Top 10 Haunt-spots in Ohio
I’ve been writing about the ghosts and horrors of Ohio—and beyond—for most of my life–interviewing people about their ghostly experiences and visiting haunted sites both private and public. Here are the Ohio haunt-spots that stand out for their sheer scare-factor. It is a very personal, subjective list. I’m a card-carrying coward and I rate places by how frightened they’ve made me.
- Collinwood Arts Center in Toledo is probably at the top of my list. Not only does it look like a building from the Addams Family cartoons, this was originally the Motherhouse for the Ursuline nuns and there are still several ghostly nuns haunting the site, including one who radiates malevolence. I saw her from one of the balconies. She was sitting in the theatre, looking up at me with hatred. According to local informants, when the building was empty, black magic rituals took place in the basement, conjuring up a non-human entity in the form of a faceless, black-hooded Thing that still lurks in the basement and the basement stairs. The basement was one of the most terrifying places I’ve ever been. A friend who had accompanied me had to tell me to keep breathing—I was that frightened. [Haunted Ohio III]
- Mansfield Reformatory may tie for my Tops-of-the-Terror list. When I visited, the energy in the “Hole” or solitary confinement area was bad—several men had died in that area, some of them murdered. I also came away from the East Cell Block completely exhausted by whatever still lingers there—it was the site where a prisoner burned himself to death in his cell. In the Warden’s apartments, where the wife of a warden was shot to death in a mysterious accident, I was confronted by a very young inmate who seemed to think I could somehow get him out of jail. As I left the prison, this inmate followed me out and started whining at me to “get me out of here!” Then he jumped on my back in a kind of ghostly choke-hold, trying to keep me from going. I managed to shrug out of his grip, but it was one of the creepiest experiences I’ve had in ghost hunting. [Ghost Hunters Guide to Haunted Ohio]
Mansfield has a whole cluster of paranormal attractions, so while you’re in town, you can visit the Renaissance Theatre, Mansfield Memorial Museum, Malabar Farm, Oak Hill Cottage, and Brownella Cottage in Galion. [Haunted Ohio, Haunted Ohio II, Haunted Ohio V, Ghost Hunters Guide to Haunted Ohio]
3. The Wood County Historical Society and Museum, housed in the former Wood County Infirmary (or Poor House), was another of my most haunting memories. I was almost paralyzed with fear in some parts of the building and matters didn’t get any better when I was sent into the Lunatic House, used to house the most violently insane inmates. As I wandered around, I began to feel like I was becoming one of them, losing touch with reality. I needed to get out of the building and headed for the stairs, only to be confronted with the ghost of a huge man who was being dragged down the stairs by two attendants. He was hurling himself first into the wall, then into the stair railing, which I expected to break at any moment. I rushed forward. I was behind him, then I was looking out through his eyes, then I was through him and out into the open air…. [[Ghost Hunters Guide to Haunted Ohio]
4. Punderson Manor House is one of the most haunted places in northeastern Ohio. There are a lot of legends around the location: did the owner really hang himself on the premises? Did children die in a fire here or across the lake? How many people have drowned in the lake and come back to haunt? I turned down a chance to stay in one of the older rooms—I had seen a ghostly man in a checked flannel shirt walking into a wall and did not want to experience the apparition of a hanged man seen by several employees in the King Arthur Room. The ghosts of children have also been seen playing in the building and the grounds. [Haunted Ohio II and Ghost Hunters Guide to Haunted Ohio]
5. Ghostly coach drivers heard carousing down in the basement are just one of the attractions at The Buxton Inn in Granville, one of the best-known haunted sites in Ohio. The ghostly Major Buxton (a dead-ringer for John D. Rockefeller) still keeps an eye on the Inn. He is sometimes seen sitting in the dining room, only to disappear when approached. He popped into my room for a friendly visit one morning at 3 am. Another former owner, Ethel “Bonnie” Bounell, “The Lady in Blue” is particularly fond of haunting Room 9. Her ghostly gardenia perfume has been scented throughout the Inn and she has been known to sit down on the beds of sleeping patrons. The former mascot of the inn was an enormous cat, also named Major Buxton. He is seen padding through the halls, chasing polter-mice, and sometimes sitting on the feet of overnight guests. [Haunted Ohio II, Haunted Ohio IV Ghost Hunters Guide to Haunted Ohio]
