Haunted by Its Infamy: Investigating the History of Cleveland's Eerie Franklin Castle

Haunted by Its Infamy: Investigating the History of Cleveland’s Eerie Franklin Castle

If you’re from Cleveland and love local ghost stories, it would be surprising if you weren’t familiar with the eerie stone house known locally as Franklin Castle. You’ve probably at the very least stood outside the wrought iron gates staring up at its tower with wonder and heard about its many wild legends. Or perhaps you were lucky (?) enough to take one of the not-quite-legal ghost tours inside and explore the dusty old mansion for yourself under the guise of a soon-to-be Franklin Castle Club that never happened before it was finally rescued from destruction. Whether it’s for ghosts or outrageous claims, Franklin Castle has been hard to ignore.

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But what’s the real story of this spooky old house? It’s a bizarre tale of wealth, tragedy, and suspicious activity.

The story began in 1866 when German immigrant Hannes Tiedemann settled with his family on Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland. (While the family called this address home as early as 1866, the stone mansion was reportedly constructed closer to 1881. The date on the glass window in front for years gave a different construction date of 1860.) Tiedemann earned a reputation as a boisterous bully of a banker, and that view of him spurred on whispers that he ran his household like some tyrant. His 15-year-old daughter Emma passed away on January 16, 1881, of diabetes. A few weeks later, Hannes’ elderly mother Wiebeka died as well. Between 1886 and 1888, three more Tiedemann children passed away. And after his wife Luise died of liver disease on January 24, 1895, Hannes sold off the property and left. (Hannes died on January 19, 1908 after suffering a stroke while walking in a park.) With so many deaths associated with one family in such a short time, it’s no wonder that gossips passed around stories that these deaths were far more sinister than natural causes.

Hannes Tiedemann's old officewith its glass panels still remains as it was in 1881. (Summers)

Hannes Tiedemann’s old officewith its glass panels still remains as it was in 1881. (Summers)

As if this string of deaths weren’t enough to cast a dark shadow over the house, the second owners sold the mansion to the German-American League for Culture (not to be confused with the German American Bund) in 1913. It was home to the Deutsche Socialisten (a German singing club) as well as the Bildungsverein Eintracht Club, lending it the name Eintracht Hall. As the First World War ended and the Second began, suspicion of Nazi activity became associated with the house. Though never proven as a hideout for Nazi spies, the rumors still persist to this day. The German-American League maintained ownership until as late as 1968 when the Romano family purchased Franklin Castle. They sold it again in 1975 to Reverend Sam Muscatello of the Universal Christian Church, at which point the mansion began to earn its reputation as a very creepy place.

Sam claimed to find the bones of infants hidden away within the walls (which some people have speculated were placed there by the reverend himself to garnish some publicity), and before you knew it, Hans Holzer himself was paying a visit to the spooky, haunted mansion the following year. Yet Holzer’s most prominent ghost discovery was a 13-year-old girl named Karen whose death was said to have been made to look like a suicide in the third floor ballroom (which, incidentally, was burned away in a 1999 arson fire but rebuilt soon after by then-owner Michelle Heimburger). Yet the castle claims to be home to a variety of spirits as well.

In this mirror, some people have claimed to see the faces of old residents peering back at them. (Summers)

In this mirror, some people have claimed to see the faces of old residents peering back at them. (Summers)

Among its twisting, hidden servant staircases and high-ceiling rooms, Franklin Castle’s most prominent undead resident is the Woman in Black. Whether it’s “Karen”, Mrs. Tiedemann, or some other unknown former female dweller, this spectral woman has been reported on balconies and in upstairs rooms since at least the 1960s. The ballroom is believed to be the haunt of Rachel, Hannes’ niece, and another woman–this time in white–was seen by a newspaper boy once years ago. Cold spots, crying children, unexplained fog, and disembodied faces are just a few of the many strange sights said to occur there.

As a long-time visitor who met the architect responsible for rebuilding the roof (and friend to a former resident who lived on the property for a few years), I’ve had the pleasure to explore the old mansion several times without any tour guide. And yes, I happen to have a small piece of original hardware I collected during one of my visits when it looked like Tiedemann’s house would surely fall to ruin or a wrecking ball. And while it’s undoubtedly creepy in the middle of the night when empty, I’ve never experienced anything truly paranormal there. But that’s not to say there isn’t any activity there. Hidden in the pile of propaganda pawned off by Cleveland’s favorite self-proclaimed ‘owner’  local huckster of recent years is one actual piece of video evidence which was not faked. Which, as you’ll see, may not be the only time it’s been captured on film.

Paranormal Lockdown hosts Katrina Weidman, Nick Groff and guest John E.L. Tenney in front of Franklin Castle. (Destination America)

Paranormal Lockdown hosts Katrina Weidman, Nick Groff and guest John E.L. Tenney in front of Franklin Castle. (Destination America)

And once again, Franklin Castle has risen from the ashes. Now owned by Oh Dear! Productions LLC, the past few years have seen the house returning to life slowly. Though it still has a lot of work to go, more has happened in the past three years than the previous ten. And now, the spotlight returns to Franklin Castle once more as Nick Groff descends on the mansion alongside Katrina Weidman and John E.L. Tenney for the March 18th episode of Destination America’s Paranormal Lockdown. Here’s a clip:

Yet another mysterious mist? What else do they find? Tune in to Paranormal Lockdown on Destination America Friday, March 18th, at 10 EST and find out their take on this Cleveland landmark.


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