Central Ohio Legends & Lore

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Yeah, so this just happened.

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My latest endeavor hit Central Ohio bookshelves and online retailers everywhere on June 26th. And I have to admit it’s one that I am quite proud of.

For one, Central Ohio Legends & Lore gets me back a bit closer to my Weird Ohio roots that so many of you have been asking me to return turn. In other words, while this new book has some ghost stories in it, the vast majority of it centers on just plain ol’ weird stuff. You know, things like UFOs and the Ohio Grassman.

But what’s more, for this book, I made a conscious effort to focus on real weirdness: Stuff that sounds too weird to be true, but it is. Case in point, this pic from the cover of Central Ohio Legends & Lore:

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This picture is of a real mine fire in New Straitsville, Ohio. The fire was started in 1884 and still burns today. That’s right, there’s a 133-year-old fire burning right now under New Straitsville, Ohio.

I wanted to focus on real stories like that because I feel that with today’s paranormal reality shows, just uttering words like “ghost” or even “unexplained” can often cause the general public to react with cries of “BS” and “that’s not real”. Sadly, I think a lot of, in this case, Ohio folklore, is being abandoned and forgotten. I’m hoping to change that.

Of course, that’s not to say I abandoned the Ohio ghost story. Far from it. In fact, Central Ohio Legends & Lore contains some of my favorite Ohio ghost stories, including some that had yet to be included in any of my other books. In fact, I can honestly say that the research I did for one particular ghost story in the book, Thurber House, got me really, really excited.

It also led to an event being planned for this fall that is going to offer some lucky people the chance to stand at the crossroads where the paranormal and literary worlds meet. And who knows what will happen! Details on that event will be coming soon, so keep an eye on this blog. In the meantime, if you want a hint, go read James Thurber’s The Night The Ghost Got In.

Central Ohio Legends & Lore is available at most Central Ohio bookstores, as well as select grocery stores and even Walgreen’s. It’s also available at Amazon.com and all the other online retailers. It will also be available for purchase at all of my upcoming appearances and presentations. I’ve already started making the rounds on a bit of a mini-signing tour. At some of the locations, I will be giving brief talks about Central Ohio Legends & Lore. Come the fall, we launch into full-blown presentation mode, of which the new book will certainly be a large part. For a full list of upcoming appearances, click here.

Hope you have as much fun with the book as I had writing it!

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“Teens Everywhere” Conjuring Demons By Playing Charlie, Charlie

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charlie-charlie

Let the conjuring begin! — via Doubtful News

“Satan, I command you to open the gates of hell and bring forth…Charlie.”

I’m sorry, what?

Yup, the Interwebs and anti-social media are all a-flutter with this new viral (god, I hate that term) craze that’s sweeping the nation. Apparently, “teens everywhere” are dividing pieces of paper into 4 quadrants, balancing pencils in the middle, and commanding a demon to come and answer their burning questions in a game that’s become known as Charlie, Charlie.

And they’re not just summoning any demon, mind you. In this case, they are said to be calling upon “the Mexican demon, Charlie.”

That’s right: Of all the denizens of Hell, Charlie is the one you need to reach out to if you need your questions answered. And make sure you specifically ask for “Charlie, the Mexican demon.” God forbid you get stuck with “Charlie, the American demon” or even “Charlie the Norwegian demon” because you’ll be lucky to get anything useful out of those guys.

So what exactly are “teens everywhere” doing? Well, not that I’m condoning this type of behavior, but the whole thing’s really simple. You just need a piece of paper and two pencils.  Take the piece of paper and draw a giant plus sign on it so as to divide the page into 4 sections. Then, write down 4 “answers” with one in each box: “Yes” and “No” are the popular favorites, but feel free to mix in a “Maybe” or an “Ask Again Later” just to give ol’ Charlie some variety.

For the final step, place one of the pencils on the vertical axis (i.e., the line going up and down) and then balance the second pencil across the first one (i.e., so it is laying horizontally). Then, ask away! So far, the popular way to ask seems to be by saying “Charlie, Charlie, can we talk?” It is said that if Charlie’s around, the top pencil will spin to “Yes” (so you better make sure you have a “yes” on your paper or you’re screwed from the get-go). Once Charlie answers, you’re off and running.

Who knew that all it took to conjure up a demon was $1.98 in used office supplies? — Via NY Daily News

Now, aside from the fact that balancing a pencil on top of another one makes it quite easy to get it to move, let’s talk for a moment about the utter silliness of this activity being blamed on Charlie, the Mexican Demon.

All of the other paranormal imports from Mexico have at least retained their Spanish names–Chupacabra, La Llorona, etc. So why not this demon? And when did we stop giving demons really spooky (and usually unpronounceable) names?

Online demonologists (who scare me for totally different reasons) are claiming that the demon only calls himself Charlie because it’s an “unassuming name” that allows him (it?) to lure teens over to the dark side. I guess that could be it. Of course, it doesn’t explain why, up until a few days ago, Charlie the demon and even this “game” simply did not exist. In fact, until it went viral (there’s that damn word again), it doesn’t appear that anyone had even played this particular game before. There does appear to be a game known as “The Pencil Game” that involves making a rectangle by sticking 6 pencils together and holding it in the air while chanting “Charlie, Charlie, can we play” (see a video of kids playing that version here). But this whole “hey, demon, can you spin this pencil for me” is something new.

