Monday, January 14, 2008

Haunted Cleveland: Franklin Castle

In the fall of 2006, while driving downtown, I hit a detour in the freeway and accidentally took the wrong freeway exit. In trying to get back to my original destination, I got really lost on the West Side of town off I-90. My ability to get my bearings was being hampered because the entire Cleveland area had been hit by pea-soup fog. I could barely see the front of my car, much less street signs or any other landmarks.

Feverishly trying to navigate to Fulton road to try to get on I-71, I found myself taking many side streets, hoping to see something familiar. I finally hit an intersection of a street where I could not go straight and was forced to make a turn. Looking straight ahead, there it was, draped in heavy gray fog – Franklin Castle – looking particularly spooky and scary. The first thing I thought was “Now I know where I am!” and the second thing I thought was “Get away from that house now!”

For those of you not familiar with Cleveland, Franklin Castle is probably it’s most famous allegedly haunted building. In fact, it is considered by some to be the most haunted house in the state of Ohio. Its history is filled with lots or rumor, speculation, and reports of weird happenings.

Franklin Castle is on Franklin Boulevard at the intersection of West 44th Street in the Cleveland neighborhood called Ohio City. The house (Gothic style, what else would you expect?) was built in 1865 for grocer and banking executive, Hannes Tiedemann and his wife Luise.

In 1881, Tiedemann’s daughter died, reportedly of diabetes. Shortly afterwards, Luise Tiedemann's mother died. In the following few years, three more of the Tiedemann’s children died, one of which was only eleven days old. These tragedies fueled speculation that there were more to these deaths than what was originally reported.

Tiedemann began remodeling the home afterwards, in an attempt to distract his wife from these deaths. Many secret passages and rooms were created during that process. A huge ballroom was also constructed, encompassing the entire third floor.

Luise Tiedemann was dead by March 24, 1895, Hannes sold the house, and by 1908 he, and the entire Tiedemann family, were dead. It was also rumored that Hannes Tiedemann had murdered a woman at the house, who could have either been a servant, mistress, niece, or illegitimate daughter. This alleged murder has never been proven, yet there are claims that her ghost still inhabits the house.

The house changed hands many times, some with questionable motives for the use of the house, and more rumored murders. It is alleged that the German Socialist Party, who purchase the house in 1913, machine-gunned to death twenty of their members in a secret room.

The house remained unoccupied for many years, but in the 1960s and 1970s, various owners were reporting stories of strange happenings, noises, and apparitions. One owner, while searching for a secret passageway, found a very old human skeleton.

The Cleveland State University Newspaper, The Cauldron, reported in October of 2007:

The house switched owners a few more times before Michelle Heimburger, who remains the current owner, purchased it in 1999.

Later that year, a homeless man set fire to the house, eliminating much of the interior restoration that had been done by her and the previous owner. The house, nearly gutted by the fire, sat vacant with no signs of renovation for years before yet more controversy arose.

Heimburger had enlisted real-estate developer Charles Milsaps to oversee the post-arson restoration of the building with intentions of selling it to him.

In 2003 Milsaps announced plans for the building to become the home of the Franklin Castle Club, an upscale social club with membership fees of $5,000. Things were definitely looking up for the building.

Later that year, local ghost buster Mary Ann, best known as the inspiration for the popular television show The Ghost Whisperer, told Cleveland's Scene that the ghosts probably would be detrimental to any possible businesses hoping to take residence at the castle.

"If there are ghosts there, he's going to have terrible problems renovating the place," she said of Milsaps plans.

Mary Ann appears to have been right.

It was revealed last year by The Plain Dealer that although the Web site for the Franklin Castle Club trumps the building as being beautifully restored and club membership to be selling fast, all was not as it seemed.

Milsaps was actually only "reserving" memberships and not selling them. Besides, the club still didn't have a home since renovations were happening at a much slower pace than anticipated.
Several local companies claimed that work done at the castle was not paid for and a lien against the house was awarded to one company.

Earlier this year, the inside of the castle still showed very little progress.

The ghosts still seem to be there, though.

More than a few people claim to have seen the figure of a woman … in a mirror above a first-floor fireplace, during stops at the building on local ghost tours.

Whether it's cursed by negligence or the supernatural, Ohio's most haunted house maintains it's turbulent and unusual history.”

There is plenty of reading on this subject. If you do a Google search on the topic, you’ll find plenty of sources and stories from which to choose. And I guarantee they will all scare you just a little.

So for me, on that foggy, dreary day, the Franklin Castle did help me in finding my way, and gave me the creepy shivers at the same time. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All things Cleveland,
This is Charles from the Castle. Contact me if you would like to do a blog on new developments here at the Castle, including, a National Cable TV show about the Castle restoration, the Franklin Castle Club, and my upcoming propmotion "Charles Milsaps, 30 days in the Castle".

Charles Milsaps
Franklin Castle Club