Who else is there?
On a Cleveland Heights-themed Facebook group, someone asked what kind of strange things people found after moving into their Cleveland Heights homes. People named a lot of weird things. One of them was a ghost. I know those people. Let’s call them the Burtons. I’ve been in their house. It has never seemed haunted, but they have some stories.
The house, in the Cedar-Fairmount area, was built in about 1921. It had only one owner until the Burtons moved there, in 1986. Well, there was another owner, briefly, who bought the house to make some repairs and sell it, but never lived there.
When the Burtons moved in, the wife kept telling the husband that she heard footsteps on the third floor, which was an unfinished, unheated attic. He kept telling her that old houses make noises—expanding and contracting due to temperature fluctuations. She kept saying that it sounded like footsteps.
When their son reached high-school age, they had the third floor fixed up for him to live up there, doing major remodeling work on all three rooms, including a bathroom with ancient tub and sink. Some older neighbors remembered hearing about a couple of people—servants, possibly—who had lived up there in the 1940s.
After the son moved upstairs, strange things started happening. He would come home and go upstairs to turn on the air conditioner, and then come back downstairs till the third floor was cool enough to occupy. Except sometimes he would then come back down and ask if anyone had turned off his air conditioner. No one had. I mean, no one who was living . . .
The same thing happened with the lights: He’d have them on, come downstairs to get something, and go back up—and then come down again, to ask if anyone had been up there and turned the lights off, because they were now off.
Sometimes Mr. Burton would sleep on the much-cooler third floor on hot summer nights. But when he did, he would often get woken up by, for instance, hearing people calling his name. Well, it’s a dream, he’d think. But it happened only when he slept up there. Or he’d hear other noises—like hammering or loud knocking. He’d sleepily think: Oh, it’s someone doing some work next door. Though, as he regained consciousness, he’d say, “But not at four in the morning.” Or, when it sounded like knocking, he’d go downstairs to check, but everyone else was sleeping, and no one appeared to be at the outside doors.
Their high-school aged daughter started collecting vintage clothing, some very old, which she often showed to her friends. One day Mrs. Burton came down from the third floor, to the second-floor hallway, near the daughter’s room, and saw what she figured was one of the daughter’s friends, wearing some 1940s clothing. The unknown girl passed her and headed down the main stairs to the first floor.
Mrs. Burton knocked on the daughter’s door, which was right there, and asked who that other girl was. But the daughter came out of the bathroom, where she had just taken a shower, and said, “What girl? What are you talking about?”
This woman, who is a skeptic of the highest order, can describe, in detail, the girl she saw—who, she says, turned to look at her before going downstairs.
Around this time, Mr. Burton met a woman who was, he was told, a well-known medium from Canada. He told her about these incidents, and she said, “Yes. I see an old man with craggy features.” Mr. Burton thought: Okay, she’s a quack, because my wife saw a young woman. And he told her about what his wife had seen. She said, “Well, then, there are two of them.”
She told him about various ways to get rid of them. One was by talking to them. He said, “That sounds easy enough.” The medium asked, “Are you prepared to have them answer you?” He was not. She explained that ghosts don’t know they’re dead and they like being where they are. And they like to turn off electrical appliances, like air conditioners and lights. And they want to people to get out of their space.
Mr. Burton came home and told his daughter about his chat with the medium, but added that the woman must be a fake, because she said she saw a man, not a girl. His daughter spun around and said, “Don’t you remember that when I was little, I always used to look at that window in the door and see an old man with craggy features, for a second?”
He did remember that. Not long after, the ghosts seemed to push Mr. Burton down the third-floor stairs. He was only mildly injured. But then they left. It seems.
David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.