Friday, October 30, 2015

Haunted Ashmore Estates – Ashmore, Illinois

It’s October – my favorite time of year, and with it comes the chance to investigate some haunted places around the U.S. This year, A Grave Interest has focused on haunted houses, and the spirits who are up to some mischief making … Here’s one final look!

Photos courtesy Ashmore Estates
It was once a poor house where Coles County, Illinois residents could go and work for food and lodging. Residents grew their food on the farm; butchered and smoked their meats, churned butter, and grew the vegetables.

The current structure was built in 1916 on the same ground the original Alms House had stood on for almost 60 years. Built in the Neo-Georgian style, the three-story building also had a basement.

The Coles County Poor Farm operated until 1959 when it, and the surrounding land, was sold to Ashmore Estates, Inc. for use as a private psychiatric hospital. The hospital operated for five years before going broke and closing its doors.

One year later, in 1965, the facility opened again as a public mental institution, taking patients in from all over the state. By the late 1960s, the hospital had 50 residents in-house.

Ashmore Estates was sold again in 1976 and an attempt to modernize the building began. It took until the mid-1980s for the reconstruction to be completed, but by 1986, the facility was heavily in debt. By April, residents were being transferred to other locations and the psychiatric hospital was closed.

The building was left abandoned for years and rumors began to spread that it was extremely haunted. (It’s now listed as one of the three most haunted places in Illinois.) On Halloween night in 1995, the old caretaker’s home, across the road, was burned by vandals. As the spooky tales increased, so did the vandalism; all of the windows were broken out, people entered the building to spray paint the walls, damage the structure, and party with the “spirits.” As the years went by, Ashmore Estates continued to fall into decline.

Reports of full body apparitions have been made, especially involving a little girl. Some say it is four-year-old Elva Skinner, a child who died in the first almshouse back in 1880. The story goes that Elva was hurrying to get dressed one cold February morning when she stepped too close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire. She died later that day as the result of her burns. It is believed that Elva has haunted the property since her tragic death over 130 years ago.

An apparition of a man has been seen jumping from a window to his “death.” Another figure is that of a man wearing a dressy top hat who roams the hallways. Music can be heard in the building along with singing coming from the empty music room.

Local television weather personality, Kevin Orpurt stayed in the house overnight in 2009. He reported several incidents in the basement area where it felt as if something was trying to lift him off the ground. Around 4 am while the group he was with went up to the second floor to investigate, Orpurt stayed on the first floor. He has no recollection of how he came to be body-slammed onto the floor, but awoke in pain, surrounded by the rest of the group who decided it was some type of evil spirit that did not want him in the building.

The crew of the Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventurers recently recorded a show here. During filming they encountered banging noises, dark shadow figures, disembodied voices and scratches. Watch the Ashmore Estates episode on their web page:

A fierce storm hit in 2013 with wind speeds up to 100 mph. The building’s roof was blown off and the classic gables were destroyed. Most said the building was beyond repair. But the paranormal community stepped up and has assisted the new owners in bringing the building back to life. Another storm, which hit in May of this year, damaged the roof again and repairs have been made.

But this is no Halloween “haunted house.” Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters are welcome to set an appointment to schedule their investigations in the building. Horror movie producers and several ghost investigative shows have already stayed at the estates, shooting apparitions, mists and recording voices in the night.
Private investigations may be conducted overnight or during the daytime. Contact Ashmore Estates for current fees, and to set an appointment.

And, it gets better! A public Halloween investigation will be taking place tomorrow night at Ashmore. In what will be a 12-hour “lock-down” – from 6 pm Oct 31 to 6 am November 1  – twelve people will be admitted to explore and experience the estate on the night when the veil is the thinnest. Check the web site to see if the slots are already filled.

Next year will mark the 100 Anniversary of Ashmore Estates, and who knows what spooktacular discoveries await us …

~ Joy
Ashmore Estates
22645 E. County Road 1050N
Ashmore, IL
(217) 899-9978

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Most Haunted House in Ohio: Franklin Castle – Cleveland, Ohio

It’s October – my favorite time of year, and with it comes the chance to investigate some haunted places around the U.S. This year, A Grave Interest will focus on haunted houses, and the spirits who are living up to some interesting mischief making …

It’s known as Franklin Castle because of its location on Franklin Boulevard, though the real name is the Hannes Tiedemann House. But regardless of what you call it; it is said to be the most haunted house in the state of Ohio.

The mansion was built in 1881 for Hannes Tiedemann, a German immigrant, and his family. Boasting four stories and more than two-dozen rooms, the castle has a dark legacy of death.

Tiedemann Monument
The new year had gotten off to a dubious start in 1891, when on  January 15, Tiedemann’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Emma died due to complications with diabetes. The family was still in mourning when Hannes’ elderly mother died.

