For my 35th birthday this year, I decided to visit Northern Ohio. Specifically, Cleveland, Canton and Mansfield, all of which are super close together and make for a wonderfully weird weekend road trip. I highly suggest that you plan a visit. I may actually go back sooner rather than later.
My friends and I started out journey by stopping to take a tour at the Ohio State Reformatory, also known as Mansfield Reformatory. This has been a serious bucket list item for me for quite some time so be prepared for me to tell you all about it. We also finished our journey by visiting Mansfield’s Annual Haunted House, Escape from Blood Prison...bucket list item twice in two days! The building is absolutely breathtaking…almost like an old castle. Our tour was shorter than the typical tour due to part of the prison being closed for the haunted house but we did see the old Chapel complete with old pews and pigeons, one of the upper cell blocks, it’s a wonder the inmates didn’t suffer from constant vertigo and also the administrative and residential spaces. Mansfield will likely be familiar to movie buffs and ghost hunters alike. The building was featured heavily in the Shawshank Redemption and was also used for Air Force One, Tango and Cash and the recently filmed Escape Plan 3. One of my favorite band’s, Godsmack, also filmed their video for Awake at Mansfield. On the paranormal side of things, Mansfield is reported to be home to at least 10 different ghostly phenomena. Helen Glattke was the wife of Arthur Glattke (the prison’s superintendent from 1935 to 1959) and she sadly died at the Reformatory. While removing a jewelry box from a closet shelf, a handgun fell from the shelf. The gun discharged, striking Helen in her lung. She would die two days later following complications. Helen’s ghost has been seen walking to her bathroom and the scent of her rose perfume is sometimes smelled by visitors. I smelled roses on two occasions while visiting Mansfield. Once when I wandered away from my friends into what would have been the former superintendent’s residence and again after we visited the haunted house and were exiting through the reformatory’s foyer. Arthur would die a decade after Helen and his cigar smoke is said to sometimes linger in his former residence. Frank Hanger is another spirit that has been seen on several occasions and also caught on camera. Frank was a guard that was killed by an inmate in the 1940’s. The East Block is considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the largest set of free-standing cells in the United States and with so many inmates in one area, one particular inmate was driven mad. He covered himself in kerosene and set himself on fire, burning to death as a result. It is said that his residual spirit has occasionally been spotted by visitors. There are also other hauntings that occur in the basement, the Reformatory’s Hole, the stairs of the cellblock and even on the Reformatory grounds. I must also take a moment to sing the praises of Escape from Blood Prison. First of all, they played Rock and Metal while we waited in line, which seemed to make the cold a little more tolerable. Bat Country, anyone?! The line moved quickly and the haunted house took us through parts of the prison that we hadn’t seen on our tour including the lower cell blocks. It was also well lit enough that you could experience all of the scares while still being reminded that you were in the deepest reaches of an old haunted Reformatory.
Following our Mansfield tour, we headed to our hotel in Cleveland. For this outing, I chose the Tudor Arms, mostly because it reminded me of the apartment building from the original Ghostbusters. Hey, I’m 35, I love my 1980’s nostalgia. The hotel is also reportedly haunted but accounts are limited and my friends and I did not experience anything during our stay. The hotel is quite nice and I would recommend it for a stay in Cleveland.
We did not stay in our hotel long, as we checked in and immediately headed one hour south to Canton, as we planned to attend a Haunted House there. But, before we could go to the Haunted House, we had to try Melt Bar and Grilled. I saw this Northern Ohio franchise on Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives and I had to try it. They make gourmet grilled cheese with a twist. My friends and I sampled the Macaroni Bites and Tofu Wings, both of which were excellent. For my grilled cheese, I opted for the Cowabunga…more 1980’s nostalgia but this grilled cheese was amazing. It had real cheese pizza rolls, basil marinara, basil pesto, herb cream cheese, Parmesan and Romano. I can honestly say that it was better than the Havarti Grilled Cheese that I had in Baltimore. The cocktails at Melt are pretty fabulous too. I opted to start out with the Electric Blueberry Lemonade, which was made with blueberry vodka and lemonade. I followed that up with the Strawberry Sashay, which included vanilla vodka, house made strawberry syrup and lemon juice, definitely my favorite of the two drinks.
