By Melanie Moyer.
Amongst famously haunted states, you might think up the plains and rolling hills of Gettysburg, or the wild, abandoned towns of the ghost rush west. You may imagine sprawling plantations covered in Spanish moss and tragic history or the notorious Salem witch trials up north. But you might be surprised one of the most haunted places in the country is none other than Ohio, the state that sits just to the west of Pennsylvania and marks the beginning of the Midwest. While it wasn’t one of the original colonies, it was one of the first stomping grounds for frontiersmen who met the dangers of the wilderness and, sometimes, violent ends. Today, Ohio is littered with haunted locations and the strangest of destinations.
From haunted houses, insane asylums and prisons, to gothic castles and blood filled theatres and more. Here are ten of the most famously haunted places in Ohio to visit… if you dare.
1. Franklin Castle
Where: 4308 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland.
Franklin Castle, a sprawling four-story turreted mansion is said to be Ohio’s most haunted house. Built on behalf of German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann in 1881, the house contained over thirty rooms, a grand ballroom that took up the entire fourth floor, and even a carriage house. Rumor has it Tiedemann also included sliding panels, secret passageways, and hidden rooms into his grand design. The family moved in shortly after his mother’s death, and Tiedemann went on to bury three of his children during his time in seemingly ‘cursed’ house. In the early 20th century the house was sold after the death of his wife, but by then rumors were rife of the dark deeds that had taken place in Franklin Castle.
Of the many heinous crimes Tiedemann was whispered to have committed, it is the murder of his eldest daughter Emma, which has best stood the test of time. In 1968 the house was sold to the Romano family who almost immediately began to report strange happenings and ghostly encounters. Doors flew open and slammed shut of their own accord, electrical circuits flickered off and on, and the sound of a baby’s cries could be heard echoing from empty rooms. There were also sightings of a woman in black, often seen staring out one of the front windows. After several paranormal investigations and an exorcism, the Romano’s sold their haunted home in 1974.
The new owner, Sam Muscatello, opened the house to the public as a haunted attraction. At the same time, he began searching for the alleged secret passageways and made a grisly discovery. Hidden behind a sliding panel in the tower, was a pile of bones. Although never proven to be human, they have none the less been seen as evidence of Hannes Tiedemann murderous activities. Over the next three decades the house changed hands several more times, and in 1999 was almost destroyed by a series of fires. Today the house sits empty, and while there is talk of the house reopening as a private members club, the many legends and ghost stories are currently the only things to call Franklin Castle home.
2. Squire’s Castle
Where: River Rd, Willoughby Hills.
Despite how grand it sounds, Squire’s Castle is actually a modern ruin, classified as little more than a shell of the original building. Located not far from Cleveland it was built in the 1890s by Fergus Squire who hoped the home would serve as a gatehouse for a future larger estate he was constructing. The project was never completed beyond the initial gatehouse and was sold in the 1920s. Today, the building is open to the public and is a unique sight to see. While it has a roof, the windows and doors expose the interior to the elements, which is completely bare and unfurnished. It’s available for tours and is utilized by a local library each year for a history seminar. But there are more mysterious tales surrounding the house to be told.
Legend has it that Squire’s wife fell and broke her neck in the gatehouse, dying on the property. Many believe the tragedy was the reason Squire halted his project, despite purchasing over 500 acres to build his estate. Her ghost is said to walk the barren halls of the small manner, though no reports of malevolent or intelligent hauntings have been reported.
3. Staley Road
Where: Staley Rd, New Carlisle.
This quiet, woodland lined road might seem sleepy and normal in the daytime, but it packs a punch of urban legends and spooky encounters. Just one mile in length, the road runs along the Miami County border, starting not far from Springfield. The stories of this road go back to a farmer named Staley who, supposedly, murdered his family in their barn. This also sometimes connects with stories of devil worshipers cursing the stretch of land by performing profane rituals there. Local legend also tells of two dead bodies that were found in adjacent fields and their wandering souls which are regularly seen by people passing through the haunted stretch of road. People also claim to see the ghosts of children on the side of the road, said to be Staley’s murdered children. Fog manifests unaccountably in the area, car engines inexplicably die, and cell phone batteries lose power.