Suddenly, within the next three years, three more of Tiedemann’s children died in the house; one was less than two weeks old. No cause was given for any of the deaths. Tongues wagged and many felt that five deaths in three years was more than unfortunate.

Hannes’ wife, Luise, was inconsolable, but he tried to cheer her by adding rooms and passages throughout the house, including the addition of a ballroom on the fourth floor. Gargoyles and turrets were also added to the exterior of the house, and a Gothic castle-like appearance took shape.

Then on March 24 1895, tragedy struck again when Luise Tiedemann died of liver disease at the age of fifty-seven. Hannes said he had had enough and sold the house to the Mullhauser family, wishing them a more joyful time there than his family had experienced.

The Mullhauser’s lived there several years before selling the house to the German Socialist Party for their meetings and activities. It was rumored that several people had been gunned down in the house due to a political dispute.

During Prohibition, the network of hidden rooms and passageways were discovered throughout the old house. The real reason they had been built were unknown; all of the Tiedemann’s were dead, but it made the mansion a perfect location for bootlegging operations.

By the late 1960s, the house was falling into a state of disrepair, but James Romano and his family thought it was worth saving. Romano moved his wife and six children into the mansion in January 1968, seventy-seven years after the first death had occurred. 

The family soon began experiencing odd occurrences; organ music could be heard throughout the house but no organ was inside. The Romano children requested cookies for their friend who lived upstairs – a young girl only they could see, who always cried. Footsteps sounded through the hallways, and a heavy tread was often heard walking along the concealed passages.

By 1974, the Romano family decided to move out and sold the property to a man who was going to turn the structure into a church. In order to finance the plans, tours were offered with a chance for people to stay overnight in the haunted mansion.

Paranormal groups flocked to the mansion, including professional ghost hunter, Hans Holzer. Holzer told church members that several spirits haunted the house, including that of a girl named Karen.

Hans Holzer
According to Holzer, Karen had died at the turn-of-the century after her father had words with a man she was seeing. Something went terribly amiss and Karen was killed during the argument. To avoid a murder charge, her body was hung from a rafter and her death ruled a suicide. This is said to be the reason she remains.  Karen is believed to occupy a third floor room that stays about 10º colder than the rest of the houses, even in the summer.

Rumors flew during the church remodel when the bones of several babies were discovered in a secret room. The coroner stated that the bones were over 70 years old, so no investigation was held.

Neighbors have repeatedly reported seeing a tall sender woman dressed all in black, standing in one of the turret windows. Many believe it is the spirit of Rachel, Tiedemann’s mistress. Supposedly when he found out she was leaving him for another man, he took her to the castle and strangled her in the turret room. The sounds of choking can still be heard in the mansion.

But no one ever stayed too long here. The house sold twice in 1983, again in 1985, was up for sale in 1994 and sold again in 1999. Ownership of the mansion has changed hands as reports of paranormal activity continued to mount. Reports of spinning chandeliers, wispy figures, doors opening and closing on their own, and faces appearing in the woodwork, only to disappear when sighted could shake the most interested buyer.

In 2001, the house was purchased by Chiara Dona dalle Rose, a European tapestry artist who planned to convert it into a two family dwelling. As of last year, construction crews could be seen working in the house, but the local architect hired for the renovations is no longer involved. Will the mansion ever be lived in again? The answer depends; do you count those troubled spirits that appear to still reside in Franklin Castle?

~ Joy

Franklin Castle
(Tiedemann House)
4308 Franklin Blvd
Cleveland, OH

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror
It’s October – my favorite time of year, and with it comes the chance to investigate some haunted places around the U.S. This year, A Grave Interest will focus on haunted houses, and the spirits who are living up to some interesting mischief making …

November 13, 1974 was a chilly night in Suffolk County, New York. In the  early evening hours, Ronald (Burch) DeFeo Jr. ran into a local bar and told patrons that his parents had been shot. So began what would become known as The Amityville Horror.

Nothing about this unassuming 3-story Dutch Colonial home, located at 112 Ocean Avenue gave any indication as to the tragedy that had happened inside. When police arrived that evening, they discovered six members of the DeFeo's family had been shot execution style; all were found lying face down on their beds.

The DeFeo's oldest son, Ronald (Butch) DeFeo, Jr. was charged with murdering his family and sentenced to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life. At his trial, DeFeo claimed that he had been possessed by the evil that resided in the house. He had heard it use his family’s voices in plotting to kill him, so he killed his family first.

George & Kathy Lutz
In December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the Long Island house with her three children. The Lutz’s claimed strange things began to happen as soon as they arrived.

