making me rush there to call the cops. Painesville’s finest passed me moments later, lights flashing and I watched them pull into Rider’s in my rear view mirror.
Our guide might have claimed he didn’t believe there was a ghost, but he must have asked me 7-8 times “which door did you see open?” after I related my tale. I’m not telling here – go to Rider’s to meet Miss Suzanne yourself, she might let you in on the secret (but I will say it wasn’t the door surrounded by nail holes on the inside) The stagecoach breakfast was a little pricey to feed two skinny preteens, but the impromptu tour was priceless. Now if I could only convince my husband to spend the night there…..
****************Sorry this is so long, but I knew if I didn’t get everything out in one letter, I’d never write. Glad to see your site, there are so many legends, stories, and tales in northeastern Ohio, it’s good to see them collected and preserved and passed on.
Please, do not share my name or my e/m address. I’m a respectable middle aged lady now, I’m supposed to be lecturing teenagers to leave such silliness alone, not adding fuel to the fire – but its human nature to want to be scared from time to time – and yes, sometimes there ARE things that go bump in the night!
4 thoughts on “Melonheads and Rider’s Inn”
great story very close to the legends i've heard living in mentor. im much more interested in learning more on the little mountain road legends. If you are traveling south on Morley road approaching the Pinecrest intersection, there is a tree with a carving of the "the spirits of the mountain" and i've always wondered who they are.
painfully boring and long-winded
The biggest legend, or should I say "lie", is that the Rider's Inn hid runaway slaves in the basement. If you believe the underground railroad was comprised of secret tunnels and hidden rooms then you don't know your history. The underground railroad was hardly a highly organized network and if a slave made it to Northeast Ohio, it was just as good as being in Canada. You would not need to hide! This area was very anti-slavery. Most of these alleged "slave tunnels" and "hidden rooms" were chimney sweeps or passages to wine cellars.