Franklin Castle located in Cleveland, Ohio, has been home to many ghost stories over the years. But since it was built in 1865, the long history makes a lot of sense when it comes to hauntings and the paranormal.
From its history as home to the Tidemann family to housing the largest German socialist library, we’ve got lots of juicy history and ghost stories to spill.
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Franklin Castle History
At 4308 Franklin Boulevard NW in Cleveland, Ohio, sits a fixture of the city’s west side that’s been there for over a hundred years. The high-Victorian home was built in 1865, by the well-respected Cleveland-based architecture firm Cudell & Richardson.
It boasts Queen Anne style architecture, meaning it has an English Baroque architectural style derivative of those built during the time of Anne’s reign between 1702 and 1714. It is mostly used to describe old English manor houses, and the architectural inspiration was revived in the 20th century, though experts say the revival version has little resemblance to the class and culture of the original.
This particular home boasts a strong castle-like feel with features equated to the original style, including a sweep of steps leading to a carved stone doorcase, painted sash windows in boxes set flush with the brickwork, and a central triangular pediment set against a hipped roof with dormers.
The home is a four-story gothic stone mansion with 20 rooms, secret passageways, hidden rooms, turrets, gargoyles, and ballroom on the fourth floor. Originally the home boasted 13 fireplaces, though since its original build 8 of them have been sealed. And a carriage house on the property was used as a gymnasium in 1943.
The rooms are described as having the original wood plank floors and being filled with “beautifully carved panelling” on the walls, and the home is equipped with secret rooms and passages, though it’s not known how many exactly. Rumour has it, that there is an underground tunnel that extends to Lake Erie, but those that have been inside say it ends sometime before the lake.
At one point an old still photograph was found in one secret room by one of the later homeowners, giving rise to speculation that at sometime during its life, probably during the Prohibition era, it was used as a speakeasy and the secret tunnel was used to run booze out of the castle. And inside the carriage house one owner found a “mysterious cemented-over area in the floor”. Behind the castle seems to be a living unit above the garage, which is suspected of being in the carriage house.
The Tidemann Family
The first owners of the home, often called Franklin Castle or the Tidemann House, were the Tiedemanns, Hannes and Louise. They made a few improvements to the house, adding a ballroom, some secret rooms and a few hidden passageways between 1886 and 1888.
Hannes and Louise had six children, Wilhelmine Hanna (died in infancy), August Johannes (survived to adulthood), Emma (died at 15), Ernst (died in infancy), Dora Louise (survived to adulthood), and Albert (died in infancy), and Wiebeka Tidemann, Hannes’ mother also lived with the family.
Emma, the daughter who died at 15, died in January of 1881, right before the castle was finished, in the home that previously occupied the land. Hannes’ elderly mother died a few weeks after Emma passed. It is also alleged that Hannes fathered another child, Herbert, with a woman named Ella May Clark.
Hannes’ father died prior to 1846, and after that, at the age of 16, along with his mother, two brothers and four sisters, he moved to the United States from Germany. Before becoming a salesman for a grocery firm, he worked as a carpenter and a cooper’s apprentice. He worked his way up from salesman to be a partner at a wholesale grocery and liquor store before selling his interests in the 1870s to begin real estate property flipping. Hannes returned briefly to Germany from 1877 to 1879, and once he returned his properties had matured.
Hannes was described as a “shrewd businessman” but he had help from 3 Cleveland banks by 1881. And eventually, he became the president of the future United Bank and Savings Company, and remained so for 20 years.
He commissioned his house, not only for a place for his family to live but also to provide a temporary place for friends, family and others emigrating from Germany to stay when they first arrived in Cleveland. And the new home replaced and early residence on the property which was eventually demolished during the construction. Hannes had his home office inside the castle built so he overlooked both the entrances, allowing him to constantly keep an eye on who was coming and going.
The Tiedmann family lived in the house from 1883 to 1896. Louise died of liver disease on March 24, 1895 at the age of 57. August and Dora, the two living Tiedmann children, went on to produce 6 grandsons between them. And on January 19, 1908, at the age of 75, Hannes Tiedmann died suddenly from a stroke while in the park. It is reported that all of Tiedmann’s grandchildren had predeceased him before the age of 40.
Rumours of crime in the house
Rumors of crimes committed in the house by Tiedemann, including sexual indiscretions and murder, have contributed to Franklin Castle’s reputation as a haunted house. Legend paint Hannes as a murderer, and accused him of killing his 3 infant children in 1883. The rumours say that the deaths are not accidental or caused by sickness, but were in fact, murders committed by the cruel Hannes Tiedmann.
It is further rumoured that Hannes may have had a hand in his daughter Emma’s death. She died around the same time that the construction of the secret rooms and passages in the castle began. Some say that Tiedmann constructed these rooms and passages to help take his wife’s mind off the recent death of their daughter, however others believe they were constructed with a much more sinister purpose, to provide Tiedmann a space in to commit heinous crimes. And yet others believe that it was Louise Tiedmann who had these passages constructed so that she could sneak past her overbearing husband undetected. The rumours continued well after the deaths of the family.
Tiedmann was rumoured to be a less than faithful husband to Louise, it’s said that he tried to cheat on her with other women, but was not what you would consider successful as other women didn’t have much interest in him. Apparently this made him very angry. However, one of the women he did manage to bed outside of his marriage bed he supposedly strangled. And adding to his murder tirade, Hannes was also said to have killed a young servant girl on her wedding day, in a fit of jealousy. It is speculated that he killed both due to feelings of unrequited love on his part.
Another rumour that milled around said that Hannes was accused of killing his 13-year-old niece Karen, also alleged to be his illegitimate daughter. According to some, Karen was mentally ill, and Hannes believe she was “insane” and he was “putting her out of her misery” by hanging her from the rafters of one of his secret tunnels. Others believe she may have been “promiscuous,” which at the time was considered to be insanity for a well brought up Victorian girl. Supposedly, Hannes caught her in bed with his grandson, hence the promiscuity?
Rumours swirled around Louise’s death as well, apparently some believe that Hannes had a hand in Louise’s death. And only one year after Louise’s death, Hannes got remarried to a young waitress named Henrietta; but their marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce only a year later. She ended up being cut out of his will, with not a penny to her name.
Historian William G. Krejci believes that there are alternative possibilities to explain what people might think are Hannes’ murders. For example, he believes that instead of killing the 3 infant children the rumours accuse him of he instead moved the remains of his 3 children who died in the house between 1863 to 1873 from Monroe Street Cemetery to family plot at Riverside Cemetery in 1883.
Finally, there is supposedly a legend that tells of a bloody axe murder in the front tower room. We’ll get to that.
Franklin Castle Ghost Stories
Tales of hauntings in Franklin Castle started to swirl sometime in the 1960s. Reports from residents of surging electricity, the sound of babies crying and a woman in black staring down at neighbours and visitors from the tower windows. Doors that exploded off their hinges, lights that spin around on their own, items moving around the house, faces materializing in the woodwork, doors swinging open and shut on their own and reports of fog and “ectoplasm” forming inside of the rooms have also been reported. Along with voices from the walls, cold spots and mirrors fogging up with no logical reason.
The Woman in Black
According to local legend, there have always been ghosts in the house. The women often referred to as “the woman in black” is believed to be the ghost of Rachel (the young servant that Hannes is alleged to have murdered). According to legend, it was in front of one of the windows that Hannes hacked her to death with an axe (it was probably the Bacon Axe Murderer). In a separate account of this incident, a black-clothed Rachel was actually Hannes’ mistress which he strangled in one of the bedrooms.
Skeletons in the Walls, Ghosts in the Ballroom
In the 1970s, one of the owners supposedly found the skeletons of at least a dozen babies inside a small sealed room. These were later examined by the county coroner, but they could make no definitive determination other than that the bones were very old. The skeletons could have been harmless medical specimens, but some still believe they were the bones of the missing Tiedemann children.
The 4th floor ballroom is said to be haunted by a young girl. Some argue that it’s actually the ghost of Rachel others believe it was Hannes’ niece. There are reports of a blood stain appearing on the marble floor, even though it was replaced 30 years ago.
A newspaper boy claimed that one day when he knocked on the door a voice told him to “come in”, once inside the foyer he saw the apparition of a woman in white. She glided down the staircase and disappeared through the closed the door.
Ghosts of Former Owners
Onlookers also say that the ghost of Tiedemann can sometimes be found at the park where he died, looking to hitch a ride back home to his castle. There is a mirror in the house above one of the fireplaces that some claim to have seen the faces of other residents peering back at them in.
There were two other owners before the German Socialist Party took possession in 1921. There is little information on them but it is probably important to note that the granddaughter of the former owners, the Mullhauser family, said the hauntings started sometime between 1915 and 1921, and were experienced by her family.
In 1921, the Mullhauser family sold the home to the German Socialist Party in 1921. The group used it for meetings and parties. And rumours quickly spread that the group was using the castle as headquarters for its spy efforts during World War 1. Years later, a German shortwave radio was allegedly found hidden in the rafters. The infamous “secret passages” were claimed to be the scene of a brutal murder during the German socialist Party’s occupation of the house.
Though the house was largely vacant during this time, but it’s possible they rented out portions of this. One occupant was said to be a doctor who performed “strange” experiments using human specimens.
And during the 1930s, a Cleveland nurse said she cared for an ailing attorney in the castle and often remembered being terrified at night by the sound of a small child crying. More than 40 years later in an interview in the 1970s, the woman told the reporter she would never set foot in that house again. The group knocked down walls inside the castle to make more space, and it was used to house the largest German socialist library in the United States.
The Romano Family
In January of 1968, the German Socialist group sold the house to James Romano. He had always been fascinated with the house, and he and his 6 children moved in. The family claimed they was visited by the ghost of a young girl. The day after the family moved in, they sent their children upstairs to play. A little while later they came downstairs asking if they could have a cookie for their new friends, a little girl who was crying upstairs. Mrs. Romano followed the children back upstairs and found no little girl.
Mrs. Romano also reported hearing organ music playing, despite there being no organ in the house. It would come from different parts of the house along with footsteps in the hallway and on the stairs, disembodied voices and sounds of people coming from the former ballroom. At one point in time, 3 friends came to visit and were surprised to see an eerie “vaporous blanket of fog” materialize in front of them on the 3rd floor. One of the visitors walked towards it to investigate, but before she could get close she began to lose eyesight — her friends pulled her back right before she fainted. The 3rd floor was searched and there was no possible physical explanation for the cloud could be found.
One day Mrs. Romano awoke to find herself in the middle of the bedroom floor, screaming so loud she had lost her voice. She said that an unknown presence was screaming along with her. She also said that an unknown presence pulled the cover off the two oldest boys.
After recurrent hauntings, the Romanos consulted a Catholic priest. But he declined doing an exorcism as he sensed bad presence, and he advised the family to leave the house. Instead, the family turned to the now-defunct Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Group, and if the stories are to be believed, one of the ghost hunters actually ran screaming from the house in the middle of the investigation.
Eventually, the Romano family moved out after receiving ghostly warnings of a future death. After years of ghostly activities, the Romanos ended up dumping the house in 1974 for $34,300 ($183,000 in 2018).
Former Ghost Tours
The house was purchased by Sam Muscatello, who was possibly a reverend for the Universal Christians Church. He began offering guided tours of the house, made notes about the alleged encounters with visitors and used media to generate publicity. During one live segment on Cleveland radio (that occured in the house), the host John webster had a tape recorder pulled off his shoulder and thrown down a staircase. Webster recalled:
“I just stood there holding the microphone as I watched the tape recorder go flying down to the bottom of the stairs, where it broke into pieces.”
During a television piece, a crew member named Ted Ocepec witnessed a hanging ceiling light that suddenly began turning in circular motions. It was suggested that traffic vibrations on the street outside caused the movement of the light, but Ocepec didn’t think so. He insisted there was something in the house.
He searched for the alleged secret passageways, and was the one who supposedly found the infant bones behind the walls. But some believed Muscatello stashed these bones there as “evidence” for the hauntings. He brought in paranormal researcher Hans Holzer, who recently investigated the Amityville Horror home. Holzer uncovered several spirits, including one of a 13-year-old girl whose death was made to look like a suicide.
And the same year he’d purchased the home, Muscatello sold it to Maryon W. Ruchelman, a doctor, for $38,000. The doctor later sold it for the same price he had paid.
After that it was sold to Cleveland’s Police Chief Richard Hongisto. The thought it would be the perfect place to live, but apparently that was not the case as they abruptly sold it to George Mirceta less than a year later. Mirceta knew nothing of the mansion’s reputation and had purchased it because of its gothic architecture. But it wasn’t long before he learned that it was supposed to be haunted and started offering tours of the place. During tours he would have the visitors record any strange experiences in the guest book before leaving. Similar to past experiences, visitors claimed to hear babies crying, see a woman in white or one in black, and one visitor claimed she was being choked in the tower room. While Mirceta admitted he couldn’t explain all of his experiences, he maintained the house was not haunted. If it was, he told a reporter, he would be afraid to live there. But in 1983, the home went into foreclosure,
That same year it was purchased from the bank for $73,500 by Richard & Virginia Perez. The sold it in 1984. To Michael DeVinko for $93,000. DeVinko, the husband of singer and actress Judy Garland – who’s stage name was Mickey Dean – immediately began to make renovations, spending close to a million dollars restoring the house over a decade. He claimed to have no ghastly issues, and thought that perhaps it was because he was taking care of the place again. He managed to track down the original blueprints, some of the furniture from the Tiedemann’s and even an original front door key which still worked.
He sold the house in 1999, to 25-year-old Michelle Heimburger who paid $350,000 cash for it (money she got from Yahoo! Inc.). Soon after Heimburger purchased it, the castle was torched by an arsonist. The fire caused about $200,000 worth of damage and the house sat so long without repairs that it risked being demolished. It sat hung with construction lights, cordoned off, often with the side door wide open throughout the night unguarded. Heimburger, who lived in Canada, had the repairs done over a long period of time.
The castle was left in the charge of Charles Milsaps, who lived in the carriage house out back and paid the utility bills in exchange for overseeing the renovations. No significant renovations were done, but apparently enough work had been done that bills to two area contractors were defaulted and liens were placed against the property: $11,500 to an interior designer and $1,650 fo the Cleveland Lumber Co., both companies took Milsaps to court.
Milsaps was also in charge of the hoax of turning it into the Franklin Castle Club, to which no memberships were ever sold. In the midst of his club hoax and court cases, Milsaps found time to use the carriage house, and possibly the castle too, to make amature pornography through his company Voodoo Media Group. They produced at least two lesbian porn movies that sold online.
During the time he worked at the house, Milsaps said he was unsure whether or not it was haunted but did say that many of his friends and family members had strange experiences. While he didn’t say it was a scary place, he did say it was a little creepy, especially in the middle of the night:
“I’ve heard strange sounds and hoped to see something or hear something that would prove to me that ghosts exist, but so far it hasn’t happened. So far it’s been no spookier than sleeping alone in any old house that creaks in the wind or has rattling pipes.”
The house eventually ended up on the Sheriff Department’s auction block in October 2006, after Heimburger racked up $14,000 in unpaid property taxes. Milsaps had also accumulated about $13,000 in liens and judgments for unpaid construction bills.
In 2011, the castle was re-zoned, allowing it to become a 3-family dwelling. Later that year it was sold to a European tapestry artist named Chiara Dona dale Rose.
According to an article about a 2017 book published called Haunted Franklin Castle, the authors William G. Krejci and John Meyers said there was, in fact, a trapdoor somewhere in the house that was subsequently removed, but it was simply a trunk space between the 3rd and 4th floors. There were also passages around the ballroom, but they were only storage space. The also said that the fabled prohibition underground tunnel stretching out to the lake was really an underground shut-off for the natural gas well under the carriage house, and it only went back a few feet. It was sealed up in the 1960s. And finally, Nazi spies never lived in the house, but a group of anti-fascist German communists used the old spire that was on top of the tower for a short-wave radio.
Side note bitches: The Lady Dicks do not necessarily know if this information is factual or not. Just sayin’
The House Today
Today the property is owned by Oh Dear! Productions, LLC (which is owned by European tapestry artist Kitt and her fiancé, Pascal). Kitt is hoping to open the Castle as a little gallery-museum with permanent as well as temporary exhibitions, monthly film screenings and concerts. The themes will relate to the spirit and history of the house but also the bygone era of American ’50s and ’60s musical and cinematographically greatness, with a particular attention to its obscure side (such as the American teen garage music culture with their cult filmography). There hopes is that it will be a sort of antithesis of the Hall of Fame: a hall of un-famous obscurities or not-yet-famous.
They intend to set up the carriage house will be set up as a living working studio space for a maker (someone who has an artistic or artisanal ability), and hope to have a spooky guest suite near the “exotic room” on the first floor. In addition to Kitt and Pascal living in the house, Krejci will live in the apartment half the year from October to April giving tours as Franklin’s resident historian. The cornerstone of the museum collection will be a large collection of Tiedmann family photos which were gifted to Krejci by Tiedmann’s great granddaughter, Dora Louise Wiebenson.
Other local businesses have also approached Kitt about using the castle as a microbrewery, and while there are no immediate plans to do this they have looked into some historical breweries in Schleswig Holstein Germany, where Mr. Tiedmann is originally from so that the brewery would make sense with the history of the house.
And on March 15, 1982, the Franklin Castle was added to the US National Register of Historic Places.
Learn more about Franklin Castle
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Franklin Castle Ghost Stories themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Franklin Castle, Atlas Obscura.
- The most haunted house in Ohio? American Hauntings.
- Franklin Castle, ForgottenOh.com.
- Franklin Castle, Dead Ohio.
- Haunted by Its Infamy: Investigating the History of Cleveland’s Eerie Franklin Castle, Ken Summers, Week in Weird.
- Franklin Mansion, Haunted Houses.
- Franklin Castle: Ohio’s Most Haunted Mansion and Nazi Compound, The 13th Floor.
- The Franklin Castle, FranklinCastleOhio.Weebly.com.
- New Book Reveals the Mysteries of Cleveland’s Franklin Castle, Scene.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Franklin Castle Ghost Stories” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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