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The Haunted Houses of Prospect Place and Taliesin
August 12, 2019
With the slew of comments OHU50K receives about orbs and mysterious shadows in our featured photos, it seems some readers are fascinated with haunted houses. I haven’t decided if I am a believer or not in paranormal activity, but I do love researching old houses. Here are a couple of haunted house stories that intrigue me.
After abolitionist George Willison Adams freed all his grandfather’s slaves and sold his Virginia plantation, he moved to Ohio. It is here, in the tiny town of Trinway, that Adams became one of the wealthiest men in the state, building bridges and canals and owning two flour mills. He eventually built his 29-room Greek Revival/Italianate mansion called Prospect Place in 1856.
It was in the basement of this mansion, that Adams provided safe refuge for slaves who had escaped the South. Prospect Place, in fact, was one of the largest stations of the Underground Railroad in the state of Ohio, and its cupola would shine a light alerting slaves of its safe harbor.
Adams died in 1879, leaving his vast estate to heirs who squandered it all away by the mid 1950s. Abandoned and falling prey to vandals, the mansion was slated for demolition in the 1980s before Dave Longaberger, founder of Longaberger Basket Co. of Ohio, rescued it.
Today, Prospect Place has the reputation of counting as one of the most haunted places in Ohio. The spirits of slaves are said to linger in the home as well as that of train accident victims who were brought to the home when the basement was used as a temporary hospital. The footsteps and laughter of a young girl who suffered a fatal accident in the mansion is said to be heard throughout the house, and the ghost of George Adams himself has been seen periodically in the staircase of an upper floor. William Cox, Adams’ son-in-law who had a large part in squandering Adams’ estate, is the creepiest ghost in this ghost story. He mysteriously disappeared after absconding with Adams’ daughter’s inheritance, never to be seen again. Some believe the house, angry at having fallen into disrepair due to Cox’s theft of monies, keeps his soul captive to pay eternal retribution at the scene of his crime.
Spring Green, Wisconsin
When you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, you naturally think of great architecture. You don’t associate him with a heinous crime and a haunted house. But a scandalous affair and a grisly massacre is is just what this haunted house story is about.
In 1903, Frank Lloyd Wright’s wife, Catherine, introduced Martha “Mamah” Borthwick Cheney and her husband Edwin Cheney, to Wright when the Cheney couple decided to commission a new house. No good deed goes unpunished, however, because soon after, Wright and Mamah started an affair. Cheney divorced his wife and received custody of their two children. Catherine refused to agree to a divorce, but that didn’t stop Frank and Mamah. Wright abandoned his wife and six children, and in 1911, he began construction of Taliesin where the couple moved in together, a highly immoral act in those days.
On August 15, 1914, while Wright was in Chicago on business, Mamah, her two children, eight-year-old Martha and five-year-old John, along with a group of Wright’s draftsmen and laborers, were being served lunch in the dining room by Barbados native, Julian Carlton. Earlier in the day he had been reprimanded by Mamah. As related by 19-year-old draftsman Herbert Fritz and his table mates, “We heard a swish as though water was thrown through the screen door. Then we saw some fluid coming under the door. It looked like dishwater. It spread out all over the floor.” Carlton had poured gasoline though the locked doors, and the dining room was engulfed in flames.
According to the August 16, 1914 edition of The Detroit Tribune, Mamah, in an attempt to escape the flames, was the first to put her head out an open window. Carlton, waiting outside, wielded a hatchet to cut her neck and crush her skull. He then systematically did the same for each person attempting egress from the burning house. Seven people were massacred, including Mamah, her two children, two workers and a 13-year-old boy. Two survived but were badly injured.
Carlton was found hours later after the attack inside the basement furnace of the house. He had swallowed muriatic acid and was barely conscious. He never suggested a motive for the massacre and died from starvation eight weeks later.
Taliesin was destroyed, but Wright rebuilt it in Mamah’s honor. Apparently, the Gods did not look fondly on the new incarnation of Taliesin either, as the home was struck by lighting in 1925 and was burnt to the ground a second time. Third rebuild was the charm.
Right after the murders, the bodies were taken to a cottage on the grounds called Tan-Y-Deri. It is here where the ghost of Mamah purportedly resides. Usually dressed in a flowing white gown, she is a peaceful presence but appears restless and lost. Doors, windows and lights have been known to open and close by themselves. Groundskeepers who lock the cottage up for the night, have reported finding doors and windows wide open the next morning.