The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 7, February 17, 2008, Article 27


[The People's Defender of Adams County, Ohio published
an article this week about storm damage to the landmark
"Counterfeit House".  -Editor]

Even the spirits of those who died there and are said
to inhabit the notorious Counterfeit House were no match
for the winds that blew through Adams County on Feb. 6.
Roofing was ripped open, and one of the relic's seven
chimneys blew apart and crumbled to the ground with the

"It's the first time the Counterfeit House has sustained
that much damage," owner Jo Lynn Spires said Monday. The
structure has stood on a ridge overlooking the Ohio River
for almost 16 decades.

Pieces of roofing which covered three bedrooms on the east
side of the house were pulled up, exposing insulation,
ceilings and antique furnishings to the storm's rains. About
10 trees came down in the yard, along with the chimney.

In an effort to minimize the damage, Spires; her son-in-law,
Jamie Wilson; and friends Steve Conover, Don Nesbit and Joe
Grooms spent that morning wiping everything down and moving
furnishings out of harm's way. Part of the ceilings had fallen
in, according to Spires, and they drilled holes in what was
still up to let the water out. A tarp was placed over the
openings until the mangled tin can be replaced.

"It has a standing seam roof," Spires said. "I want to put
the same back on it. I try to keep everything as much like
the original as possible."

"I can't put the chimney back," she continued. "We can try
to replace it with one that looks like it this summer, to
keep the esthetics of the house. We're still waiting for an
appraiser to come in for the insurance before we can do

Legend has it that Oliver Ezra Thompkins purchased 118 acres
in 1850 on Gift Ridge Road in Monroe Township and built the
house for his counterfeit trade. His accomplice appeared to
be Ann E. Lovejoy. Spires has recently acquired information
that indicates Thompkins and Lovejoy may have originated in
New York from political families.

"Most of the story of the Counterfeit House is legend, but
supported by fact," said Stephen Kelley, historian. The house
itself holds evidence of a secret purpose, according to Kelley.
For instance, there is a trick lock on the front door that
would seem to be locked to the average observer, yet when the
knob is lifted in a certain way, it will open.

Of the seven chimneys on the house, only two are functional
chimneys. Ductwork would send smoke from the two real chimneys
to the other chimneys, making them appear to be real. Within
the false chimneys are apparently secret compartments.

In the front of the house, a small gable window may have been
used for a signal light. A special hidden slot built behind
an interior door is believed to be the place where the counterfeit
money was exchanged for the purchase price.

As the legend goes, according to Kelley and Spires, Lovejoy
was in Cincinnati using some of the counterfeit money and was
noticed by authorities. She was followed back to the Counterfeit
House by a Pinkerton agent, who managed to operate the trick
lock and gain entrance to the house through the front door.

It was in a 10-foot by 45-foot hallway that Thompkins allegedly
bludgeoned the agent to death. The floor and a wall are
reportedly still stained with blood.

"I saw the blood stain with my own eyes when I visited the
house," Kelley said. "That would have been in 1973."

The agent was believed to have been buried "over the hillside."
With the heat up, the legend says that Thompkins escaped capture
through a tunnel leading away from the house, big enough for a
man and a horse. He then destroyed the tunnel with some sort
of explosive.

Although the story of the tunnel seems far-fetched because
it would have been excavated through bedrock, Kelley said
there is evidence of a past explosion nearby.

A middle of the night funeral was later held for Thompkins.
His entire estate was willed to Lovejoy, who was unable to
keep up with a debt on the property and relocated to Georgetown.

A portion of the farm was purchased by a great-great uncle of
Spires in 1896. Her grandparents, John and Elizabeth Johnson,
purchased the house in the 1930s. Spires, an only child, grew
up in the house with her parents, John and Alberta Johnson,
and her grandfather.

"I enjoyed growing up there," Spires said. "I knew every Saturday
in warm weather that we had to get up and really clean, because
someone would always come to see the house. But I loved it."

Since 1986, Spires has lived in a trailer behind the house and
opens it to visitors on the first weekend in May.

"Over 1,000 people came to see it last year," she said.
"We've had 400 students come. We dressed up in period
clothes and did a reenactment of the murder. They loved it."

Unfortunately, with recent illnesses, Spires finds herself
falling behind in keeping up with the house. Last year she
bought paint for the exterior of the house, but was only
able to get the primer on the front.

"I think the house is what keeps me going, but anyone who
would like to donate assistance in any way, please contact
me," she said. "All help will be greatly appreciated."

[The article lists a phone number for Spires.  Readers are
encouraged to offer assistance in any way possible.  This
house holds a unique place in numismatic history. -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

[I recalled learning about this house (or perhaps one like it)
but couldn't for the life of me recall where.  I tried searching
the E-Sylum archives, but came up empty. I remembered a discussion
of a television special about counterfeiting, and after poking
around the web I found a reference to the 2001 documentary
"Making A Buck" which includes the story of "a mysterious couple
traveled to Ohio and built the only house in the USA designed
from the ground up for the purpose of creating fake money--the
Counterfeit House overlooking the Ohio River in Adams County,
Ohio, which still stands today."
Full Story

Web searches turned up the following related links:

Google Books

But the goldmine of information came from a most unlikely source
- a book written by a runner about his trip across the U.S.
See the next item for a lengthy excerpt about The Counterfeit
House.  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
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