Interview with Nellie Kampmann, Author of A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio

Nellie Kampmann has a fondness for pirates, adventurers and women from 1930’s screwball comedies. Born into a family with the oldest theatrical costume shop in Columbus, she spent her childhood among bolts of lush fabrics and trims, and stories of the people they adorned. Costuming remains an integral part of her life, as all of her hobbies over the years involved a costume of some form. In addition to her work at the Kelton House, she volunteers for the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, where she is one of the guides for the yearly ghost tours. On the spooky side, she is a member of two paranormal investigation groups, and is a former staff writer for Haunted Voices Radio. She lives with a ghost, one dog, too many cats, and thankfully only one husband. He is beginning to suspect that she might be a little eccentric.

Tell us a little about your background. Were you born and raised in Columbus, Ohio? How has your interest in historical costumes and your work at the Kelton House Museum & Garden influenced or fed your interest in folklore and ghost stories?

I am from the Columbus area and lived here all my life. I’ve been interested in all things metaphysical since I was a kid. My interest in ghosts led me to start volunteering at the Kelton House almost a decade ago.. Experiencing things there solidified my belief in ghosts and made me hungry to know more about them. Being in such a historical setting and learning about the Keltons’ lives also sparked an interest in history. From there, I became a volunteer with Columbus Landmarks Foundation for their yearly ghost tours. They do a great job of blending history and stories and presenting it all in an entertaining way.

Nellie Kampmann, Author of A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio

Nellie Kampmann, Author of A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio

I started paying more attention to the storytelling aspects of ghost folklore at that point. Have you ever read a ghost story book where the author tells just the bare bones of a story, like “the janitor was working late one night and saw the ghost of Professor MacGillavry” as the whole story? From a storytelling point of view, that’s like taking a Lord of the Rings movie and reducing it to a 10 minute short. It gets the gist of the story across, but doesn’t arose any emotional response from the audience. When I became a tour guide, I wanted to make sure that I was giving my audience the full experience.

The interest in historical costume didn’t influence my interest in ghostly folklore, but it does come in handy when I do paranormal investigations. I’m a big believer in the “era cue” technique whereby an investigator will try to pique a ghost’s interest by presenting things that were contemporary to the era that the spirit was alive during. They do seem to be intrigued by seeing someone in clothing from their own time.

What attracted you to the paranormal and why did you feel compelled to write about haunted places in and around Columbus in particular?

Like the majority of people I’ve met in this field, I had some strange experiences while growing up and wanted to understand those better. I started writing about haunted places in Columbus as a way to help promote the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s tours. I still write about them because it’s easy to write about what I love and know well. Writing is a bit of a compulsion for me, so it’s nice to have so much inspiration here.

A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio by Nellie Kampmann

A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio by Nellie Kampmann

Are you a member of a paranormal research team? During the course of your research, tours, or investigations, have you ever experienced anything out of the ordinary?

I have been a member of a few different investigation groups over the years. Now I still do investigations, but mostly while checking out haunted sites with my pal Dan Schneider of Ohio Gothic Paranormal as research for a book he is doing.

Weird stuff happens around me so often that I have lost count. I got evps on the recording I made of an interview with the owner of the Harrison House Bed & Breakfast while I was doing preliminary research for the book. The Halloween tours with Columbus Landmarks Foundation always leave us with at least one new ghost story. The ghosts at the Kelton House in particular like to play pranks during the ghost tours there. Their big thing is flipping the dolls over during the tours or messing with people’s jewelry. Even just hanging around my normally unhaunted home, I’ve seen small objects move by themselves. One time, a Dayton trolley token appeared in midair and fell to the ground right in front of me. That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life.

What is your favorite haunted location in Columbus and why?

Even if I wasn’t so closely associated with the place, I would have a soft spot for the Kelton House Museum & Garden. It is the most interactively haunted place I know of in Columbus. The ghosts there are just plain fun. The Kelton spirits started goofing on me starting from the second docent training session I went to to. The have a great sense of humor. It’s too bad that the museum has a strict policy against allowing investigations there, including for the staff. I would love to see if I could get some EVPs there.

Tell us about your book A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio. What were some challenges you faced getting it published and what has been the reader response? Is a sequel in the works?

The History Press approached me to write the book after they saw a list of haunted places in Columbus on one of my websites. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t the same old set of sites and stories that people had already heard dozens of times in other books and websites. Seeking out new sites that didn’t mind being made public took some work. I did include some of the well known sites, too, but only if I could put a fresh slant on them. The biggest challenge was trying to get the whole thing written in the year they gave me while still working a full time job and a part time job.

The response has been gratifying. The only complaints I’ve gotten about it where that it was too short and that the stories were “too good to be true.” The latter complaint is actually a bit of a compliment, considering that the stories all came from very reputable sources. As someone who works professionally in the field of history, I would never publish anything that I suspected was fiction. Sure, there were a couple of stories in there that were pretty amazing, such as the wavy armed man in the Ohio State University’s main library. The wildest stories were told to me by people I had known for a long time and knew to be honest and straightforward.

I was thrilled that an episode of The Dead Files featured The Jury Room, one of the sites in my book. That place is special to me because I’m the one who originally uncovered the long-forgotten story about the Frances Miller – Paulus Ruprecht shooting. It’s kind of mind blowing to see some research I had done being presented on a national tv show.

Due to my heavy schedule, I don’t know if I will ever have the discipline to write another book until after I’ve retired. Regardless, I find that I can’t stop writing. I blog a lot now instead. I like that that gives me the freedom to go at my own pace and to write on a larger variety of topics than a book would. In my Haunted History Columbus blog, I get to talk about hauntings from around the state, as well as Columbus, and also get more into aspects of paranormal research. I also have a few other blogs on everything from reincarnation to green living.

How can our readers get in touch with you if they want to know more about the ghost stories of central Ohio, your writing, or any of your other interests?

The best place to go to is my author’s website, That’s a clearinghouse of links to my other websites and blogs. It has an index to my Haunted History Columbus blog, so folks don’t have to scan through all of them to find the specific topics that they are looking for. There is a contact link there, too, in case anyone needs to talk to me directly.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of Nellie Kampmann.


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