Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
Franklin Castle: The Most Haunted House in Ohio
Franklin Castle, located at 4308 Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood, is often referred to as “the most haunted house in Ohio,” and for good reason. This Victorian house, which was built in the late 1800s, purportedly has a colorful and violent history, beginning with its original owner, Hannes Tiedemann. According to local legend and supposed eyewitness accounts, Franklin Castle is inhabited by a number of ghostly spirits, including several members of the Tiedemann household and several other specters of potential historical significance.
Visitors and former residents of the house have reported hearing the ghostly sounds of babies crying throughout the night, footsteps, and screams echoing throughout the home’s hallways. Ghostly figures have been seen traveling throughout the house, and witnesses from outside have reported seeing a woman wearing black staring out through the front tower window. Could there be any truth to these alleged hauntings?
While I am a Cleveland-area native, I have not had the privilege of being able to actually tour the inside of the house, as the current owners are not welcoming to visitors. Though Franklin Castle is currently not accessible to the public, local visitors can still see the house from the street and sidewalk. Perhaps if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of one of the ghosts that allegedly haunt the halls of the home through the tower window.
Hannes Tiedeman and The Early History of Franklin Castle
Franklin Castle, officially called Tiedemann House, was built in 1881-1883 by the well-known architectural firm Cudell & Richardson, commissioned by a prosperous German immigrant named Hannes Tiedemann. This house boasts four stories, over 20 rooms and 80 windows.
During the time the Tiedemann family lived in the house, several members of the family passed away. In 1891, Emma, the 15-year-old daughter of Hannes and Louise Tiedemann, died from complications of diabetes. Not long after, Tiedemann’s mother, Wiebeka, also passed away. Hannes and Louise lost three more children during their time in the house. Louise Tiedemann also passed away, allegedly from medical complications while living in Franklin Castle. Rumors spread that Tiedemann was responsible for the death of his wife, however, and more rumors would later spread that he was involved in the deaths of several other women as well, including his niece and his supposed mistress.
On January 15, 1891, Tiedemann's 15-year-old daughter Emma succumbed to diabetes. The house saw its second death just weeks later when Hannes Tiedemann's elderly mother, Wiebeka, passed away. During the next three years the Tiedemanns would bury three more children, giving rise to speculation that there was more to these deaths than met the eye. Rumors spread of Mr. Tiedemann’s involvement in the untimely deaths of his family members. Many witnesses have reported hearing the ghostly cries of babies in the house. Perhaps these babies have some unfinished business in the home where they were born and died?
Soon after these tragedies, Mr. Tiedemann began extensive construction to the home to distract his wife from her grief. A ballroom, which runs the length of the house on the fourth floor of the manor, was the main addition to the house during this renovation. Turrets and gargoyles were also added to the edifice's facade, adding to the castle-like appearance of the house.
There are rumors that hidden passageways, concealed rooms, and hidden doors were also added during these renovations, though none of these secret spaces have ever been found. According to these rumors, the hidden passageways, if they exist, were used by Hannes Tiedemann to meet with his mistress for an illicit love affair, and perhaps even to commit murder.
According to the rumors, Hannes Tiedemann allegedly murdered his own niece in one of these hidden passageways. According to the legend, Mr. Tiedemann hung his niece from a rafter in a hidden tunnel leading away from the ballroom on the fourth floor. The niece was, supposedly, insane and, if the rumors are true, he may have done it to put her out of her misery. Other versions of this story claim that this woman wasn’t Mr. Tiedemann’s niece at all, but rather, his illegitimate daughter, Karen. Perhaps she was murdered because of a dispute between Mr. Tiedemann and her mother, or to cover up Mr. Tiedemann’s indiscretions? Some people claim that Karen’s ghost still wanders the halls of the house.
Another rumor says that Hannes Tiedemann also had a mistress, one of his servants named Rachel. Legend has it that Rachel was about to marry another man when Mr. Tiedemann murdered her on her wedding day out of jealousy. Many investigators speculate that Rachel may be the woman in black who is said to haunt the tower room.
Hannes Tiedemann’s wife, Louise, eventually passed away from liver failure, though there are those who speculate that Mr. Tiedemann may have had something to do with Louise’s passing. After her passing, Hannes sold the house to a local brewing family named Mullhauser, then moved to a grander home on Lake Road with his new wife. Within a year, he divorced his second wife, leaving her with none of his fortune. By 1908, Hannes was the only member of his family left. He passed away from stroke, with no one left for whom to leave his fortune.
The German Socialist Party’s Occupation of Franklin Castle
The Mullhauser family sold the castle to the local German Socialist Party in 1913. It was, supposedly, used by them to conduct meetings and to host parties. There were rumors that the Socialists may have actually been using the house as a spy headquarters during World War I. A German shortwave radio was eventually found hidden in the rafters of the house years later. Allegedly, the secret passages in the house were the scene of a gruesome murder during the time the German Socialist Party owned the house.
During this time, Franklin Castle may have been the site of a politically-motivated mass murder. It is claimed that a group was machine-gunned down during a dispute in this house. Some witnesses claim that ghosts continue to have political discussions in this house.
