Hills and Dales Lookout Tower: The REAL Story

Known by many names, the tower on Patterson Boulevard in Kettering near Hills and Dales Park has been the source of many legends and stories over the years.


There have been many theories and not much known information about the tower. Even the name of the tower has been debated. Some of the names heard over the years are:

  • Lookout Tower
  • Frankenstein’s Castle/Tower
  • Witches Tower
  • Haunted Tower/Castle
  • Patterson Tower
  • Hills and Dales Tower

The theories of its origin and hauntings vary as much as its name. Growing up in Kettering, we have heard many rumors of the tower and its past. One interesting (and far-fetched) story was that the tower was built during the Civil War, and that a woman climbed to the top and plunged to her death after hearing the news of her husband’s death. The most popular story circulating was one of teenagers seeking shelter from the storm, and lightning hitting the tower, killing them all.

The inside steps of the tower. To protect the innocent, we did not take this picture, but Dayton Unknown has been given the rights to the photo.

So what is the truth? Dayton Unknown did research! We found articles to verify that there was in fact one death in the tower, Peggy Harmeson.

This article appeared on the front page of the the May 18, 1967 Xenia Daily Gazette. You can see the front page here.

On May 17, 1967, Peggy and her boyfriend sought shelter in the tower from the rain. Lightning struck the tower, killing 16-year-old Peggy and rendering her boyfriend unconscious. This is the only verified death in and around this tower.

Peggy’s gravestone at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton.

The building of the tower is straight-forward. Construction on the Hills and Dales Lookout Tower started in 1940 by the boys of the National Youth Administration. The tower was made from the salvaged stone of condemned buildings in the Dayton area. The year-long project resulted in a tower which was 56 feet high (before the roof came off) and has walls 3 feet thick.

This article appeared in the February 16th, 1941 Dayton Journal-Herald.

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Although the true story of the tower isn’t scary or sensational, teenagers will still probably continue to drive past it at night, in hopes of seeing something beyond this world.

Spotted by Sara on the base of the foundation.

46 thoughts on “Hills and Dales Lookout Tower: The REAL Story

    • I was visiting Dayton when I was about 17 years old. My friends took me to see the witches tower. I did have a little to drink but, nothing that would make me forget 3 hour. I woke up in a near by golf course or field it was well keep. My friends had been looking for me. I had no idea how I got there I told my friends they were locals I had never been there before. It was strange because I wouldn’t just wonder away from my friends in a strange place. But, I was about a mile away and do not know how I got there and lost 3hours. It has haunted me for years.

  1. I have always wondered about this tower. My husband calls it Frankenstein’s Castle’, and my kids are totally creeped out by it. Any idea why it was built? Is the park in charge of it, now? Would be cool to see it turned into a bat house or some other such upcycled function.

    • We believe the tower was simply built to be a lookout tower, since it’s on an elevated piece of land. The park is maintained by the Five Rivers MetroParks, as far as we can tell.

      • Makes absolute sense, when completed in 41′, the area wasn’t remotely as developed so it would just be a view of vast rolling meadow all the way to downtown Dayton on the river. Had a few daring escapades there myself as, of course, a teen and I never really went along with the creep hype of the place and just enjoyed the adventurousness of our questionably permissible visits,the story I always seemed to get of its original use was war related, and that didn’t add up to me so it to maybe be tied to whoever developed community golf course ,or the parks. Any info on when it was they bricked up the entrance? We did hear about there being a gate originally from older family members..this is a cool site and thanks!

      • well you def don’t know what you’re talking about cause it was built in 1940 & finished in 1941. Peggy died from a lightning strike yes. but it didn’t kill her boyfriend…..he was hurt & for amnesia. i was told, (which i don’t know if it’s true) that they sealed it up like that in the early 90s ish cause i guess a kid from kettering jumped off & committed suicide. & it’s extremely dangerous to be in cause it’s crumbling down & stuff. there’s glass & graffiti & rocks & there’s even a hole on the top. but yeah it’s only been there since 1941 … lmao

  2. It’s always been Frankenstein’s Castle to me and my friends. We’ve actually went to the top, even after they bared it. At the top there was a hole in the center, and there was a story that someone fell through and thats who haunts it. We’ve heard things in there, and from outside. At one point we thought we seen something in the openings higher up, but all of it could have just been in our heads.

      • I was part of that crew the aforementioned Tony spoke about…Had to use a tree to climb in the top window. The hole at the top had a mouth painted around it. When you stood over the hole it looked like you were standing in the mouth of a giant…Frankenstein’s Castle was cool…all the beer cans at the bottom…ha!

  3. I was last inside and up top in the early 80’s, I think after an early “seal-up” job was broken down. No roof even then, and smelled like pee. Still very cool in the middle of the night.

  4. years ago I dated a man that used to go there with his friends back in the 50s they were teens then, he said they used to go up there and pee off it.. hence the pee smell

  5. Back in mid 90’s a group of friends and I got up in there to the top one night. There was a hole in the top and they were lighting things on fire to see down in the hole, beer cans galore, clothes, and chicken bones… Then we heard a banshee type scream and got the hell out of there! Bout fell down the spiral staircase. Crazy times!

