Local author reveals story of Mount Nebo

Have you ever heard the story of Mount Nebo?

The story goes that an Athens County family by the name of Koons once operated a seance room in their log cabin.

The Athens area is notorious for its allegedly haunted history and stories like this, and one local resident is bringing that reputation to life just in time for Halloween.

Sharon Hatfield, an author from Alexander Twp., published a nonfiction book based on research that has taken her eight years to uncover. Her new book, “Enchanted Ground: The Spirit Room of Jonathan Koons” recounts the story of a 19th-century man who believed he could communicate with the dead through seances. This is believed to be the first time that research on this story has been compiled into a book.

Though the book is driven by facts, it reads like a novel about Koons’ life. Hatfield spent years combing through historical accounts and drafting an entertaining tale.

“I’ve always been a curious person,” Hatfield said. “I like things without a clear-cut answer, and Koons’ seance room is certainly that.”

Koons and his family operated a log cabin seance room in Mount Nebo from 1852 to 1855. No photos of Mount Nebo are known to exist, though modern day maps place it near the intersection of Sand Ridge and Mill Creek Roads in Dover Twp., north of Athens.

At first just locals attended, but soon people across the country were flocking to witness this spiritual experience.

Though the practice was accused of being linked to devil worship, research shows Koons to be a religious man. Hatfield’s book describes him as a strong Christian who disagreed with many institutions of Christianity at the time, and he believed his communication with spirits further affirmed one’s belief in Heaven.

As for the seances, Koons would welcome guests into his home and treat them to a song on his fiddle before blowing out a candle, dimming the setting to pitch black. Visitors reported seeing objects levitate and instruments playing notes without musicians. They also described seeing disembodied hands writing messages, though the author believes this was family members tricking the guests.

“He’s a fascinating figure,” Hatfield said of Koons, “because I think he was sincere about converting people to spiritualism. But he also lied quite a bit to do that through the illusions in the seances.”

Hatfield is celebrating her book release on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at the Southeast Ohio History Center from 5-7 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Ohio University Press, which also published her book.

“The opportunity to publish a local story that combines empathy, a healthy dose of skepticism and first-rate research and that is genuinely illuminating and entertaining is as good as it gets,” said Ohio University Press Director Gillian Berchowitz.

Enchanted Ground can be purchased at the History Center, Little Professor Book Store and on Amazon.

Originally published on A1 of The Athens Messenger on October 31, 2018.

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