The Plain Dealer

Cleveland’s Most Haunted: Touring real life haunted houses, theaters and other spirited spots

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A city with as much rich history as Cleveland is sure to have its share of ghosts. And I don’t mean at those cheesy “haunted houses” filled with teenagers in costume. According to reports,  our city is truly spirited, with haunted houses,  cemeteries, submarines, castles and even a train.

In the spirit of the season, here’s a guide. Not a believer? Many venues offer tours so you can see for yourself. So read on for a look at some of Cleveland’s most (supposedly) favorite haunts, and find out how you can have a spirited time, too.

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Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer

Cleveland Grays Armory

1234 Bolivar Road: Built in 1893, this imposing sandstone castle has seen quite a few hauntings, according to those who have spent time there. The out-of-this-world residents include the dancing Lady in White, who may have been a regular when this was a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Others have said they have seen soldiers from the Cleveland Grays volunteer militia, which fought in the Civil War. They are hosting “A Haunted Evening at the Armory,” with Haunted Armory Tales & Civil War Ghost Stories by Paul Goebbel, at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 19. Admission, $40 – $50, includes admission includes light appetizers, 1 drink ticket, a Victorian Funeral, club room access and a Wurlitzer organ prelude by the Western Reserve Theatrical Organ Society. Reserve at: http://graysarmory.com/haunted-evening/

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Laura DeMarco, The Plain Dealer

Variety Theatre

Lorain Avenue and West 118th Street:  Variety Theatre caretaker Patrick Colvin often visits the long-closed theater on Lorain Avenue late at night. He’s not alone. “I know of at least 19 spirits that come in and out of that place,” Colvin told The Plain Dealer. He’s a founder of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre who has led the campaign to restore the once-glorious, now faded vaudeville/movie theater that opened in 1927. “I know about a dozen by name. Two are former performers, I think, and several are people who worked here.” The Variety Theatre opened on Nov. 24, 1927, with a screening of Clara Bow’s “Hula.” The Spanish Gothic vaudeville and movie house was designed by Cleveland architect Nicola Petti, who also designed the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights. Warner Bros. purchased it in 1929 and kept it until 1954. The 1,900-seat theater was the most popular on the West Side, full day and night. Since it closed in the mid-’80s, those seats have been empty. Most of the time. “When I come in on my own at night, I really feel them. I always take the very last seat on the far house right side, that’s my seat, and I let them talk to me.” The Variety is currently undergoing a long-term renovation. For more information or to arrange a private tour call Westown Community Development Corp. at 216-941-9262.

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John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

House of Wills

2491  East 55th St.: Today the crumbling House of Wills funeral home on  Cleveland’s East 55th Street is known as the haunted, creepy space with a  mysterious name. It’s a trite reputation for one of the most notable  names in Cleveland’s African-American history. Long before it was an  abandoned funeral home — with some of the quirkiest viewing rooms in  Cleveland, like the Cloud and Egyptian-themed spaces — it was a notable  civil-rights-era gathering spot.

Before  that, it was a popular German social hall. Its haunted reputation stems  from the hasty way the home was shut down in 2005. But new life is on the horizon for the House of Wills.  See the Sunday Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com for a look at the House’s fascinating past, present and future — and maybe a few ghosts, too.

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Plain Dealer Historical Photograph Collection

Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square is said to be haunted by the ghost of a man in a green suit. This may or may not be proven, but it is a fact that the performing arts complex is one of the most spirited venues in town. It’s no surprise Cleveland’s largest theater complex is said to be haunted by numerous ghosts. Each has its favorite theater, it is said. The Lady in White prefers the Hanna, while the Man in Green sticks to the Palace.

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Laura DeMarco, The Plain Dealer

Franklin Castle

4308 Franklin Blvd.: Cleveland’s most haunted building no longer looks so scary. The massive four-story stone mansion in Ohio City has been beautifully renovated after fires in 1999, 2004 and 2011, the latest of numerous tragedies that have befallen the house Hannes Tiedemann built in 1881. It’s set to be the new home of the popular garage rock label Norton Records. That’s the latest — and happiest — in a long line of fascinating and often terrible events that have led to its haunted reputation.

In the early days, several of Tiedemann’s children died in the home under mysterious circumstances. In later years, its tunnels and hidden passages allegedly made it a Prohibition favorite — and a meeting place for local members of the Nazi Party. It was even said there was a massacre at a party meeting in the ’30s , though no records have been found to support this. Later on, the Romano family moved in; they said they had several paranormal experiences. Owner Sam Muscatello said he found human bones in a closet.

In subsequent years, two owners tried to renovate and revive the castle, but both failed, including Judy Garland’s fifth husband, Michael DeVinko, aka Mickey Deans. The house was vacant from 1994 through 1999, when Michelle Heimberger purchased it. Norton Records of Brooklyn, N.Y., bought the property in 2018 and plans to open an office in the renovated space.

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Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer

Midwest Railway Preservation Society

2800 West Third St.: Take a ride on the “death car” where 26 passengers were boiled alive in a tragic 1943 accident known as the Wreck of the Lackawanna Limited, tour a haunted roundhouse and more at the site of the old Baltimore and Ohio roundhouse. Those lost on the train, which passed through Cleveland and crashed in New York state, included six Clevelanders. It’s said sometimes they show up in pictures to this day. Open house: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, including death car tours. $10; $5, children 4 to 12; free, children 3 and under.

