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Midget Town, Ohio – A River Runs Through It

We have a Midget Town here in Cincinnati. I have seen it, and it’s off the hook. It is near an old fair ground, along a road that runs next to the tributary for the Great Miami River.

Only midgets live there. They will shoot rock salt and throw rocks at you if you come down there and are over four feet tall.
I have never been shot at, but I can tell you the place is definitely not right. –The Mack Daddy Soprano

Rock Throwing Residents in Midget Town, Cincinnati

I've been to it before. Essentially, it's part of an old fair ground or something similar. It’s a dilapidated, run down miniature town. It looks like it was build for kids to play "town" in or something. It's along an old road that follows a tributary that runs into the Great Miami River. The midgets are most likely little figments of people's imagination. They supposedly throw rocks at cars and "big people" that come around their town. I've been down that road many times with no sign of anything. Of course, they could all just come out of the houses after I round the bend.  –Anonymous

On a Quest for Midget Town

I live in an outer suburb of Cincinnati, and the teenagers here often tell stories of a Midget Town. I got sick of hearing about it all the time so I gathered some info and went looking for it. I started asking around and a lot of kids claimed to have been there, but no one could say exactly where it was. I just kept hearing things like, “Go down Colrain and turn onto this creepy street and just keep going until you’re way out in the boonies and it’s out there somewhere.”

Those were obviously not valid directions, but I kept asking. About ten million inquiries later I realized all of the stories, although somewhat foggy, (often due to adult beverages) centered around the same area. I narrowed the search down to a pretty small radius, and began my reconnaissance. It actually only took me about a half hour to find something. It turns out, there is a Midget Town down there, but it’s not like people think.

In the early sixties an eccentric farmer who owned property on the outskirts of the Rumpke (the local waste management company) landfill decided to go into business running hayrides on his property. He constructed a miniature frontier village, complete with tiny little houses. He also obtained (or constructed) tiny red trucks to pull the wagons for the hayrides. Furthermore, his own home (which sits right there among the tiny frontier village) is built into a hillside and appears to be partially underground. The whole operation sits practically on top of the road it’s on. It’s so weird. It’s the middle of the boondocks. All you can see is trees for miles. The absolute last thing you would expect while going down the street is to suddenly be driving through a freaking carnival with tiny little houses. It’s easy to imagine how someone driving through very late at night (possibly intoxicated) might be made completely hysterical if they came upon it.

The ranch is still in operation (despite major vandalism problems due to teens seeking evil midgets) and they apparently do pretty well renting wagons for festivals and fairs in and around Cincinnati. I just thought you guys might be interested in this little discovery. This could be one explanation for the tales Midget Town. Or maybe, just maybe, there really is a town full of evil midgets hiding on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Maybe what I found is just their cover story. We may never be certain. I could give you legitimate directions if you have any interest. Unlike my sources, I know EXACTLY how to get to Midget Town.  –Leon

We Welcome You to Munchkinland

Is there a village of retired circus midgets in greater Cincinnati? Apparently this is a story that's been making the rounds in Cinci for many decades. The idea is that there is, or was, a small community of "little people" deep in the woods outside the city. It's most often referred to as Tiny Town, but you might also hear it called Munchkinville or Munchkinland. Some people say the midgets have little tiny houses, and that you can hear eerie circus music when you get near the diminutive enclave. Others report that if you approach their homes they will come out and throw rocks at your car until you go away.

The Buffalo Ridge region on Cincinnati's west side is supposed to be the home of Tiny Town. It is surprising that such a dense, rural, hilly area exists inside Hamilton County. Our trip in the late summer turned up nothing more than an ordinary country road––albeit one with its own ghost stories about parks haunted by little boys killed in hit-and-run accidents and cult-sacrifice-infested abandoned crematoria.

So, where is Tiny Town? Does it even exist? Did a couple of retired circus midgets actually live out here years ago and unwittingly foster these bizarre legends? One clue comes from the fact that we've run across mentions of "Tiny Towns" in other states, from New Jersey to Florida. It's possible that such things really exist all over the country, but it's also possible that it's just a migrating legend that kids like to tell. At any rate, we didn't come across any midgets, retired or otherwise.

