(Orig. Published 12/2003)
Strange voices coming from empty rooms and behind the walls, sounds of crying children, faces that suddenly materialize in the woodwork, spinning chandeliers, cold spots, and mysterious ectoplasm…these are but a few of the bizarre occurrences witnessed by those who have entered Franklin Castle, one of Ohio’s most notorious haunted places. Built in 1865, this Gothic mansion located on Franklin Avenue in Ohio City was home to German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann, his wife, mother, and several children.
Hannes Tiedemann was a grocer and investment banker who had a reputation as a loud, harsh man. Because of his personality, many in the community believed that he was also abusive toward his family and ran his household like a tyrant. These rumors only intensified following the deaths of his children, wife and mother, who all died within a short period of time under “mysterious” circumstances. Many believe that Hannes also murdered his niece and a young servant girl.
Hannes Tiedemann left the castle in 1895 shortly after his wife died.
Yet, the legends and legacy of the castle continued, leading some to conclude that the castle itself is cursed.
The Tiedemann deaths began with Hannes’ 15 year-old daughter, Emma. Although her official cause of death was diabetes, legend has it that Emma was actually found hanging from the rafters in the attic. A few weeks after her death, Hannes’ elderly mother died. Her cause of death is not known.
Then, between 1886 and 1888, at least 3 more Tiedemann children died in the castle. Again, their cause of death was not known, although some suspicious eyes fell upon Hannes. More babies were believed to have been born inside the castle, but that Hannes hid their death from the public.
According to legend, Hannes also murdered his young niece by hanging her from the rafters of a secret tunnel. He is also said to have killed a young servant girl on her wedding day in a fit of jealous rage, and strangled one of his mistresses.
Hannes’ wife died in 1895. Officially, she died from liver disease, although many quietly suspected that Hannes was responsible for her death.
In 1913, Franklin Castle was sold to the German Socialist Party. The group owned the castle for the next 55 years. During this time, not much is known about the goings on inside the castle, although many speculate that the party held secret meetings and engaged in espionage. The wildest rumor involves the mass political assassination of about 20 members.
The party later rented out rooms of the castle to boarders. One of those persons was believed to be a doctor who performed “strange” experiments using human specimens.
HIDDEN ROOMS AND STRANGE PASSAGES
Secret rooms and passages do exist inside the castle, although it is not known how many. Hannes Tiedemann supposedly used a secret room to store the bodies of his dead babies, and killed his niece in a hidden passage by the ballroom. His wife is said to have used a passage to safely gain access to her children, away from the prying eyes of her tyrannical husband.
The German Socialist party is said to have used the rooms and passages to their own advantage, even hiding the bullet-ridden bodies of its members in a secret room in the basement.
It is also believed that there is an underground tunnel that extends to Lake Erie. However, those who say they have been in the tunnel note that it ends at some point before the lake. An old still was found in one secret room by a later homeowner, giving rise to speculation that the house was also used as a speakeasy during Prohibition and that the tunnel was used to run booze out of the castle.
Inside the carriage house (pictured on the left), the current homeowner did find a “mysterious cemented-over area in the floor.”
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
In the windows of the turret pictured on the left, many have claimed seeing a woman dressed in black. She is believed to be the ghost of Rachel, the young servant girl Hannes murdered. According to legend, it was in front of one of these windows that Hannes hacked her to death with an axe.
In another variation of the tale, the black-clothed Rachel is actually one of the mistresses that Hannes strangled in one of the bedrooms.
In the 1970’s, one of the owners found the skeletons of at least a dozen babies inside a small sealed room. They were later examined by the county coroner, who could make no definitive determination other than stating that the bones were very old. These skeletons could have simply been harmless medical specimens, although some say they are the bones of the missing Tiedemann children.
In the late 1970’s, owner Sam Muscatello discovered a hidden panel in one of the walls in the tower room. Inside, he found a skeleton. No other information is known, although the current owner has suggested that Muscatello himself placed the skeleton there as a way to attract publicity.
A young girl haunts the 4th floor ballroom. She may be the ghost of young Rachel, or Tiedemann’s niece. In the ballroom, it is said that a large blood stain still appears on the marble floor, even though it was replaced about 30 years ago. In 1999, the ballroom was damaged in a fire and is being renovated. One wonders if this bloodstain will come back after the work is done.
The Romano family, who owned the home from 1968 to 1976, claimed it was visited by the ghost of a young girl, who interacted with the Romano children. The family later moved out of the house after receiving warnings by the ghost of a future death.
Muscatello, who found the skeleton, became physically ill while at the house and invited a local news crew to investigate. They reported strange events, including spinning chandeliers and equipment that moved on their own accord.
A newspaper boy claimed that when he knocked on the door, a voice told him to “come in.” Once inside the foyer, he saw an apparition of a woman in white, who glided down the staircase and disappeared through a closed door.
Many have heard voices of children (often crying), and have seen faces that seem to suddenly materialize in the woodwork. Others say that doors open and shut on their own, and have seen fog or ectoplasm form inside the rooms. Voices coming from the walls, and “cold spots”, have also been reported.
Others say the ghost of Tiedemann himself can sometimes be seen at the park where he died, looking to hitch a ride back home to his castle.
While many aspects of the stories are true–including the deaths of the Tiedemann children and wife, and the discovery of the baby skeletons–most could not be verified. There is no reason to believe that the deaths of the Tiedemann children, wife, and mother were anything other than natural.
The fact that Hannes may not have been the warmest person in public does not lead to the conclusion that he was a murderer. If anything, his reputation has more to do with cultural perceptions than fact. Cultural stereotypes most probably led to the same legends involving the German Socialist party’s occupation of the castle.
Perhaps part of the appeal of the castle has to do with its secrecy. Very few people have actually been inside the castle, leaving only one’s imagination to guide them.
Perhaps this will change soon, as a new owner announced that he is purchasing the property and will open the castle as a private club in Spring 2004. While our most recent review of real estate records fail to show any transfer of the property to the new owner, we are hopeful that the castle’s renovations will be completed, restoring this historic landmark to its former “glory.”
It is hard not to be seduced by the horrific, yet oddly romantic stories, especially after viewing the castle itself, which has a magnetic, ominous presence.
On Halloween night 2003, we made a trip to the infamous castle. We soon discovered we were not alone–several other people came out to view the castle that night, including the family of a former childhood friend of the Romanos.
The windows and entrance were boarded up tight (although there were signs of a recent break in near a window in the back).
A night shot of the front of the castle. Not surprisingly, several orbs appeared near the basement windows. We doubt that they are supernatural in nature, and are most likely floating dust or dirt caught in the flash.
Franklin Castle: The Most Haunted House in Ohio? an excellent article by Troy Taylor
Franklin Castle by present owner Michelle Heimburger
Forgotten Ohio’s Franklin Castle page, which includes some great shots of the interior
Franklin Castle Club by real estate investor Charles Milsaps
July 8, 2003 Cleveland Plain Dealer article for info on the recent deal between Milsaps and Heimburger.
I have a very true story concerning the Franklin Castle that happened many years ago. First of all let me assure you that I am no quack, no matter how strange all of this may sound. I am a retired US Navy Chief and now am an Independent Investor. I am not attempting to write a book or anything else like that. I simply need to tell someone this who may understand even a little.
Today, I was going through a scrap book my Mother put together for me as I was growing up. She did this for all of her Children. Anyway, I came across this newspaper article from about 1980 with a picture of the Franklin Castle with a picture of a self-proclaimed psychic Eleanora Bernstein standing in front. This aroused my curiosity and I typed in Franklin Castle into Yahoo and thus found your website. Now to why this all makes sense to me:
I used to live on Dexter Ave, just down the street from the Franklin Castle. I had two older Sisters. One summer day in 1962, my older Sister decided to take me and my other Sister to meet some new friends she had found. Unknowingly to my Mother, the three of us left the back yard and walked up the street to the Franklin Castle. My Sister told us we had to go through “this door and go to the 3rd floor. ” So we did. I remember climbing the stair case, and my Sister knocked on the door. A little girl opened it and invited us in. I remember us going into the room and playing with these three kids. We must not have stayed very long because my Sister said “Let’s go, I just wanted you to meet them” and we left and returned to our back yard. At that time, Mom did not even know we were gone.
A day or two later we did the same thing again–we walked to the castle, went up to the 3rd floor, and knocked on the door. However, this time, a man opened the door. He was slender, dark hair, nicely dressed, I would say thinking back on it now that he was in his 40’s. He looked at the three of us and said “The Children Cannot Play Today.” We said OK and left the castle.
When we returned home Mother was standing out front of the house on the sidewalk watching us walking home. She was mad as a hornet; “Where have you kid’s been?”, she shouted. My Sister told her that we had gone to the Franklin Castle to play with the new kids. “What new kids?” Mother said. “The kid’s on the 3rd floor,” my younger Sister replied.
When our Father got home from work, Mother told him of what we had done. When she told him of the kids on the third floor, he said, “That proves they are fibbing to you, you can’t get to the third floor. The owner has it closed off, and no one lives up there.” “Yes you can!” we all shouted. “We played up there with the kids.”
The next day, our parents took us to the Castle. We meet (I assume) the owner. He allowed us in and we walked through the door we had entered before. However, this time, there was a closed, locked door at the bottom of the stair case. He unlocked it and opened it to show us. The steps looked very old, as if they were not used in many years. The owner informed us that no one uses or even goes up there much any more. I was just four years old when all of this happened. My Sisters and I sometimes will talk about it. We know what we saw and did at the Franklin Castle, and now today I finally read about the other strange things that happened there in the past.