According to Harry Knighton, noted mycologist and founder of the Shawnee Nature Club, a crew of CCC Boys in the mid-1930s found the bones of a murdered pedlar when they were constructing Forest Road 2 in the Shawnee State Forest. The remains had been shoved up underneath a rock overhang many decades before, sometime in the mid-1800s. Reportedly, items that may have been part of the dead tinkerer's stock and trade were found nearby.
"The story," as Knighton tells it, "is that the man was a pack peddler who walked the ridges and valleys carrying pots and pans, tincups and needles, etc., to sell to the remote settlers who could not reach stores. These men often drummed on a tin pan with a stick or spoon and thus were called drummers by the natives. This man was killed and robbed of his money and his body placed under a small cliff-like outcropping where they were found more than a century later by the CCC workers. The bones were removed in the 1930s but pieces of combs and tinware were found in the area for some years later."
Knighton's account explains that the bones were removed, but by whom and to where is unclear. Some local lore that may be more speculation than fact claims the Dead Man was killed by the husband of an area woman after he had returned home unexpectedly to discover his wife in bed with the traveling salesman. Other stories suggest the Dead Man was murdered for interfering with the business of an area moonshiner during the Prohibition Era.
Whatever the origins of this hollow's name, over the years various signs have been erected to mark this historical spot, which is deep in the forest, but they have a tendency to disappear. Locals speak of ghosts and inexplicable screams and howls in the night. One "old timer," according to Knighton, "was using a draw knife to make hoops of hickory for wagon wheels when he heard the scream and cut his left leg badly with the draw knife, loosing much blood."
Harry Knighton, "Shawnee Forest," undated typescript, Digital History Lab Collection, Clark Memorial Library, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio.