Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cleveland's Castles

Franklin Castle from Forgotten Ohio

OK, we're gonna continue our road trip this weekend, taking a little jaunt to the shores of Lake Erie to check out a couple of Cleveland's haunted castles.

Franklin Castle, in Cleveland, Ohio, was built in 1865 by Hannes Tiedemann off of Franklin Avenue. Tragic deaths began to curse the family in 1881 when his 15-year-old daughter Emma succumbed to diabetes. Not long after that his aged mom died.

During the next three years Tiedemann would bury three more children, giving rise to speculation that there was more to the deaths than meets the eye. Hmmmm.

Over the next several years, he did extensive work on the castle by adding secret passages, concealed rooms, and hidden doors inside while adorning the outside with gargoyles and turrets. (During Prohibition, a new tunnel was supposedly constructed that ran from the grounds all the way out to Lake Erie to shelter bootlegging operations, so old Hannes didn't do all the dirty work.)

Some say his building frenzy was just his way of taking his wife's mind off the recent death of her daughter. Others maintain that the rooms and passages were designed so that Tiedemann could do his evil on the QT, murdering his niece and even his own daughter, Emma, among others, without being found out.

And some believe that Mrs. Tiedemann herself had the passages created so that she could sneak past her violent and overbearing husband undetected.

The house subsequently belonged to a German brewer and the German Socialist Party (rumored to be Nazis that spied on the activities on Lake Erie from the house), who were alleged to have machine-gunned some traitors to the Fatherland in the home.

Strange occurrences have plagued all of the residents. Voices, eerie organ music, shaking light fixtures, and many apparitions have been reported. There are rumors of an axe murder in the front tower room, the victim sometimes being seen standing in the window.

A servant girl was supposedly killed in her quarters on her wedding day for refusing Tiedemann's advances. He's said to have shot his mistress Rachel for wanting to marry another man. Her gasping for breath and death rattle can be heard in one of the rooms. Geez, he didn't get into wedding festivities very well, did he?

The secret passageways around the ballroom are said to be where Tiedemann hung his illegitimate daughter Karen. Her ghost is the star of the castle, usually spotted on the third floor in "the cold room," named because it stays ten degrees colder than the rest of the house.

Karen, according to legend, lost her life in a fight between her father and her boyfriend. She and her beau were supposedly hung from a rafter to make the deaths look like suicide. Karen was just a teen at the time, and her ghost is described as a tall, thin woman dressed in black, often seen by the locals.

The Romano's bought the house in 1968 and reportedly had encounters with wraiths that were so frightening they even attempted an exorcism. They called in a Catholic priest for help, but he allegedly refused to bless the house because of the overwhelming evil he felt when he stepped inside its doors.

In 1975, the owner at the time went searching for the secret passageways, and he found more than he bargained for. He uncovered a pile of old human bones. Another of the rooms was found to hold at least a dozen baby skeletons.

Today, Franklin Castle is managed by Charles Milsap, who has announced plans to turn the property into the Franklin Castle Club. Although he began offering memberships, little work has been done to restore the Gothic mansion. In fact, "The Most Haunted House in Ohio" is rumored to be on the sheriff's sale list for unpaid back taxes.

It's probably better to let sleeping spooks lie.

Squires Castle from Prairie Ghosts

Squire's Castle is located in Willoughby Hills in northeast Ohio. It was built by Feargus B.Squire in the 1890's. He was a beaucoup wealthy man and one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. Squire had a grand estate in Cleveland but always wanted a home in the country.

Late in the 1890's, Squire purchased 525 acres of land near Cleveland, planning to build that summer estate for himself, his wife and daughter. A few years after buying the property, a gatehouse went up.

It had three floors plus a basement, in which avid hunter Squire designed an private trophy room for the skins and heads of the beasts he had shot. It would serve as their summer home until a righteous manor could be built.

There is an urban legend about the cottage claiming that it's haunted by a ghostly woman carrying a red lantern who walks the building at night. She's supposed to be the shade of Rebecca Squire, Feargus' wife. She hated the old pile of stones, much preferring to remain in the city with its bright lights.

In her restless state, she developed insomnia whenever she stayed at the cottage and would sleeplessly pace about the house at night, carrying a small red lantern to light her way through the gloomy halls.

On one fateful night, Mrs. Squire wandered into the trophy room of the house, a place that she usually avoided. No one really knows what happened next, but it's thought that Mrs. Squire became frightened of something in the room. Perhaps the mounted animals spooked her in the dim light.

Whatever the reason, she began screaming in terror and in her haste to escape the room, she tripped and fell back down the steps. She was discovered dead a short time later, the victim of a broken neck.

A cool tale, though not close to being wholly factual. The family actually sold the castle in 1920 and Mrs. Squire didn't depart this vale of tears until 1929. She died of a stroke, not a broken neck. Oooops!

Nevertheless, there are still reports of hauntings and red lights floating through the cottage and grounds at night. And it's believed that to this day, she is doomed to roam the halls and rooms of the castle she so despised carrying her lantern and spookily screaming in her anguish.

Oddly, her apparition is often seen on the second floor - which no longer exists, having been razed years ago. And she can't haunt the trophy room in the basement. It was filled in with cement to both keep the rowdies out and to help stabilize the remnants of the cottage. But that's OK - Rebecca never liked the place anyhow.

If you want to find out if the tale is so, Cleveland runs the ramshackle property as part of its Metropark system. Give it a visit, and watch your step. It's covered in graffiti, and the insides are pretty well gutted. It's even spookier now!

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