I am an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.
College campuses are no strangers to unexplained occurrences. This is not surprising given that hordes of students descend upon them annually, each with their share of baggage, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
Most complete their education and move on to bigger and better things. The handful who don't, leave behind an energy that resonates long after they are gone.
Athens, Ohio is home to a university that normally sees nearly thirty thousand students pass through its doors each year. Of those, seven thousand live onsite in dormitories. These rooms become their home away from home until graduation.
Wilson Hall, located on the West Green, boasts hundreds of rooms for both male and female residents. In the fifty-odd years since the dorm first opened to students, only one of its lodgings, the infamous Room 428, has been deemed unlivable by the powers that be.
Many believe that the troubles that would come to plague Wilson Hall began long before the first student ever set foot inside the building. This theory is rooted in the assertion that the dormitory rests at the center of what is known as the Athens Cemetery Pentagram.
It is said that five graveyards are located in the city that, if traced on a map, form a perfect five-pointed star. Situated in the middle of this ominous sign is the residence at Wilson Hall. As if that wasn't enough to give one pause, a portion of the campus had, at one time, housed the Athens Lunatic Asylum.
Established in 1874, the psychiatric facility was considered one of the finest in the country. This was due, in part, to its utilization of both traditional and holistic healing methods in treating the mentally and criminally insane. Unfortunately, the institution would face unforeseen challenges over the years that turned its well-intentioned experiment into a house of horrors.
By the 1950s, the asylum that was meant to hold seven hundred patients under the best of circumstances was bursting at the seams with over two thousand residents. As a result of the overcrowded conditions, patient care suffered along with staff morale.
Underfunded and sorely lacking in qualified workers, personnel allegedly began taking shortcuts at the expense of their charges. With no time for therapy sessions, they resorted to ice baths and electroshock treatments in order to keep unruly patients in line.
Lobotomies became commonplace, many of which left the subjects in permanent vegetative states. With each passing day, more atrocities were brought to light. The facility would close its doors in 1993, but not before an event would take place that many believe was the catalyst for the misfortune that would later befall the occupants of Room 428.
It was in December of 1979 that a patient named Margaret Schilling turned up missing inside the walls of the institution. Only mildly disturbed, she had been considered a low-risk resident who had never given her caretakers any trouble. As such, her sudden disappearance took everyone by surprise.
Initially, it was assumed that Margaret, being high-functioning, had left the grounds of her own accord. Already burdened with more responsibility than they could handle, staff put little effort into searching for the missing woman.
Over a month would pass before Margaret finally resurfaced in the most gruesome fashion. A maintenance man discovered her badly decomposed remains in a ward that had been abandoned several years earlier.
Behind a locked door, Margaret's nude form lay prone on the concrete floor. Her clothing had been folded and placed neatly at her side. No cause of death could be determined due to the corpse's advanced state of decay.
When Margaret's body was lifted from its resting place, it was revealed that her figure had been perfectly imprinted in snowy white on the gray backdrop of the cement. The spot, which no amount of cleaning or scouring would shift, became known as the 'corpse stain.'
Although the origins are unclear, word soon spread that to touch the tainted area left behind by the body fluids of the tragic Miss Schilling was to open a line of communication with the spirit world.
After the asylum shut down, much of the land upon which it sat, buildings included, was bequeathed to Ohio University. Three cemeteries containing the bodies of nearly two thousand patients who had not made it out alive were also part of the deal.
Reopened later as The Ridges, the school annex would house the Museum of Art, an auditorium, classrooms, offices and storage rooms. It would also earn a reputation as a hotspot for paranormal activity.
Ghostly apparitions, sometimes accompanied by agonized screams, are often encountered in The Ridges. Electronic devices habitually freeze up in the locale, bringing many a workday to a standstill.
These events are not the only ones to have occurred on campus. As it happens, strange phenomena has been ongoing for decades.
In the 1970s, long before the mental institution and university became a single entity, a male student is said to have taken his life while living in one of the dorms. His room was located in the Wilson Hall of Residence. Its number was 428. His death, as it happened, would only be a taste of things to come.
Playing With Fire
Several years later, a young woman moved into Room 428. Sensitive to a fault, she was instantly aware that something was not right in her surroundings. Rather than being put-off by the waves of ill-will that seemed to permeate her living space, she embraced it.
It wasn't long before the girl began performing rituals in which she attempted to conjure the spirit she believed inhabited her room. When her efforts proved futile, she turned to astral projection, a process by which one wills their inner self to travel outside of their physical form. Again, she made no headway in her quest to break through the barrier that separates the living from those who are not.
Her desire to remain on this plane while mingling in the land of the dead eventually sent her searching for a conduit. She would find what she was looking for at The Ridges.
After being told of the power of the corpse stain, the girl knew what she had to do. Laying her hands upon the ghostly image, she asked that Margaret open the doors to the spirit world. Her request would be granted, but at a powerful price.
