Central Ohio Legends & Lore

1

Yeah, so this just happened.

71xEPsPbFHL

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:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 10.34.06 AM

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!

Advertisements

I’m Baaaaaack!

0

And you missed me, didn’t you?

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that it traditionally goes “dark” every October since I am usually out running all over Ohio with presentations and appearances. This year was no different, but the blog remained dark through November and December.

Why, you ask? Well, even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you.

Simply put, I had an end-of-year deadline to submit the manuscript for my next book to the publisher. Yup, there will be another James A. Willis tome heading your way for 2017. What’s it about? Well, I’m supposed to keep it a secret for now. But I can tell you that the focus will be on central Ohio and will contain Weird Ohio-type stories that you all seem to love so much. In other words, I’ve spent the last few months chasing down leads on Central Ohio serial killers, legendary locations, and even a UFO or two. No worries, there’s a couple of ghost stories in there, too.

More on the book as it develops, but for now, here’s a couple of outtake photos from the book to whet your appetite:

path

“The Path”

leather

“The Memorial”

gates

“The Gate”

graves

“The Graves”

carriage

“The Carriage House”

tower

“The Tower”

So now that I’m back, what can you expect from this site? Well, for starters, we’re going to finally finish up the remaining Crybaby Bridge locations. I’ve got a whole mess of personal experiences about a bunch of the bridges that you’ve sent me, so those will start being added, too.

The Strange & Spooky Museum has gained quite a number of new pieces and those are in the process of being catalogued and photographed. Expect to start seeing those popping up on the site, too. There’s even a couple of pieces that are supposed to be so haunted that a mere glance at them will cause people to experience all sorts of bad luck. Not sure if that means you can’t even view them over the Internet, so perhaps I need to have everyone sign a Virtual Waiver before looking at these “cursed” objects!

Finally, I’m going to be embarking on something really strange and spooky this year and you’ll have the chance to come along. So get ready because in a few short months, we’re going monster hunting!

Stay tuned!

Create Your Very Own Loveland Frog Hoax For Under $20.00!

0

I swear on my grandmother’s grave that this is the truth. I’m not sure whether it was a Frogman or just a giant frog. Either way, I’ve never seen anything like it.
–Loveland Frog witness Sam Jacobs

Let me start off by saying I have been fascinated with the legend of the Loveland Frog for decades. Not only is it a cryptid that is unique to Ohio, but the stories have grown and mutated over the years to include such things as police officers shooting at a 4-foot tall frog/man hybrid walking on two legs to witnesses continually changing their stories over the years. The legend had everything, it would seem, except for any photographs of the elusive creature. All that changed last week…or so some would have you believe.

According to an article on WCPO.com, a man and his girlfriend were playing Pokemon Go between Loveland-Madeira Road and Lake Isabella on the evening of Wednesday, August 3rd, when they encountered what they believed could have been the Loveland Frog.

According to the e-mail Sam Jacobs sent to WCPO, they “saw a huge frog near the water. Not in the game, this was an actual giant frog.” After snapping a few pictures and taking a video, “the thing stood up and walked on its hind legs.” Jacobs estimated the creature to be “about 4 foot tall.”

Jacobs supplied WCPO with several photographs which alleged to show the creature he and his girlfriend saw:

IMG_7454

–Via WCPO

IMG_7453

–Via WCPO

 

Jacobs also supplied the following video, which WCPO posted to YouTube:

To be honest, when I first saw the photos and video, I wasn’t impressed. The dimensions seemed way off: it looked way too small to be something that was supposed to be “4 foot tall”. And what was up with those high-beam eyes? But most of all, the whole thing screamed hoax because once again, when someone spots a cryptid, they never attempt to chase it, follow it, or do anything other than take a few dark, blurry photos and a shaky video. Didn’t make sense to me.

It all fell into place a few days later, when my wife, daughter, and I made a trip to a local Big Lots to pick out some Halloween decorations (sidebar: Big Lots has some killer Halloween props for 2016). As I’m wandering the aisles, I hear my wife say “you think this was their Loveland Frog?”.  I turned around to see my wife, smiling and proudly holding the Loveland Frog in her hands:

Solar+Powered+Frog

–Via Big Lots

OK, technically it wasn’t the Loveland Frog–it is officially known as the “Wilson & Fisher Solar Frog”. And I’m not saying this is the exact thing that appears in Sam Jacobs’ photos and video. But man, is it close!

