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October 16, 2019
 

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Want to hear a good Ada Halloween story? Ever hear about "Dead Man's Jog"?

By Fred Steiner
Want to hear a good Ada Halloween story? Here’s one. And it’s true.

Most of us have forgotten that the bend in the road on State Route 235 north of Ada was originally laid out as a 90-degree angle. If you head north, you can see a remnant of that angle - but look closely.

Most of us have also forgotten that the 90-degree angle once had a name: Dead Man’s Jog. I know how the name came to be. My grandfather told me. He told me the story over a half century ago. It was a story that took place, well, I’ll put it this way - several generations ago.

My grandfather was Fred Hahn. He grew up in Ada and was a teenager in the 1890s. He told me this story the before he died in 1960. Ready? I’ll put the story in his words. It sounds better that way:

I was 18 years old in the winter of 1896. I lived with my parents in Ada. They owned a bakery on Main Street. Like most young men at the time, I hung out at a pool hall located on the second floor of a livery barn in Ada. Lots of the young men hung out there too. They were students at Ohio Normal University.

We lived next door to Henry Lehr and his wife. Professor Lehr had a pet polar bear. Once it escaped its cage and chased Professor Lehr’s wife up a tree. It was really a harmless animal, and wouldn’t have hurt anyone. I helped her get down from the tree once we put the bear back in its cage.

Anyway, it was a common thing for people who didn’t own a horse to rent one from the owner of the livery. Sometimes someone might need a team of horses and a wagon. The livery owner would invite one of the young men playing pool to deliver the team. So, if you hung around at the right time you might earn some money.

L. O. Ream was the Ada undertaker. He also owned a furniture store. He came to the livery one afternoon when I was there. He needed a horse team and wagon for an emergency job. An old bachelor farmer, who lived by himself on a farm about three miles north of town, died. Mr. Ream wanted to hire a couple young men to go out and bring the body into town.

I volunteered to go get the body along with one other Ada fellow. Now, you need to know something about the weather conditions the day we took the job. You also need to know something about horses.

It was winter. A storm was developing. We knew we had to work fast. We chose two particular horses for this task. One was a feisty animal. We picked it because we thought it might come in handy if the snow, which started to fall, became really deep. We also picked a large, strong mare that we knew was a steady animal. The combination of the two would keep us from getting stuck in a snowdrift, so we thought.

The livery stable owner gave us with a flash of whiskey and a warning about the jog in the road north of town: Be very care with making the turn. We had to cross it twice – once on the way out and once on the way back.

We headed out of town before dark and the snowfall really started to pick up. We arrived at the farmhouse. Picked up the deceased, placed the body in the back of the wagon and headed back for Ada as fast as we could travel.

It was getting darker. The wind picked up. The snow was blinding. We had a really hard time keeping the horses focused.

Then, we came to the jog.

We made the first turn and for a brief moment became stuck in the snow. I was driving the team and kept cracking the whip to keep them going. There was still another turn to negotiate. The feisty horse reared up just then and we thought we were going to tip over. It was pretty scary.

But we managed to make the jog successfully and raced into Ada as fast as we could. We arrived at the undertaker’s home. We got out to unload the body only to find that the door to the wagon had opened somewhere along the way and…yes, the body was missing!

Mr. Ream did not want us to tell anyone about the missing body. “Don’t tell anybody!” he warned. But, because of the storm, we couldn’t backtrack and retrieve it. And we really didn’t know where we lost it. But, we all had a pretty good idea – at the jog.

A day or two later, when the storm died down, we were part of a party of young men who headed north of Ada on the mission to find the missing body.  You can just image the scene. We packed up with shovels, a couple wagons and some other worthy teams of horses. This trip was more festive than the first, as you might imagine.

On this trip we kept looking for the corpse somewhere on the road.

Then we came to the jog.

There, resting on the snow, in perfect condition, and yes, frozen, was our corpse. You see, when the horses went crazy turning at the jog…that’s when we lost our cargo.

We picked up the corpse, returned to a very relieved undertaker and delivered the body one or two days late. After that the jog acquired a new name: Dead Man’s Jog.

So, if you are out in the 235 vicinity around Halloween and happen upon a team of horses driven by two young men, carrying a flash of whisky – which might be empty – don’t stop and ask if they need any help. They know their task all too well.

You’ll recognize them by the team of horses hitched to their wagon. One is a strong, steady animal. The other one’s rather feisty.  Oh, and don’t check to see if there’s anything in the wagon.

Happy Halloween!

Photos below:

The scene of "Dead Man's Jog" today. The jog is no longer part of the highway, however, the semi-truck is parked right at the jog.

Young man standing and wearing a hat is Fred Hahn. The photo was taken by an Ada photographer.

The man with the mustache is L.O. Ream, furniture dealer and undertaker.