come alive at Rocky River Public Library
By Charles Cassady
Published Oct. 29, 2008
It is said that
the oldest published ghost stories in the world date back to the
Roman author Pliny the Elder in the mid-first century A.D. This
Thursday some of the newest published ghost stories in the world
will be presented at the Rocky River Public Library – by me.
At 7 p.m. I will speak about “Cleveland Ghosts,”
my new book from Schiffer Publishing, of Atglen, Pennsylvania. Hot
off the presses for 2008, it intertwines local history with legends,
tall tales, first-hand accounts, and speculations about how such
yarns germinate and grow. Everything from the full saga of Franklin
Castle to last year’s alleged entity (it looked like a piece of
fluttering blue fluff) captured by a Marathon gas station security
camera in Parma.
never recognized a ghost as genuine, but you would hardly know that
from the high visibility (or invisibility) they maintain in the
popular culture. If you don’t get enough of ghost-hunting shows
on “reality TV,” there are numerous backyard “paranormal investigation”
teams tramping around cemeteries and landmarks with their digital
cameras and tape recorders, often posting their findings online
(check out www.ohpri.com,
for a Buckeye State example). “Ghost tour” businesses are now in
full swing for the October season, in northeast Ohio or any other
community of any size. Self-proclaimed celebrity psychics and spirit
mediums make big money by claiming to communicate with the dead
– one of them, Lisa Williams, just did her thing in Playhouse Square
(itself supposedly haunted) Monday night, selling $35 tickets to
witness her séance mojo live.
what it’s worth, my book itself is cheaper. And my Rocky River Public
Library appearance is free of charge. Then again, I’ve never seen
a phantom myself - aside from local job opportunities, perhaps.
But hearing from so many people who have seen spirits makes me feel
quite left out.
In some cases
ghostly manifestations occur strictly as sounds. The term “poltergeist,”
literally translated, means “noisy ghost,” and, by some strict definitions,
a poltergeist is by its very nature unseen, though stories ranging
from well-documented by outrageous hoaxes tell of flung objects,
mysteriously arranged furniture or clothing, or even strange writing.
Other lesser known forms of “ghosts” include “forerunners” or “tokens,”
regional nicknames for a type of phantom that appears as more or
less an omen. It is seen coincident to or simultaneous with the
original human’s death. In paranormal tales this type of spirit
usually materializes before family members, often over very great
An old superstition
claims that if an individual dies in a room with a mirror that is
uncovered, the spirit remains trapped in the looking-glass and will
be seen peering out. In many ghost accounts it seems that an apparition
is visible to some witnesses, but not others.
In a sampling
of ghost stories reported to me personally, just in the weeks since
“Cleveland Ghosts” rolled off the presses:
Reformatory: A woman was part of a wedding party that had rented
the ominous-looking old state prison for the reception. She and
a male friend had the opportunity to explore parts of the Reformatory
on their own. They ventured into the windowless offices where “Shawshank
Redemption” was filmed. She saw a black figure in the darkness that
she took to be her friend, but he turned out to be in another part
of the room. She put her
left arm through the shape. Later her friends pointed to her arm
in its sleeveless shirt and asked, “What’s that?” She found what
seemed to be a human bite mark on the upper part. In the same visit
she went on a guided tour of the reformatory. This time another
bite mark appeared, not far from where the first had been.
She felt no pain either time, nor could she have twisted
her head in a position to bite the arm herself that way. And she
wouldn’t have asked anyone else to bite her arm, she said; she wasn’t
that type of girl.
visitor to the reformatory was on a tour with a friend at one point
she turned to walk down a corridor, only to see ahead, a few feet
off the ground, red glows that looked like a pair of eyes. She asked
her friend, “Did you see that?” Her friend said, “Did you FEEL that?”
At the same time her friend had felt some kind of awful chill. Had
not seen the eyes. They got the impression something did not want
them going down the corridor.
the same witness: Her family looked into the purchase of an old
homestead in Medina. It turned out to be haunted. The family already
living there were born-again Christians, described to me as “living
in denial.” Their method of dealing with the ghosts was to ignore
them by refusing to go upstairs – ever - where paranormal activity centered. When the
witness’ family took over the house, they would spend long hours
renovating, then while driving away see the lights of the second
floor flicker back on by themselves.
Castle. A man recalled visiting the notorious near west-side mansion
around 1976. He had brought his crucifix and Bible and girlfriend,
had paid for the privilege of spending the night in the upstairs,
sleeping on the floor. The owner at that time lived in a small residence
below. The man was just complaining to his girlfriend that nothing
was happening, that this ghost stakeout was a waste of time. Then
loud banging began to emanate from the walls. Along with joints
of the ceiling they could see “lightning” in straight lines flash
angrily. The two ran downstairs to tell the owner they’d had enough
and weren’t going to stay any longer. When the man came back upstairs
to retrieve his things, the crucifix and coat were missing. The
Bible was still there.
I am accumulating
many stories like that. Once people feel they can commence speaking
with you about ghosts, it really opens the floodgates. You become
their confessor, the Crypt-keeper of their strange tales.
Even the managers
of the Rocky River Public Library opened up to me about their resident
ghost, heard pushing carts, walking about and – just once – seen
at the top of a flight of stairs.
anything so dramatic as that will happen Thursday night, but if
you care to stop by, there will be night-before-Halloween treats
for all. The Rocky River Public Library is located at 1600 Hampton
Road in Rocky River, and you might want to reserve in advance by
phoning (440) 333-7610.
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