6. Waynesville can easily lay claim to being the most haunted town in Ohio, with over three dozen haunted houses. You can visit some of them on the annual Waynesville ghost tour www.friendshomemuseum.org. Some of the most famous haunted places in Waynesville are Stetson House where John Stetson, of hat fame, is seen peering out of an upper window. Stetson’s sister, Louisa, lived in the house and when he visited her, he gave her the tuberculosis that killed her. She also haunts the house. Hammel House is supposed to be haunted by a traveling salesman, murdered by a former innkeeper. A ghostly figure like an old-fashioned school marm has been seen in the windows of the Quaker Meeting House and the sound of ghostly organ music, people talking, and rattling pans have been heard in the old stone building. The Waynesville Firehouse is haunted by “Daniel”, an elderly man who died in 1982 and donated the land for the present firehouse. He was very stooped and walked with a distinctive shuffling of his feet. After his death, firemen have heard the sound of feet shuffling around the concrete floors as well as doors opening and closing. [Haunted Ohio II, Haunted Ohio III
7. Franklin Castle now sits derelict and no one knows what the future will bring, but it can easily claim the “most haunted house in Ohio” title. It was built by a wealthy merchant, Hannes Tiedemann. There are dozens of rooms and corridors including a secret room found to contain human bones. Uneasy residents—and few stayed very long–have heard babies crying and mutterings in the walls. Some reported being overcome by horrible feelings of sadness or as if they were being taken over by another’s personality. The Tiedemann family experienced many deaths in the house, but the ghosts are harder to pin down. Legends says that Tiedemann hung a young girl—a relative or a servant girl or a mistress, depending on the story—and it is her sad, black-clad figure that is seen on the balcony. [Haunted Ohio III]
8. I find the USAF Museum a very uncomfortable place to visit. I come away completely drained. There is always a dead guy standing behind me. But it is a very good place to find ghosts from the Second World War and beyond. There are many haunted exhibits in the museum. The plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, called Bockscar after her original pilot, Fred Bock is on exhibit at the USAF Museum. Guards have seen a little Asian boy has been seen running around the base of the plane in the middle of the night. Others say that they have come around the corner of the corridor leading to the Modern Flight Gallery, only to find a group of Asian children playing in the hall after hours.
Another ghostly exhibit is the remains of the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Bomber. She crashed in the Libyan desert. Some historians say that she lost power to her navigation equipment and the pilot thought, seeing the dunes beneath him,that he was over the Mediterranean and could expect to see Europe soon. Instead he was flew deeper and deeper into the desert, where the Lady Be Good went down. Incredibly some of the crew tried to walk out and got over 85 miles before they died. One legend said that the footprints of some of the crew members led out into the desert—and then vanished, as if they had been carried away by aliens.
A sad ghost of the Vietnam War lingers in the Modern Flight Gallery. There is a helicopter there called Black Maria, painted flat black. You can see the hundreds of patched bullet holes in her skin—and sometimes you can see the dead pilot, sitting in the seat, moving the stick. [Haunted Ohio II, Haunted Ohio IV]
9. Kenyon College has a number of ghostly legends on its campus. The Gates of Hell are said to be located here and Shaffer Dance Studio, formerly an indoor swimming pool, is haunted by the ghost of a diver who supposedly broke his neck on the ceiling and drowned. Some have heard the sounds of splashing and mysterious wet footprints are said to appear in the building. A student who fell down an elevator shaft haunts Caples Hall and the nine students who died in the tragic Old Kenyon Fire in 1949 still haunt the site, shaking people awake, shouting, “FIRE!” [Haunted Ohio]
10. This probably should have been first on the list because the hauntings are so well known, but I avoid going to Athens because it makes me so terribly uncomfortable. I don’t know if it is “earth energies”—the place was a hotbed of Spiritualists in the 19th century and supposedly Mount Nebo was a sacred Native American site—or just the energy of Halloween street parties past, but I stay away. That said, one of the best known and most horrifying stories in Ohio comes from the old Athens Insane Asylum. A deaf and dumb patient wandered away, somehow locked herself in a remote, unused room, and died there, unable to call for help. Her mummified body wasn’t found for several years The stain of her body can still be seen on the floor and it is said that she is seen drifting from window to window, searching for a way out. [Haunted Ohio III, Haunted Ohio V]
Chris Woodyard is the author of the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series as well as The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales; The Headless Horror: Strange and Ghostly Ohio Tales; The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past; and the best-selling The Victorian Book of the Dead—tales mournful and macabre about Victorian death and mourning. She’s on Facebook as Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard and The Victorian Book of the Dead. Her blogs are found at www.hauntedohiobooks.com and https://thevictorianbookofthedead.wordpress.com/