On the road again with ghosthunting author
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Thursday, 31 October 2013 08:51
PERRYSBURG - Where do ghosts like to hang out?
|Author John Kachuba touches on haunted locations in Ohio during a presentation at the Way Library in Perrysburg, Ohio. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
All over Ohio, apparently.
A packed audience at the Way Public Library Tuesday night got the inside scoop on where to go - or to avoid, depending upon one's personal tolerance of Casper and friends - with noted "ghosthunting" author John Kachuba as the travel guide.
During the hour-long program, Kachuba described what he's seen and heard during visits to more than 30 haunted places in the Buckeye State, as detailed in his newest book "Ghosthunting Ohio: On the Road Again."
The most "disconcerting" destination he's been to in Ohio, he said without hesitation, is the 1896 Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. Stay away from its chapel, infirmary and basement in particular. Almost as bad is the old West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, where 85 men were hanged and nine electrocuted in its 110-year history.
"There are places you walk in, and you just have an immediate reaction: 'Yeah, this isn't a very nice place,'" Kachuba noted.
Yet some other Ohio settings reputed to host at least one ghost are seemingly benign: Edison's boyhood home in Milan, the Local Heroes Bar in Cleveland, and the Collingwood Arts Center in Toledo.
Kachuba, who describes himself as a paranormal investigator, holds advanced degrees in creative writing from Antioch University in Yellow Springs and from Ohio University. He taught writing at OU and the University of Cincinnati, and is also the author of "Ghosthunters: On the Trail of Mediums, Dowsers, Spirit Seekers and Other Investigators of America's Paranormal World," "Ghosthunting Ohio," "Ghosthunting Illinois," "How to Write Funny," and "Why is this Job Killing Me?"
"I feel there are so many misconceptions about ghosts," Kachuba said, offering three main theories:
• First, a ghost could be an entity from another dimension - a parallel universe or alternate reality, in other words. This theory aligns with the physicist's understanding that "there is no such thing as time."
• Second, an entity created in your own mind. Maybe it's hallucinations, fever dreams or schizophrenia.
• Third, and the way most of us think of ghosts, "an entity from the 'other side' - leftover energy" from when the person was still alive.
Possibly the oldest building in Ohio reputed to be haunted is the Cincinnati Observatory, whose cornerstone was laid in 1843 by then-former President John Quincy Adams.
"It is the oldest astronomical observatory in the U.S. and nothing in it is automated. To turn the dome they crank it."
In 1943, astronomer Dr. Elliott Smith, the observatory's much-respected director, was found hanging from the giant telescope inside the building one night and his tortured ghost remains on the premises - or so people say.
Kachuba said he imagined the story to be an urban legend until he did some research and found Smith's obituary printed in a prominent eastern newspaper. It told of the macabre way in which the scientist committed suicide.
An even more haunted Cincinnati destination is the 1876 Music Hall, built on the former site of a children's orphanage from the 1840s and 1850s.
"Also on that site was a pest house, where people with contagious diseases were held. People from both the pest house and the orphanage died and were buried there, and also the city put a Potter's Field there," which is a cemetery for people who died indigent.
"When the city started digging for the foundation for the music hall they found all these bodies" which, unfortunately, were treated with a complete lack of respect. "The workers were bowling with skulls, dueling with leg bones. The resting place of scores of people was desecrated, the remains just tossed."
Not surprisingly, those poor spirits are not at rest.
Just two years ago the city built an underground parking garage just across from the music hall and, sure enough, still more bodies were found. This time they were interred with respect.
Looking for ghosts closer at hand?
Kachuba recommends checking out Fort Meigs at Perrysburg. "It was attacked twice by the British. There's a cemetery there, but other bodies certainly weren't buried" and remain undiscovered to this day.
Or head over to the Oliver House. Built in 1859, it was Toledo's "first really upscale hotel" with the novelty of hot and cold running water in each room. People who work there report seeing a man in a uniform they call "The Captain." They believe he may have been a patient in the infirmary housed there during the Civil War.
And the Collingwood Arts Center? No less trustworthy a group of witnesses than the retired Ursuline nuns who taught at the former Mary Manse College are in agreement with the artists who currently have studios in the building. A dark, cold presence long ago named the "Shadow Man" still dwells in the basement.