There is also the “Bloody Barn”, a bright red barn on the side of the road (and the supposed location of the murders), though it has since been painted over with a coat of muted gray. The edge of the barn sits so close to the road that a number of people are said to have died in car accidents here. Stranger still, after coming around the bend drivers are met with the “Bloody Bridge” where a spectral figure is known to stand in the middle of the road, or on occasion, lying face down. It hardly surprising that with ghost stories so plentiful, that Staley Road is considered to be one of the most haunted roads in the state, if not the country.
Where: Boston Township, Summit County.
Helltown was once known as Boston and plays a central part in the story of Cuyahoga National Park. In the 1970s the entire town was seized by the US government with people were forced from their homes overnight, for a park project that was never completed. Today, all that stands is a modern day ghost town, with rows and rows of abandoned buildings that have made the area fodder for strange and otherworldly stories of ghosts, cult sacrifices, and monstrous mutants.
Despite the government’s official stance that the town was evacuated to make room for the national park project, many believe it was a cover-up for a chemical spill, UFO activity, or various other supernatural occurrences. Plenty of old buildings in the town have attracted their own legends and stories: an old church plays host to a satanic cult, a wrecked school bus is full of children murdered by a serial killer, and a haunted house lies hidden in the woods. Only those who dare to venture into the abandoned place, especially after dark, know the truth of what horrors really exists there.
5. Civic Theatre
Where: 182 S Main St, Akron.
In Akron, Ohio, there is a theatre with a dark and haunting reputation. The Civic Theatre’s very foundations are odd, built right on top of a canal. The inner decor invites a sense of wonder and mystery; looking like a lavish Turkish palace. Yet despite the beauty, darkness does lurk underneath. Three different ghosts are said to haunt the old theatre. The most common is that of the spirit of a janitor who has remained steadfast at his post, even after death. Another legend tells of sightings of a young actor who is spotted in balconies and backstage during performances, and the third ghost emerges from a darker legend.
The story goes that a young woman once committed suicide by drowning herself in the canal. The banks of the canal are still located behind the theatre and she’s been spotted wandering there, occasionally running down the tunnel and back into the underground depths of the Civic. Nothing malevolent is said to happen here but, like all great theatre, it is haunted by the ghosts of its past.
6. Lafayette Hotel
Where: 101 Front St, Marietta.
This Marietta hotel was rebuilt in the early 20th century after a fire destroyed much of the original Bellevue Hotel in 1906. As the Lafayette Hotel rose from the smoldering ashes, so did the paranormal happenings which soon plagued the hotel, earning it a most haunted reputation.
Hotel guests on the third floor report their items go missing or move around the room with no explanation. Lights and televisions are known to go off and on with no provocation and voices are heard in seemingly empty rooms and hallways. Hotel staff regularly report sightings of ghostly figures, the most famous of these is that of a woman who appears to be a Victorian maid. She wears a long black dress, a starched white pinafore, and cap, and she moves in slow motion, endlessly folding something as she wanders the corridors of the Lafayette Hotel.
7. Majestic Theatre
Where: 45 E 2nd St, Chillicothe.
The Majestic is located in Chillicothe, and like many theatres, it lays claim to numerous stories of ghosts and spirits that still linger to tread the boards. Yet with the Majestic, it has the bloody history to back them up. Built in the mid-19thcentury the building was first used as an opera house but in 1918, the theatre took on a new and grizzly role. During an outbreak of Spanish Influenza at a nearby military camp, the Majestic served as a morgue and autopsy theater for the rising number of corpses. The alley next to the theatre was awash with so much blood from the bodies that it earned the nickname the ‘Blood Alley’.
