Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Lantern Walking Tour - Columbus Landmarks Foundation

I love Halloween – it’s my favorite holiday!  It’s in the middle of my favorite season and I love everything about it: picking out and making a costume, making and putting up fun decorations, hearing spooky stories or watching scary movies and enjoying Halloween candy and pumpkin flavored foods.  My husband, Kenneth, on the other hand, is at best ambivalent about this Fall holiday (though he does love the Fall season and pumpkin flavored foods!).  He hates dressing up (he’s essentially Jim Halpert from The Office when it comes to Halloween costumes) and he doesn’t like scary movies or stories.  He also firmly doesn’t believe in ghosts and is a little embarrassed that I do (again, very much like Jim). 

All of these reasons make it very unlikely that my husband would join me on a haunted ghost tour in downtown Columbus… but he did!  This past Sunday, Kenneth and I went on a Columbus Landmarks Foundation ghost tour, specifically the Haunted Lantern Walking Tour.  In June this summer, we attended an event co-hosted by Greenlawn Cemetery and the Columbus Landmarks Foundation called 201 Years of Stories & Stones, which was awesome!     

At 6pm on Sunday evening, we met about twenty-five other participants in front of the Topiary Park Gatehouse.  Columbus Landmarks Foundation staff and volunteers handed out some electric lanterns and battery powered flashlights, along with Halloween candy.  Our tour stayed on East Town Street for a few houses, later we explored part of Franklin Avenue.

The program description from the Columbus Landmarks Foundation read:

Halloween Lantern Walking Tours
Our ever-popular lantern walking tours on the most beautiful 19th century street in the downtown and certainly in one of the most haunted neighborhoods – Town-Franklin. This is where it all began for Columbus Landmarks Foundation 30+ years ago—with a collection of never-solicited stories of pink ladies, unexplained events, tales of hauntings that were already a century old, the garlic cloves in the attic, and the law office secretary who stayed glued to the front door in case she had to bolt.  A chance to recapture the mystery of a fall evening with the crunch of autumn leaves, the promise of sweet treats, and the thrill of a story that makes even your own house seem haunted when you return home. 

The Kappa Kappa Gamma Heritage Museum

The first building we visited was the Kappa Kappa Gamma house on East Town Street.  Here we learned a little history about the house (which was built in 1852 by Philip Snowden in the Italianate-style of architecture and was later the home of Ohio Governor David Tod before before becoming the Columbus Women's Club in the 1920s).  The house was bought by Kappa Kappa Gamma in 1951 and is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and is a beautiful building (you can take a virtual tour here).  This is where we heard stories of the pink ladies and learned about Victorian hair art!  Women during the Victorian era (and before that time) would save the hair from their brushes to be intricately weaved into bracelets, earrings or wreaths to be framed on the wall.  This practice was also used to remember and mourn family members.      


The Dining Room

A bracelet made from hair

The next stop on our tour was a building at 550 East Town Street.  This home has had a series of owners and appears to be continually available to rent or lease (there was a big sign in the front lawn even on Sunday night).  This is the office where the secretary kept her desk right next to the front door so she could exit as quickly as possible.  Strange happenings like doors being locked and loud music playing (with no one in the building) has kept the house from finding permanent owners. 

We then headed east down the street, stopping just before East Town crosses Interstate 71.  Here our guide told us sad stories about the former Ohio School for the Blind (now Columbus Public Health) and the previous owner of Lyle Gallery (the building itself was designed by George Bellows Sr., father of the artist currently being exhibited at the Columbus Museum of Art).  The staff at the Ohio School for the Blind were apparently worried about vampires or running out of seasoning for soup as they were found to be storing very large quantities of garlic in the attic!

All throughout the tour we admired the architecture of the buildings in this Columbus neighborhood.  I don’t normally pay much attention to buildings (I’m usually checking out plants) when I’m out and about, so it was nice to be reminded to pay more attention to the shape and style of the buildings (my soon to be architect sister should be proud!).

The Kelton House

Our next stop was the Kelton House.  I have been wanting to visit the Kelton House for a really long time and was super excited that it was included on the tour!  Throughout our tour we heard tales of spooky encounters that were kept secret for decades.  The staff of the organizations residing in these buildings were worried about developing a reputation for being haunted houses and for years kept these ghost stories under wraps.  The Kelton House is no exception, there are tales of hauntings at the Kelton House going back for many years.  We heard stories about hauntings from Civil War soldiers (Oscar Kelton served with the 95th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and died in battle in Mississippi), the ghost of a sad little girl and dolls that flip themselves over in their beds.  Our tour guides in the Kelton House feel that their ghosts are a bit mischievous  some of the hauntings include unexplained whisperings, photobombing ghosts and  a ghost who tapped some previous ghost tour patrons in the back with a door when they weren't paying attention to their tour guide!  We also saw some more Victorian hair art, in the form of a wreath.

Victorian hair wreath

We walked through the Kelton House Garden to Franklin Avenue.  Here we a story about a little blue house across from the Kelton Gallery and an old barn behind the Kelton House.  This barn is said to be one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood and is connected to some a sad and strange incident involving stray cats.  

Hearing stories outside of the Kelton House Gallery

The old barn

Our next stop was the Columbus Center for Performing Arts which is said to be haunted by a former staff member who fixes costumes and makes sure that things run smoothly, just as they did when he was alive.  We also saw a lovely brick house that was the home to many different veterinarians in a row.  Our last two stories came from the Motorists Mutual Building (which was the tallest building in Columbus when it was erected) and the Topiary Park.  

This house was home to many veterinarians in the 1800 and 1900s.

I thoroughly enjoyed our first ghost tour!  It was fun to learn about the history of the buildings and the people who lived in them.  I didn’t see any ghosts or supernatural activity, but I still believe ghosts are real.  I don’t think I’m very sensitive to the spirit world; there were a few moments during some of the particularly spooky stories that I felt a chill, but I credit that to the story tellers and my own imagination.  Kenneth didn’t experience a life changing paranormal event either, but he enjoyed the tour as well. 

Topiary Park

If you're interested in Ohio hauntings and ghost stories, I recommend joining the Columbus Landmarks Foundation for a ghost tour this Fall!  Tickets for the Columbus Landmarks Ghost Tours range in price from $10 to $35 dollars and can be purchased here.  

Gables & Gargoyles Bus Tours
October 26, 29 and 30 from 6-9 p.m. Tour begins at Columbus Landmarks Foundation, 61 Jefferson Ave.

“In the Spirit” OSU Walking Tour  
October 27 from 2-4 p.m. Tour begins at William Oxley Thompson’s statue in front of the Main Library.

When Spirits Roamed the Village (German Village)
October 28 from 6-9 p.m. Walking tour begins at Beck Street School, 387 E. Beck St.

James Thurber and His Columbus Haunts Bus Tour
November 2 from 9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. Tour begins at Thurber House, 77 Jefferson Ave.

I also recommend the following internet sites for more information about hauntings in Ohio: