Our friend Jane in Cleveland, Ohio knows where all the cool haunted houses are in her city. Recently, she gave my husband and I a tour of some wonderfully dilapidated old structures around Ohio City that may end up as termite food – that is, unless some spirited inhabitants have their say.
Ohio City, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cleveland, is located on the western side of the Cuyahoga River. The municipality was annexed by Cleveland in 1854 and is filled with history. It’s the birthplace of John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman trophy – given to the best college football player in America. James Garfield, the 20th U.S. President, preached at an Ohio City Church.
Once home to English and German immigrants, the area fell on hard times in the mid-1900s and continued sliding downward until the last few decades, when gentrification moved in and young professionals began buying the dirt-cheap houses and fixing them up. Today, trendy craft breweries, colourful fix-up houses and fashionable eateries share neighbourhood space with houses that surely contain things that go bump in the night.
Whenever we visit Cleveland, I make Jane take us to Franklin Castle, one of my favourite “haunts.” The imposing three-story sandstone structure with turrets, a widow’s walk and gargoyles – which seem to have been removed – has been undergoing renovations for several years. Stories abound about sinister goings-on at the house in the 1930’s – Nazi cult meetings, séances, ghostly children, mysterious fires. Ghost hunter Nick Groff spent three days filming at the house for his show Paranormal Lockdown, but I don’t recall seeing anything that made me want to sleep with the light on.
Jane and I took lots of photos, hoping to catch spirit, or at least a few orbs. A tall, wrought-iron spiked gate circling the house prevented us from actually getting us on the grounds, but standing nearby I felt a presence watching us from the top floor. I sensed a little boy had died in the house, and a little girl in spirit was keeping him company.
My husband felt drawn to the middle window on the third floor and in a polite voice, asked if any spirits would show themselves. “Gimme the camera,” he said, grabbing the digital camera from my hands and snapping several pictures. I gave him a stare, and then a few choice words.
He apologized for ripping the camera from my hands. For the briefest second, he said, he thought he saw a slight white wisp slide across the window, as if someone was waving to him. Alas, when I looked at the pictures later, they were just shots of a darkened window.
(To see photos we took of Franklin Castle and other Ohio City buildings, visit my FaceBook page.)
On the way back to the car, Jane said a plan for Franklin Castle was to turn it into a B&B. Would I want to stay there? Ohhhhh nooooo, not with all the bumps and raps that place surely experiences at night!
Jane then took us to a smaller structure that one time served as the county archives. The sad-looking place was as abandoned as the weed-choked lawn before it. Standing on tiptoes, I looked into the hollow structure, but felt no spirit activity. Yet Jane said it was one of the most haunted spots in the area.
“There are lots of stories about a woman that people who worked there used to see in the hallways,” she said. “They’d look at her, and then she was gone. One time, I walked in there to pick up some records. The receptionist just looked at me, then said, ‘Are you real, or are you a ghost?’”
We drove through several streets and while many houses looked freshly painted and well-tended, others were as forlorn as beggars hoping for a handout. It made me sad, seeing how forgotten these once-stately homes were now fit only for a wrecking ball. Those turn-of-the-century houses were built when architecture meant something. I got out of the car to take some pictures, and realized that the only things that haunt those houses are the in the memories of the descendants of those who once lived there. Perhaps now and then they remember visiting their grandparents in houses that were colourful and once filled with life.
If you have any questions or comments on this subject or on any other spiritual matter, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please visit me again!