Today, the Majestic Theatre is a hotbed of paranormal activity. Mysterious fogs are known to drift around the theatre; people claim to see apparitions in the halls, and a dead body once appeared on the stage during a live performance. It is said the ghost of a little girl likes to run around backstage and through the dressing rooms, giggling and playing tricks and a more stoic man in a black suit is often spotted walking down the aisles of the theatre during performances.
8. Mudhouse Mansion
Where: Mudhouse Road, just off Lake Road, outside Lancaster.
Though the Mudhouse mansion was demolished in 2015, when it stood, it was a sight to see and came with an abundance of eerie and ghostly stories. Believed to have been built sometime between 1840 and 1850, it was located just outside of Lancaster. One of the most prominent horror stories attached to the house comes from the post-Civil War era and concerns an abusive slave owner who lived on the property. According to legend, one night, a servant escaped and maneuvered through a series of underground chambers that led to the home’s basement. Upon entering the home he murdered the slave owner, alongside his entire family while they slept in their beds.
Another legend that has stood the test of time is that the Mudhouse is the original home to the American urban legend “Bloody Mary”. It is said while living in the house, Mary killed her children and husband by hanging them from the ceiling rafters. Deranged, after her own death she became the entity known as Bloody Mary and has been terrifying American children ever since. Over the years the property changed hands several times but after the 1930s the house was permanently abandoned and left to collect legends as it fell further into ruin.
9. Athens Mental Asylum
Where: Radar Hill Trail, Athens.
Athens Mental Hospital, now known as The Ridges, was Ohio’s largest asylum at its peak of operation. Opening its doors in 1874 the hospital provided treatments to a variety of patients including violent criminals, people suffering from mental disabilities and Civil War veterans. Despite the hospital’s benevolent beginnings, the institution soon earned a brutal reputation for the mistreatment and abuse of its patients who were regularly restrained for days at a time, left in crowded in rooms and beaten by hospital staff. By the 1950s conditions had deteriorated further, taboo psychiatric practices such as lobotomies and shock therapy became commonplace. Athens was eventually shut down in 1993, but local legend says that not every soul left the building. Of the many restless spirits that are said to haunt the asylum, the ghost of Margaret Schilling is the most infamous.
In December 1979, patient Margaret Schilling went missing. After a thorough search of the hospital and its grounds by hospital staff, her dead body was eventually discovered 42 days later in the abandoned top floor ward No. 20. She was naked, with her clothes folded neatly beside her and upon removing her body a stain marked the floor on which she had lain undisturbed for so long. Today, the stain can still be seen, as can her ghost which is said to roam the hospital grounds.
10. Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory
Where: 100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield.
You might recognize this imposing building if you’re a fan of the film Shawshank Redemption. But long before it was the location of a Hollywood movie, it was a place of horror for those incarcerated within its walls. Located in Mansfield, the reformatory opened in 1896 and was used to house young men that were first-time and non-violent offenders. With the objective of reforming them by teaching them useful skills and enhancing their spirituality, the reformatory was hailed as a new and progressive institution. Yet it was not to last. It soon became a place of brutality, torture, and murder that would lead it to be denounced by several human rights organizations.
Tales tell of prisoners stabbed, beaten to death, and thrown of higher parts of the building by fellow inmates and guards. There were also reports of a “sweat box” being used as punishment for offenders, sometimes it was also referred to as the “Hole”. Essentially a block of cells with no windows, no beds, and only a toilet, at certain times they held over a hundred inmates. In 1990 the prison was closed, but the ghosts of the inmates and guards that died there linger on. Over the years, footsteps and muffled voices have been heard, even though there is no one else in the area. Strange shadows flicker down empty hallways, doors open and slam shut of their own accord and the spirits of the former prisoners are frequently spotted in this dark place, unwilling to let go of the horrors they experienced in life.
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