Ohio may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of ghosts, but you’d be surprised. As Chris Woodyard, the author of Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio and the four-volume Haunted Ohio series will be the first to tell you, there’s enough paranormal history in this particular stretch of the Midwest to fill a book...five of them, in fact.
We did some investigating of our own to compile a list of the most haunted places in Ohio, and were shocked by what we found. From haunted music halls to prisons where the presence of long-gone inmates can still be felt, Ohio has some of the most intense paranormal activity we’ve ever come across.
The dark energy present in one of the most haunted houses in Ohio can be traced back to its original occupants. Hannes Tiedemann built Franklin Castle in 1881, where he lived with his wife Louise. According to Cleveland’s Channel 19 News, the couple grieved the deaths of four of their children while they were living there. Hannes’ mother also died in the fortress, as did Louise.
The sorrowful energy trapped in Franklin Castle began to flair up several decades after the family sold it. An Atlas Obscura article points out that reports of unseen babies crying, mysterious footsteps, and sightings of a female apparition flooded the estate in the 1960s. A fire in the home left it abandoned for many years, but it was purchased by new owners in 2011 and is now back in use as a private residence.
Cincinnati Music Hall
Matthew Zory, a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and author of Through the Lens: The Remaking of Cincinnati’s Music Hall, was taking photos in Cincinnati’s Music Hall in 2016 when he captured what he believes to be paranormal activity. Two of his photos, snapped during renovations, show what appear to be apparitions. Local station WCPO 9 News covered the spooky occurrence, providing important backstory. Music Hall has long had a reputation for being haunted. It was constructed on land that was once the site of Ohio’s first insane asylum. Next door was Cincinnati Hospital, and the grounds around it were used to bury the homeless.
When the area was excavated for the construction of Music Hall in 1876, bones were discovered. More human remains were discovered during renovations in 1969 and 2016, according to The Guardian. Disturbing the bodies buried beneath Music Hall so many times definitely seemed to have disturbed the spirits.
Ohio State Reformatory
The Ohio State Reformatory was closed by a court order in 1990, and was scheduled to be torn down a few years later. However, the filmmakers of The Shawshank Redemption stepped in and claimed it as their main filming location in 1994. Built in 1896, the reformatory had a reputation for its cruel treatment of inmates, most of whom were first-time offenders. In fact, its notoriously inhumane conditions were what led to its closure. Today, the reformatory is available for tours, which reveal both filming locations and the cramped cells that real prisoners were forced to endure.
According to the Travel Channel, many prisoners died during the 94 years the reformatory served as an operational prison, and their numbered graves lay right outside the property. It’s widely thought that the restless, angry spirits of those who died in custody have remained behind, and reports of cold spots, slamming doors, and being pushed by unseen forces have frequently arisen.
Spring House Gazebo
Constructed in 1904, making it the oldest enduring structure in the Cincinnati park system, Spring House Gazebo is also one of the most haunted outdoor locales in the state. It all started when a lawyer and bootlegger named George Remus shot and killed his wife Imogene in the gazebo in 1927, on the day their divorce proceedings were set to commence. Her ghost is said to haunt the gazebo to this day, and her apparition, dressed all in black, is often spotted in and around the very area where she died.
The Buxton Inn
Built in 1812, The Buxton Inn in Granville is a fun place to lay your head at night, but perhaps not the most restful. Proudly described on the state’s official travel site as an infamous haunted location popular amongst ghost-hunters, it’s said that guests have reported hearing footsteps and coins dropping to the floor when nobody is there. Rooms 7 and 9 in particular are hot spots for paranormal activity. One reviewer on TripAdvisor, who stayed at the Inn in 2019, even said it’s the best haunted inn they’ve ever stayed in—complete with ghostly meows from a friendly departed cat.
Château Laroche, more commonly known as Loveland Castle, took over 50 years to complete. It started out as a passion project in the 1920s by Harry D. Andrews, a local eccentric. After his death, the castle was left to a local Boy Scout Troop, and now holds guided tours. Naturally, the apparition of Andrews is reported wandering around his former residence, and doors are often heard slamming, as though he’s passing from one room to the next.
