Lore behind local ghost stories lives on

by Charles Cassady

Ghost stories are common to cultures throughout the world – and throughout the year. In old Japan, the “rakugo,” a wandering spooky bard, would recount supernatural yarns called “obake” on warm summer evenings. A stated intent was to raise gooseflesh (“torihada”) on the listeners, as a sort of forerunner to air conditioning.

In autumn and throughout the month of October, people eagerly join “Ghost Tours,” visiting authentic sites of chilling regional legends and lore. Those who have done the research say that the American city with the largest quantity of supernatural guided walking tours is Savannah, Georgia, followed by New Orleans and Chicago.

The latest ghost-tour business in Cuyahoga County to commence, in downtown Cleveland and The Flats, is a 2023 tour led by local author/genealogist/historian William Krejci. Its perambulations can be found online at www.strangenspooky.com.

And, of course, the nearer to home the scary stories get, the more delicious the fright. For who has time and gas money to go to Amityville, New York? Or even to the notorious Hans Tiedemann mansion (alias the Franklin Castle) in downtown Cleveland, where William Krejci lived, especially when dark rumors and spine-tingling accounts can haunt you right down the street? 

Here are some of the local rumors. Keep in mind that in the “boo! business,” actual facts are sometimes more tricks than treats, and the rise of the internet – just the latest version of tabloid media – has conjured many tall tales just for fun.

Still, in the Halloween run-up, any ghostly gazetteer of Broadview Heights should have these sepulchral shades:

Broadview Developmental Center –

Formerly occupying the campus of municipal buildings that include City Hall and the Broadview Recreation Center, the Broadview Developmental Center was built originally in 1939, as the Broadview Veterans Administration Hospital.

It was a tuberculosis sanitarium during its early years, as well as specializing in general medical and surgical services to military veterans as well. After WWII, patients were moved to Crile Hospital, and another VA hospital in Brecksville superceded its duty to take care of veteran clients. Later, this Brecksville Road VA would also be rumored as haunted). In latter years the Broadview Developmental Center cared for the mentally handicapped.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s usage of the center was gradually curtailed, and the property sold to the city of Broadview. Portions of the sprawling campus were either torn down or repurposed, with a newly-erected skate parks, athletic fields, a playground and a fresh service garage and salt bin.

Other outlying buildings soon housed various organizations including the garden club, the historical society, the Cleveland Photographic Society Lend-a-Hand and the Broadview Spotlights theater troupe.

It is the fate of many disused hospitals – especially those noted in the annals as “asylums” or “sanitariums” – to gain creepy reputations (a former mental hospital in Athens, Ohio, far downstate, is especially infamous among ghost fanciers). The Broadview Developmental Center was no exception. Folklore claimed one could still hear screaming of patients who were on the upper floors of the Broadview VA.

The title of the “Pink Lady” has been endowed upon a female specter – dressed in pink, of course – said to roam the halls and could be occasionally seen through the windows, though since the razing of the old building she seems to be far less active.

Broadview Heights Service Director David Schroedel remembers the old Developmental Center in its decrepitude.

“I walked around that building before it was torn down. It felt like a ghost could be around every corner,” he said. “[The police] were always busy chasing people out of there.”

He said he never witnessed the Pink Lady, nor does he know anyone who has. Still, even in the new complex, he said, people have had curious sensations.

“None of that is mean-spirited. Some of the administrative assistants say it feels like someone is in the next room. But nobody is there,” Schroedel said. “Or you feel as though someone is following right at your elbow, but you turn around and you are alone.”

He concluded, “The spirits are nice ones.”

Visitors to Broadview may or may not be guaranteed actual paranormal activity, but it is become a recent ritual on pleasant October nights for the Broadview Spotlights to perambulate throughout the old grounds of the Broadview Developmental Center with “ghost walk” scripted tours, which are original mini-playlets in the open air, typically commemorating late, great northern Ohio personalities.

Annette Phelps, founder/trustee of the Broadview Spotlights, promised new ghost walks – the sixth annual edition – this October. And she said that Broadview Spotlights is haunted – but not necessarily by sufferers from the old Broadview Developmental Center.

“Supposedly most theaters have ghosts. … I believe that’s because of the props and storage room,” she said. “It’s full of stuff donated from estates. And supposedly ghosts attach themselves to old things.”

Phelps said the organization once allowed a ghost-hunting team to spend some time in the building with their equipment.

“And they did register something with their equipment,” she said. “No visual sightings were logged, but the paranormal investigators allegedly had a conversation with … something.

The New Hampton Subdivision  

Viewers of the hit film “Poltergeist” are familiar with the premise of a suburban house that happened to be immorally constructed over a sacred old Indian burial ground. Thanks to the electronic poltergeist, known as the internet, those allegations are extant about an entire housing development, the New Hampton Subdivision.

This network of homes, erected in 2001, is rumored to have been built atop a Native American final resting place. Phenomena now gossiped about the neighborhood include doors shutting on their own, ghostly “orbs” (or are they just dust motes?) in photographs, and several visible spirits of Indians, who were definitely not the Cleveland baseball team.

Whether the New Hampton horrors are truth or a cyber-age social-media prank, it was not unknown, especially in bygone days, for unscrupulous developers to erect houses and buildings atop older cemeteries, making a pretense of “moving” the dead to a new location. Actually, however, they would just shuffle the headstones, because it was cheaper that way, and unceremoniously erect new construction atop the graves. William Krejci exposes this unethical practice in his book “Buried Beneath Cleveland.”

North Royalton High School –

It may also be internet hearsay that North Royalton High School suffers a malediction after an act of violence, possibly fatal, in its past. The legend claims that in the 1970s two seniors, for a prank, grabbed a freshman and hung him in a locker – a traumatic act that may have resulted in the younger boy’s death.

Now, according to web wisdom, at 4:25 p.m., every Friday in the hallway near the old gym, the sound of a basketball dribbling down the hall can be heard, whether anyone is present or not. Then come screams of a boy and banging sounds on the lockers.

At least, with a time and place for the manifestation, this is one ghost story that might actually be tested out. Would the internet lie?

Broadview Heights also has honor of being longtime home of the Dark Room Bar on Royalton Road, perhaps the most enduring horror-themed saloon in either Cuyahoga or Summit counties. Besides macabre DJs, skeleton-filled decor and television-viewing parties, the place has occasional visits from the iconic Legion of Terror acting/effects troupe, whose nearby Bloodview Haunted House is a destination for scare-seekers in October and on special occasions throughout the year.

Truly, Broadview Heights has special claim to be constantly in a Halloween state of mind. ∞