Ticketing Information For My Presentation At Farnam Manor

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OK, here’s some exciting news for you: I’ll not only be doing a special presentation at Farnam Manor, one of the locations featured in my upcoming book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, but you’ll also have the opportunity to ghost hunt with me and members of The Ghosts of Ohio!

Farnam Manor Exterior

It all begins at 7:00 pm on Saturday, September 26th. I will be giving a special talk at Farnam Manor that will showcase some of the strangest and spookiest places I’ve visited in my 30+ years investigating the paranormal. A large portion of the presentation will focus on what happened the night I visited Farnam Manor for my book. Members of The Ghosts of Ohio who accompanied me that night will also be on hand to share their personal stories.

Then, after a tour of Farnam Manor, a very lucky few will have the opportunity to conduct a mini-ghost hunt at Farnam Manor with myself and The Ghosts of Ohio.

Tickets are available for the presentation, the ghost hunt, or both. But they won’t last, so grab yours today by clicking here now.

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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.

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

Blast From The Past: 2007 Delaware Ghost Walk

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OK, so Labor Day’s officially over. So in my book, that signals the beginning of Halloween season! With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite Ohio Halloween season memories; ghostly blasts from the past, if you will. They won’t be in any particular order. Just sort of random memories as they pop into my head or I come across them on my hard drive. And we’ll begin with the Delaware Ghost Walk from October of 2007.

Promotional flyer for the event

Promotional flyer for the event

I always look back fondly on the 2007 Delaware Ghost Walk, and not just because it was the first one The Ghosts of Ohio participated in. Sure, there was that, but it was also a blast because this was the first instance where we were having to do a two-day setup since the Ghost Walk that year was taking place over two nights. The Strand was open the entire weekend, too, so we ended up using some pieces of plywood to prop up the projector out in the seating area…and then parking Darrin Boop next to it so people didn’t bump into it during the presentation. After Friday’s presentation, we had to break everything down and then set it all back up again Saturday night.

The Ghosts of Ohio, up in lights on the Strand Theatre’s screen (note my multiple Monster cans hiding behind the bottled water on the lower left)

The 2007 Ghost Walk also holds a special place in my heart because so many members of The Ghosts of Ohio got involved, and not just with the presentation itself. Naturally, they were there, as always, to help me set up my 45-minute presentation on both nights, but they also worked the merchandise table and some members even donned costumes and helped out on the ghost walk itself, working as tour guides.

Members of The Ghosts of Ohio hanging out at the 2007 Delaware Ghost Walk.

 

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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FINDLY_20131001 19-page-001

My Interview With WLIO-TV

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Happy Halloween! Not sure if you guys would consider this a trick or a treat, but here’s my live television interview with WLIO out of Lima, Ohio.

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I’ll see about getting this imbedded into the site, but for now, click here to watch.

Poster for October 19th Delaware Ghost Walk

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Tickets for this sell out fast, so if you’re interested, don’t wait until the last minute!

Ordering information is at the bottom of the poster.

Ghost Walk flyer, 2013-page-001

Be My Friend On Goodreads And Help Fuel My Addiction

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I admit it; I have a problem when it comes to books on the paranormal. And that problem is that I must own them all! I’m not sure when my addiction began, but the first paranormal book I remember asking for was a 1972 Scholastic Books edition titled simply, Haunted Houses. I vividly recall begging my mom to buy it for me at one of those Book Fairs at my elementary school in upstate New York.

I still have that book. Although since then, it has been joined by hundreds and hundreds of books on the paranormal (981, to be exact) that, as much as I try to keep them contained, often spill out across my desk, ending up in piles on the floor. People often remark that you can’t stand anywhere in my house without there being a book within reach. Believe it or not, it’s true. But that’s because I love my paranormal books so much that I always want them close to me.

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What Magical Spell Did Ghost Adventures Cast Over Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery?

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Many times, I’ve whined about the fact that even though my blog is approaching 10,000 views this year alone, very few readers feel the need to leave comments. But here’s one post I’m really hoping people respond to, especially since it concerns a question I don’t have an answer to. To put it bluntly, I can’t figure out how the heck Ghost Adventures managed to get permission to investigate inside Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery at night.

Ghost Adventures in the woods near Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery –via the Travel Channel

For the uninitiated, Bachelor’s Grove is an abandoned cemetery located on the Southwest side of Chicago. Early records are sketchy at best, but it is believed that the first burials were in 1844. For many years, the cemetery, which sits within the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, could only be reached by a small road that wound its way through the woods. When the road closed down, the woods would have all but swallowed up the cemetery, had it not been for the teenagers who started making their way out there to do a bit of legend tripping. By the 1960s, the cemetery had already begun to fall victim to vandals…and the ghost stories were not far behind.

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Blanchester, Ohio Added to October Appearances

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–via YouTube

A last-minute addition to my October schedule, but one that I am very excited about. Although it’s been a few years since The Ghosts of Ohio has visited Blanchester, seems that they still love us down there! So we’ll be returning this October the 15th, for a free presentation at the Blanchester Public Library, beginning at 7:00 pm.

I’ll be bringing along all sorts of spooky video, audio, and photographs that we’ve collected during our 13+ years investigating ghosts and haunted locations in the state of Ohio. I’ll even have some of the infamous “ghost-hunting equipment” that you see on these reality ghost shows, so you’ll get the chance to try them out and see how they work for yourself.

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