Related: 13 Most Haunted Places in Texas
The Dent Schoolhouse
Built in 1894, the Dent Schoolhouse was the site of a terrible tragedy that took place in the 1950s. According to ABC News, several children from the school went missing, and their decaying remains were later found sealed in barrels in the janitor’s basement. The school was shut down after the murders, and now functions as a haunted house attraction that claims to have a few actual ghosts amongst the revolving cast...including Charlie the janitor himself, as well as a few of his purported victims.
Akron Civic Theatre
In the 1920s, theater and movie magnate Marcus Loew had big plans for the making of the Akron Civic Theatre. Loew employed famed architect John Eberson to design the building, who drew inspiration from Moorish castles for the striking theater. Today, the Akron Civic Theatre is only one of five remaining theaters in the country where moviegoers can be dazzled by a night sky painted on the ceiling, complete with twinkling lights and intermittent clouds.
It’s said that the theater has one main resident ghost. Fred the Janitor reportedly died during a shift there, and stays on to watch over things. Tip: be sure to tidy up after using the bathroom—rumor has it that Fred is known to chase out people who make messes while using the facilities. Other visitors such as “the well-dressed man” and the ghost of a girl who’s said to have committed suicide by jumping into the canal behind the theater can be heard knocking around and calling out as well.
The Athens Lunatic Asylum
The Athens Lunatic Asylum was in operation from 1874 to 1993. During that time, it practiced controversial procedures, including lobotomies and electroshock therapy. In 1978, a patient named Margaret Schilling reportedly went missing from the asylum. 42 days later, her body was said to have been found by a maintenance person in a long-abandoned wing of the asylum. As the story goes, her body was so decomposed at the time of its discovery that it left a stain on the ground that can still be seen.
Today, the Athens Lunatic Asylum has been rebranded as “The Ridges.” The building complex is part of Ohio University, which uses it for classrooms, offices, and various other purposes. Schilling’s ghost is said to haunt the same place where she died, which now houses the Kennedy Museum of Art.
Camp Chase Cemetery
Local news station WBNS 10TV reports that in 2014, a team of paranormal investigators caught photographic proof of what they believed to be a soldier at the Camp Chase Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. The cemetery, which is the final resting place of at least 2,600 Confederate soldiers, is said to also be the stomping grounds of quite a few ghosts. One such spirit is the Lady in Gray, who frequents the grave of a soldier named Benjamin Allen. Peggy Maguire, a member of the Central Ohio Paranormal Society, claims to have been standing near this very grave when she captured the team’s ghostly image.
Twin City Opera House
The Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville, Ohio opened its doors in 1892, and is still in operation today. The building is said to contain up to 14 active ghosts within its historic walls. In season one, episode five of Travel Channel’s paranormal show Portals to Hell, hosts Zach and Katrina investigate the opera house and are left with no doubts as to its many otherworldly inhabitants, including “Red Wine Robert,” who had an ill-fated affair with one of the regular performers there at the turn of the 20th century. Local news channel WHIZ interviewed Marty Myers, a Case Manager for the Central Ohio Ghost Squad, who told the reporter, "It is pretty haunted, let me tell you, it is one of the most active and consistently active places I know paranormally.”
Canton, Ohio’s Palace Theatre was booming when it first opened in the 1920s, and now it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. According to The Lantern, Ohio State University’s campus newspaper, a magician named Harry Blackstone Jr. performed a public séance in the theatre in the mid-1970s. He was trying to contact magician Howard Thurston, his father’s archrival. According to legend, Blackstone instead summoned the spirit of a person who’d been murdered in the theater years ago, and who’s said to still haunt the building. The illusive spirit Blackstone had initially intended to reach apparently told his family and friends that he wanted to be contacted once he died, but try as people might, no one has succeeded yet.
Looking at the gorgeous, serene house located on Walhalla Road in Clintonville, you’d never guess the horrors that took place there. In the early to mid-20th century, a man named Dr. Mooney is said to have suspected his wife of infidelity. He killed her and their two children with an axe, and then walked to the bridge down the road and hanged himself. Legend has it that the spirits of his family members still haunt the house, and that Dr. Mooney’s silhouette can be seen hanging from the bridge some nights.
Sources: Cleveland 19 News, Atlas Obscura, Cleveland.com, Travel Channel, Ohio.org, TripAdvisor, WBNS 10 TV, WCPO Cincinnati, Visual Ohio, Week in Weird, ABC News, Legends of America, Twin City Opera House, WHIZ News, The Lantern, 614 Now