Haunted Sylvania,The Book
by Minerva Merryman
Haunted Sylvania, The Book of Truth, Magic, and Mystery, is filled with hundreds of original accounts of hauntings, witchcraft, murderous mayhem, and Halloween havoc, leaving no doubt that history has forgotten the truth--And the time has come to bring The Truth back to life.
HAUNTED SYLVANIA began as a little bit of innocent Halloween fun on social media in 2013 and quickly grew into a phenomenon. The Spirited Side of Sylvania, it seems, calls out to many, though it is not all fun and games, not by a long shot.
Wouldn’t it be a hoot, we thought, to find out more? Off we went, and we were dazzled by what we found.
To learn how we got to be where we are today, so surrounded by an endless array of supernatural secrets that the night sparkles with pure mystery, and we’ve become giddy star-seekers in love with all things spooky and scary on October 31st and the other 364 days of the year as well, the search started in Sylvania and led across Ohio and throughout the Midwest, unearthing long lost mysteries, hauntings, magic, witchcraft, mediums, devil devotees, and frighteningly real murderous evil.
Minerva and company interviewed historians, authors, journalists, culture and diversity experts, government officials and law enforcement officers; and then dug up and devoured old forgotten newspapers and out-of-print books.
The truth that emerged was unexpected. It was terrifying and heartbreaking. It was dangerous. It was offensive and off-putting, to the point of making one’s blood boil. It tickled the funny bone with surprising wit and on rare occasions was laced with romance around the edges. All that, but with one steady undercurrent from beginning to end--It felt like a contradiction. The truth of days past felt different from the truth of today, and seemed incongruent with what currently appears in print, on sale at the corner bookstore, or even in some history books.
For Haunted Sylvania, The Book of Truth, Magic, and Mystery, the best course of action agreed upon was to first share with readers the unabashed truth of the supernatural world, both good and evil, as it was presented to Ohioans from the early 1800s until the late 1900s, when things seemed to calm down a bit. After that time, supernatural mysteries, witchcraft, and hauntings became more of a commercialized entertainment product. Everyone knows about Bewitched, Ghost Hunters, and the like, so there’s no point in taking up space here.
It was generally before that time where the surprises were found, though some came as late as the 1969 Ohio courtroom drama that included witnesses testifying against an accused witch. This, after the community gathered and threw blazing torches on the accused’s home. Six months before and seventy miles away from the tragic killing of four Kent State University students during a Vietnam protest, Ohio residents were in court admitting to chasing a witch with torches. That is a tough one to wrap the brain around.
In Ohio and beyond, according to the news, the supernatural was often present, and was not confined to Ohio’s Magic City, Darke County, or Salem. The danger was real, the ghosts were real, and the magic of witches and the Romani was real.
For the reader’s confidence in the veracity of these fresh findings, and for assurance that these stories are not fabricated for entertainment purposes, original articles are presented, with no alterations, exactly as they first appeared. The measure of this moment gives pause--Until now, the vast majority of these newspaper pages have never been in print or seen by mortal eyes again, since that evening long ago when they were scoured for the welcome news of the day in Ohio kitchens, offices, living rooms, and front porches in the 1800’s and 1900s.
This method, while being the most clear-cut path for offering truth to readers, does have its perils. The reader will notice that grammar and spelling were occasionally different and now feel funky and clunky (any one, some body, clew, pedler, spectre, and defence, etc.), and some words and labels which we now mindfully avoid were haphazardly tossed into print with no consideration of their effect. While writers and editors of the past appear to have not known better, we certainly do, and we apologize for the actions of others in our profession over the years; The Romani have had to tolerate for far too long the trope of romantic traveling fortune tellers, an inaccurate portrayal that makes light of an entire race that was cruelly, and constantly, forced to leave town after town. The word “gypsy” is not acceptable, it is a slur. So is “gypped.” “Indian” would not be used today, the acceptable term is Native American.
After the news articles, it was important to include the very real evil that has crossed paths with Sylvanians over the centuries. Events long since forgotten are now suspected to be at the root of the supernatural activity that was the basis for Haunted Sylvania.
The journey wraps up with a selection from the Miranda Moonlight stories, starting in Sylvania and spiraling outward. And no foray into the supernatural world of Ohio and beyond would be complete without a word or two concerning Halloween, mysterious mischief, and haunted happenings, from The Spirited Side of Sylvania.
It should be noted that Ohio’s newspapers frequently included spirited stories from outside the state, so that the tales of terror told in whispers and hushed voices after the setting of the sun often had a tinge of foreign influence, thus many appear in the pages to come.
For those unfamiliar with Northwest Ohio, may we introduce ourselves Sylvania is a town that comes alive with the magic of autumn, when the spirit of All Hallows chills the air with a discernibly different energy, and excitement tingles the spines of young and old alike in the evening hours of bonfires, football games, and the annual Fall Festival. Situated on the Ohio-Michigan border and crisscrossing over the happily burbling waters of Ten Mile Creek, the beloved birthplace of Minerva Merryman and the Miranda Moonlight stories welcomes all souls to come stroll the leaf-lined streets and experience a midwestern paradise, especially on golden full moon nights in the fall.
