If you're conjuring images of famously haunted American locales, you might think of the fields of Gettysburg, or the ghost towns of the wild west. You may imagine sprawling southern plantations haunted by tragic pasts or the notorious witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts.
But what about the rolling plains of the midwest?
One of the most haunted places in America is none other than Ohio. From haunted houses to gothic castles and abandoned insane asylums, this midwestern state is littered with eerie destinations. Here are 10 of the most famously haunted places in Ohio. Book your trip ... if you dare.
1. Franklin Castle
Where: 4308 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland
Franklin Castle, a sprawling four-story turreted mansion is said to be Ohio’s most haunted house. Built on behalf of German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann in 1881, the house contained over 30 rooms, a grand ballroom that took up the entire fourth floor, and even a carriage house. Rumor has it that Tiedemann also included sliding panels, secret passageways, and hidden rooms into his grand design.
The family moved in shortly after Tiedemann's mother’s death. The family went on to bury four children during their time in this seemingly ‘cursed’ house. In the early 20th century, the house was sold after the death of Tiedemann's wife—by then, rumors were rife of the dark deeds that had taken place in Franklin Castle. Many of these rumors persist. The most shocking of all include the persistent gossip that Tiedemann murdered his own niece, a young servant, and his mistress, although there is no proof of these murders.
In 1968, the house was sold to the Romano family, who almost immediately began to report strange happenings and ghostly encounters. Doors flew open and slammed shut of their own accord; lights flickered off and on; and the sound of a baby’s cries could be heard echoing from empty rooms. There were also sightings of a woman in black, often seen staring out one of the front windows. After several paranormal investigations and an exorcism, the Romanos sold their haunted home in 1974.
The new owner, Sam Muscatello, opened the house to the public as a haunted attraction. At the same time, he began searching for the alleged secret passageways and made a grisly discovery. Hidden behind a sliding panel in the tower was a pile of bones. Although never proven to be human, the remains amplified Franklin Castle's already eerie atmosphere. Over the next three decades, the house changed hands several more times and, in 1999, was almost destroyed by a series of fires. Today, it is a private residence.
2. Squire’s Castle
Where: River Rd, Willoughby Hills
Despite how grand it sounds, Squire’s Castle is actually a modern ruin, and little more than a shell of the original building. Located not far from Cleveland, it was built by Fergus Squire in the 1890s. The man hoped the stone structure would serve as a gatehouse for his future estate. Yet construction never moved beyond the gatehouse, and the property was sold in the 1920s. Today, the building is open to the public. It's a unique sight to see. While it has a roof, the windows and doors expose the interior to the elements, which is completely bare and unfurnished. It’s available for tours and is utilized by a local library each year for a history seminar. But there are more mysterious tales that haunt the house.
Legend has it that Squire’s wife fell and broke her neck in the gatehouse, dying on the property. Many believe the tragedy was the reason Squire halted construction on his estate, although Rebecca actually died in a neighboring town, Wickliffe, in 1929. Today, Rebecca's ghost is said to walk the castle's empty halls.
3. Staley Road
Where: Staley Rd, New Carlisle
This quiet, tree-lined road might seem charming, but it has amassed a bevy of urban legends and spooky encounters. Just one mile in length, the road runs along the Miami County border, starting near Springfield. The stories about this road go back to a farmer named Staley who, supposedly, murdered his family in their barn.
Some people say that Staley was also the leader of a group of devil worshipers who cursed the stretch of land by performing profane rituals there. Others claim this as a separate legend. Local lore also tells of two dead bodies that were found in adjacent fields and of their wandering souls, regularly seen by people passing along the haunted stretch of road. People also claim to see the ghosts of children on the side of the road, said to be Staley’s murdered children. Fog hangs over the area, car engines die, and cell phone batteries lose power.
There is also the “Bloody Barn”, a bright red barn on the side of the road (the supposed location of the murders). Recently, it was painted over with a coat of muted gray in an attempt to minimize the tales. The edge of the barn sits so close to the road that a number of people are said to have died in car accidents here. Stranger still, after coming around the bend drivers are met with the “Bloody Bridge” where a spectral figure is known to stand in the middle of the road. It is hardly surprising, with ghost stories so plentiful, that Staley Road is considered to be one of the most haunted roads in the state, if not the country.
Where: Boston Township, Summit County
Helltown, once known as Boston, plays a central role in the origin story of Cuyahoga National Park. In the 1970s, the US government bought up a number of structures in the village with the intent of knocking them down to make way for the parkland. Today, all that remains are a few abandoned buildings, rusted guardrails, and remnants of former roads. Needless to say, the area is rich with tales strange and otherworldly stories of ghosts, cult sacrifices, and monstrous mutants.
Despite the government’s official stance that the town was evacuated to make room for the national park, many believe it was a cover-up for a chemical spill, UFO activity, or various other supernatural occurrences. Plenty of old buildings in the town have attracted their own legends and stories: An old church plays host to a satanic cult, a wrecked school bus is full of children murdered by a serial killer, and a haunted house lies hidden in the woods. Only those who dare venture into the abandoned place, especially after dark, know the truth of what horrors exist there.
5. Civic Theatre
Where: 182 S Main St, Akron
In Akron, Ohio, there is a theatre with a dark and haunting reputation. The Civic Theatre’s very foundations are odd, built right on top of a canal. The inner decor, which looks like a lavish Turkish palace, invites a sense of wonder and mystery. Yet despite the beauty, darkness lurks underneath. Three different ghosts are said to haunt the old theatre. The most commonly seen is that of the spirit of a janitor who has remained steadfast at his post, even in death. Another legend tells of sightings of a young actor who is spotted in balconies and backstage during performances. The third ghost emerges from a darker legend.
