The Mysterious Mary Jane’s Bridge Added To Crybaby Bridge Project

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I have to admit something: The latest entry in the Ohio Crybaby Bridge Project is, so far, the most frustrating one I’ve tried to research. And when it comes to Crybaby Bridges in general, that’s saying a lot!

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Helltown Added To Ohio Crybaby Bridge Project

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Come now, you really didn’t think we could compile a list of Ohio Crybaby Bridges and NOT include Helltown, did you?

If you’re unfamiliar with the legends of Helltown, give that link a little click and get yourself caught up. Suffice to say, the legends associated with Helltown have become so engrained in Ohio ghostlore that dare I say they’d rank near the top of any list of Ohio’s spookiest locations.

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First Glimpse Of Cover For Ohio’s Historic Haunts

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After two and a half years’ worth of research (and many months of writing, re-writing, and transcribing interviews), my next book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, finally has an official cover:

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Now I know some of you might be thinking “nice, but it’s just a cover.” My response to that is “yeah, but just you wait.” While that might just be a cover, it’s a cover for over 300 pages of history, first-person accounts of paranormal activity, and in-depth discussions on what happened when I spent the night inside 21 historically significant buildings in Ohio that are reportedly haunted. Trust me: if you have any interest in Ohio history, folklore, and/or ghost hunting, you’re gonna want to read this book.

Pre-order your copy through Amazon here or directly through Kent State University Press here. And if you want even more inside scoop on the book, click on over to My Appearances to see when I’ll be coming to your area to share some spooky video, photos, and audio clips with you!

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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The Ohio Trolley Tragedy That Never Was

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–via the Daily Mail (copyrighted Seph Lawless)

It’s all over the news: an urban explorer/photographer stumbles across the rotting skeletons of numerous trolley and train cars “in the Ohio woods near the Ohio/PA border”: The remains of the Trolley Tragedy of 1957. While in the area, a local lets it be known that the site is also believed to be haunted.

But how is it that these cars, which were part of such a tragic event in history, remained hidden for so long? The answer is quite simple, really: there is no such thing as the Trolley Tragedy of 1957 and these particular train/trolley cars were not part of any “horrific wreck.”

The stunning photographs that have surfaced recently are the work of one man, who goes by the pseudonym Seph Lawless. Lawless travels around the United States, photographing abandoned locations. As far as the Trolley Tragedy goes, it seems to have started popping up on news sites earlier this month (July). Right from the start, the facts seemed to be getting lost. For example, this NewsNet5 article, dated July 9th (and updated on July 10th), claims “it’s not certain how the train cars arrived at the location or why they were put there.” The very same day, July 9th, Zap2it.com posted an article off the Tribune Media Wire that referred to the cars, collectively, as an “abandoned train wreck” and also contained the following statement:

A man who lives in the area told Lawless the train wreck is referred to as ‘The Trolley Tragedy of 1957’ and it’s believed to be haunted.

FOX8 out of Cleveland also published an article on July 9th that stated “Lawless said his new book, ‘The Trolley Tragedy of 1957,’ is based on folklore in the area.” But FOX43’s article from the same day call the location an “abandoned train wreck”, not once, but twice, including in the headline.

One week later, newspapers everywhere, including the UK’s Daily Mail, were officially calling it The Trolley Tragedy of 1957 and saying the site was haunted. Even the Weather Channel, of all sites, got into the act and further confused things by including this line in their article: “A local told Lawless that many of these trains were involved in a tragic trainwreck in 1957, but it’s possible that the debris came from multiple accidents over the years.”

So what exactly is the Trolley Tragedy of 1957? Well, do any sort of online search for “trolley tragedy of 1957” and guess what you get? Nothing but links to recent articles about Lawless. There is not a single piece of documentation to support that anything happened at the site Lawless photographed. You would think that even if this event was “based on folklore in the area”, there’d be something about it on the Internet, especially given the speed at which ghost stories and urban legends spread across the Web. But there’s nothing.

--via the Daily Mail (copyrighted Seph Lawless)

–via the Daily Mail (copyrighted Seph Lawless)

OK, but where did all the trolley cars come from?

Well for one, the cars aren’t located in the “Ohio woods”. They are actually over the border in Pennsylvania (and no, I’m not telling you where they are–you’ll be trespassing if you go there, so don’t). Regardless, it would appear that most, if not all of the cars at this site are owned by the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company out of Windber, Pennsylvania. By the sound of things, the company is “storing” the cars with the intent of selling them, possibly for parts. Here is a link to a page which lists the cars at this location.

