Back in the nineteenth century a young man named Enos Kay lived along Egypt Pike in Ross County. Enos was an honest, hard-working young man who had become the envy of the county since he won the affections of Alvira, the local beauty.
It took several years of scrimping and saving for Enos to get together enough money for a wedding worthy of his beloved Alvira. But at last he had the money, and soon wedding arrangements were under way. The wedding clothes were being fashioned, and everything was going well for the young couple until the fateful day in 1869 when they decided to attend a church picnic.
A mysterious stranger, a man none of the churchgoers had ever seen, showed up at the church picnic that day. It was even unclear what the man called himself; some of the picnickers thought his name was Smith, while others thought it was Johnston, or maybe Brown. One thing they all agreed upon was that the man clearly had eyes for the beautiful Alvira. Throughout the day, the stranger did his best to woo the girl while meek and hapless Enos simply stood by and watched.
It wasn’t long before rumors began to circulate that Alvira had been seen walking hand in hand with the handsome stranger, rumors that Enos simply dismissed as idle chatter. How could the love of his life, the woman who had promised her love to him, be with another man? Impossible. But when Enos heard a few days later that the man had climbed through Alvira’s bedroom window at night and proposed to her, and that she had accepted and run off with the man, he was stunned.
Enos immediately ran to his fiancée’s house, where he discovered, much to his grief, that Alvira had, indeed, jilted him and was gone forever. Enos let out a heart-breaking cry and swore that he would forever haunt happy lovers until Judgment Day. Then, he walked out to Timmons Bridge, the local lovers’ lane, and hanged himself from the rafters.
Not long after Enos’s body was committed to the ground came the frightening stories of lovers being terrorized at the bridge by some unseen force. Couples reported an invisible force attacking their buggies, shaking them violently, and spooking the horses. Some couples said that the malevolent force ripped open the tops of the buggies, revealing the demonic face of Enos Kay peering down at them.
Encounters with the ghost of Enos Kay are reported to this day. Apparently, he will not bother lone motorists passing over the bridge, or a parked couple who are arguing instead of kissing. True to his oath, the ghost claws and scratches at the parked cars of those couples who are expressing their ardor. Some of these “couples interruptus” recall seeing the ghost’s devilish grin through the steamed car windows. The moral here might be, Get a room!
John Kachuba shares with us his story about the ghost at Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton.
Sometimes, while I was working on Ghosthunting Ohio, I wondered if maybe the spirits were helping me out; real ghostwriters, as it were. The story of Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton is an example of what I mean.
My wife, Mary, and I had been in Eaton in the spring to investigate Fort St. Clair, a historic site said to be haunted by the ghosts of several Kentucky militiamen killed there by Miami Indians in 1792. After visiting the battlefield site, we drove back through downtown Eaton and spotted the colorful umbrellas shading the tables on the sidewalk outside Taffy’s. The shop had an interesting Victorian feel to it, so we stopped in.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we were the only customers. I chatted with the server and told her why we were in town. She was interested in the project and, as I left, I gave her one of my business cards, Ghosthunting Ohio printed prominently across it. We drove back to Athens and forgot all about Taffy’s.
Three weeks later a woman identifying herself as Nancy Peters, owner of Taffy’s, left a message for me on my answering machine. She had found my card by the cash register when she was cleaning and assumed I wanted to talk to her about the ghost at Taffy’s!
Of course, I would have wanted to talk with her had I known there was a ghost there (okay, I can’t always find them), so I called her back. Nancy was excited to have someone to talk to about her story. “I would never have believed such a thing could happen to me,” she said. She told me that she and her husband, Tony, bought the old Victorian building that now serves as both Taffy’s and their home in 1992, although they did not open the coffee shop until 1999.
The part of the building that is now the coffee shop was formerly a jewelry store. You can still see the place where the jeweler’s heavy safe crashed through the floor when Nancy and Tony started their renovations. The owner of the jewelry store had died under “unusual circumstances,” and his body was discovered on the floor behind the jewelry counter.
Before they opened Taffy’s the old store was part of the Peterses’ home, and it was in that section that the hauntings occurred. While both Nancy and Tony experienced the same events, they never experienced them together. Strange things would happen only when one or the other was alone in the house.
One day while Nancy was upstairs, she heard the sounds of her stepson’s electric guitar. “I knew I was alone in the house, so that really scared me, hearing this loud guitar strumming. I went downstairs, but there was no one there. Worse, the guitar wasn’t even plugged in. It couldn’t have played, but it did,” Nancy said. “That was pretty scary, but nothing like the voice that came out from the wall.”
Nancy said that a voice she clearly identified as being that of a male came from high up on the wall and called, “Max!” the name of her dog. “It scared the dog a lot,” she said. “There was no one there and yet there was this voice calling him. It was kind of a gravelly voice, definitely a man’s voice, maybe an old man.”
Tony also heard the voice, but at a different time. “It was about this time that I thought maybe I should get the house blessed. I have a friend who is a Catholic priest and I thought about asking him to do it.”
“Did you go through with it?” I asked.
“No. Instead, I started talking to the ghost for a few days, telling it that it was scaring me and my family and asking it to please move on.”
It Takes Courage to Talk to a Ghost
It takes some courage to talk to a ghost and try to make your peace with it, so that you and your resident ghost can “live” together in harmony, but professional ghostbusters will tell you that the idea of living in harmony with a ghost is not a good one. A ghost, they say, needs to move on, whether it is a good ghost or a bad ghost. It simply no longer belongs on earth and needs to find its way to its own realm.
Nancy doesn’t feel that the ghost is threatening in any way and, in fact, the activity at Ta=y’s has quieted down. “But you still feel a sadness in your heart, like something’s still hanging around,” she said.
Nancy told me that the owner of another old building nearby was also experiencing similar phenomena, and she wondered aloud if perhaps they could be connected—maybe the same ghost visiting both places. I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was possible. Just think of how many places Elvis has been spotted in.
Ghosts are often stirred up when the places they used to know in life are altered or renovated. Such activity seems to make them nervous (assuming ghosts can be nervous) and anxious. Some researchers say that the resulting paranormal activity is the ghost’s way of showing its displeasure with the changes in its familiar environment. Maybe this is what was going on at Taffy’s.
Even though things are not as frightening at Taffy’s as they were before, Nancy said that, “Without a doubt, his spirit is still around. It has been a life-changing experience for me, because it was real.”
Who knows if the ghost will make itself known again? Since the Peterses decided not to contact the priest after all, it may only be a matter of time before voices are speaking from the walls again.
About the author: John Kachuba is the award-winning author of twelve books and numerous articles, short stories and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing awarded by The Thurber House and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities and libraries and on podcasts, radio and TV.
If music can, indeed, calm the hearts of wild animals, might it not also calm the restless spirits of those who have died and wander the earth as ghosts? John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio cannot think of any better place to find the answer to that question than at Cincinnati Music Hall.
Built in 1878, the redbrick Victorian Gothic structure rises majestically on the corner of 14th and Elm streets. Central Parkway runs parallel to the rear of the building now, but when Music Hall first opened its doors, that thoroughfare was actually the Miami Canal. Designed by a local architectural firm, the edifice is eccentric, with its garrets, turrets, gables, insets, nooks, broken surfaces and planes, and ornate rose window. Some witty Cincinnatians have dubbed the style “Sauerbraten Byzantine.”
The building is located upon the site where the tin-roofed wooden Sangerhalle once stood, a hall built by a German immigrant singing society, the Saengerbund, for its May Festivals. But there is also a more somber atmosphere associated with other former occupants of the site. The present Music Hall rests upon the foundations of the 1844 Orphan Asylum. Before that, it was the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum with its Pest House, a section for the indigent with contagious diseases. A potter’s field also occupied the site, the final resting place for suicides and strangers, the indigent and homeless of Cincinnati, as well as those who died in the Pest House. These unfortunates were buried without the benefit of coffins; they were simply bundled up and dropped into the earth. Over the years, there have been many renovations to Music Hall and human bones have often been unearthed during construction.
The famous Cincinnati journalist Lafcadio Hearn wrote about one such discovery in the October 22, 1876, edition of the Cincinnati Commercial:
“This rich yellow soil, fat with the human flesh and bone and brain it has devoured, is being disemboweled by a hundred spades and forced to exhibit its ghastly secrets to the sun…you will behold small Golgothas—mingled with piles of skulls, loose vertebrae, fibulas, tibias and the great curving bones of the thigh…All are yellow, like the cannibal clay which denuded them of their fleshly masks…Bone after bone…is turned over with a scientific application of kicks…dirty fingers are poked into empty eyesockets…ribs crack in pitiful remonstrance to reckless feet; and tobacco juice is carelessly squirted among the decaying skulls…by night there come medical students to steal the poor skulls.”