Many individuals and organizations assisted in this spirited search for the truth, including The Cincinnati Public Library, The Toledo Public Library, the Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society and Museum, The Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, The City of Sylvania, Sylvania Fire EMS, Sylvania Ohio Police Division, The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick, Steven Intermill, Tudor Dynasty-Rebecca Larson, David Yonke, Tammie McIntosh, and Rumyana Hulmequist, just to name a few. Much gratitude for the sharing, support, and assistance of all, most especially the residents of Northwest Ohio, who, with an enduring promise of anonymity, dared to share their stories of the Spirited Side of Sylvania.
Minerva Merryman- A Family History to Die For
See Family Tree
Minerva Merryman is the great-great-great-grandniece of Minerva Starr, the magical merry-making mother of Irving Stow, keeper of Sylvania’s sacred secrets and spirited cemetery.
Minerva Starr was a woman with a penchant for the nightly-known creatures of The Spirited Side of Sylvania, and Irving had a leaning toward his mother’s knack for peculiarities. He became the caretaker of Ravine Cemetery, where he finally felt at home amongst like-minded souls. Irving was a reliable source for ghostly researchers in his later years, even appearing in a 1970 Toledo Blade article. Of course, Irving had been dead for nearly ten years when the article went to print, but like all things Minerva Merryman’s ancestors touched, his presence was felt long after he was gone.
Minerva Starr whispered her secret heritage to very few. Her roots could be traced all the way back to the 1500s and Adriana Ingers, the daughter of Pleune Leendertsz van der Jacht, North Brabant, Netherlands.
Adriana’s godmother Anna Muggen was executed for witchcraft in 1608, after confessing to practicing witchcraft for 13 years. The witch hunts moved slowly south, and while Anna has gone down in history as the last witch executed in The Netherlands, no doubt Adriana would have been given that honor if she had not accepted Cornelius van Barnavelt’s brave proposal of marriage—and a quick escape. They wed in Gelderland and he whisked her off to safety.
In Alfred Stow, Minerva Starr discovered an equal as far as bloodlines are concerned.
The Stow ancestors, Thomas Goodenow and his four siblings, were among the 100 passengers who came to America on the ship Confidence in 1638, and they established the 19th town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In England, Thomas’ brother had been cited in 1634 for “wanderings” from their parish church and sentenced to public penance. Meanwhile, horrific and unjust witchcraft executions were getting dangerously close. Thomas Goodenow, the grandson of Mary Rose Tudor, of Wiltshire, England, gathered his family and crossed the ocean. They arrived in the New World at nearly the exact same time that Adriana’s daughter, Maeyke, stepped onto these shores.
But ancestors of both the Starrs and the Stows found themselves surrounded by witch hunts again, this time in the Connecticut and Massachusetts colonies. The families left, eventually heading west to Ohio.
Generations later, on a crisp northern evening, Minerva met Alfred, and while the moon traveled across the sky destiny was delivered in Sylvania, Ohio.
Minerva Starr Stow died in 1928, and she is buried next to her beloved husband Alfred Stow in Ravine Cemetery in Sylvania, Ohio. Their son Irving and his wife Mary are resting nearby
Sociable Spirits and Haunted Horrors
THE TRUTH is, it is all very real.
Magic, witchcraft, hauntings, murder and mayhem.
You know it is real, because you can see it.
A bit difficult to find, but, nonetheless, the truth is right there. In black and white.
The power of this truth does not diminish over decades or even centuries. It still has the strength to weaken knees, turn away the head of the faint-hearted, and drop jaws to the floor, just as skillfully as it did the day its typeset terrors were pulled hot off the press and handed out on the street corners of Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, and all the Ohio towns in between.
Where is the truth to be found? Easy. Take a simple journey, back to the beginning. Follow in the footsteps of those who lived their lives here, and as you walk with them, know what they know. Echo their hellos and heartaches, listen to their whispers at nightfall, put your head down on the pillow and drift through their dreams.
Begin here. Put your hand on that wooden rocking chair and drag it over into the corner of the porch, where the evening shade has not yet landed. There, in that last triangle of sunlight, settle into the chair and read the headlines of the day.
You are seeing with their eyes. Hearing with their ears. And knowing what they know. And tonight, you may even join them in your dreams. Or, more likely yet, they will join you.
The Akron Beacon Journal, May 5 1905
“GHOST HOUSE” STIRS UP TOLEDO PEOPLE
The Fletcher Home Harbors a Startling Phenomenon.
Baby’s Hand Imprinted on the Window--
Ball of Fire Plays Mysterious Pranks
Toledo, O., May 5.--The Fletcher home, on Steele street, harbored a startling phenomenon Wednesday night. While Mr. Fletcher was removing a pane of glass from a window a ball of fire appeared in the air near Miss Callahan, a niece of the Fletchers, and after encircling her a number of times, disappeared.