The story goes that a young woman once committed suicide by drowning herself in the canal. The banks of the canal are still located behind the theatre and she’s been spotted wandering there, occasionally running down the tunnel and back into the underground depths of the Civic. Nothing malevolent is said to happen here but, like all great theatres, it is haunted by the ghosts of its past.
6. Lafayette Hotel
Where: 101 Front St, Marietta
This Marietta hotel was rebuilt in the early 20th century after a fire destroyed much of the original Bellevue Hotel in 1906. As the Lafayette Hotel rose from the smoldering ashes, so did paranormal happenings, which soon plagued the hotel, earning it a most haunted reputation.
Hotel guests on the third floor have claimed that their belongs went missing or moved around the room without explanation. Lights and televisions are known to go off and on without provocation and voices are heard in seemingly empty rooms and hallways. Hotel staff regularly report sightings of ghostly figures. The most famous of these figures is that of a woman who appears to be a Victorian maid. She wears a long black dress, a starched white pinafore, and cap and moves in slow motion down the corridors of the Lafayette Hotel, endlessly folding cloth.
7. Majestic Theatre
Where: 45 E 2nd St, Chillicothe
The Majestic is located in Chillicothe, and like many theatres, it lays claim to numerous ghosts and spirits that still linger in the wings. Yet the Majestic has the bloody history to back them up. Built in the mid-19th century, the building was first used as an opera house. During an outbreak of Spanish Influenza in 1918 at a nearby military camp, the Majestic served as a morgue for the rising number of corpses. The alley next to the theatre was wet with so much blood that it earned the nickname ‘Blood Alley’.
Today, the Majestic Theatre is a hotbed of paranormal activity. Mysterious fogs are known to drift around the theatre; people claim to see apparitions in the halls, and a dead body once supposedly appeared on stage during a live performance. It is also said the ghost of a little girl likes to run around backstage and through the dressing rooms, giggling and playing tricks, and a stoic man in a black suit is often spotted walking down the aisles of the theatre during performances.
8. Mudhouse Mansion
Where: Mudhouse Road, just off Lake Road, outside Lancaster
Though the Mudhouse Mansion is no longer standing, it was once an impressive site that came with an abundance of eerie and ghostly stories. Believed to have been built sometime between 1840 and 1850, it was located just outside of Lancaster. One of the most prominent horror stories attached to the house comes from the Civil War era and concerns an abusive slave owner who lived on the property—this despite the fact that Ohio was a free state that had abolished slavery and fought with the Union Army. Nevertheless, according to legend, one night, a servant escaped and maneuvered through a series of underground chambers that led to the home’s basement. Upon entering the home he murdered the slave owner, alongside his entire family while they slept in their beds.
Another legend that has stood the test of time is that the Mudhouse is the original home to the American urban legend “Bloody Mary”. It is said while living in the house, Mary killed her children and husband by hanging them from the ceiling rafters. After her own death, she became the entity known as Bloody Mary and has been terrifying American children ever since. Over the years, the property changed hands several times. After the 1930s, the house slipped into abandonment. It became a popular destination for legend trippers before finally being demolished in 2015.
Related: The Mudhouse Mansion Mystery
9. Athens Lunatic Asylum
Where: Radar Hill Trail, Athens
Athens Lunatic Hospital, now known as The Ridges, was Ohio’s largest mental asylum at its peak of operation. Opening its doors in 1874, the hospital provided treatments to a variety of patients including violent criminals, people suffering from mental disabilities and illnesses, and Civil War veterans.
Despite the hospital’s benevolent beginnings, the institution soon earned a brutal reputation for the mistreatment of its patients. Residents were regularly restrained for days at a time, left in crowded in rooms, and beaten by hospital staff. Taboo psychiatric practices such as lobotomies and shock therapy were used. By the 1950s, approximately 1,800 patients were squeezed onto the hospital grounds. Athens was eventually shut down in 1993, but local legend says that not every soul left the building. Of the many restless spirits that are said to haunt the asylum, the ghost of Margaret Schilling is the most infamous.
In December 1979, patient Margaret Schilling went missing. After a thorough search of the hospital and its grounds by hospital staff, her dead body was eventually discovered, 42 days later, in the abandoned top floor ward No. 20. She was naked, with her clothes folded neatly beside her. Upon removing her body, a stain marked the floor on which she had lain undisturbed for so long. Today, the stain can still be seen—as can her ghost, which is said to roam the hospital grounds.
10. Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory
Where: 100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield
You might recognize this imposing building if you’re a fan of the film Shawshank Redemption. But long before it was the location of a Hollywood movie, it was a place of horror for those incarcerated within its walls.
Located in Mansfield, the reformatory opened in 1896 and was used to house young men that were first-time and non-violent offenders. Opened with the mission to reform these offenders by teaching them useful skills and enhancing their spirituality, the reformatory was hailed as a new and progressive institution. Yet, it soon became a place of brutality.
Tales tell of prisoners beaten and abused by fellow inmates and guards. There were also reports of a “sweat box” being used as punishment for offenders, sometimes also referred to as the “Hole”. Over 200 prisoners died while incarcerated there.
The building was essentially a block of cells with no windows, no beds, and only a toilet. Eventually, the Reformatory became immensely overcrowded. In 1990, United States Federal Court ordered the facility closed, citing inhumane conditions. Yet the ghosts of the inmates and guards linger on. Over the years, footsteps and muffled voices have been heard, even though there is no one else in the area. Strange shadows flicker down empty hallways, doors open and slam shut of their own accord and the spirits of the former prisoners are frequently spotted, unwilling to let go of the horrors they experienced in life.