While I was on that page, I did a quick bit of digging and found that some of the cars allegedly involved in the “tragedy” followed the same path through history:

  • Built in 1945
  • Operated on the Boston Elevated Railway from 1945 until 1947
  • Operated on the Boston Metropolitan Transit Authority from 1947 until 1964
  • Operated as part of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority from 1964 until 1992
  • Purchased by the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company in 1992 (unknown when they were moved to their current location).

So you see, not only were these trolley cars in operation almost 30 years after they were supposedly involved in some sort of “tragedy”, they never left the state of Massachusetts until 1992 when they were taken out of service–35 years after they were alleged to have been involved in a “tragedy” in Ohio…even though they’re actually in Pennsylvania.

It’s pretty easy to check all this information, too. In the Daily Mail article, car numbers are clearly visible in 3 of Lawless’ photographs. The car numbers are 2290, 3259, and 3255. Do a search for any (or all) of those numbers on the “inventory” page for the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company and it will pull up the information on those particular cars.

--via the Daily Mail (copyrighted Seph Lawless)

–via the Daily Mail (copyrighted Seph Lawless)

Look, I’m not trying to stomp on someone for trying to make a name for themselves or get their work out into the mainstream. Lawless’ photographs are indeed stunning and some are downright creepy. What I’m taking issue with is the clear disregard to historical facts and the attempt to attach imaginary disasters to a location. And why wasn’t any of this fact-checked before being sent out across the news wire?

In my opinion, the photographs stand on their own as a testament to urban decay, albeit in a rural setting, which makes them even more intriguing. Fabricating stories associated with the photographs only cheapens things.

Could these cars be haunted? Sure, I guess so. But one thing is for certain: the ghosts aren’t the result of the Trolley Tragedy of 1957, because that event never happened.

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You can read the entire NewsNet5 article here.

The Daily Mail article can be read by clicking here.

The FOX8 Cleveland article is here.

YOu can read FOX43’s article by clicking here.

The Zap2it article can be found here.

The Weather Channel article is right here.

The web site DCist has an article entitled Pennsylvania’s Streetcar Graveyard that gives more background on the site and where the cars originated from.

Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Location #2 Revealed!

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OK, one last chance to gaze at this picture and see if you can guess the location. Scroll past the pic for the answer.
Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 3.16.05 PMGive up? The photograph was taken at the Museum At The Friends Home in Waynesville, Ohio. Specifically, it was taken inside one of the rooms done up to represent what a typical Boarder’s Room would have looked like back in the day. What’s a Boarder’s Room? More importantly, what’s a “Friends Home”? Questions like that were what led me to cover this location in my upcoming book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts.

You see, Waynesville, Ohio, has long been rumored to be chock full of ghosts. Some even claim that Waynesville is “Ohio’s Sleepy Hollow”. The place is full of history, too, so there was no doubt that I wanted a Waynesville location for Ohio’s Historic Haunts. But which one? Sure, there were several famous Waynesville haunts that had been covered before in other books and shows. But I wanted something different, something unique that hadn’t really been covered before. That’s when someone mentioned to me that the Museum At The Friends Home was rumored to be haunted. My ears perked up when I heard “museum”, but to be honest, I didn’t understand the whole “Friends Home” bit. When it was explained to me that the museum was housed inside what used to be an old Quaker Boarding House/Home (and that Quakers address fellow Quakers as “Friends”), I was hooked and knew this was the perfect location for the book!

Exterior of the Museum At The Friends Home. The porch and balcony would come to play a part in several of the ghost stories Museum staff told me.

When I began interviewing the employees and volunteers of the Museum At The Friends Home, it quickly became clear to me that, like Farnam Manor, the Museum was also believed to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl. However, in the case of the Museum, there was some confusion as to who this girl was, especially since when the building operated as a boarding house, only one little girl lived here (albeit briefly). The little girl ghost wasn’t said to be alone in the building, either, as several other spirits have been reported here.

WIthout giving too much away, I do have to publicly admit that the Museum At The Friends Home was a truly unique experience for me in that the “weirdness” started even before my investigation began. In fact, all my investigators weren’t even inside the building yet!

Main staircase of the Museum At The Friends Home. Remote sensors used during my overnight investigation are visible in middle of stairs as well as running along the right side of staircase.