Granted, it doesn’t look like much in broad daylight, but get it in dim enough light so that the solar eyes come on and it really starts to take shape. Check out this spooky pic I took of it in my pantry, of all places:

IMG_7423

I purposely didn’t kill all the lights so you could still see the frog (as well as the fact that we prefer organic Tostitos). But check out how, the way the statue’s eyes are positioned, the left eye appears larger that the right. Makes me wonder if perhaps the image from WCPO was flipped. Sort of seems that way when I flipped my pantry photo and put it next to one of Jacobs’ photo:

IMG_7423 flippedIMG_7454

Once I took the figure outside and waited for it to get dark, things really started to get interesting. Here’s the statue lurking in my front garden:

IMG_7456

Again, I flipped my image for this side-by-side comparison. Check out how you can make out the same crooked smile in both pics:

IMG_7456flippedIMG_7453

The only thing I had a problem with was getting the right angle so that you could see the gap between the eyes. I found this worked best if I took the photo from way back and then zoomed in afterwards. Here’s the statue hanging out on my front steps:

IMG_7475

For me the clincher was when I tried to recreate Jacobs’ video. I didn’t bother getting all Shaky Cam on you, but I did attempt to make the frog turn, as in Jacobs’ video. I even tried to do a little super-spooky thing where the frog disappears. How do you think I did?

Couple of things to point out about the videos. If you notice in Jacobs’ video, the eyes never blink. In fact, when the “creature” turns, both eyes still remain unchanged–no blinking or closing. They might look like they are moving, but it’s only because the entire thing is moving.

How did I get my figure to move? It was simple. The figure’s left leg made a perfect handle. During the video, which my wife shot, I was standing behind the figure. When I wanted it to “disappear”, I just bent down, grabbed the figure’s leg, and turned the whole thing towards me, blocking out the light from its eyes.

So does this solve the mystery? Not necessarily. As I mentioned, I’m not saying this was the EXACT statue that was used. To be fair, there were also solar-powered alligators and other critters at Big Lots. But you have to admit that it seems something more than mere coincidence that I was able to recreate alleged photos and video of the Loveland Frog with nothing more than $20.00 and in less than 20 minutes (BTW, it would have been 10, but I had to wait for the sun to set). Heck, I didn’t even try to cover up the statue’s cheesy pink lily pad/flower thing!

My point is, if you’re planning on hoaxing something like this, please put a little more time and effort into it. As a member of a subculture that’s willing to entertain the idea that there are things in this world we can’t explain,  it’s a little depressing to think there are people who think we would be so easily duped. Of course, the fact that my wife and I may have figured out this little mystery while randomly roaming through Big Lots seems a fitting end to this tale.

Now, can someone do me a favor and help me get this guy out of my recliner? Or at the very least, give up the remote?

IMG_7482

————————–

You can read the original WCPO.com article in its entirety by clicking here.

A subsequent WCPO.com article, in which one of the original witnesses from 1972 now claims the story is a hoax, can be read here.

For more information on the Loveland Frog legend, go here.

Want your very own Loveland Frog Hoax statue? They are on sale right now at Big Lots! Originally $30.00, you can get one for the low, low price of $15.00 with their whole Summer Clearance thing going on.

 

 

 

Strange & Spooky Side Of Abraham Lincoln Presentation Has Been Rescheduled

0
lincoln2_piano

Illustration depicting alleged event where spirits lifted a piano off the ground while several men sat atop it, including President Lincoln

The ice and snow earlier this week forced us to postpone the free presentation in Steubenville. But we’re back on track and there’s a new date!

That new date is Monday, March 7th at 6:00 pm. The presentation will be held at the Steubenville-Schiappa Branch Library, which is located at 4141 Mall Drive in Steubenville.

Continue reading

Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Name That Location #8

1

OK, this one is going to be pretty easy. Or not. To be honest, I’m a bit amazed at how many people have never seen or heard of this magnificent building before. Regardless, here it is: The building that appears on page 205 of Ohio’s Historic Haunts.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.32.43 AM Can you name the building?

