Moonville is gone, but it’s a part of queer folklore.
Sam Coe was a coal miner in Moonville in 1850. To allow for efficient transport of coal and clay, Coe convinced the owner of a fledgling railroad to route the train tracks through their own remote property in Southern Ohio. Thus creating a self sufficient refuge for the outsiders who would call Moonville home.
Convincing the railroad company was not easy. The hardwon deal to bring the railroad tracks through Sam's property were brokered through sexual favors, extortion, and trade of stolen goods. Sam Coe had the vision to create a secret separatist community for outsiders, claiming that a supernatural force is guiding them toward a place where outsiders can have the ability to choose how they might live. Sam Coe spreads a myth, a very specific story, that the newly constructed Moonville Tunnel, has a supernatural power, allowing individuals to swap bodies as they travel through the tunnel. This story is like a beacon to some, hopeful or desperate enough to believe.
"What is true and how can some lies set us free while others bind us?"
This is the question Sam asks each person who arrives in Moonville.
"When I find folks in this tunnel, running around, crying, exhausted, and waiting for absurd miracles, well I know you're one of us, and the first thing I gotta do is break your heart, because there is no magic here."
The Moonville tunnel is a beacon for those who seek an uncommon life. By word of mouth, secret networks, and unknowable forces, the population of Moonville grew to nearly one hundred by the 1870s. Many of these residents had escaped asylum or unbearable circumstances. What remains of Moonville is the tunnel itself, and a small cemetery, occupied by a handful of ghosts. These are their stories.
The Moonville Project began in 2015. As a collaborative work of art, the project is interdisciplinary, rooted in social and place-based practices, and intended to provide a space and backdrop for the work of other queer artists and makers. The work will culminate in the creating of a queer community based around the parafiction of Moonville Ohio.
Moonville seems the perfect name for a queer community. Essentially asking: how far must we travel to be safe, experience equal rights, to exist? The queer founders of Moonville are the elders who were taken from us, their stories erased or never written.
This project is interested in the dead and in what foundational histories have been taken from the living. I use my own family’s American myth as a point of departure, as a place to interrogate what has been preserved.
Moonville exists in the past, present, and future. Will you be there?
Road trip to Moonville March 2019.
Road trip to Moonville Fall 2021.