Want to know more? Well, you’ll just have to wait until Ohio’s Historic Haunts comes out this fall. Or you could pre-order your copy here. And if you’re dying to hear about things straight from the horse’s mouth, check this out: on Saturday, November 21st, I will be giving a special presentation at the Museum At The Friends Home, entitled An Evening With Author James A. Willis. And yes, my experiences at the Museum will definitely be a huge part of that presentation. I might even bring along a special guest or two who were with me during my investigation so you can really get the full story!

For more information on the November 21st presentation, visit the Museum At The Friends Home website here or click here to let people know you’re going! And keep on eye on my Calendar Of Events to see if I’ll be coming to your town!

October 2014…And Beyond!

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It’s October 1st, which means the Halloween season has officially begun for me! So this seemed the perfect time to address what so many of you have been e-mailing and texting me about recently. Namely, the fact that it doesn’t look like I’m doing very much this year in terms of presentations, appearances, and ghost tours. The simple answer is that I’ve decided to take this October off for the most part. Don’t worry; I’m not going anywhere. Just taking a break to gear up for some craziness that’s going to pick up the first of the year and continue straight through next October, when all heck is going to break loose…in a ghostly good way!

So that’s the simple answer. If you care for a longer, more in-depth explanation, then read on! I’ll even throw in a couple of random spooky pictures just to sort of break things up.

Still there, huh? OK, then let me start by saying that I’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of e-mails I’ve received from people who appear to be downright depressed that they aren’t going to be able to see me this Halloween season. You guys touch me in all the right ways (and none of the wrong ways) and to you, I say “thank you”. Some of you have even said that you plan on boycotting some of the events/conferences/locations to show your displeasure at my not being there. Please don’t do that. Look, I appreciate the gesture, but to make it clear, not a single one of those events/conferences/locations asked that I not return. Across the board, it was my decision and mine alone. Since all of these events/conferences/locations depend on your attendance in more ways than one, I ask that you continue to attend and support them. And don’t think you’ve seen the last of me at those events, either. I’m taking a break, not going away.

So why am I taking a break? For no other reason than I needed one. My upcoming project, the one I keep teasing the heck out of, took over 2 and a half years (and literally thousands of miles) to complete. While that was going on, I was still trying to keep the Halloween tour schedule running full-steam ahead and attempting to balance all that madness out with my personal life. Late last summer, when the project was finally put to bed, I realized something that depressed the hell out of me: 3 Halloweens had passed and I had yet to take my daughter, Courtney, trick-or-treating.

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Courtney wears Batman stuff because he’s her “buddy”. But for Halloween this year, she wants to be Batgirl. She also wants her dad to be the Riddler. I’m still trying to convince her dads are not supposed to wear spandex. Wish me luck!

That’s right: James A. Willis, the self-proclaimed strange and spooky guy who’s addicted to all things weird has yet to take his daughter trick-or-treating. How sad and pathetic is that? Sure, I could try to blame it on Ohio’s asinine habit of randomly assigning what 2-hour window I’m allowed to celebrate Halloween during, but the simple fact is that it was usually because I was either hopping around some stage/auditorium/haunted house/carriage, entertaining everyone with tales of weird and ghostly things.

And that was when I made the decision to take a break this Halloween season and focus on my family. I’m planning on taking Courtney trick-or-treating. Not only that, but as a family, we’re going to be carving a whole mess of pumpkins, decorating the house, bobbing for apples, watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV, and rolling around in the 25,000 pounds of leaves that fall in my front yard every year. In short, this Halloween, I plan on being nothing more than a strange and spooky father and husband.

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One of our latest acquisitions. After helping me put him together, Courtney asked if we could keep him in her bedroom.

But I’m not going anywhere. Far from it. In fact, I would suggest that most of you take this opportunity to enjoy a break from me. Because come next year, you just might get sick of seeing my ugly mug.

You see, the other reason I felt I needed a break was to sort of rest up for what is going to be nothing short of a strange and spooky assault on all of you in 2015. One that I’m sure you’re all going to enjoy: new projects, new appearances, and new presentation topics. Trust me, 2015 is going to be hopping around here!

It’s probably going to start picking up right after the first of the year. By the end of the summer, things will more than likely be bordering on “strange and spooky overload.” Put it this way, if you or someone you know is planning on having me out for an October event, etc. in 2015, you might want to look at getting something confirmed with me before this coming summer. The sooner the better, too. To put things in perspective, my latest project involves 21 specific locations in Ohio and 20 of them have already expressed having some type of event in October of 2015. So do the math…and get excited because, as I said, you’re probably going to get sick of seeing my face in 2015!

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Contrary to popular belief, Steph and I really ARE wearing Halloween costumes in this photograph.