No one knows for certain what happened to the student in the hours after she returned to her room. All that is known is that, sometime later that night, she slashed her wrists.
Her body was discovered the following day after she failed to show up for her classes. It is alleged by those who saw the state of the room after the fact that the girl had scrawled cryptic messages in blood all over the walls before succumbing to her injuries. What she had tried to convey in her final moments has never been made public.
It couldn't be proven, of course, but rumors swirled that she had come face-to-face with the entity whose presence she had sensed for weeks. Horrified by what she saw, she had taken her life as a means of escaping the very thing she had summoned.
Those who knew her believed that she was aware of the boy's suicide and had been using his energy to entice dark forces to enter this realm. They could never explain what had compelled her to play such a dangerous game.
Countless curiosity seekers have touched the spot where Margaret Schilling presumably died, but only the girl is known to have suffered for her actions. Some contend that the spirit she unleashed was not that of the boy who died in Room 428, but rather the raging specter of Margaret herself.
Those students unfortunate enough to be assigned the space after the tragedy reported seeing objects flying through the air and smashing into the walls. Alternating whispers and shouts were said to erupt from out of nowhere at all hours. The door leading in from the hallway would open and slam shut of its own volition.
Residents of the fourth floor, where Room 428 was located, often complained that those on the level above them were stomping around all night, making it impossible for them to get any sleep. This would have been easily resolved had it not been for the fact that Wilson Hall doesn't have a fifth floor.
A common sight inside the infamous room was the image of a disembodied head that would appear in the grain of the wooden door. It would come and go, often moving from one area to another. Sometimes, it would take the form of a horned devil. On other occasions, it would manifest as a ghostly face, its mouth agape in a silent scream.
Spooked occupants took their complaints to the school's administrators who eventually broke down and replaced the door. The action made no difference. The images continued to appear no matter what steps were taken to impede them.
After putting up with the annoyance that was Room 428 for several years, the school took the unusual step of sealing it off from the rest of the dorm. Today a metal bar affixed to the exterior prevents entry. A select few are allowed access and then only for the purposes of cleaning and routine maintenance.
Off-limits to students though it may be, the room still keeps the rumor mill churning. Residents of the fourth floor claim that someone stomps around inside Room 428 in spite of its supposedly being vacant. Banging sounds, loud thumps and breaking glass have also been heard coming from the other side of the walls.
This one room among scores of others is, and always will be, an anomaly. The alleged site of two suicides, a spirit conjuring and a multitude of sights and sounds that defy explanation, it has made Wilson Hall one of the most haunted dormitories in the country.
To date, Room 428 has the distinction of being the only living area permanently shuttered by a university as a direct result of paranormal activity.
·Week in Weird
One Man's Castle
In Cleveland, Ohio, of all places, there sits a Victorian mansion that has become a monument to the paranormal. The structure has been dubbed 'The Most Haunted House in Ohio' for good reason.
Over a century ago, it was the site of a series of tragic deaths that rocked the area and left many residents wondering what went on inside the luxurious estate. Those events alone are worth sharing, but as it turned out, they proved to be only the beginning of a much greater mystery.
Hannes Tiedemann, a wealthy local businessman, broke ground on the property in 1881. Over the course of two years, a residence would be constructed the likes of which the city had never before seen. Four stories high and boasting twenty rooms, it was everything that the Tiedemann family had hoped it would be and more.
When the house was completed, Tiedemann, his mother, wife and four children moved into the luxurious estate. They would enjoy eight relatively uneventful years before fate would claim them, one by one.
Their nightmare began in 1891 when fifteen-year-old Emma died suddenly from complications of diabetes. Within weeks, Hannes Tiedemann's mother would also pass away from what was purported to be natural causes. Crippled by the unexpected loss of two family members, Tiedemann's wife Louise slowly sank into a depression that took hold and would not let go.
In an attempt to take Louise's mind off of her grief, Tiedemann decided to continue developing the already elaborate estate. Ten more rooms would be added before all was said and done. Besides the extra living space, stone gargoyles were erected on the outside of the mansion along with towers that gave the structure the distinctive look of a medieval castle.
In spite of his efforts to deflect attention away from their woes, further devastation was lurking just around the corner. The couple would go on to lose three more children in as many years. By 1895, a weary and broken Louise would also die prematurely at the age of fifty-seven. As was the case with the prior deaths that occurred in the home, foul play was never considered. Those close to the family matriarch claimed that she had died, not from some dread disease, but from a broken heart.
By this time, mentally and physically exhausted from both the overseeing of constant construction and the loss of nearly everything he held dear, Hannes Tiedemann made the decision to sell the property. What had, at one time, been his dream home now served only as a reminder of what might have been had fate not stepped in and taken it all away.
As Tiedemann made plans for the future, rumors circulated that he had somehow been involved in the deaths of his family members. After all, he had walked away physically unscathed while the others had been picked off like ducks in a carnival game. Many wondered, out loud, if they had died by his hand. Given his wealth, it was alleged that he had been able to buy his way out of criminal charges time and again.