Hearn reported that the dead began to make themselves known to the living just shortly after these macabre discoveries were made. Shadowy figures roamed the halls at night, and ghostly dancers were seen in the ballroom on the second floor. One exhibitor at a business fair in Music Hall saw a young, pale woman in old-fashioned clothing standing by his booth. As he approached her, he felt a sudden rush of cold air as the figure became transparent then disappeared. Hearn wrote: “The tall woman had been sepulchered under the yellow clay below the planking upon which he stood; and the worms had formed the wedding-rings of Death about her fingers half a century before.”
Half a dozen skeletons were unearthed by workers in 1927, placed in a cement crypt and reburied, only to be discovered again during a renovation in 1969. The bones were placed inside another concrete box and reburied—and uncovered in 1988 for the third time when the shaft for the concert hall’s freight elevator was deepened. It seems the dead at Music Hall simply cannot rest in peace. Pieces, yes, but peace? No.
When my wife, Mary, and I lived in the Cincinnati area, we attended several performances of various kinds at Music Hall, but that was before we had ever heard the ghost stories, and we had never been behind the scenes. We were lucky enough, however, on a recent Valentine’s Day, to have a tour of Music Hall led by Marie Gallagher, a volunteer there for 25 years. It was a public tour, and we were joined by approximately two dozen people who were interested in seeing the grand old building. We gathered in the Main Foyer, with its checkerboard marble floor and graceful columns.
Marie knew every nook and cranny of Music Hall and regaled us with tales and anecdotes about some of the famous people who had performed there—John Philip Sousa, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifitz, Maria Callas, Andres Segovia, Luciano Pavarotti, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan; the list is endless.
The heart and soul of Music Hall is the 3,630-seat Springer Auditorium. Marie led us up into the gallery where we could look down at the burgundy colored seats and the stage. Even though larger than most concert halls, the acoustics in Springer Auditorium are said to be the best in the country, if not the world. Ed Vignale, Jr., Music Hall’s facilities engineer, told me in a later conversation that a person standing in the gallery of the empty auditorium could hear someone speaking from behind the stage as though he or she were only 20 feet away from the listener. Could it be that such perfect acoustics are the explanation for some of the ghostly sounds heard at Music Hall?
“I hear them when I’m on duty alone at night,” says Kitty Love, who has been part of the private police force at Music Hall for 21 years. “Footsteps, doors slamming, and music playing, and I know I was the only one in the building.”
Kitty has heard the footsteps and slamming doors in the stage area of Springer Auditorium and in other parts of the building’s south side, the side that was built over the cemetery.
As our tour group stood in the gallery of the auditorium, gazing out at the magnificent 1,500-pound crystal chandelier suspended from the dome ceiling and its Arthur Thompson oil painting, “Allegory of the Arts,” I thought of what Kitty had said and took a few pictures with my digital camera. (Later, when I download the images to my computer, I will find three beautiful but unexplainable orbs floating in the otherwise clear air above the gallery.)
Marie continued to lead us on the tour—the enormous backstage area with its vertiginous catwalks barely distinguishable in the darkness high above us, the massive workshop where stage sets and props are built, the costume room with its many rows of outfits of every description hung around and above us like an enormous dry cleaner, the dressing rooms that resembled high school locker rooms, and the more luxuriously appointed dressing rooms of the stars.
When the tour concluded back in the Main Foyer, Marie took us aside privately and brought us back into an office area. In this section was a freight elevator, the very elevator beneath which a small casket of bones from the old cemetery was uncovered.
“I haven’t seen or heard anything unusual in Music Hall and I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Marie, “but this is where a security guard said he heard strange music. He was so impressed by what he heard, he wrote it all down.”
She handed me a file folder containing a photocopy of security guard John G. Engst’s handwritten account of what he experienced on February 22, 1987. In it he tells how he was escorting three caterers from a party held in Music Hall’s Corbett Tower down to the first floor in the elevator. It was about 12:30 a.m. As they descended, the three women asked him if he heard music. He said he did not, but they asked him again when they reached the first floor and this time he said he had heard it. The women told John they had heard the same music when they went up to Corbett Tower a few hours earlier but didn’t think much of it then.
After the women loaded their truck and drove away, John went back to the elevator. The music, sounding something like a music box, continued to play a tune that John thought he recognized as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” John stopped the elevator at different levels to see if the music would still be audible. It was. He wrote, “It was as beautiful as ever, but I’m getting more bewildered.”