In describing the phenomenon Mrs. Jacobs, an eyewitness, said:
“It appeared as a little ball of fire, then becoming larger until I should say it became the size of a 50-cent piece. The strange light then encircled Miss Callahan’s feet and flitted about her ankles until the girl screamed and ran away. It then jumped to the steps of the porch and followed Mrs. Doty into the house, disappearing as she entered the door. We were excited and a number of women screamed, one of the girls nearly fainted away. All this took place in just about a minute’s time.
About 1 o’clock in the morning the occupants of the Fletcher home were awakened from their slumbers by a noise as if some one were trying to get into the house. An investigation followed and no one was to be found, although the noise was kept up on the pane of the door which had been holding the mysterious glass, the sound being like that of some one scratching at the pane as if to secure entrance.
The Fletcher home has been the scene of another phenomenon this week. A few days ago the imprint of a baby’s hand appeared on the glass of the front door. The glass was removed and a new one put in.
The imprint of the baby’s hand which showed on the first one appeared again. Spiritualists say that there is a medium in the house and that the hand is a guide for the medium.
Allen County Democrat, January 31 1857
On the first page of to-day’s issue of the Democrat will be found an article entitled “a new phase of spiritualism, a tale of horror and of facts,” which originally appeared in the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Enquirer. The whole affair, to us, bears the most unmistakable evidence of being a hoax, yet the article is well written and evinces a talent on the part of the writer, whoever he may be, of no ordinary degree. The “hoax” or whatever our readers may be disposed to call it, is worthy of a reading, and no doubt some of our spirit-believing friends will give the article the credit of truth. But to all we say, don’t believe a word of it. Don’t allow your fears to get the better of your judgment. The secret of the matter lies in this: Mr. Hayden and his wife had been in the habit of quarreling, and women being proverbial for having the LAST WORD, she arose from the grave to avail herself of the LAST CHANCE.
We do not intend this a burlesque upon our lady readers but merely as a solution of the wonderful mystery.
Allen County Republican-Gazette, June 4 1914
THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND GHOSTS
Home of Illinois Sausage Maker Who Murdered His Wife and Threw Body Into a Vat of Acid Is Besieged Every Night
by An Army of Spooks
A House of a thousand spooks is the boast of Chicago, Ill. This mysterious dwelling, in appearance at least, violates all ghostly traditions. It is not a desolate, ruinous mansion, inhabited by bats and owls, with spiders spinning their web across its broken windows, and the wind playing weird tunes through its chinks and crannies. It is a bright, cheery-looking house on a broad, clean boulevard in the midst of a district of pretty homes.
Moreover it is the dwelling place of five families of working people of the better class; sane, hard-headed folk who, until they moved in and had their own startling experiences, had no faith in ghosts and looked upon ghost stories as mere entertaining fables for children to shudder over in the twilight.
But if there is nothing in the appearance of the house to suggest it is haunted, it has its sinister and tragic associations, which for years, in the popular imagination, have rested upon it like a curse. It was once a house of mystery, if not of murder, and the crime with which it is connected was one of the most sensational in Chicago’s history, and a cause celebre in American Criminal annals. It was originally the home of Adolph Luetgert, a wealthy German sausage maker, who killed his wife Louisa, destroyed her body in a vat of acid in his sausage factory, and died in Joliet Penitentiary to which he had been sentenced for life. Whether the murder was committed in the dwelling or in the factory, never was definitely established.
One properly accredited specter is usually sufficient for the haunted house of ordinary hobgoblin story. This one is supposed to have many. They are not bashful ghosts. They do not content themselves with rappings and mysterious noises. They materialize almost every night, and out of dead eyes calmly survey the excitement and terror they strike in whatever beholder they chance to confront.
One of these spooks takes the form of a large, portly, rather elderly man, clad in black from head to foot, with white shirt, collar and black bow tie, and so disregardful of social conventions as always to wear a black derby hat in the house. Another is that of a woman, clothed in white, and with long, dark hair hanging down her back, who fades at will into the atmosphere, who is so immaterial that objects beyond her have been seen through her body and who is yet sufficiently substantial to be reflected in a mirror. These phantoms answer the descriptions of Leutgert and his murdered wife. They there are almost an army of weird shadows that flit around the house, making peculiar noises.
The authenticity of these ghosts rests not upon the testimony of one person or two, but upon that of at least twenty who have lived in the house and have been frightened into moving out or who still live there. No argument could convince any one of these honest people that they have not stood face to face with visitants from the spirit world. They would prefer for their own peace of mind to believe otherwise, but they have faith in the evidence of their own eyesight. If the ghosts can be explained on a theory of natural causes, no one as yet has discovered the explanation.
If they are optical illusions, it is strange that so many persons should fall under the spell of the same illusions. They appear in different parts of the house. This would seem to shatter any theory of eccentric light refraction. They move about; their footfalls are heard. On more than one occasion they have shown themselves possessed of force of a physical kind.
A ghostly hand once held open a door which defied the efforts of a vigorous young woman to close it. One of the...
(end of excerpt)
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