Of course, there’s no denying that this sort of “conjuring” is nothing new, either. Of course, people are pointing to this becoming “the new Ouija”, but for me, it seems closer to those paper Cootie Catchers kids used to make to try and figure out who liked them or who they were going to marry. Indeed, an online search for “Charlie, Charlie” pulls up a bunch of suspect YouTube videos and several images where the spookiest questions being asked are along the lines of “which member of One Direction will I marry.”

Man, Charlie, you’re screwed! They didn’t even give you a “none of the above” option — via PIX 11

So come now, people, don’t we have better things to do than engage in this silliness? Even if this were true, think of poor Charlie the Mexican demon: having to be ready to race around the world at a moment’s notice, usually on the whim of some random teenagers who is just dying to know when 5 Seconds Of Summer is going to “release the next album” (and yes, I’m old, so I had to Google “5SoS”).

If you ask me, I think Charlie got the short end of the stick. But then again, he is in hell, so I guess he deserves it.

Come now, is “3000” even a viable answer? Remember, it’s not nice to fool Mexican demons! — via The Telegraph

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Click here to check out the BBC’s article concerning where Charlie, Charlie might have originated.

Here’s what the NY Daily News is saying about Charlie, Charlie.

Read about Doubtful News‘ take on Charlie, Charlie by clicking here.

PIX11 has more on the story, including several videos showing people attempting to contact Charlie. Check it out here.

Vine compilation of people playing (and parodying) Charlie, Charlie (NSFW–Language).

I Might Not Rock, But Some People Still Think I’m Cool

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Zak Bagans rocks!!!! You do not rock!
–anonymous e-mail I received after reviewing an episode of Ghost Adventures for The Ghosts of Ohio Newsletter

Over a decade ago, I bumped into a beautiful woman named Stephanie who, for reasons known only to her, decided to join me on my strange and spooky adventures (she also foolishly agreed to marry me, giving “strange and spooky adventures” a whole new meaning).

Looking back, we probably should have checked that Face Painter’s credentials BEFORE we agreed to be test subjects

I can still remember our first spooky excursion as if it were only yesterday: We decided to check out the ghostly legends associated with Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newark, Ohio. In fact, if you own a copy of Weird Ohio, turn to the Cedar Hill Cemetery story and you’ll see I even managed to capture that memorable day in photographs–that’s Steph with her ear to the door of the Baker mausoleum, listening for ghostly cries.

Not long after that day, Steph started uttering what has become something of a catch phrase of hers when we’re out on adventures: “I’ll wait here.” Usually, I’d hear these words if I pulled up to some spooky location in the middle of the night…in the middle of nowhere. But truth be told, my journey has taken me to some pretty sketchy locations that are spooky in broad daylight. And by that, I don’t mean that I’m trespassing or breaking any laws. It’s just that some of these places tend to be located in areas where, at any minute, you’d expect to hear banjo music off in the distance. Oh yeah, and there’s usually all sorts of broken glass, trash, and debris laying all over the place. In other words, a romantic setting this ain’t!

Of course, when our daughter, Courtney, was born back in 2010, Steph started saying “I’ll wait here” a lot more. And with good reason. Say what you will about me, but I’ve yet to entertain the thought of dragging my daughter through places filled with garbage, bugs, and god knows what else. So the two of them usually hang out in the car while I go roaming about.

“Come on, guys, it totally looks safe!”

Such was the case recently when I decided to visit the infamous Crybaby Bridge on Fudge Road. While I had visited the bridge many times in the past, I recently received an e-mail saying the bridge was in bad shape and was in danger of being knocked down. So I wanted to get some pictures of it for my Ohio Crybaby Bridge Project before it was gone for good.

As we drove to the bridge one afternoon, I filled Steph in on all the legends swirling around not only the bridge, but Fudge Road in general. Of course, there are just as many stories about people being chased down the road by angry neighbors as there are ghosts. Long story short, when people ask me about the bridge, I tell them it’s probably not a good place to visit. So it didn’t really surprise me that much when we pulled off to the side of the road in front of the Road Closed sign near the bridge and I heard “I’ll wait here.” Well, at least I heard it from Steph. Courtney was so engrossed in her Justice League Vs. Bizarro League DVD that I don’t think she even heard me get out of the car.

Fudge Road Crybaby Bridge

I guess I had been out of the car for 5 minutes or so, busily snapping pictures and even walking across the closed bridge, when I heard Steph call out “Jim?” My immediate thought was “oh s**t, someone’s here.” As soon as I looked towards the car and realized I couldn’t see it from where I was standing, I admit it: I panicked and started running towards Steph’s voice as I yelled back “coming! What is it?!” I was almost halfway across the bridge when I heard Steph’s response:

“We’re getting out. Courtney said she wants to see your spooky bridge.”

And see it she did. For the next few minutes, Courtney wandered along Fudge Road and the Crybaby Bridge, sometimes hand-in-hand with Steph, asking questions about ghosts and bridges…and hawks (she saw one in the trees). She even made me and Steph pose for a picture on the bridge. All the while, I kept trying to hide the tears in my eyes. Courtney still doesn’t comprehend that sometimes, people cry when they’re happy.