John checked all the areas outside the elevator at the various levels but could not find any source for the music. He was so frightened and awed by his experiences that he wrote, “For nearly two weeks I could not approach the elevator shaft on the first floor late at night without my whole body tingling.”
In the final analysis, however, the experience was an affirming, life-altering one for John Engst. He wrote: “The experience is now all positive and will be forever, I now believe. I pray more intensely, don’t fear death and am glad to have had this profound experience.”
Kitty Love has heard similar ghostly music at Music Hall but in different locations from the freight elevator. “You hear music playing somewhere late at night when you know no one is there, but when you get there, you find it coming from some other place. You go to that place and then you hear it coming from yet another place.”
Ed Vignale said a musical greeting card had been found at the bottom of the elevator shaft, but that didn’t convince Engst that there was a rational explanation for the music he heard. Maybe John is right. Those greeting cards don’t usually last very long nor do they play continuously. Once opened they play only a few seconds before they must be closed and reopened to play again. Could a card have been heard continuously for several hours? And what about the ethereal music Kitty heard in other parts of Music Hall? Are there ghosts roaming Music Hall?
Even though Ed Vignale said that he has never seen nor heard spirits in the 34 years he has worked at Music Hall, he admits that some people have told him of seeing men and women dressed in late-19th-century clothing walking through the halls of the building. Other people have said that sometimes an extra unknown “cast member” may appear in an operatic production or that unusual looking figures may appear among the audience.
“There is definitely something strange going on here,” Ed said. “In all the time I’ve worked here, I’ve only seen two mice and one rat in the building, very unusual for a building of this size and age.” Ed went on to say that during a 1967 production at Music Hall called wild Animal Cargo, two baby snakes, a python and boa constrictor, somehow disappeared and were never found. The show left town without them and Music Hall was left with a unique system of rodent extermination.
How long do those snakes live anyway? One can only hope that, if they are still alive, those creatures have long ago been tamed by the musical charms of Cincinnati Music Hall’s resident spirits.
1. Conduct all your investigations with an open mind, but don’t let yourself be fooled by the “evidence.” No one has yet been able to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of ghosts, and it’s unlikely you will be the one to earn that fame. Better to simply be nonjudgmental and open to whatever you experience and observe for yourself. Be hard-nosed about the “evidence” you uncover. Make certain that you exhaust all possible explanations before you claim a brush with the supernatural.
2. Interview witnesses separately. Take a page from standard police procedurals and always talk to witnesses of paranormal phenomena separately so that one witness’s testimony does not influence that of another.
3. Document your activities. I always carry a notebook and pen, tape recorder, and camera with me when investigating a site. The tape recorder is used to interview witnesses, but some people have also used it to record background sound over a period of time to try and catch unidentifiable sounds or voices in a particular location. A note about photography is important here. Many people, using either traditional or digital cameras, have reported various anomalies on the photos once they are developed or downloaded into a computer. These anomalies—usually whitish orbs, but also misty smears—are invisible to the naked eye when the photo is taken. There are many reasonable explanations for these objects. They may be dust particles or water droplets on the camera lens. They may be reflections caused by the flash of other cameras or by common objects—even some insects—that the photographer simply did not notice at the time. Your finger, or the camera strap covering part of the camera lens, may also be possible explanations for your photogenic ghost. Enlarging the photo will often help you identify the anomaly accurately. Despite all these reasonable explanations, there are hundreds of “ghost photos” that defy explanation—much to my surprise, I have taken some myself while writing this book.
4. Respect the site. It is important to remember that any haunted site carries with it a history of both the people who inhabited the site and of the site itself. That history is worthy of your respect. You should observe whatever rules and regulations might be in effect for the site and work within them. In other words, you should not be breaking into buildings or removing anything from them as souvenirs. Nor should you be prowling around cemeteries after posted hours. You will find that people are more receptive to helping you with your explorations if you follow the rules.
5. Respect the privacy of your contacts. Some people may tell you their own ghost stories, but for a variety of reasons, may not want other people to know their identity. You must respect their right to privacy.
6. Be a knowledgeable ghosthunter. This last point is perhaps the most important one. No one really knows the rules and laws of the spirit world. Ghosthunters are always exploring terra incognita and finding their way by learning from others, but it is important to learn from those who are serious about their work, rather than from people who are merely looking for kicks. Serious ghosthunters, such as Ed and Lorraine Warren, emphasize that knowledge about ghosts and the spirit world will increase your chances of obtaining your goals but, more important, will keep you safe. The Warrens and other top psychic investigators never resort to dubious psychic “tools,” such as the Ouija board, which can, in inexperienced hands, summon unwanted and uncontrollable spirits. I urge you to read and learn from the experts before venturing forth on your own ghosthunting expedition.