It started that evening with a plague of flies inside the house; cold spots were prolific and terrifying sounds would wake them at 3:15 a.m., the time when the murders were committed. Then the paranormal activity increased. Objects were thrown around the house by unseen hands; a green slime oozed from the walls, children were levitated in their beds, and a demonic pig with red, glowing eyes was seen. They moved out 28 days later.

The Lutz’s story was taken and crafted into the best selling book “The Amityville Horror” in 1977. A movie spin-off was made two years later that received an Oscar nomination and spawned several sequels. For over a generation of readers and viewers, The Amityville Horror became America’s best-known haunted house.

William Weber
But rumors spread that the Lutz family had taken a gruesome situation and made up terrifying incidents as a way to gain fame and fortune. Local attorney William Weber claimed that he and the Lutz’s “created the story over many bottles of wine.”

The Lutz’s retaliated by suing Weber, along with a ghost writer, two clairvoyants, the New York Sunday Times, Good Housekeeping magazine and Hearst Corporation for invasion of privacy, misappropriation of names for trade purposes and mental distress. A Brooklyn judge dismissed the claims ruling that “to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber.”  The Lutz’s disappeared from public view.

Daniel Lutz
But others still believed. Daniel Lutz was 10-years-old when his family lived there for that month in 1975. He says the claims of evil forces in the house were true, and blames his stepfather, George Lutz for dabbing in the occult and bringing about the horrifying paranormal encounters. (Both George and Kathy Lutz did pass lie detector tests concerning their ordeal in the house.)

Daniel Lutz remembers books about magic and satanic practices that his step-father kept on his bookshelves, and believes that George Lutz opened a gateway to paranormal forces before discovering that he couldn’t control what he’d let loose.

Jim and Barb Cromarty
Jim and Barbara Cromarty purchased the house in 1977 and lived there for ten years. They reported nothing unusual happened there during that time.

In fact, several families have lived in the house since the Cromarty’s sold it in the 1980s. None have reported any supernatural happenings in the residence.

The truth of the Lutz’s claims may never be known.  Kathleen Lutz died in 2004, and her ex-husband George died in 2006, both still affirming that the paranormal events did happen.

The house has received a face-lift and an address change over the years in order to keep visitors at bay. After almost 40 years without any paranormal reports, maybe its time to find another house more deserved of the attention, and let these tales die a natural death …

~ Joy

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hauntings At The Hannah House

Haunted Houses
It’s October – my favorite time of year, and that means getting to investigate some haunted places around the Midwest. This year, A Grave Interest will take a stroll through some well-known (and not so well-known) haunted houses, trying to discover more about the spirits that keep these places "interesting" …

Hannah House
In Indianapolis, Indiana, "The Crossroads of America," there is a stately old Italianate-style mansion that is said to be haunted by the people who died there when the owner was trying to help them reach freedom.

Hannah House was built in1858 by 37-year-old Alexander Moore Hannah, a prominent Indiana businessman. The brick home is made up of 24 rooms, located on two floors with an attic and a cellar.

Hannah was an abolitionist who stood up against slavery and intensely debated his policies with all who would listen, including President James Buchanan. It is no wonder that he allowed his mansion to become a stop on the Underground Railroad. But this assistance ultimately led to tragedy.

Underground Railroad
One night, several runaway slaves were being hidden in the cellar, awaiting the next "conductor's" arrival, when someone knocked over an oil lantern. Fire ignited quickly in the cramped quarters and in no time the cellar filled with smoke. The blaze swept through the fugitives quickly. It's not known how many slaves were in the cellar at the time, but many died from the smoke; others from burns before the fire could be contained.

A Cellar Floor
Hannah feared punishment if it was learned that his home was being used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, so the truth of the fire and deaths of the escaped slaves had to be hidden. Those who died in the blaze were quickly buried under the cellar's dirt floor - their names and identities lost forever ...

Hannah continued to live in the house until his death in 1895. The home sold in 1899 and immediately, reports of shadows, screams and strange happenings began.

There were rumors that the stench of burning flesh would drift through the house from time to time, followed by the scent of gangrene, and there were also the shrill screams of a woman in agony.

Objects moved around of their own accord, especially in the basement, and items were thrown about by unseen hands throughout the house; whispering can still be heard but the words are unintelligible. Cold drafts will suddenly permeate a room when no door or window has been opened, and shadowy figures still  move about the mansion; some claim one of them is Mr. Hannah.

If you’d like to experience what the Hannah House has to offer, plan on taking a tour of the house and grounds on selected dates. The next event is scheduled for this Sunday, October 4th from 1 to 4 p.m. eastern time. To check on other tour dates, email the Hannah House or call (317) 787-8486.

Happy Hauntings!

~ Joy