Want to take a peek at all the other Name That Location places? Click here!

Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Location #7 Revealed!

0

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 11.29.39 AM Seems like this one stumped a bunch of you. It’s the Bissman Building in Mansfield!

Of course, I might have made it a bit easier if I had included a picture of the outside of the building, but what fun would that have been?

Bissman Building exterior

For Ohio’s Historic Haunts, I was looking not only for haunted locations in Ohio, but those locations had to be historically significant. And boy, did I get that with the Bissman Building. It is truly an iconic building that was, and continues to be, an integral part of Mansfield’s history. There’s more to it, though. You see, the current owner, Ben Bissman, is a fifth generation Bissman, which means he literally grew up in the building. So he’s the one to go to if you want to get the scoop on the building’s history…or the ghost stories.

Small portion of the equipment we set up to cover the entire Bissman Building

Concerning the ghost stories, the Bissman Building has several. Perhaps the most intriguing to me is the one involving the ghost of a little girl who is said to haunt the building. While there are differing viewpoints as to who she is and why she chooses to hang around the Bissman, one thing is for sure: So many people have reported seeing her that it’s pretty hard to dispute that something odd’s going on in the building.

Some of the toys people leave for the “ghost girl” to play with at the Bissman Building

And guess what? While I was there for Ohio’s Historic Haunts, I just might have had an encounter with the ghost of a little girl! To learn more, you’ll just have to pick up a copy of Ohio’s Historic Haunts. Better yet, come to one of my presentations this fall and hear the story (and the “evidence”) for yourself!

Ohio’s Historic Haunts has finally been released, so you can snag your copy at Amazon, Kent State University Press, Barnes & Noble, or at most brick-and-mortar Ohio bookstores!

And if you want to check out all the other locations from Ohio’s Historic Haunts that I’ve revealed so far, click here!

This October, Lima, I’ve Got Something Special For You!

0

I may have taken part in a bunch of the Lima Lantern Tours over the years, but nothing compares to what’s going to happen in Lima on October 3rd!

DSC00592

Let’s be honest: My love for all things Lima goes deeper than Kewpee, the Greely Road Crybaby Bridge, and even that spooky, off-limits building way up in the hills. Lima’s just a weird place, plain and simple. So why wouldn’t a weirdo like me love it? And I’d like to think that over the years, Lima has returned the love. It certainly felt that way on the numerous Lantern Tours I took part in. But something in me felt that this year, I needed to give Lima a little something extra. Something special they wouldn’t soon forget.

You see, I tend to get very animated when I share my own personal ghost stories. I wave my arms and I pace back and forth—two things that can make for some awkward moments when you’re snuggled so close together in the back of a trolley making its way down Main Street in Lima, Ohio.

--From the 2010 Lima Lantern Tour

–From the 2010 Lima Lantern Tour

But more than that, it sometimes became hard to tell my ghost stories because Lima is just so chock full of strange and spooky history that I often felt I was stomping on all the other cool stories. So I would often hold back on my storytelling, especially since many of my stories needed to be seen to be believed in that it’s often hard to explain exactly what our video cameras picked up on an investigation or what the spooky noises really sounded like. To be honest, there’s not much room on a trolley car for a projector and video screen. So by and large, my favorite ghost stories remained untold.

Until now.

On Saturday, October 3rd, I’ll be heading over to Lima’s Encore Theater and giving you something truly unique: A special presentation that will feature the best of the best of my collection of ghost stories. Not only that, but I’ll be bringing along audio, video, and photographs of strange and spooky things I’ve captured over the years. Things I can’t explain.

And since I included Lima’s own Literacy Council in my upcoming book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, what better time to let everyone in on some behind-the-scenes secrets of my investigations inside that building?

Want to know the different types of equipment I used? Curious as to what “evidence” I walked away with? Want to hear and see the “evidence” for yourselves? Well then, October 3rd will be your chance!

Upstairs Hallway at Literacy Council, showing placement of some of the equipment I used during my overnight investigation

Upstairs Hallway at Literacy Council, showing placement of some of the equipment I used during my overnight investigation

I’ll also be taking your questions and will be hanging around after the presentation to ensure you get all your ghostly questions answered. And since my book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, is coming out on September 30th, a mere three days before the Lima appearance, I’ll make sure I bring along loads of that book (as well as some of my other titles) for you to purchase and have signed.

