Utopia was one of a handful of "phalanxes" established in America in the mid-19th century, social communes a century ahead of their time. All of them failed but none as spectacularly as this one.
The community was founded in 1844. Its original inhabitants were followers of French philosopher Charles Fourier, who believed that all work and profits should be shared equally. Its residents built a 30-room communal brick house and many private dwellings. But they left two years later because they weren't making enough money to survive and, frankly, didn't get along with each other.
All of the land and phalanx buildings were sold to John Otis Wattles, leader of a group of spiritualists. Against the warnings of locals, Wattles had his followers move the main building, brick by brick, to the water's edge. They had all gathered inside for a party on the evening of December 13, 1847, but the dancing was interrupted when a flash flood collapsed the walls, drowning 150 of the 156 people inside.
Ohio erected a historical marker, designating this "Utopia," in 2003. There's an underground church across the street where the Wattles people would practice their rituals. John Wattles' stone house is visible, supposedly haunted on rainy nights by dripping ghosts, as is the riverbank.
Utopia has a tiny general store, but the old couple inside, chain-smoking, couldn't offer us any postcards or souvenirs. "Is it utopian here?" we asked. They hacked and laughed.