Cleveland’s Macabre Franklin Castle
If you ask about a haunted house in Cleveland, you are likely to get one response: “Franklin Castle.” That is because this High Victorian style stone house is one of the most infamous haunted houses in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World, if not the state of Ohio.
Built between 1881-1883 by German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located at 4308 Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Today, this neighborhood is economically depressed, but it was at one time an upscale residential avenue. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true?
On January 15, 1891, before construction began on the home, Tiedemann’s 15-year-old daughter Emma died of diabetes, a fact which becomes important later. Hannes Tiedemann and his family lived in this house from 1883 until 1896. He sold it shortly after his wife Louise died of liver disease. From 1921 to 1968, it was the home of the German-American League for Culture and known as Eintracht Hall.
Prior to US entry in World War 2, the German-American League for Culture advocated the overthrow of Adolf Hitler’s regime. From 1968 to the present day, Franklin Castle went through a series of owners. The first, James Romano and his family, are largely responsible for the house’s reputation for being haunted. Their encounters with the unseen were widely circulated in the press, and the Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Society even conducted an investigation of the home.
Romano sold Franklin Castle to a man named Sam Muscatello in 1974. Muscatello originally planned to convert the residence into a church, but when he heard about its reputation, he decided to open it for tours instead. Allegedly, Muscatello once discovered a secret panel in the tower room that concealed a human skeleton. In 1984, Michael DeVinko, Judy Garland’s fifth husband, purchased the home and began extensive renovations. He reportedly spent close to a million dollars and tracked down some of its original furniture.
After a decade, however, it was back on the market again. In 1999, a woman named Michelle Heimberger, one time owner of Yahoo! Inc., bought the property for $350,000. Heimberger, however, never moved into the home because an arsonist set a devastating fire that ruined most of the interior. Urban explorers began to creep in and explore its blackened corridors.
Pascal LeJeune, principal owner of Oh Dear! Productions LLC, purchased the Tiedemann House in 2011 for $260,000 and began renovations. The new owners are serious about keeping the curious away, and security cameras and signs warning against trespassing are prominently displayed.
Stories about the home are varied and wild. They included tales of murder, illicit affairs, and infanticide. According to legend, Tiedemann’s 15-year-old daughter was found hanging in the rafters, although in reality she had died of an illness before the first stone was laid on the house.
Tiedemann himself is said to have been a perverse madman, although he has no living decedents to defend his name. It is said that he hanged his niece from the rafters in a secret passage, either because she was insane or because she brought shame to the family by sleeping around. He is also alleged to have murdered a servant girl (or mistress, or both) on her wedding day because she rejected his advances.
Skeletons of human infants were allegedly discovered in another secret passage–the unwanted consequences of these affairs. One of the most unlikely stories is that dozens of Nazi spies were executed in the home when it was owned by the German-American League for Culture.
Passers by have often reported seeing a mysterious “woman in black” in the turret windows. She is believed to be the tortured spirit of the murdered servant girl. The ghost of a young girl is also believed to haunt the home. In the 1960s, James Romano’s children regularly encountered and interacted with this ghost. Mrs. Romano also reportedly heard phantom organ music, footsteps, voices, and clinking glasses.
If you are looking for the quintessential haunted house, look no further than this Gothic-looking structure on Franklin Boulevard. Though most of the stories about it are likely untrue, there is still enough ambiguity to darken the imagination. Only a few people have been allowed inside its wrought iron gates to know for sure.