Cleveland January 18, 2020
8 Forgotten Fads And Legends From Cleveland’s Past
Cleveland is unusual in a downright fantastic way. Our landscape has shaped some incredible minds, and it has also influenced weaker minds into creating and perpetuating rumors and flights of fancy. This resulted in a steadfast collection of local lore, much of which is remembered by locals to this very day. Some of the most fantastic fads and local legends of Cleveland yore are rapidly fading away — so we decided to revisit some of the most unusual moments in local history. Check out these surprising aspects of Cleveland life:
1. Franklin Castle
Nowadays, fortunately, most of Franklin Castle's storied past has been proven as true or dismissed as nothing but an urban legend. Though this incredible Queen Anne Victorian may look somewhat haunted, the tales of its original owner, Hannes Tiedemann, committing unspeakable crimes within its walls are, without a doubt, a mere local legend. The family did, unfortunately, lose a number of children in their time in the house — but this was the risk of the era, unfortunately. Nonetheless, this gorgeous local landmark remains among the
most storied locations in Ohio City
2. The Lake Erie Monster
Nowadays, the word "monster" conjures up visions of hockey when mentioned in Cleveland. However, our local team is actually named for an old school myth that is now somewhat obscure. A serpentine monster was first reported to have been spotted on Lake Erie in 1793, and over time its size was reported as up to 40 feet in length. Within a century, the "monster" was a laughing matter, though sightings persisted. Nicknamed "Bessie," our own monster was spotted by some people of local prestige over the years — and mocked by the public and newspapers alike. Nonetheless, there may be an explanation for this monster: lake sturgeon! These prehistoric fish can grow over seven feet in length, and as humans often misjudge size at a distance, spotting one out on the open lake may trick the brain into seeing something even larger.
3. Phrenology in Cleveland
Phrenology is, of course, a pseudoscience. It is the study and analysis of dunes and valleys on the human skull, all of which purportedly allude to mental processes and personality traits. Once upon a time in the twisted and bizarre Victorian era, Cleveland had its own phrenological society. At one point, famous phrenologist Robert Hanham Collyer came through town to show off his skills. He analyzed the skull of a
and determined that he had a great memory but a poor grasp of names. The doctor revealed these findings to be true — but what doctors
easily remember the names of their many, many patients?
4. A penny-farthing in Cleveland
Penny-farthings are also known as high wheels, and it's plain to see why. The men in the photo above demonstrate the comfort of these bicycles, though they'd become obsolete upon the invention of the modern bicycle. Nonetheless, according to the 1950 publication
Cleveland: The Making of a City
by William Ganson Rose, Jeptha Wade himself "threaded his way down Euclid Avenue" on a bike with a 58" wheel. Traffic and pedestrians alike stopped to gawk on that summer day in the early 1880s, marveling at the $150 bike. They knew it was dangerous, however, so most of the onlookers likely never took a ride until the safe modern bicycle came into play.
5. Cleveland's tabloid and "alternative" newspapers
While tabloids are a common sight in most modern grocery stores, they were once a much more localized initiative. Here in Cleveland, one of the earliest tabloids was The Sunday Star, which cast a dark shadow upon the local flapper culture. The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle was not so much a tabloid as an alternative collection of poetry, art, and activism in the 1960s. Its publisher,
D. A. Levy, died at the age of 26 in East Cleveland — either by murder or suicide. You can read this quirky paper here.
6. The Townsend Case
As bizarre as it may sound, a Canadian killer eluded the grasp of authorities following an 1854 murder — and his ultimate outcome would be a mystery. Though William Townsend murdered a man in 1854, a former Canadian officer working at a Cleveland bar had a sketchy character (whose name was purportedly Robert J. McHenry) arrested and jailed in Cleveland while his identity was debated. He was ultimately let go after many moths in both Cleveland and Canadian jails — and yet he quietly disappeared into history, leaving many to wonder if he could have actually been the murderer, having tricked courtrooms into believing in his innocence. Check out more on this story
7. The Peninsula python
Peninsula, a suburb just outside of Cuyahoga County, is home to one unusual legend. Once upon a time, locals reported seeing a giant snake slithering around town. Estimated at around 18 or 19 feet long, the Peninsula python was said to have escaped from a visiting circus circa 1944. Sightings persisted — whether or not the story of an escaped python is actually true. Nonetheless, this slithering serpent has cemented itself in local history.
X-Files-style UFO chase of 1966
Whether or not you believe that aliens are piloting aircraft over our humble planet, Deputy Sheriff Dale Spaur saw
in the sky in 1966. He and his partner Wilbur "Barney" Neff were in Atwater, Ohio when they claimed to have seen an aircraft rising from the forest. They chased it all the way into Pennsylvania! Check out the full story
There’s so much to love about Cleveland, from its wacky history to its unique residents. Did any of these memories from yesteryear surprise you?
Address: 4308 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44113, USA