Photo courtesy of Courtney

So yeah, I don’t rock. But I have a wife who, after all these years, still loves and supports what I do. And I know she’s not even five yet, but my daughter still thinks I’m cool.

I can live with that.

What Just Happened Here?

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If you’re sitting there thinking there’s something wrong with your monitor, relax. There’s no need to adjust anything. I just decided to temporarily ditch the grey background in favor of something a bit more…fun. All the content is still here.

I don’t know about you, but I feel this site was long overdue for a change, so I’m kind of digging the new look. Sort of takes that whole “oh, I’m so serious” edge off of things, too. So who knows, I might keep it for a while, especially since the new layout is going to make it easier to add new section to the site. Stuff like Galleries and that Crybaby Bridge thing that’s long overdue.

What do you guys think? Love the new look? Hate it? Or really don’t care either way? If the spirit moves you (pun intended), feel free to let me know by leaving a comment…not that anyone ever does.

Amateur Ghost Hunter Stabs Himself Inside Villisca Ax Murder House

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This story is blowing up all over the Internet, even though many of the specifics are not yet known (shocking, isn’t it). My paranormal Spidey Senses have been tingling ever since I first read the story, though, and I have a bad feeling that no matter how this plays out, it’s not going to end well for the field of paranormal research.

It is alleged that in the early morning hours of Friday, November 7th, 2014, 37-year-old Robert Steven Laursen Jr. was taking part in a ghost hunt with several other individuals at the infamous Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa.  At approximately 12:45 am, Laursen was alone in one of the rooms when the other individuals heard him call out for help. When they reached him, they found Laursen on the floor, suffering from what appeared to be a self-inflicted stab wound in his chest. Laursen was taken to Clarinda Regional Hospital before being airlifted to CHI Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. He was last listed in serious condition.

When reached for comment, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office stated their investigation “showed no indication the stab wound was caused by an accident or fall”. Further, since there was “no indication of foul play”, the Sheriff’s Office did not expect to be filing any charges.

The Sheriff’s Office concluded that there had never “been a report of a similar situation” at the Villisca Ax Murder House before.

Sad and disturbing news, to be sure. But why does it have me so concerned? Well, for starters, I think it is only a matter of time before someone brings up the dark history of the house and tries to say there is some sort of “demonic” presence lingering within the walls of the home that someone forced this guy to knife himself. When (not if) that happens, the demonic/possession/satanic floodgates are going to open wide and that house is going to be awash in reality show posers and wannabes, all ready to do battle with the devil and his minions. You know I’m right. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 3 ghost reality show “stars” who are literally licking their chops and oiling up their pecs as we speak at the idea of doing an upcoming episode inside the house. That’s saying nothing of the slew of “I’m not really a member of the clergy, but I play one on reality TV shows” guys busy pressing their Halloween Express-purchased priest outfits and giving an extra blast of starch to their fake clerical collars.

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“The power of Halloween Express compels you!” –via Halloween Express

For the past few years, there has been a disturbing trend (as least for me) developing among the vast majority of these ghost reality shows. Namely, the ghosts are getting angrier and angrier. Now, it is no longer just angry ghosts, but demonic spirits. Sadly, I think the Villisca Ax Murder House just unwittingly gave these shows a potential new angle: demonic spirits that can stab people.

Even if I’m wrong (and I sincerely hope that I am), there’s something else that bothers me, perhaps even more so than the reality TV angle. If we take the devil out of this occurrence, what we are left with is an individual who clearly has some sort of emotional problem. A problem that clearly can manifest itself in violent ways. Now you could make the case that the only person Laursen harmed was himself, but the fact that an individual apparently plunged a knife into his own chest on purpose can not be ignored. And he chose to do it during a public ghost hunt.

I don’t know about you, but ghost hunts have always been events that I’ve felt safe at. Even on the public hunts I conduct with fans of my organization, The Ghosts of Ohio, I’ve always felt like I was among kindred spirits. If I ever did worry about being hurt, it was usually thinking I was going to trip and fall in the dark or maybe a piece of an old building’s ceiling breaking off and braining me. Not once has it ever occurred to me that the danger might be coming from a fellow ghost hunter in my group. Until now.

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–via the Daily Nonpareil

This is not to imply that Laursen meant to harm anyone other than himself that night in Villisca. We just don’t know what his intentions were and perhaps we never will. Either way, it does seem to imply that from this point on, we all need to take a closer look at who we choose to get locked inside a haunted building with.

Sadder still, no matter how you look at it, there’s no denying that the fields of ghost hunting and paranormal research have both just lost a bit more of their innocence. Not that we had that much left to lose.

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One of the first newspapers to cover this story was the Daily Nonpareil. You can access that article here.

Omaha.com covered the story and includes some more quotes from the owner of the Ax Murder House. You can read the article here.

Syracuse.com also covered the story, but basically has the same information as the Daily Nonpareil. It does include a link to a video tour of the Ax Murder House, though. The article and video can be found here.

Am I Too “Stupid” To Even Recognize Hate Mail?

