As the 7th most populous state with the 7th largest economy in the U.S., Ohio rivals Illinois for the top spot among Midwestern states. The Buckeye State is known for its public libraries and universities, and for being a bell weather for presidential elections. As we at Mysterious Heartland can attest, however, Ohio is also known for a number of very famous haunted places. From the infamous set location of The Shawshank Redemption, to the majestic halls of the Lafayette Hotel, which will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Staley Road
New Carlisle, Ohio
In the early 1800s, a pioneer named John Wrench hired three Staley brothers to build a flower mill. The result was the first double-wheeled mill in Ohio. Business boomed, and Wrench eventually sold his business to Elias Staley. When Elias died, his brother Andrew continued to produce flour at the mill until 1905. Today, the mill still stands, and Staley Road winds its way through the woods near New Carlisle. Teens have taken to driving this road at night to test their courage, or just for a cheap thrill. According to legend, “Old Man Staley” went on a murderous rampage and now haunts the road. Motorists will experience car trouble, including being buffeted about by an invisible force. Others have reported seeing Staley’s ghost standing or lying in the road. As the gnarled tree branches close in, it is easy to believe these hair-raising accounts.
9. Civic Theatre
Originally the Loews Theatre, the Civic Theatre was designed by Viennese architect John Eberson in grand “Atmospheric” style. The ceiling was designed to look like the night sky, and it is one of the few that can rotate. The Civic is believed to be haunted by three ghosts. A girl who allegedly committed suicide by jumping into the canal behind the theater has been encountered walking along the edge of the canal, weeping uncontrollably. The ghost of a longtime employee of the theater, a janitor named Fred, has been seen all over the building. He is believed to attack anyone who makes a mess in the bathrooms. Finally, the anonymous ghost of a man has been seen sitting in the balcony. What distinguishes him from “Fred” is that he is always described as being very well-dressed. Theater patrons are unable to decide who he was in life or why he is haunting the Civic.
8. Woodlawn Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio is nothing if not picturesque. The cemetery doubles as an arboretum—its beautiful variety of trees shades its meandering paths and surrounds the peaceful waters of Goose Lake. Over the years, however, visitors say something mysterious lurks under the shade of those trees. The forlorn figure of a lone woman has been seen several times, always dressed the same. Unlike most “women in white” who haunt cemeteries, this ghost is said to be wearing a red shirt, jeans, and sneakers, with a blue sweater tied around her waist. Another oft-reported ghost is that of a young boy and his dog. The boy drowned in a canal and his dog perished trying to rescue him. Today, hundreds of visitors leave trinkets at their memorial. Mournful sobs have also been known to follow people around the cemetery.
7. Lafayette Hotel
The Lafayette Hotel, built over the ruins of the Bellvue Hotel, which burnt down in 1916, opened on July 1, 1918. It was owned by the Marietta Hotel Company and a man named Reno G. Hoag was hired as the manager. When he died in 1944, his son S. Durward Hoag took over the position. Since Durward’s death, his ghost is believed to haunt the third floor, which has been dedicated to him. Lights flicker and bulbs burst without explanation. The elevator also behaves erratically, often moving on its own and stopping at the roof. Guests have also reported toiletries that go missing or are dumped on the floor, and one man even claimed to have been locked out of his room after the water in his shower suddenly turned ice cold! The vaporous specter of a woman wearing an Edwardian dress has also been spotted in the Lafayette’s Riverview Lounge.
6. Fudge Road Bridge
Fudge Road is a narrow, suffocating stretch of gravel that winds its way through rural Preble County. A steel bridge sits over Aukerman Creek, just north of the intersection of Enterprise and Fudge roads. While easy to discount as just another of Ohio’s many crybaby bridges, other things lurk in the surrounding woods that make Fudge Road Bridge really stand out. According to legend, a young mother discarded her unwanted newborn infant off the bridge. In another version of the tale, the woman’s child was stillborn, or died shortly after childbirth. Distraught, she hung herself from the bridge. Today, motorists crossing Fudge Road Bridge will hear the cries of an infant if they park their car and say “mama” three times. Stranger still, a large beast is said to lurk in the nearby woods. Troll-like, it is believed to find shelter under the bridge and growl as you pass by.