Actually, as it turns out, our Tiny Town expedition was in vain for a number of reasons.First of all, we were, to a certain degree, in the wrong place; the "real" Tiny Town is apparently located not far from Buffalo Ridge, behind the Rumpke Dump. Secondly, the legend, like so many others, is based on willful misinterpretation and embellishment. The Cincinnati Post gives the lowdown on the real story:

From the Cincinnati Post, January 10, 1999
By David Wecker
How Anna Ritter's Little Story Got Out of Hand

Anna Gay Ritter heard one time that a good way to ruin a person's business is to make a joke out of it. At any rate, she's not sure how all the stories about Munchkin and Munchkinland got started. She just wishes they'd go away.

But they won't. They pass from one generation to the next, like some bad urban myth, except that these stories have a rural setting. They're vague stories about a group of tiny people who live in tiny houses with tiny windows; stories that somehow have come to center on Anna's land. It might be funny, if it weren't happening to Anna.

To be fair, Anna's 30-acre farm in Colerain Township does have an odd look. She moved here in 1940, with her husband, Percy. It was his idea to call it the Handlebar Ranch Inc. She and Percy were considered city folk then. There was no Mt. Rumpke at the southern edge of the ranch, and their road was a gravel lane.

At first, Percy was in the bicycle rental business. He had 20 bikes and charged a quarter an hour. Then he got into the hayride business and bought a team of Belgian draft horses to pull his haywagon.

Percy had an eccentric way of seeing things. Peggy Pottenger Sickmann––who grew up on a neighboring farm and has been helping out at the ranch for nearly half a century, since she was 10––says Percy was the kind who did a little bit here, a little bit there.

He built a home halfway up a steep hill of stone, hand-hewn logs, mortar, stucco, tile and boards, with a square turret and a balcony that looks down on the Handlebar Ranch Inc.

The ranch itself could be a textbook example of vintage roadside Americana. It looks like a miniature frontier village––a surreal collection of little buildings, all made from the same odd materials as the house. There are dance floors indoors and out, picnic tables, pavilions, barbecue grills and what he called a rathskeller––all decorated with Anna's hand-painted Indian totems and cartoony cowboy murals, all in a jaunty wild west motif. Anna is still quite a talented artist.

Percy died in 1990, but Anna kept up the hayride business. If you're having a party, she'll dispatch a haywagon. Or she'll book a hayride for a fraternity or a sorority at Miami University or the University of Cincinnati. Just before Christmas, a group from Crittenden hired one of her wagons for a hayride at Fountain Square.

But I'm ahead of the story. Years ago––Anna doesn't remember exactly when––Percy came home with a couple of cast-iron school bells he'd bought somewhere. He put them up below the house, at the edge of the road. That was when it started.

'Kids would come in the middle of the night and ring the bells,' Peggy says.

'The Ritters didn't want them annoying the neighbors, so they'd come out on the balcony and yell at them. And to those kids down on the road, looking up at that balcony, Anna and Percy must've looked kind of small.'

Anna is 5-foot-3; Percy was maybe 5-9. It's the only explanation for the stories that Anna and Peggy can imagine. Anna eventually turned the bells upside down and took to planting flowers in them. But even now, the stories persist. Ridiculous stories. Only a handful of people understand how hurtful they are to Anna.

Rick Heimtold, a 20-year-old cadet with Colerain Township police, has heard the stories.

'You mean the ones about munchkinland?' he said.

'Yeah, I used to go looking for it. We all did, back in high school. There were supposed to be little people there. And if you came around where they lived, they'd throw rocks at you. Those were the stories, anyway.

'So kids were always looking for it. Sometimes, you'd find it. Sometimes, you didn't. But there's all kinds of stories about little people living there.'

They show up in the middle of the night in their cars, looking for Munchkins and behaving in the crummiest possible manner. If school's out, Anna has learned she can pretty well figure on a carload of them showing up the night before, screaming and yelling, making a ruckus, sometimes vandalizing her buildings and hollering obscenities.

Anna's no prude. She's no weakling either. Twice a day, she climbs the difficult hill to the barn at the top of her valley to feed a sway-back horse that, she says, is older than she is.
'I've got the hide of a crocodile,' she says. 'But it makes me angry these stories won't go away.'

Weird Ohio

 

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