Put another way: You might have seen me in Lima before, but you’ve never seen me like this!

Tickets are only $5.00 each with proceeds going to Downtown Lima, Inc., an organization dedicated to creating and maintaining a dynamic, vital, and sustainable downtown. So for just $5.00, you’ll get to hear some great strange and spooky stories and help downtown Lima. It doesn’t get any better than that!

BTW, while this presentation is suitable for all ages, given the subject matter, it is not recommended for children under the age of 10.

So what are you waiting for? Click here to order tickets.

Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Name That Location #7!

1

Let’s jump right into this since we’re less than 2 weeks away from the release of Ohio’s Historic Haunts.

Here’s the photograph that will appear on page 202 of Ohio’s Historic Haunts:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 11.29.39 AM

This one’s kinda tough, isn’t it? Well, let me give you a couple of hints. First, you’re looking at a freight elevator. Second, the photo was taken on the third floor of the building. The reason the photo includes so much of the floor in front of the elevator is because something rather horrific is said to have taken place here.

So, can you name the location?

——-

Click here to get caught up on all the other locations from Ohio’s Historic Haunts.

Information On Ohio’s Historic Haunts Pre-Release Book Signing

0

Willis_cover

While the official release date for Ohio’s Historic Haunts is September 30th, the publisher, Kent State University Press, has decided to release some copies ahead of time. The reason for this is a super-cool pre-release book signing on the campus of Kent State University!

So on Saturday, September 26th, you can swing by the Kent State University Book Store (located at 1085 Risman Drive [124 Student Ctr], Kent, Ohio) and grab yourself a first edition of Ohio’s Historic Haunts. I will be there between the hours of 2 and 4 pm and will be more than happy to sign your book (and anything else you want me to) for you. After that, you can proudly walk to your car carrying your autographed first edition, a full 4 days before the general public has a chance to get their hands on a copy!

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the campus book store’s website here. 

Hope to see you all there!

If you can’t make it on the 26th, I will have copies available for purchase at all of my upcoming presentations and appearances. You can always grab a copy off Amazon, too!

Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Location #6 Revealed!

0

Welcome to location #6 from Ohio’s Historic Haunts: The Sullivan-Johnson Museum in Kenton, Ohio!

Like any great museum, Sullivan-Johnson is packed full of multiple histories, if you will, from local locations as well as ones from across the county. So much so that as you walk through the building and marvel at the historical artifacts tucked into virtually every corner, it’s easy to forget that this museum used to be a private home, owned by members of the Sullivan and Johnson families.

Museum display showing members of the Sullivan-Johnson family

But if you linger in the rooms, you can almost feel yourself being transported back to simpler times. When that happens, the rooms take on a warm, almost cozy feeling. No wonder that some believe ghosts from both families—Sullivan and Johnson—have taken up permanent residence here. It’s the type of place that once you visit, you never want to leave. Of course, there’s no denying the possibility that all of the historical pieces at the Sullivan-Johnson Museum may have a ghost or two attached to them, too.

So who or what is haunting the Sullivan-Johnson Museum? Well, you’ll just have to pick up a copy of Ohio’s Historic Haunts and see if you can answer that one yourselves.

Back steps, where ghostly footsteps are said to be heard

For now, my lips are sealed. I will tell you, though, that during our visit to the Sullivan-Johnson Museum, we had the unique opportunity to spend some time chatting (and ghost hunting) with a lovely woman who not only knew the last member of the Johnson family to live in the house, but who had also developed a long-standing friendship with her, as well.

Did having someone who had a close personal relationship with one of the alleged ghosts help stir up anything in the house? For the time being, I’ll just say my answer is a definite “maybe”! I will say, though, that one of the ghosts said to make its home at the Sullivan-Johnson Museum is also believed to be quite particular as to what portraits of her get hung up in the house…and even in the local library!

Some of the equipment we brought with us for the overnight at the Museum

Pick up your very own copy of Ohio’s Historic Haunts at Amazon, Kent State University Press, Barnes & Noble, or at most Ohio bookstores!

Click here if you want to check out all the other locations from Ohio’s Historic Haunts that I’ve revealed so far!