Of course, all of this is calling for a bit of re-branding of myself. Well, perhaps “re-branding” is a bit strong. But by and large, people tend to develop incorrect preconceived notions about what they’ll get from one of my presentations/appearances. Their conclusions come from them thinking I fall into one of two categories:

  1. A published author, meaning that I will spend most of the time reading from my books
  2. A ghost hunter, meaning that I will spend most of the time trying to convince people everything is a ghost and that demons regularly pick me up, scratch me, and then chuck me across the room

Now, I’m sure those of you who have seen me live are probably chuckling as those descriptions, but it’s true: that’s what people who have yet to experience my Strange & Spooky World expect. That’s probably why most people walk away from one of my presentations muttering “I’m not sure what just happened, but it was fun.” Allow me to throw modesty to the wind here and state that since I first starting giving presentations in Ohio some 15 years ago, the only complaint I have ever heard was “it was too short.” Well, ok, one woman wrote to me and told me my stories gave her nightmares, but I take that as a compliment. I have always felt that my job, once I take that stage, is to entertain each and every member of the audience and to have them all smiling, laughing, and perhaps shrieking, by the time I’m finished with them.

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Preparing to unleash the video of my infamous Blue Flash video on Kenwood Elementary School. The kids with their hands up are the ones who said they’d be willing to ride the Blue Flash with me!

But while people walk away happy after the presentation, there’s still some confusion among the general public about what to expect going into one of my presentations. So I have my work cut out for me, especially since I’m planning on upping my game in 2015. If you thought my presentations were over the top before, just you wait! 2015 is going to bring all-new topics, bigger and better photos, audio, and videos, and even special guests! I’m even looking into the logistics (and legalities) of incorporating lasers, t-shirt guns, and confetti cannons. Yes, I’m serious.

So please, get out there and enjoy the Halloween season this year. You’ll be fine without me, I promise! Just know that I’m busy stocking up on Monster drinks and Boo Berry cereal in preparation for next year!

2014's Box #1

2014’s Box #1

Author Alley Releases List Of Featured Authors

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Author Alley has just released their list of Featured Authors for their July 5th event. And yes, I’m still on the list. Of course, having the last name “Willis” means that I’m almost at the bottom of the list (thank you, Mary R. Woldering), but I’m on it!

I’ll be signing copies of my 4 most recent works, including The Big Book Of Ohio Ghost Stories, so come on out and say “hi”. Heck, drag out your old dog-eared copy of Weird Ohio and I’ll sign that for you, too. I’ve never been to the Author Alley before, but it’s tied in with the annual Larchmere Festival, so there should be lots of cool stuff to see and do. So if nothing else, you can help me try to find some new and exciting pieces to add to The Strange & Spooky Museum.

Hope to see you all there!

For more information on Author Alley, go here.

Want to know more about the Larchmere Festival? Give a little click here.

Ever Been To A Crybaby Bridge In Ohio?

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Photo I took for Weird Ohio of the alleged Rogues Hollow Crybaby Bridge, circa 2004

You have? Then I want to talk to you!

I am currently in the process of compiling data for my Crybaby Bridge project, which will launch this summer on this very site. Basically, it will be a somewhat comprehensive list of all known Crybaby Bridges in the state of Ohio, including the legends attached to each bridge and what, if any, specific ritual you need to do in order to be able to hear the ghostly baby cry.

I will also be including photos of all of the bridges as I’m making it a point to personally visit each and every one, just to see if I can experience anything myself. And that’s where you can help! I want to know what happened when you went to the Crybaby Bridge. Did you hear the baby cry? Anything else weird happen? Or is the story just BS and absolutely nothing happened? Either way, I want to know!

Lick Road–a Crybaby Bridge in the making

Drop me a line at jim@strangeandspooky.com and tell me all about it. I’ll even include your story on this site because, after all, I’m a big fan of giving credit where credit is due. You don’t even have to use your real name if you don’t want to.

Right now, I have compiled information on 32 alleged Crybaby Bridges in Ohio, so chances are, the one you’ve visited is on my list. If that’s the case, I’ll have information that I can share with you about the bridge, too. See how that works? Everybody wins!

So come on and write me that e-mail!

My Q&A Article From Findlay Times

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Taken from the October 2013 issue of Findlay Times. It’s from the group that publishes Tiffin Times, so they used the same photos and layout for this article as they did for the Tiffin Times one. The content is totally unique, though, as it’s a different interview.

And yes, you can click on the images to view/read them in hi-res.

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