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Wait, before you answer that question, you need to help me out on this.

Recently, I received an e-mail that I think is hate mail. Can’t really be sure, though, which is why I need my faithful readers to lend a hand. Here’s the content of the e-mail I received, in its entirety (bold and italics mine):

You are so stupid! Why don’t you stop writing about stupid things and write about stuff that’s not stupid!

Yup, that’s it. Nothing else. Not even a subject line. The e-mail address (which I won’t post here), appears to be legit and the IP address it came from is also legit–it appears to be where this person works. I don’t recognize the person’s name and I have never had any dealings with the company from which the e-mail appears to have originated. All that, plus the fact that the e-mail mentions my “writing about stupid things”, which I have been known to do from time to time (mainly because I like to), would all seem to point to it being legit.

But seriously, who writes like that? It sorts of reeks of something one of my friends would do just to mess with me. And if the e-mail is legit, they obviously wanted to anger me or get a rise out of me. On both accounts, they failed. To be honest, even if it’s not real, the e-mail made my day. I must have read it at least 20 times the very day I got it, and it got funnier each time!

If this thing really is legit, the e-mail arrived the day after I posted my article on Gore Orphanage. Guess that article could have made a few people mad, but I don’t think anything in it was stupid, per se. The other  popular articles the day the e-mail showed up were The Day Batman Stood My Daughter Up and the post about People.com totally blanking on their choice for an “iconic ghost” to represent the state of Ohio. Controversial stuff, huh? Oh yeah, and as always, most of the Tokoloshe articles were hot that day, too. But everybody knows there’s nothing stupid about the Tokoloshe.

Real or not, I do have a few bones to pick with the author. First off, I don’t think they used the word “stupid” enough. I think they should have opened the e-mail with the salutation “Dear Stupid.” That would have freed them from only being able to use “stupid” as an adjective. And by using the capital “S”, they could have made “Stupid” a proper noun, which would have made it possible to re-write each sentence as if there were addressing me directly, thereby adding an additional “stupid” to the end of each sentence: “You’re so stupid, Stupid.”

So what do you guys think? Is this legit hate mail or just someone messing with me? Feel free to let me know in the Comments section, below.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, pondering whether or not I should start selling the following shirts at my presentations and posing for pictures next to anyone who buys one:

NBC4 Columbus Tries To Create Some Good Old-Fashioned Satanic Panic

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And it has been a while, by gum!

Seems that late Halloween night, some a**hole(s) vandalized the Church of the Resurrection in New Albany, Ohio. While they didn’t make it into the church itself, they still managed to cause a lot of damage to the building and even several vehicles that were parked in the church’s lot.

While one of the vehicles suffered damage from apparently being hit by a “cigarette butt collection container”, the bulk of the vandalism consisted of paint being thrown on the building and an assortment of graffiti being spray painted on the building and vehicles. Most of the graffiti consisted of the word “Trees (slang for marijuana)”, although there were random messages like “F**k God”, “God is dead” and “KYS (‘kill yourself’)”. Lovely.

(BTW, I’m not posting any of the photos of the vandalism here. Don’t want to give these imbeciles any more attention. If you’re dying to see the vandalism, though, NBC4 Columbus has posted them here).

When I watched the original broadcast of this report, I kind of shook my head at this senseless act. It sort of riled me up a bit, too, and I believe I may have even muttered my dad’s classic phrase that I “hope they catch them and string ’em up by their Buster Browns”. But that was nothing compared to my reaction when I read the online version of the article, starting with the headline:

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screen capture — via NBC4

What? “Vandalized with satanic worship”? Where the hell did that come from (pun intended)? And what does that even mean?

If you watch the original news broadcast, available here, you’ll see that several times, reporters point out that the act was more than likely caused by a group of local teens. Police told Candice Lee, who reported the original story, that the damage was “likely the work of Halloween pranksters” and “likely teenagers, up to no good”. In the report, Candice herself refers to the guilty party as “Halloween vandals”.

As far as the graffiti itself being satanic, none of that is even hinted at in the original report. Colleen Marshall introduces the original report by referring to the vandalism as “offensive graffiti (and) even profanity”. In fact, the report only mentions the devil once, although it’s to let him off the hook for this one:  “Unlikely the work of the devil, New Albany Police instead believe ghastly ghouls are guilty of desecrating this place of worship.”

So how did all this talk of satanic worship come into play? Well, you could say this is just a simple case of lazy reporting. And it is. But it goes beyond that because the author of the online article went out of their way to insert the phrase “satanic worship” into the piece twice, including the headline. BTW, that headline is my favorite because it doesn’t even make any sense. Seriously, how do you vandalize something with worship, satanic or otherwise?

The author also felt the need to point out that some of the graffiti featured “an upside down cross used in the practice of worshiping Satan.”

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–via NBC4

Um, OK. Not sure what that means, either, but I get the gist: satan’s disciples are running amuck in New Albany, Ohio.

Here’s my point: if the original new report doesn’t even mention the word “satanic”, why add it to the online version of what’s supposed to be the same report?