After enjoying our dinner at Melt, we headed to the Factory of Terror in Canton for a little post Halloween scare. This haunted attraction is huge and is also a 3-time Guinness Book Record Holder for being the longest Haunted House in the World! Unfortunately, two of the attractions were closed since we came after Halloween but we still got to experience the three major attractions and with only a glowstick to guide our way. The Factory of Terror is probably pretty fantastic but during our visit, we were behind a group of teenagers that apparently thought the Haunted House was the perfect opportunity to take dozens of selfies despite the no photography rule. Not only that but they constantly stopped to attempt conversations with the costumed actors and were so slow that we caught up to them very early on and were unable to experience the full sensory assault that is supposed to be the Factory of Terror. I definitely intend to visit again when all of the attractions are open and hope to experience the Factory of Terror in all of its horrifying glory.
We started our second day in Northern Ohio by heading to the Townhall Restaurant in Cleveland. This was a highly recommended brunch spot and it did not disappoint. We arrived about 11am but there was a thirty-minute wait. Luckily for us and any other book enthusiasts that visit Townhall, there is a discount bookstore right next to the restaurant so we spent our time browsing…and buying, while we waited for our table. Once our table was ready, I ordered the sweet potato hotcakes, along with a side of tomato and avocado. The hotcakes were amazing! So much so, I recreated them for this year’s Thanksgiving. I also sampled the cold pressed Mimosa available with three different fruit juices. I went the traditional route and chose orange juice, as did my friend and we were both quite pleased with our mimosas.
Following our excellent brunch, we headed to a suburb of Cleveland called North Ridgeville. I wanted to find some fresh baked treats to bring home for my pups and North Ridgeville has the most fabulous little hippie bakery called the Grateful Dog. We were greeted by the owner, who looked an awful lot like Bob Ross and his adorable standard poodle, always a good sign when you enter a dog bakery. They had treats of all shapes and sizes and they make the most fantastic cakes…you know, for your pooch’s special day. I picked the pumpkin treats, along with some peanut butter skulls for my fur babies, while my friend was able to find some super soft treats for his little pug. This bakery also has items for the crazy cat ladies out there. My other friend and I both purchased Halloween themed crochet toys with Valerian and Catnip, which has turned my little Manx, Waverly, into a devil kitty. She loves her little shrunken head!
The next location that we visited isn’t necessarily odd but the items within are very unique. No visit to Cleveland is complete without a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I saw so many items belonging to the legends of Rock. From Janis Joplin’s beads and scarf to Kurt Cobain’s death certificate and one of Stevie Nicks’ dresses, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame truly has something for everyone. However, the website claims you can make it through in about 90 minutes, I must disagree. They closed before we could finish our visit and we had already been there for two hours so I highly recommend setting aside at least three hours for a proper visit to the Rock Hall. They also had a collection of Rock themed Pinball machines and though I am no expert Pinball player, I absolutely enjoyed the opportunity to play a vintage Rock and Roll Pinball machine. The exhibit including machines from Kiss, The Who, AC/DC, Metallica and even Dolly Parton!
We followed up our Rock Hall visit with a trip to another museum in Cleveland, the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick. Raymond Buckland was one of the first Wiccan authors and an early favorite of mine so it was a no brainer that we had to visit this museum. Buckland spent many years traveling the world so he had the opportunity to amass quite the collection. The museum is located in a small store front but contains many items owned and used by Buckland, as well as other items related to the history of Witchcraft and Wicca. It was very interesting to see so many witchcraft related items in one location and also wonderful to know that so many items from Buckland’s collection had been salvaged and saved for this museum. The Gallery also has a gift shop filled with many of Buckland’s works, along with crystals, jewelry, bumper stickers and other useful items for your spellcasting needs. I was able to pick up a book that Buckland authored on communicating with spirits and I have no doubt that it will be an interesting read.
After our visit to the Buckland Museum, it was time for a cocktail and Cleveland has the most unique cocktail bar. I love the Spotted Owl and will visit again when I next find myself in Cleveland. Before you even enter, you are greeted by a rot iron gate and an old timey sign with an owl on it. The Bar itself is very dimly lit with exposed brick and salvaged wood adorning the space. I believe the building is from the 1850’s so it does have a very speakeasy vibe to it. But what drew me to the Spotted Owl was their drink menu. They bring you a small chart, it’s actually like a drink wheel that includes different intended moods such as restore or relax and then each of those moods has cocktail flavor profiles attached to them such as floral or citrus. When you order your drink, you pick a mood and a flavor profile that corresponds with that mood. The Bartender will then ask you some follow up questions in order to get an idea of what kind of cocktails you like and from there, the drink is in her/his hands as they don’t tell you what cocktail you will be receiving until you actually sample it. I chose relax with floral notes and I received a drink called a Pamplemousse. This is a mezcal based drink with grapefruit, lillet blanc and rosemary. The mezcal gave it a very smoky flavor but it still maintained the floral profile that I had hoped for and I was quite pleased. My friends also received very unique drinks with one tasting just like key lime pie and the other being a wonderful Dry Gin concoction. The cocktails at the Spotted Owl might seem a little pricey to some but I feel well worth it for the quality and the experience.
Our final stop on our Northern Ohio trip may well be my favorite spot and another location that I will certainly be visiting again. In the Lakewood suburb of Cleveland, one can find a little shop called Cleveland Curiosities. This shop is absolutely the place for strange and unique oddities. I seriously could have bought everything in this store and could probably have spent an hour or more just wandering around and keep in mind, it isn’t a large space. Many of the items are in excellent condition and the prices are unbelievably reasonable. They have antique funerary items, coffins, preservations, vintage medical tools, Ouija Boards, taxidermy, again, pretty much anything that would make a great addition to your Curiosity Cabinet or Collection of Oddities. I managed to find my first full skeleton, a small sparrow encased in resin, morbidly enough, just like the little sparrows that I enjoy watching visit my bird feeder.
I guess that will do it for the Northern Ohio edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler. I hope you feel inspired to take a magical and morbid trip and may I recommend doing it in the Fall so you can visit a haunted house or two. Cleveland is truly a city filled with strange and wonderful places.
Tell-Tale Traveler Strange Northern Ohio Itinerary
1) Mansfield Reformatory - 100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield, OH 44905 – Haunted History Tour- 11am to 4pm – Cost: Tour - $6.00, Escape from Blood Prison Haunted House - $25.00 - www.mrps.org
6) The Grateful Dog Bakery - 31966 Center Ridge Rd, North Ridgeville, OH 44039 - (440) 353-1990 – Hours: Monday through Friday 10:00am to 7:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm – www.gratefuldogbakery.com
7) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - 1100 E 9th St, Cleveland, OH 44114 – Hours: Thursday through Tuesday 10:00am to 5:30pm, Wednesday 10:00am to 9:00pm Cost – General Admission: $23.00 Online in Advance, $26.00 Day of Visit, Senior (65+): $21:00 Online in Advance, $24 Day of Visit, Youth (6-12): $14:00 Online in Advance, $16 Day of Visit Ages 5 and under: FREE, College Students: $21 Online In-Advance, $24 Day of Visit – www.rockhall.com
8) Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick - 2676 W 14th St, Cleveland, OH 44113 (718) 709-6643 - Hours: Wednesday 5:00pm to 7:00pm, Friday 5:00pm to 8:00pm and Saturday 12:00pm to 6:00pm – Cost - $5 – www.bucklandmuseum.org