During the time the German Socialist Party owned the house, there was a long stretch of time when the house was likely unoccupied, though it is likely that the owners rented parts of the house out at various times. During an interview in the 1970s, a nurse claimed that she had once visited the house during the 1930s to care for an ailing attorney. While in the house at night, she was often frightened by the sound of a small child crying. Even 40 years after her last visit to Franklin Castle, this nurse claimed that she would never step foot into the home again.
The Romano Family
The German Socialist Party eventually sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Romano, who moved into the house with their six children in 1968. On the day that the family moved in to Franklin Castle, Mrs. Romano sent her children to play upstairs in the house. They soon came back down to ask for a cookie to share with their new friend; a little girl who was upstairs crying. Mrs. Romano went upstairs to look for the little girl, but she was nowhere to be found.
The Romanos also often heard organ music coming from different parts of the house, as well as footsteps in the hallways and on the stairs, disembodied voices, and the eerie sounds of people talking and dancing in the former ballroom. The Romano children would often speak of playing with “imaginary friends” in the house. Mrs. Romano also reported finding clothing dating to the early 1990s in random spots throughout the house.
At one point, the Romano family hired a Catholic priest to investigate their home after a few too many supernatural occurrences. The priest declined to perform an exorcism but did claim to feel an evil presence in the house and advised the family to move as soon as possible. The family did not heed the priest’s warning, and instead consulted a paranormal research organization, the now-defunct Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Group. Allegedly, these professional ghost hunters ran from the home screaming in the middle of their investigation.
By 1974, the Romano family had had enough of the ghostly occurrences in their home and sold Franklin Castle to a man named Sam Muscatello.
Sam Muscatello’s Grisly Discovery in Franklin Castle
Knowing the eerie reputation and violent history of Franklin Castle, Sam Muscatello was quick to try to cash in on the supernatural happenings in the house. Though he wasn’t personally a believer in the ghost stories, he began offering haunted tours of the house and started collecting notes on mysterious encounters reported by his visitors. Many visitors to the home reported encounters with a woman in black, hearing strange sounds including crying babies, cold spots in several rooms, and objects vanishing into thin air.
While searching for secret passageways in the house, Sam Muscatello discovered a pile of human bones behind a panel in the tower. While some people believe that Sam Muscatello planted the bones there himself for publicity and to legitimize the stories of hauntings in the home, others believe that these bones prove that Mr. Tiedemann was the murderer that the rumors purport him to be.
Failing to make Franklin Castle the successful tourist attraction that he had hoped it to be, even after the discovery of human remains hidden inside the home, Sam Muscatello eventually sold Franklin Castle.
Franklin Castle Today
Franklin Castle has gone through several different owners since Sam Muscatello. Eventually, it was bought by a man named George Mirceta who lived alone in the home. Though he, himself, did not believe in the hauntings, he did give tours of the house to profit from the rumors. Mr. Mirceta’s visitors reported encounters with a ghostly woman in black as well as a woman in white. Guests also reported hearing the chilling sound of babies crying in the home and seeing objects moving around on their own. One visitor reported feeling as through she was being choked while touring the house. Mr. Mirceta admitted to reporters that he couldn’t explain all of the occurrences that happened in his home, but he still did not believe in the hauntings. If he did, he would not be willing to live there by himself.
The ownership of Franklin Castle changed again in 1984, when it was purchased by Michael DeVinko (stage name Mickey Dean, the last husband of famous actress Judy Garland), spent nearly $1 million restoring the house over the following decade.
The house was sold again in 1999 but was badly damaged after being torched by an arsonist. The new owner spent a large amount of money attempting to repair the home but was never able to complete renovations.
Franklin Castle was sold once more in 2003 to an owner who planned to turn the historic building into the exclusive “Franklin Castle Club,” but these plans never got off the ground.
The house was rezoned in 2011 to allow it to be converted into a three-family dwelling. It was sold to a new owner and renovations are underway, but Franklin Castle is currently not open to the public.
Is Franklin Castle Really Haunted?
Could Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Ohio, really be haunted or are the stories of hauntings the results of urban legends resulting from exaggerations of the original owner’s personal tragedies. Did Hannes Tiedemann really murder several of his family members inside his mansion, or is this simply a local myth meant to give credence to the ghost stories attached to the home? Were the bones found in the wall by Sam Muscatello proof of long-ago murders, or did he plant the remains there himself to increase his own profits?
What do you think really happened in Franklin Castle? Could the most haunted house in Ohio really be standing in the middle of Cleveland?
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber
ron on March 07, 2020:
i was born and raised in cleveland and lived most my young years on clevelands near west side. past this house many times and thought if this place isnt haunted it should be. It was erie then and still is. I wouldnt go in that place if i was payed to not even with the national guard at my side.
Bill on February 26, 2020:
I was a 6 year old kid in 1961 and the property was vacant. The castle was rumored to be haunted and I walked over there one day and found the door open in the back to the kitchen. I went in the castle and went to the living room. There was a stairway and as I proceeded to walk up the stairs I saw a ghost and I had the most evil feeling in my life. I am now a old man. There is something there and it is evil and I would never go in that place again.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 28, 2018:
This is so interesting to me as I spent much of my youth in a suburb of Cleveland. I never knew about this house, but it farily close to the downtown Cleveland area, and I was at the western end off Franklin Blvd. I would love to visit but the new owners obviously are not worries about ghosts. I don't know about ghosts, but it is fun to speculate.