Why is this a big deal to me? Well, for starters, I don’t like it when people distort the facts. When it comes to throwing satan in the mix, by and large, “satanic activity” is nothing more than teenagers rebelling against society and trying to piss off and scare people in the process. And once we start doing anything more than arresting these punks and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law, we’re silently showing them they have succeeded in their plan. Think about it; can’t you see them out there, laughing, and telling each other “look, they’re all scared! They think we’re a satanic cult!”

Put another way, if Satanists really were planning to “worship” or even send a message, why would they end up doing nothing more than spray painting a couple of obscenities and “upside down crosses” on a church? And while they were at it, I guess they decided to throw in a couple of reference to pot, just to throw us all off the scent, huh?

This sort of irresponsible journalism also ends up impacting the community and, eventually, even their folklore and actual history. Case in point, how many of you over the age of 30 grew up hearing that there was a satanic cult lurking in the woods near your house? Or maybe they were hiding out in an old, abandoned mansion at the end of some lonely road. Now, ask yourselves (and be honest); how many times did those stories turn out to be true? Hell Town, anyone?

So let’s call this incident what it really was: a bunch of morons who need to be tracked down, arrested, and punished severely. But let’s leave Satan out of this one, OK? In case you haven’t picked up a newspaper lately, he’s clearly busy with other things.

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You can read the NBC4 online article in its entirety by clicking here. Link also contains the video of the original, non-satanic broadcast.

 

 

 

 

 

A Mysterious Envelope From The Bat Cave

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Ever since the recent debacle at the DeBord Halloween Festival (and the subsequent breaking of my daughter’s heart), I have been literally overwhelmed by the outpouring of Bat-Love from friends, family, and even total strangers. Support for Courtney has come from everywhere…well, with the exception of anyone associated with the DeBord Halloween Festival. Haven’t heard anything from them. Sad, really.

Anyway, I will be posting all of the items and kind words that have been sent Courtney’s way, but I wanted to take a moment and share with all of you the coolest thing, by far, that Courtney received. So grab a couple of tissues and read on.

It all started with a very official-looking envelope showing up in our mailbox, addressed to Courtney. But this was no ordinary envelope, as you can see from the pic below. No, this an official Bat-Envelope that clearly originated from the infamous Bat Cave in Gotham City!

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Inside was a letter on official Batman stationary, addressed to Courtney and written by the Caped Crusader himself! Courtney followed along while I read the letter out loud to her.

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Here’s what the letter said:

From the Desk of Batman
 
My Dear Courtney,
I am so sorry that I could not make it to the festival this past weekend. I had planned to be there so that I could meet all my wonderful “Bat-fans” just like you! Unfortunately, The Joker, Penguin and Catwoman were up to no good, and Commissioner Gordon called Robin and I on the “Bat-Phone” to come and help. I would have much rather gotten to come see you!
 
I am not sure when I will get to meet you (hopefully very soon), but I have something that I want you to have. This is a secret badge that makes you a “Charter Member” of the Batman & Robin Society. Being a “charter member” means you are one of the very first members of our little club. These are very special and unique badges that you’ll want to keep somewhere safe. I only give these to my biggest fans, and from what I hear you are the biggest fan that I have!
 
I wish I could have seen you at the festival but I’m sure that I’ll get to see you very soon! Until then, keep watching at the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel!
 
Your friend,
Batman

 

(Are your eyes getting all misty yet?)

After we had finished reading the letter together, Courtney reached into the envelope and sure enough, there was an official (and vintage-looking) button, proclaiming the holder an official Charter Member in the Batman & Robin Society.

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It was right around this time that Courtney asked me why I was crying. After telling her I wasn’t crying and that it was just my allergies acting up, Courtney asked if she could wear the button. Silly question, right?

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If you take another glance at that last picture, you can get a pretty good idea of what Courtney looked like for the next few days after she received her button. Only her outfits changed. Her smile, and the placement of the button, remained the same. Steph and I literally had to force her to take the button off when she went to bed at night. First thing she wanted when she woke up and got dressed was for us to pin the button on her.

The problem was that the button was so big (and Courtney is so….mobile), that it started to rip her shirts. So we told Courtney she needed to find a special place to keep it. She chose to put it on her bulletin board, which is reserved for her most treasured photos of family and friends, along with her gymnastics ribbons.

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Sorry for the weird crop, but Courtney keeps pictures of her classmates on her board and I didn’t want to keep those visible. Plus, this way, you get to see what other Bat-memorabilia Courtney hangs on her walls.

The button remains on that bulletin board to this day. And now, whenever we have guests over to our house for the first time, Courtney has added a new addition to the tour: she takes them upstairs to show them her button “my friend, Batman gave me because he couldn’t come see me at the festival.”

OK, you can put the tissues down now.

Now, I know it would be breaking all sorts of superhero codes, bylaws, and rules if I were to reveal the sender’s true identity. But I also think I know my readers and fan base well enough to realize that you guys would keep the secret safe. And let’s face it, this person needs to be thanked. So I’ll embed a link to his site for you guys to click on and let him know yourselves what a good person he is.

You see, this person had absolutely nothing to do with the DeBord Halloween Festival and even less to do with what happened to Courtney. He was an innocent bystander who heard about a little 4-year-old’s sadness and decided to do something about it. In my eyes, you don’t get much more superhero than that.

