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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Video Segment From Columbus Dispatch

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Video interview/segment that accompanied the July 27th, 2015 Columbus Dispatch article, featuring me and parts of the Strange & Spooky Museum. Enjoy!

Link To My Interview On The Paranormal View

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Franklin Castle, Gore Orphanage, Mudhouse Mansion, headless motorcycle ghosts, Vanishing Hitchhikers, phantom joggers, and more! All during the course of one radio interview!

Click here to go directly to the archived interview and listen to your heart’s content. BTW, there are audio issues for the first 30 seconds of the show, so don’t panic when you hear all the echo. It goes away!

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Didn’t I See You On…?

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That’s probably the question I get asked most often, followed closely by “weren’t you the weird guy who…”? Some of my friends tell me it’s because I have “a familiar face”. Not sure what that means, although I have been told I have a face made for radio. Funny, right?

Me posing near one of my favorite “trippy” posters they created for my Wright-Patterson OSC presentation in 2014.

But in all honesty, I think it’s because people know I’m into strange and spooky stuff. So if something weird and/or spooky comes up, they naturally assume I had something to do with it. And I’m cool with that! Quite touching, to be honest.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking: what are all the different things I’ve been on over the years (medications excluded, of course). That’s what led to my creating a list of all the places you could have seen my ugly mug or heard my voice. The fact that the list can also be used as a promotional tool to show that I “get around” doesn’t hurt, either!

The night a bunch of “ghosts” decided to roll my booth at the 2009 Ohio Paranormal Convention in honor of my birthday

So have a peek at the list and see how many places you spotted me. The mighty, mighty list is available in the About section, above, or by clicking right here!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Despite Popular Belief, I Wasn’t Drinking In The Author Alley!

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So here’s the photo they chose to use of me in Cleveland.com’s recent review of last Saturday’s Author Alley. I couldn’t be happier!

Now, most people would be horrified if they found a picture of themselves online, looking like that. Not me. I think it’s the coolest thing ever, especially since it was taken during a book signing. You see, I’ve always felt uncomfortable at book signings, including ones that have multiple authors at it. Don’t get me wrong, I love attending them and have met some wonderful people and authors at these events, including the Author Alley. It’s just that I always end up feeling like something of an outsider at these things, usually because people don’t know what to make of me.

Put it this way; sandwiched between novels, collections of poetry, and children’s books, you’ll find me–the weirdo who believes in ghosts and likes to run through the woods looking for Bigfoot.

On top of that, all the other authors are so professional, telling people who stop by what the inspiration for their book was and handing out professionally-printed press kits and business cards. Sure, I have business cards and flyers. But if someone comes to my table, I’m more interested in finding out if they’ve ever seen the Loveland Frog or if they’ve yet to see the Collection of Swallowed Objects at the Allen County Museum in Lima, Ohio. Most of the time, I don’t even mention my books. The way I see it, the books are there on the table. If people are interested, they’ll pick one up. If not, no biggie. I’m really just there to share my stories and talk about weird stuff.

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Which brings me back to that picture. While I certainly get that since I’m a “published author”, there are certain preconceived notions around how I should appear and act, let’s face it; people are already bummed when they find out that Weird Willis doesn’t drive around in a hearse or live in a haunted house. I think if they were to meet me for the first time and I was just sitting there quietly, they’d be really disappointed. And so would I.

Oh and for the record, my pose was the inspiration of my daughter, Courtney. Prior to leaving me to check out all the Larchmere Festival had to offer, Courtney gave me her traditional kiss and hug, along with her mini-pep talk to “go talk to the big kids about ghosts.” When I asked Courtney what I should do when the adults came to talk to me, she responded “be scary” and then proceeded to show me how to do just that. For the record, I think I nailed it.

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You can read the entire Cleveland.com article, complete with aforementioned Weird Willis photo, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated Bio Now Available

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Recently, I’ve gotten a few requests from people wanting my most recent bio. I’m guessing they need a bit more information in order to help them decide whether or not they want to be associated with a “weirdo”!

Regardless, the 2014 version of my bio is now available and links to it have been sprinkled throughout this site. But if you’re just dying to get a peek at it, go ahead and click here and in mere seconds, my giant head will magically appear on your desktop!

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Final Specifics On The Ohioana Book Festival

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OK, so I’ve finally got all the specifics about this Saturday’s Ohioana Book Festival.

The entire Festival is free and runs from 10:00 am until 4:30 pm, although I am hearing rumors the doors might open up at 9:45. Not sure if that’s because they’re anticipating a crowd or what. Either way, all of the authors, myself included, will be at their tables with their books for the entire day, unless they are taking part in any of the many author panels during the day.

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The Music Is Reversible, But Time Is Not

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Last night, one of the few people who indulges in my obsession with backmasking and subliminal messages, Scott L., invited me on his radio show, The Disaster Signals ENcast. Over the course of the next THREE HOURS, we talked about that and so much more! Ghostly Talk alum, Doug, even stopped by, so it was like one big, twisted family reunion!

Along the way, we played alleged backward messages from the likes of Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Eagles, Styx, Prince, ELO, and even Weird Al!

The show is now available for your streaming and downloading pleasure. But listen at your own risk; there may be devils about, just waiting to slip through your speakers and into your mind!

Click here to listen to the show…if you dare!