5. Majestic Theatre
Originally built in 1852 as the Masonic Opera house, the Majestic Theatre has earned its reputation as one of the most haunted theaters in Ohio. During the influenza epidemic of 1918, the overflow of dead bodies was stored in the theater, and their blood and vital fluids were pumped into the alley behind the theater. Since then, it has been called “Blood Alley.” Strange, ethereal singing has been heard on both audio equipment and recordings. In 2001, students from the University of Akron recorded a girl’s voice asking, “How do I get out of here?” This ghost has been seen and heard so frequently that she has been named “Elizabeth.” Strange clouds and figures have also been seen in the theater. The Knights’ Room on the second floor is a popular spot for photographing supposed “ghost orbs.”
4. Kenyon College
Founded in 1824, Kenyon College in Gambier is the oldest private college in Ohio. In 2010, it was named one of the most beautiful colleges in the world by Forbes Magazine for its stunning Gothic revival architecture and picturesque campus. Kenyon College also has more ghosts per capita than any other school in the Midwest. One of the most notable hauntings occurs at Old Kenyon Dorm, which burned down in 1949. Old Kenyon was originally built in 1827, making it one of the oldest Gothic revival buildings in the United States. The legless ghosts of nine students who died in the fire are said to haunt the first floor, while a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity pledge who died during his initiation has been seen on the fourth floor. According to legend, that student was struck and killed by a train on October 28, 1905, and appears in a window on the fourth floor on the anniversary of his death.
According to Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard, there are no less than seven other haunted buildings on campus, including Norton Hall, Lewis Hall, Manning Hall, Caples Hall, Werthheimer Hall, Shaffer Hall, and Hill Theater. Hill Theater is thought to be haunted by the ghosts of two people who died in a drunk driving accident. Poltergeist activity has been reported in Lewis Hall, which is blamed on a student who allegedly committed suicide there. Various other ghosts are said to appear throughout campus, making Kenyon College a very haunted place!
3. Mudhouse Mansion
Known locally as the Hartman Place, this abandoned brick, Second Empire-style house was built sometime in the mid-19th Century and stands sentinel-like in a field of windswept grass. It is currently owned by Jeannie Mast, who zealously guards her property and presses charges against anyone who tries to trespass. This has only poured fuel on the fire for people who believe the house holds sinister secrets. According to legend, the original owner treated his servants cruelly and locked them in the basement. One night, the servants escaped and murdered their master and his family. In another tale, the owner caught his wife having an affair and killed her before committing suicide. Another story claims the owner’s wife murdered her children. The ghosts of all these victims are said to roam the empty rooms of the house and the other outbuildings on the property. One thing is certain: the property is patrolled by both sheriff’s deputies and private security guards, so visitors are strongly discouraged.
2. Ridges Asylum
Opened in 1874, this four story, red-brick building was originally known as the Athens Asylum for the Insane. There were two wings, one for male patients and one for female. The most violent patients were housed near the outer tips of the wings. By the early 1900s, Ridges Asylum was alarmingly overcrowded. Rumors of inhumane treatments at the hands of overworked staff were common. By 1981, however, the hospital had fallen out of use. It closed in 1993. Although parts of the building are in use today, much of it remains abandoned. One macabre curiosity is the outline of the body of Margaret Schilling in a room on the top floor. She became lost in an unused area of the hospital in the winter of 1978/79 and was not found for over a month. When her lifeless body was removed, it had left a stain on the floor that could not be washed away. Her ghost has also been seen wandering that room at night. Other people claim the asylum’s cemetery, which holds around 2,000 bodies, is haunted.
1. Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory
Built between 1896 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory served as a detention center for young, petty criminals. The first inmates were admitted in 1896, and they helped construct the building. Several violent episodes occurred there, including the execution-style slaying of a superintendent and his family at the hands of two former inmates. One form of punishment at Mansfield Reformatory was to send prisoners to solitary confinement in “the hole”—a dark and claustrophobic room—for an indeterminate amount of time. The reformatory was closed in the late 1980s. The old superintendent’s office, where disembodied voices are heard, is widely believed to be haunted by the ghosts of Helen and Warden Glattke. In the basement, the ghost of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly beaten to death has been reported. Visitors often experience strong feelings of dread, anger, and fear throughout the former reformatory.