So sleep well tonight, my dear Bat Gillig. You’ve not only helped mend a young girl’s heart, but your Karma Bank is now officially overflowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Satanists Invaded Gore Orphanage

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Undated photo of the Swift Mansion, the building that will forever be linked to the Gore Orphanage legend — via Vermilion Views

Every October, since the entire state of Ohio gets ghosts on the brain, I become obsessed with scouring the Internet for news article about ghosts and hauntings in the Buckeye state. For the most part, the articles fall into one of two categories. Most are simply re-tellings of old, established ghost stories. Every once in a while, though, an article will bring up a new haunting or legend that I hadn’t heard before. I love those! There is, of course, a third category. Thankfully, they don’t come around very often, which is a good thing. For these are the articles that send me into a blind rage. And trust me; it’s not pretty.

Why do I get so mad? We are, after all, talking about ghost stories, right? Kind of hard to get worked up about things like that, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. I have no problem with a good scary ghost story, especially around this time of year. I don’t even mind if the story has vague references to individuals (i.e.: Old Man Willis, a sadistic Doctor Willis, etc.) or contains story elements that can’t possibly be true (i.e.: a man with a hook for an arm, a balanced national budget, etc.). For me, it helps add a little “wink” that lets the listeners and readers know “relax, this is only a made-up story to scare you. Enjoy.” Where I draw the line is when people start making grossly inaccurate statements and attempt to pass them off as fact.

Such is the case of a recent article in the Lifestyle section of Northern Ohio’s Morning Journal. The article, entitled Haunted Explorations Available In Northeast Ohio, contained interviews from several people about various haunted locations in Northeast Ohio. One of the people interviewed is Sonya Horstman, a”spiritualist” who runs a successful ghost tour and also does such things as “conducting spiritual studies” and “hunting and banishing spirits”. When it comes specifically to her tours, Horstman discussed how an “important aspect of her business is dispelling urban legends and providing accurate accounts of what happened when touring sites”. Love it! Horstman also made a comment regarding not taking everything you hear about supposed haunted locations at face value: “Don’t believe everything you hear online or everything you read, because if you dig deeper you’ll find that the truth is quite opposite of what’s reported”. I couldn’t agree more.

Oddly enough, shortly after making those comments (as least in the context of the article), the ghostly wheels fall off and all hell breaks loose.

The article transitions out of Horstman’s desire to find the truth behind the urban legends by bringing up one of Northeast Ohio’s most infamous tales: Gore Orphanage. For the uninitiated, the legends swirling around Gore Orphanage center around an old orphanage that allegedly burned down with children inside. Their ghosts are said to haunt the grounds to this day. Truth be told, it’s a classic urban legend that has mutated over the years. Still, Horstman believes she knows the truth behind the legend. Let’s listen in!

Horstman does not dispute the fact there was a fire that destroyed a structure on the property, or that it is haunted; but says the devil’s in the details of the story.
“It’s actually related to witchcraft,” she said.
 
Witchcraft, you say? Well, that’s certainly a new wrinkle to the tale. Wonder what Horstman means by “witchcraft”. Let’s read on and see if she can help clarify things.
 
Horstman says the structure was in fact a mansion originally built in 1840 and owned by Joseph Swift and his wife Eliza who were Satanists. During their two years in the home, Swift’s two children died and were buried on the property in an “unchristian-like” burial to appease the “dark lord.”
 
OK, wait. Satanists? Appeasing the dark lord? Seriously, what the hell is going on here (pun intended)? And you’ll need to help me out here, Sonya, because I don’t really know what an “unchristian-like burial” means.
 
“What that means is, they were buried straight up and down, not lying flat as a Christian burial would be,” she added. “Those are the children who haunt the building, because they did not have a proper burial.”
 
Gotcha. Yeah, it all makes sense now (sarcasm intended).
 

In all seriousness, there must be something paranormal going on here because every time I read Ms. Horstman’s quotes, I literally levitate out of my chair. Yes, they anger me that much.

For the record, I have been actively peeking into the legends swirling around Gore Orphanage since 1999. I’ve been there dozens of times over the years, and have even gotten a Skunk Eye or two from local librarians and historians who were convinced I was going to ignore the truth about the area and instead focus on the urban legends. I mention this because in all that time, I have NEVER come across anything even remotely close to the notion of Satanists or children being buried standing up. So I have absolutely no idea where Ms. Horstman is pulling this information from.

So let’s look at this line by line, shall we?

“mansion originally built in 1840 and owned by Joseph Swift and his wife Eliza who were Satanists.”

FACT: Not a single shred of evidence to suggest the Swifts were anything other than well-to-do Northern farmers who came to Ohio with the intent of building a mansion on a sprawling farm/estate.  Folks back then did think the Swifts were a little nutty for building such a regal house, not to mention a farm, at the bottom of a hollow (the mansion was apparently referred to as “Swift’s Folly” by the locals), but last I checked, that was hardly grounds for being accused of being in league with the devil.

Part of the original plans for the Joseph Swift House (Swift Mansion) — from Vermilion Views

“During their two years in the home, Swift’s two children died and were buried on the property in an ‘unchristian-like’ burial to appease the ‘dark lord’.”

FACTS: The Swift’s lived in the home longer than 2 years.It’s believed that construction on the house lasted 2 years–from 1840 until 1842–so that might be where the confusion over “2 years” came from. But by all accounts, the Swifts either lived on or controlled the property until the 1860s, when they had to face the fact that the bottom of a hollow really wasn’t the best place to put a farm and sold everything off.

Undated photo showing people standing on the porch of the Swift Mansion — from Vermilion Views

It is true that two of the Swift’s children died during the time they were in possession of the property, but those deaths were more than a decade apart. Their daughter, Tryphenia, died at the age of 5 in 1831 and their 24-year-old son, Herman, died in 1849. Both are buried in clearly marked graves at Andress Cemetery, which is also known as Gore Orphanage Cemetery because it sits at the far end of Gore Orphanage Road.

Now there IS a newspaper article that mentions children dying and being buried on the property, but it is filled with errors. The June 8th, 1948 edition of the Lorain Journal carried an article entitled Riders Pay Swift’s Hollow Visit. Part of the article states:

Misfortune beset the Swifts after they moved in their new home. Swift lost money in an early railroad venture through here. He over-extended himself in land and lost money signing notes for friends. His four children died of black diphtheria and were buried along the river’s edge.

The fact that the article mentions black diphtheria is key. Historians believe the first wave of what was called black diphtheria swept across Ohio in the 1880s, long after the Swifts had sold off the property. The other giveaway that the article contains erroneous information is the mention of four children rather than two. Here’s where things get really interesting.

When the Swifts unloaded the property, they sold it to the Wilber family. Sadly, in January of 1893, the Wilbers lost four of their grandchildren (not children) to what is believed to have been black diphtheria. So these are clearly the four children the Lorain Journal is referring to, not any of the Swift children. And for the record, none of the four Wilber grandchildren are buried on the property. They are all in clearly marked graves, along with their grandparents, at Maple Grove Cemetery, which is but a short drive away.

Finally, some people have pointed to the stone obelisk that is still visible near the Swift Mansion foundation and said it is a tombstone, but it’s not. It’s nothing more than a driveway and/or fence marker (although some said it sometimes doubled as a hitching post).

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Behold! A non-tombstone driveway marker! — via The Ghosts of Ohio

Just for kicks, I had to look up why the “dark lord” would be so tickled to have people buried standing up. Guess what? Couldn’t find anything on that. Apparently, though, some cultures would bury their strongest warriors standing up to show that, even in death, they were still ready to defend their people. But that was more of a sign of respect than anything that would make a dark lord get all giddy. The closest thing I could find was that sometimes, traitors would be buried upside down to mockingly show that their “ways” were upside down.

“they were buried straight up and down, not lying flat as a Christian burial would be”

FACTS: The above statement is Horstman’s attempt to clarify what she meant by an “unchristian-like burial”. Now there are all sorts of rules and regulations when it comes to a Christian burial. But oddly enough, whether or not the body is laying down or standing up does not appear to be one of them. In fact, the only stipulation when it comes to the position of the body is that, whenever possible, it should be placed west to east with the head towards the west. This would be so that during the second coming of Christ (from the east), the dead could rise and face him. Reading that alone, one could deduce that the body would have to be laying down. I mean, it would be pretty hard to stand someone up and get their head to face west and their feet face east.

However, it is noted that if it’s not practical to bury the body with a west-east orientation, it is acceptable to bury the body any way possible, as long as “the body itself is facing east so that it was see the second coming of Christ.” In other words, burying someone standing up, while unorthodox, can’t be considered “unchristian-like” as long as the body is facing east. So unless the “dark lord” really digs technicalities, I doubt this would have been something that appeased him. But hey, you never know!

So there you have it; no Satanists, no unchristian-like burials, and no appeased dark lord. Just a whole bunch of misinformation. All of which begs the question; where did all this untrue stuff come from (other than the Morning Journal article, that is)? To be honest, I have no idea. As I said, I’ve been researching this story for years and have two file folders filled with news clippings and historical documents and this is all new to me. Internet searches turn up nothing, so it doesn’t appear that these are new variations on the legend.

You could make the case that Sonya Horstman was really, really misquoted. It happens (I’ve had it happen to me more than once, and it makes me cringe every time I think about it). But I’ve re-read the article numerous times and I just don’t see how she could have been misquoted that many times.

To be honest, I really don’t care where these new stories came from. All I care about is making them stop! Not only are they untrue, but they serve no purpose with regard to the Gore Orphanage mythos. I firmly believe that ghost stories and actual history go hand in hand and that ghost stories, even ones that can’t be proven, can help educate people about history. In this instance, who really owned the building many refer to as “Gore Orphanage” and the real events that led to the ghost stories cropping up. But what we can’t do is level false allegations against real people just for the sake of making a story spookier. This has to stop. Now.

That’s where you guys come in. Please don’t let these untrue statements about the Gore Orphanage legend continue. Spread the word!

BTW, for the record, I did reach out to the two reporters who covered the original story (and for the record, I like saying “for the record” since it makes this article sound real official-like instead of the rambling blog post that it is). They’ve yet to respond.