Ever think you might want to spend a night in a haunted hotel? Ohio is full of haunted hotels. Here’s a sampling of some of the spookiest from Ghosthunting Ohio – On the Road Againa book by John B. Kachuba:
Hilton Netherland Plaza – Cincinnati This beautiful Art Deco hotel right in the heart of Cincinnati is home to the Lady in Green. The spirit of a woman who jumped out a window high atop the hotel after her husband was killed while working on the construction of the hotel, she is most often seen on the elevators wearing a fancy green dress.
Hotel Breakers – Sandusky Located in Cedar Point Amusement Park, the hotel has been serving guests for more than 100 years. The hotel is haunted by the ghost of a woman named Mary who hanged herself in a room on the second floor.
The Old Stone House Bed & Breakfast -Marblehead This bed-and-breakfast is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a little girl who fell out of a window and flew three floors to her death. Guests claim to hear flushing toilets on the third floor, and some have reported photographing orbs in haunted Room 11
Siesta Motel – Norwich In 1994, a man who had argued violently with his mother left their house and rented a room at the motel. He was awakened in the middle of the night by an intruder. A struggle ensued, and the man was killed. Guests and employees now hear slamming doors, crying and laughter, and whispered obscenities. Lights go on and off by themselves, and some guests have reported being struck by the unseen presence.
The Lofts Hotel – Columbus The boutique hotel in Columbus’s new Arena area began life in 1882 as the Carr Building and housed several different businesses until it became a hotel in 1998. Perhaps the Lady of the Lofts, a woman in Victorian clothing who haunts the hotel, was an employee in one of those businesses; we don’t know. What we do know is that several people have glimpsed her from the corner of their eye in the stairwell and occasionally in the halls. Recently, a hotel security guard named Kevin heard a woman’s horrific screaming on the second floor in the middle of the afternoon. For twenty minutes he frantically searched the area but never found an explanation for the screaming.
The Golden Lamb – Lebanon One of America’s venerable old inns, the Golden Lamb has seen scores of generals and presidents, writers and actors, sports figures and entertainers pass through its doors since it was established as a stage-coach stop in 1803. Many of these guests found the inn so comfortable that they simply decided to stay. Look for the ghosts of Senator Clement L. Vallandigham, who accidentally shot himself to death in what is today a dining room; or Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles R. Sherman, father of Civil War general William T. Sherman; or the little daughter of Henry Clay, Eliza, who died from an illness at the inn.
About the author: John Kachubais the award-winning author of twelve books and numerous articles, short stories and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing awarded by The Thurber House and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries.
John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities and libraries and on podcasts, radio and TV.
Just about every city has a homegrown ghost story that is closely linked to the town’s history. If you’re interested in exploring the unknown, here a few haunted road trips near the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia borders. Explore rich history, haunted locales, and enjoy some of the best fall foliage along the way.
Willoughby, Ohio The Willoughby ghost walk is a guided tour through the haunted historic district of downtown Willoughby, beginning at Cathi’s store on Erie Street, The Spice Peddler. The tour covers approximately twelve blocks and takes about 90 minutes. Described as a rough town, the basements of stores along the ghost walk used to be homes of brothels, speakeasies, and number rackets back in the twenties and forties.
Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania All battlefields and forts have their resident ghosts, but Fort Mifflin ranks high on the list when it comes to the paranormal. Some visitors claim Fort Mifflin to be one of the most haunted places in the country, especially during a moonlit night. There are plenty of phantom activities, but the most renowned ghosts are the Screaming Lady and the Faceless Man. Ghosts have been reported all over the fort, in buildings and out in the open. The 14 buildings of the fort sit on 50 acres on Mud Island, a stone’s throw from Philadelphia and its International Airport.
Ghosts of the Valley, Winchester, Virginia Winchester may very well be the most haunted city in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Located at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester is the northernmost community of any size in the state. The Fuller House Inn and Mount Hebron Cemetery are only a couple of the haunted locations in Winchester. Several ghost tours are offered in Winchester.
To find out more about these sites and more in their areas, or to discover other haunted locations in your area, check out the rest of the books in the America’s Haunted Road Trip series here.