When you're driving down Franklin Boulevard in Cleveland, the last thing you'd expect to see is a castle. But then again, when you're talking about the infamous Franklin Castle, anything is possible.
Often referred to as the most haunted house in all of Ohio, whispered rumors about Franklin Castle began almost as soon as Hannes Tiedemann had it built. Tiedemann, a successful German banker who had founded the Euclid Avenue Savings & Trust was looking for a unique home that would also reflect his new-found success as a banker. Turning to the famous architectural firm of Cudell and Richardson, Tiedemann got what he was looking for. When completed, the four-story turreted Franklin Castle came complete with close to 30 rooms, a grand ballroom that took up the entire fourth floor, and even a carriage house. The outside of the house was adorned with gargoyles and intricate carvings filled the interior. The top floor of the Castle also provided wonderful views of both downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.
Upon completion, Tiedemann moved with his wife, Luise, into Franklin Castle along with his mother, Wiebeka, and several servants. The first few years in Franklin Castle were happy ones for the Tiedemann family and were marked by the birth of several children. Soon, however, a dark cloud would come to settle over the Castle.
The Legends Begin
Beginning in 1881, tragedy began to stalk the Tiedemann family. Tiedemann's mother, Wiebeka, and his daughter, 15-year-old Emma, died within weeks of each other. Even though Wiebeka's death was from natural causes and Emma's was believed to be a result of diabetes, the deaths nonetheless gave birth not only to the legend of a curse, but also to rumors that Hannes Tiedemann was a controlling, evil man.
Legend says that it was during this time that the infamous hidden rooms and secret passageways were constructed inside Franklin Castle. Why they were created is something open to debate. Some say they were created by Tiedemann simply as a way of taking his wife's mind off the recent death of her daughter. Others, however, say the rooms and passages were designed so that Tiedemann could commit heinous crimes, including murdering his niece, a servant girl, and even his own daughter, Emma, without being detected. There are still others who hold firm to the belief that Mrs. Tiedemann herself had the passages created so that she could sneak past her overbearing husband undetected.
When Luise Tiedemann passed away in 1895, her death was also attributed to the curse or worse yet, murder at the hands of her husband, Hannes, who remarried shortly thereafter. After Luise's death, Hannes sold Franklin Castle to a local brewer named Mullhauser and moved out. Some say that even Hannes' leaving the Castle was not enough to escape Franklin Castle's power and in 1908, Hannes died suddenly. Incredibly, Hannes' death brought about the end of the Tiedemann family tree as the rest of Hannes' entire family, including his grandsons, had all passed away before him.
Apparently the curse took some time off during the Mullhauser's stay at the Castle. But in 1913, it came back with a vengeance when Franklin Castle was sold to the German Socialist Party. Officially only used as a place for parties and meetings, rumors quickly started to spread that the Germans were actually using the Castle as a place to spy. It is even said that years later, a German shortwave radio would be found hidden up in the rafters. The infamous hidden passageways were said to have been used by an underground group of Nazis to machine-gun a large group of people. During Prohibition, a new tunnel was supposedly constructed that ran from either the basement of the castle or the carriage house all the way out to Lake Erie.
Enter the Romano Family
In January of 1968, the German Socialists sold Franklin Castle to James Romano. Almost immediately after moving into the home, family members began experiencing strange things. The Romano children would often speak of their new-found friend that they would play with up in the fourth floor ballroom. Often times, the children would ask their mother for extra cookies for their mysterious friends.
Mrs. Romano also began to feel the presence of Mrs. Tiedemann in the home and to also hear organ music coming from different areas of the home. Looking for explanations, the family contacted the Northeast Ohio Psychical Research Society, a local team of ghost hunters, to investigate the Castle. If the stories are to be believed, one of the hunters ran screaming from Franklin Castle in the middle of the investigation. Shortly after the investigation, the Romanos turned to a Catholic priest for help, who allegedly refused to bless the house because what he felt when he stepped inside Franklin Castle.
After enduring several more years of ghostly activity, the Romanos finally decided to sell the house. In 1974, Franklin Castle was sold to the family who would single-handedly bring the legend of Franklin Castle to the forefront; the Muscatellos.
By all accounts, the Sam Muscatello was all too eager to cash in on the legends of Franklin Castle. Offering tours of the house, Sam also invited members of the media in for walkthroughs. During a live segment on Cleveland radio, host John Webster had a tape recorder pulled from his shoulder and thrown down a staircase. Another time, during the taping for a local television piece, crew member Ted Opecec witnessed a ceiling light spinning on its own.
Muscatello also began searching the house from top to bottom for more of the alleged secret passageways. His first discovery was an old still that seemed to be leftover from Prohibition days. The most shocking discovery, however, was found behind a hidden panel in the tower. Tucked neatly inside was a pile of human bones. Although few deny that real human bones were removed from Franklin Castle, who they belonged to and how they ended up there has long been debated. Of course, most took the bones as proof that Hannes Tiedemann was indeed involved in murderous activities. Some, however, believed that Muscatello himself stashed the bones there as "proof" of the hauntings of Franklin Castle. The final verdict by authorities was simply that the bones were indeed human and that they were very old.
Unable to make Franklin Castle the haunted success they were looking for, the Muscatello family finally decided to sell Franklin Castle. From there, the Castle quickly passed through a series of owners, including Richard Hongisto, the then Cleveland Chief of Police, who owned the Castle for less than a year. . Hongisto and his family lasted less than a year in the castle before selling it to George Mircata, who owned the Castle until 1984.
In early 1984, Michael DeVinko purchased Franklin Castle and almost immediately making major renovations to the house. Over the next 10 years, DeVinko spent close to one million dollars renovating the Castle, even going so far as to track down some of the original furnishings for the Castle. Despite all this, DeVinko still decided to move out and put the house up for sale in 1994.
For the next 5 years, Franklin Castle stood empty until April of 1999 when Michelle Heimburger, who had been fascinated with the house since she was a child, purchased it with the intent of restoring it to its former self. In addition, Heimburger launched franklincastle.com and chronicles her renovations and plans for the Castle. Sadly, what started out as an exciting and fascinating revival of the legend and lore of Franklin Castle all came crashing down on the night of November of 1999, when a series of fires broke out inside the Castle. When firefighters arrived, they found a man unconscious inside the building and carried him to safety. In a strange twist of events, the man was eventually arrested, charged, and convicted in setting the fires that destroyed almost all of the fourth floor ballroom.
In July of 2003, Cleveland newspapers were filled with reports that Franklin Castle had been sold to a gentleman who was planning to turn it into a dinner club. Calling his endeavor the Franklin Castle Club, invitations for membership were e-mailed out and plans were said to be underway for major renovations. The Club's opening was said to be set for May of 2004. But nothing related to Franklin Castle ever comes easy and the sale quickly became bogged down in red tape. Today, almost a year later, the Castle looks much the same as it did after the original repairs were made after the fire. Windows are still boarded up, and a weather-worn franklincastle.com sign still hangs in the doorway. Only a few potted plants, long-since dead and slowly decaying on the front lawn, give any indication that someone has been there in recent years. The only signs of life around the Castle come from the people who occasionally walk up and down the sidewalk of Franklin Boulevard, some stopping to stare or snap a picture or two. All the while Franklin Castle stands silent and strongówaiting patiently for someone brave enough to ignore the bloody rumors and ghostly tales and restore it to its former glory.