The Swift Mansion “in better times” — from Vermilion Views

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The entire article from The Morning Journal can be accessed here.

An online version of Bill Ellis’ What Really Happened At Gore Orphanage, which many people (including myself) believe to be the most comprehensive discussion on the legend, can be found here.

Vermilion Views has a wonderful, in-depth article on the history of the property, including information about the actual orphanage that later occupied some of the Swift property. Check it out by clicking here.

Brady’s Bunch Of Lorain County Nostalgia, in addition to all sort of cool historical tidbits about Lorain County, also houses lots of historical photos and news articles related to the Swift Mansion. Give a click and check it out.

Read more about what my organization, The Ghosts of Ohio, has to say about Gore Orphanage here.

People.com’s Map Of Iconic Ghosts Completely Misses The Boat With Ohio

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Maps claiming to be able to show you which state likes/hates/eats what have long been a staple on Facebook. To be honest, I find them annoying, second only to those sponsored links that try to entice me to click on them because “what happens next will blow your mind! Number 7 on the list freaked me out!”

Anyway, this map sounded different. It claimed to “map out” all the “iconic ghosts” in the United States, listing the one that “most defines” each state. Interesting, right? And it was put out by People.com, so it had to be cool, right?

Yeah, not so much.

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–from People.com

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a cool-looking map. But once I started looking at each state and what People.com was calling “the most iconic” there, most left me scratching my head. For example,  they picked the Philadelphia Zoo to represent Pennsylvania as opposed to Gettysburg. Oh yeah, and there’s not even a ghost story associated with the location listed for Oklahoma, “just a lot of creepy feelings.”  Still, when I got to Ohio, I just had to blurt out, to no one in particular: “Akron Civic Theatre? Where did they pull that from?”

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OK, to be fair, I know where they pulled Akron Civic Theatre from since they included a link. Turns out it came from some book, Weird Ohio. You might have heard of it. So I’m honored they used my book. And the Akron Civic Theatre does have some spooky stories associated with it, including some ghosts that are said to wander around outside the building itself. But with all due respect to the Akron Civic Theatre, there’s no way it’s the ghost story that defines Ohio.

I should also point out that whoever put the list/map over at People.com together did give themselves an out when it comes to what they considered iconic. In fact, they sort of willingly admit the map isn’t really iconic at all. Here’s how they describe what ended up as each state’s ghostly representative:

“in some cases, it’s the “most famous” ghost in each state, in others, it’s the one we found the most interesting.”

So clearly, People.com phoned it in on this one. But it got me thinking: if someone really was going to put together a list of the most iconic haunting for each state, which location would I think should represent Ohio?

Since I moved to Ohio in 1999, I have been chronicling and cataloguing all reported hauntings in the state. I’ve even compiled a database of all said hauntings. Currently, my database has over 3500 entries, although roughly 60% of those are nothing more than vague teenage “some scary s**t went down in those woods” urban legend-type tales. I also field, on average, 5 to 10 requests a week for more information about a reported haunting in Ohio. The one location that I am asked about most often, and the one that gets the most hits on my web site is Hell Town. The numbers aren’t even close: Hell Town beats all the other pages on my site by an almost 3-1 margin.

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My “iconic” photo of the entrance to Hell Town. Please ask before you snatch it.

So you could certainly make the case that the legend of Hell Town is iconic. It’s not really a ghost story, though. It’s more of an amalgam of urban legends, the vast majority of which I debunked years ago. Plus, other than my photo (above) of the long-since removed Road Closed sign (you know the one: it’s probably the most “borrowed” photo I’ve ever placed on the Internet), there isn’t a lot of stuff to see in the area known as Hell Town anymore, even in person. So I don’t think Hell Town can make the cut because, for me, to be truly iconic, a location needs to have something that literally takes your breath away as soon as you set eyes upon it.

That’s why, in my book, there’s a tie for the most iconic Ohio haunting in Ohio. A tie between Franklin Castle and Mansfield Reformatory.

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Franklin Castle is one of the longest-standing haunted houses in the state of Ohio. Even before I moved to Ohio, it was on my radar and was the place I most wanted to visit when I got here. The ghost stories associated with the building go back decades and involve everything from murder victims to Nazi sympathizers. Oh yeah, and throw in a couple of secret passageways throughout the house while you’re at it. Even though it has been abandoned and in a state of disrepair for years now, ghost hunters from all across the US still stop by the house just to take pictures and stare up at the boarded-up windows.

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The ghosts at Mansfield Reformatory haven’t been known as long as those at Franklin Castle, at least not to the general public. But the place is said to be lousy with ghosts. Once the Preservation Society stepped in, saved the building from the wrecking ball, and opened it up for tours, people started whispering about the ghosts in the building. Then came the overnight ghost hunts and reality TV shows and the whole thing just exploded. The Reformatory’s overnight ghost hunts almost always sell out and the building usually sits atop many a ghost hunter’s Bucket List.

So what about you guys? What location would get your vote for Ohio’s Most Iconic Ghost Story? While you’re pondering that, feel free to check out the full version of the People.com map, along with descriptions of each state’s haunting. You can do that by clicking here.