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USS Cod

USS Cod

East Ninth Street Pier: The thrills are real at the USS Cod submarine, which served seven war patrols in the Pacific in World War II. The historic sub will host Halloween tours on Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19 at which hosts will share some spooky stories associated with the sub. These include the dark tale of a sailor who caught a ride home with some truly gruesome souvenirs, leading to terrible drama at sea; the story of a sailor who died putting out a fire on board; and the dramatic tales of the Cod’s terrifying brushes with death.
Guests will also hear the stories of Erie Mary, an old crone who supposedly has haunted the shores of Lake Erie for centuries, causing shipwrecks, sinkings and unexplained weather. More information and reservations at http://usscod.org/ $12 per person.

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Laura DeMarco, The Plain Dealer

Squire’s Castle

Cleveland Metroparks, North Chagrin Reservation: This lovely ruins in the Metroparks is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Mrs. Squire, whose husband built the castle for his bride in the 1890s. People say they can see the red light of her lantern still roaming the ruins, abandoned since 1922. Free to visit.

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John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Rider’s 1812 Inn

792 Mentor Ave., Painesville: One of the most oft-told ghost stories in town must be that of this 1812-built country inn, the subject of many TV shows, ghost hunts and more. It’s said the inn is haunted by Suzanne, the “ugliest woman in Painesville,” whom Joseph Rider married for her money in 1834. She died mysteriously six weeks after her marriage, the story goes, but has never really left the building. See http://ridersinn.com/ for info on pub and restaurant hours and overnight stays. They will be hosting a Halloween party October 26.

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Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Public Square: The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, where guests can explore the unused catacombs below the structure during occasional, specially scheduled tours, is said to be haunted by Civil War soldiers. Many ghost hunters here have said they temporarily lost power in their camera and batteries downstairs, then found it was restored later. There are currently no tunnel tours scheduled; see http://www.soldiersandsailors.com for more information. The monument is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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WRHS

Hay McKinney Mansion, Cleveland History Center

Is the Cleveland History Center’s Hay McKinney Mansion haunted? No one’s saying now, but they’re sure to discuss the ghostly matter when the mansion hosts a Haunted History event from 5 – 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. The event will explore Cleveland’s haunted history and highlight the city’s Spiritualist past “as well as tales from the Cleveland’s Other Side.” Guests will enjoy local treats, craft beverages, candlelit storytelling, Tarot readings and pop-up talks by local experts.  Tickets available at https://www.wrhs.org/events/hot-cle-haunted-history/ Admission, $12 – $15. Open bar wristbands $15 – $25, advance purchase only.

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Plain Dealer Historical Photograph Collection

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

129 2nd Street, Fairport Harbor: Those in charge of Fairport Harbor Lighthouse aren’t keeping it a secret that it’s supposedly haunted. It’s right there on their website: “The Ghost Cat Story.” The four-legged ghostly feline even has a name, Sentinel. Legend says that in 1871, Capt. Joseph Babcock was the head keeper of the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse. He gave his bedridden wife many cats. Most disappeared when she died, except for the gray Sentinel.

Many say he’s still there today, including the Animal Planet channel, which visited in 2010. The lighthouse is open to the public; call 440-354-4825 to arrange a tour or paranormal visit.

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Plain Dealer Historical Photograph Collection

Agora Theatre

5000 Euclid Ave.: With more than a century of history, it’s no wonder the Agora is said to be haunted. Opened in 1913 as the Metropolitan Theatre for opera and theater, and later home to the WHK Auditorium, the building at 5000 Euclid Ave. has a storied past. Somewhere along the way, it is said to have picked up the Ghost in Yellow, who is said to haunt the stage and backstage areas to this day.

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Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer

Mahall’s 20 Lanes

13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood: Strange goings-on have been reported by many over the years at 93-year-old Mahall’s. Owner Kelly Flamos told The Plain Dealer that the previous owners in the Mahall family even gave her a heads-up when she and her husband brought the property. Lights will turn back on in rooms where they knew they were off, especially in the office; the vintage calculator does weird things; unexplained noises happen throughout; some people have even reported seeing an otherworldly woman in a long dress.

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Lonnie Timmons III, The Plain Dealer

Erie Street Cemetery

East Ninth Street: It’s said the spirit of Joc-O-Sot, the tragic Sauk chief who died while touring Europe in a “Wild West show,” is still restless and roaming this downtown cemetery. The chief had requested a burial on tribal grounds in Wisconsin, but was buried against his wishes in Cleveland, in a grave now marked by a cracked tombstone.

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Cleveland Memory Project

Drury Mansion

8615 Euclid Ave.: One of only a handful Millionaires’ Row mansions still standing, the Drury Mansion was one of the last built, in 1910. Francis Drury, who made his fortune in stoves, and his family didn’t stay long — heading to Gates Mills by 1926, where they built a replica of the 52-room home. No one knows whether the ghosts are from their short-lived time in the house, or from its era as a halfway house for the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, who took it over in 1972.

Lore says two policemen in the 1970s were terrified to be in the building, which has also been a boardinghouse and a home for unwed mothers. Today it is a private facility owned by the Cleveland Clinic.

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https://www.cleveland.com/life-and-culture/g66l-2019/10/341d79488d7462/clevelands-most-haunted-touring-real-life-haunted-houses-theaters-and-other-spirited-spots.html

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