  6. I know for a fact that the hole in the top was broken through with a sledge hammer in the mid 80’s. I know all of the teenagers who were there, and did it. They thought that there was something in the center, because the stairs go around the outer part of the tower, leaving an open cylinder in the center. But what they found was nothing but scaffolding inside. After many years of people partying up there it began ti fill with beer cans, and other garbage. At the time the hole was no larger thane 6″ in diameter, and I haven’t been up to the top for 25+ years so i don’t know how big it became, but doubt that it was ever large enough for anyone to fall through!! And BTW the kids were caught and prosecuted by the City of Kettering for Vandalizing!!

    • in the 90 a friend of mine lost his wallet down that whole so he climb down and got it so ya it got large enough for someone to fall down

  7. In high school in the 70’s we went to Frankenstein’s Castle several times in groups! It was so much fun and a little difficult to get into. And, I do remember the smell of pee. Ahhh, to be young again!!!

    • You may have been the only one that totally gets The witches Castle. Only people in the 70’s really got the full effect. It was dark and smells like pee

      • In the seventies the door would still open, had a big iron gate at bottom. That was welded shut and then somebody actually cut hole in it where you could still climb in. In the 70s it wasn’t full of stupid s***. only tiny bits of light shined in through the small Windows otherwise you were climbing up circular steps in the dark. My crazy Brothers took me up there when we were all young. Was just down there yesterday stuff just isn’t the same what a shame!!

    • 1970s if you didn’t see it then, then you didn’t really see it. I was only in grade school but it didn’t stop us from climbing in and exploring. It was a little spooky but yes to be young again you are absolutely right!

  8. Visited many times as a teenager with my best friend her boyfriend and my future exhusband. Nothing particularly scary for our visits except one night my bestie fell down the hill on the way down and landed passed out in the middle of Patterson Rd.
    My ex, being a wanna be paramedic, decided she needed mouth to mouth resuscitation even though she was breathing just fine. Needless to say when she came to, and him with his hands under her shirt and his mouth about to touch hers, he’s the one who got the wake up call right across the face!
    Priceless moment right there! Never will forget that. I wish she was still here to reminisce this with me, but she unfortunately passed away in 1987. Rest In Peace Jackie! ❤❤

  9. IV been going there since the 80s it never had a top when I went. Hold on I do think I remember once as a kid Polly 82.83 I think I vaguely remember a top But the reason I’m posting is that at some point I remember a small round table made of stone with aa ches board or like a star burst.psttern . The table was where the hole is now I figured the hole came from when they stole the table was I wish I had a penny for every can and condom wrappers down that hole lol.

  10. Lol! Reading all these post brings a k memories! I remember visiting here in the late eighties early nineties had to climb in threw the window ! Don’t remember the pee smell just old musty wet wood decay smell ! The hole at the top was big enough for maybe a foot to get threw ! It was a pretty view .. the story was the lightening one , a suicide one and a witch one lol ! Didn’t see any ghost . Had also heard it was a bell tower but guess not reading now ! To bad it has to be all closed up would be nice to see it restored and opened to the public !

  11. Great stories as one person posted spent Alot of time there with my sister and friends in the 80’s doing things that shouldn’t be made public but for all that spent time there we all know what we were usually doing Great times wish we could go and reminisce agin!!!!

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  13. Visited Frankenstein Castle a lot in the late 70’s. It was spooky and the guys love to scare the girls. It was cool at the top. But as time went on people abused the poor structure. I used to talk about it to my kids when we had picnics at the huge picnic area in Hills n Dale park. A lot of memories there.

  14. We were in there a lot in the 1950’s as 10, 11, 12 year old children. We would ride our bikes from Oakwood to Hills and Dales and always stop at the “castle”. It was an adventure to climb the spiral stone staircase to the top and see the beautiful view and have picnics up there. It had the peaked roof then, which was nice. Sometimes it would be clean at the top, but sometimes smell of pee or worse. One time as a young teenager, probably about 1960, my friend and I went up and were a little alarmed to find 6 older teenage boys at the top. They started talking dirty so we made a hasty exit. Never heard any spooky stories about it but did hear it called the Hills and Dales Tower. I was disappointed to come back to Dayton years later and find it all sealed up and no roof. Would love to see it restored. Thanks for the historical research.

  15. wow love this place I went there a lot in the 80& 90 would scary the hell out the newbes by climbing the wall inside let them walk under me them come up behind them oh the fun

  16. spent a lot of time here in the late 70s. much beer and stuff. Wasnt a hole in floor then and the view over golf course was awesome! Went back I think in the 90s. Crawled in through window someone had left a rope tied to and went to top. Entire floor has been broken out and there is only about a foot of concrete around the edge of hole. saw a little scaffolding and some beer cans but not much. Was scary getting to front edge to sit and look at the view that was no longer there. Wont be going back but used to go alone after work at moraine country club at 11:30pm. never saw anything spooky.

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  18. Made many trips to “Frankenstein’s Castle” in the mid/late 70s. Inside definitely smelled like pee, stale beer and of course weed. I can’t remember (imagine that) if we actually got to the top or not. Great memories of days gone by, and thankfully parents never finding out or I would have gotten a butt whoopin’, even at 15 or 16.

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