Those who actually knew Hannes Tiedemann scoffed at the notion that he was capable of killing anyone, let alone his own family. Mild-mannered and generous to a fault, he was considered a pillar of the community. No one had a bad word to say about the man who had been beaten down by unimaginable loss and still managed to remain standing.
The accusation that he had committed murder and then bribed authorities on five separate occasions to look the other way was thought by most to be preposterous. They argued that no one, not even the richest of men, could have pulled off such a feat.
After he sold the mansion, Tiedemann moved on with his life. He remarried, but the union was doomed from the start and ended in divorce within a year. He would go on to lead a life out of the spotlight, still burdened by the veil of suspicion that he could never quite escape. In 1908, he was taking a stroll through a park when he was struck down by a massive stroke. If he had harbored any dark secrets, he took them to his grave.
All That Remains
The mansion that was dubbed Franklin Castle in honor of the street on which it was located, changed hands numerous times in the years following Tiedemann's departure. No one, however, stayed for long. In fact, it was rare for residents to make it past the one-year mark.
Among the revolving door of occupants would be a German cultural society, the Chief of Police and a former husband of actress Judy Garland. There would also be a family of eight who reported that they were greeted on their very first day in the house by the spirit of a little girl.
James Romano recalled that as he and his wife were moving things into the house, their six children had gone upstairs to play. They would later tell their parents that they had met a girl in one of the rooms who was crying inconsolably. When their mother investigated the claims, she could find no sign of the child.
Over the course of their stay, the Romanos would report hearing organ music at all hours. They also asserted that disembodied voices would often fill the rooms. Other occurrences such as doors opening and closing by themselves and the unexplained flickering of lights were constant reminders that they were not alone.
Thoroughly shaken by the events taking place in their home, the Romanos called upon their priest to perform an exorcism. He refused, but upon visiting the dwelling, advised them to move out as soon as possible. Although he didn't declare outright that something demonic dwelt within the castle walls, he told them that he felt a disturbing presence that he could not identify. He warned that, if they chose to remain in the house, they would be doing so at great risk to their personal and spiritual well-being.
After trying in vain to coexist with the entities that had taken over the residence, the family eventually gave up. Like those who had come and gone before them, they realized that they were powerless in the face of what they believed to be evil in its purest form.
Over the years, those brave enough to take a chance on living in Franklin Castle would report seeing a woman dressed completely in black peering out from one of the upstairs windows. Those who got an unobstructed view of her claimed that her face was the picture of despair.
Adding to the castle's mystique, in 1975 a cache of bones was discovered secreted away in one of the closets. An examination conducted by County Coroner Lester Adelson determined the remains to be human. How the grisly remnants had found their way into the closet was a question that no one seemed able to answer.
It was speculated that the bones had been planted there by an owner who was looking to cash in on the mansion's reputation for being haunted. This claim has never been proven or disproven. The skeletal remains, as of this writing, have never been identified.
It was also in the 1970s that a man named George Mirceta bought the property in hopes of turning it into a tourist attraction. Although he didn't believe in ghosts or things that go bump in the night, he was willing to entertain the folly of others if the price was right.
When the mansion was opened to the public, Mirceta made one request of his guests. He asked that they record anything unusual they might experience in a log book which he provided. Some of the alleged encounters made even the skeptical owner set up and take notice.
One woman claimed that she had felt the sensation of being choked while touring the premises. Some visitors wrote of seeing the infamous woman in black hovering near a window. Others noted that they had encountered an entirely different female entity; this one a vague form attired in white. They reported that she had glided past them in the upper stories of the house without ever acknowledging their presence.
Cold spots were a common phenomenon recorded by those who entered Franklin Castle. The feeling of being watched by something unseen was frequently mentioned as was whispering that seemed to emanate from thin air.
It was also known to be a place where cell phones were rendered useless. Visitors claimed that their phones functioned perfectly until they entered the house at which time they would go haywire. The devices would only return to working order once they were outside the castle walls.
By far the most widely noted occurrence was a sound that no one could mistake; that of a crying baby. Given that the Tiedemann's had lost more than one infant during their time in the mansion, it was assumed that these tragic souls were the source of the phantom wailing.
After a while, the novelty of the haunted tours wore off and the castle was again placed on the market. The pattern repeated itself until 1999 when an unexplained fire swept through the residence, leaving it uninhabitable.
Down, but not out, Franklin Castle would experience a rebirth in 2007 when it was purchased for the umpteenth time. With the intention of restoring the site to its former glory, the new owner set about renovating the mansion.
Some fourteen years later, as the tedious project drags on, hope remains that the property will once again welcome the prying eyes of the public in the near future. Whether or not the ghosts of the past will cooperate with such an endeavor remains to be seen.
·Cleveland 19 News