|Cathi Weber and Theresa Argie|
Recently my local chapter of Sisters in Crime had Cathi Weber and Theresa Argie, known as the Haunted Housewives in to talk to us of their experiences with the paranormal. They had everyone there that evening absolutely fascinated and for some spooked.
Cathi Weber is the author of Haunted Willoughby Ohio, and is the creator and owner of the Willoughby Ghost Walk, a guided tour of historic haunted sites in Willoughby. She is a member of several historical and heritage sites in the town, and also the founder of the Willoughby Area Paranormal Education and Research Society. Cathi has investigated many haunted locations in and around Lake County, Ohio, and conducts public paranormal investigations, ghost hunting tours, lectures and classes on the paranormal.
Theresa Argie is the co-author with Eric Olsen of America’s Most Haunted: The secrets of famous paranormal places. She is the other half of The Haunted Housewives, and is a seasoned storyteller, parahistorian, researcher, and ghost hunter who has finally found a way to make being “the weird one” work to her advantage. She has traveled all over the country in search of ghosts, seeking above all to give a voice to the dead and let their stories be told. Theresa and Cathi have met some of the most amazing and influential people in the paranormal community along with a wonderful menagerie of everyday folk who’ve had an unforgettable encounter with the extraordinary. Theresa firmly believes that if we don’t embrace our past, we have no future. The dead speak. It is in our best interest to listen.
I have barely browsed through their books so far because I’ve been busy, but the few stories I’ve read left me fascinated. The story of Sophie, The Girl in Blue, in Haunted Willoughby, Ohio, is about a young girl who got off a bus in December 23, 1933. She was directed to a woman who took in boarders. She spent the night there, and the next morning at breakfast, she asked directions to the nearest bus station to buy a ticket and a church. She left in a blue coat, and returned an hour later, went to her room, and came back downstairs with her things. She wished Mrs. Judd a Merry Christmas and left. She passed by a cemetery and then unseen stepped into a copse of maple trees. On the other side were railroad tracks, and barreling down the track was a train, she dropped her things and ran towards the tracks. The engineer barely caught a glimpse of blue from her coat. No identification of the girl was found in her belongings and from her death came the Legend of the Girl in Blue. The local funeral director took it upon himself to give her a proper funeral and a grave site was donated in the center or the cemetery and funds were raised to put in a beautiful gravestone. She wasn’t identified until 1993 when her real name was added to the tombstone. Visitors to the grave site often sense her presence there, and there are documented photos of strange orbs there as well as one with a blue mist. Recordings of a mystifying voice, distinctly feminine, have been recorded by her grave.
In the book America’s Most Haunted, Theresa writes about “The Willoughby Coal and Garden Center that’s not your typical haunt – it’s a fully operational coal company and hardware store. It’s a place only the locals know about. Originally there were other structures and businesses there, including a train depot, a flour mill, a cheese factory and numerous inns and lodges such as the Zebra Stagecoach house.
In 1893, the current building was built for use as a flour mill. The mill was successful until automation killed it, and a coal company took over in 1912. In the 1930s, Henry Windus and William “Don” Norris, ambitious employees of the company bought the business. Eventually, they decided to remodel the third floor of Willoughby Coal in 1947. Don Norris kept a watchful eye on the progress, taking notes and making recommendations to the construction crew. On the morning of April 2, Norris, who lived nearby, kissed his wife good-bye and headed off for work early at 7:10 a.m.
When the shop foreman arrived at 7:40 a.m. he was greeted by a gruesome sight. A man’s mangled body lay face down at the front entrance in a pool of blood. The entire left side of his head was bashed in, his face an unrecognizable mess. His outstretched arms were broken at the wrists. If it were not for his car parked nearby and the wallet in his pocket, the identity of the dead man would have been a mystery. His wallet held over $400.00 and the keys to his brand new car were in the ignition, so it wasn’t robbery. Then they thought for some strange reason Norris had climbed the coal uploader on the side of the building to go up to the third floor, fallen, and somehow crawled to the front of the building. That idea was dismissed when investigators said there was no way he could have crawled that far. There were thoughts he had climbed up to the third floor rafters to check on the previous day’s work and somehow fell out of a circular window space approximately three feet in diameter just under the crest of the roof, that maybe he’d caught his foot on a nail and plunged through and plummeted three stories to his death. The funeral home found over a cup of coal dust in his clothing – clothing that had been freshly laundered when he put it on that morning. There was a clause in the contract between the partners that if one died, the other would get the business, thus nothing was provided for the widow or the family of the deceased Norris. Maude Norris took in boarders and laundry to make ends meet.
In the fall of 2011, Cathi Weber led a small group on her usual Willoughby Ghost Walk rounds. When they arrived at Willoughby Coal, Cathi told the ghostly tales and haunted happening surrounding the building, including the story of Don Norris, which she had researched extensively for her book. When she got to the details of his death, a hand went up, and a young man introduced himself as the grandson of Don Norris. He said the official cause of death was incorrect because he had been murdered. He had done much research and according to him, Norris’s partner, Henry Windus had wanted the business, the whole business. He had tried to buy his partner’s half, but Don Norris had not been interested in selling. He does make him seem the obvious murderer.
Not only does Don Norris’s spirit haunt the place, but the ghost of Zip, an older gentleman who was fond of drink. He was given permission to live in the building nights before dying of a massive heart attack while prepping a load of coal for delivery. Rumor has it he had hidden something of value in the building, and apparently he’s still guarding it because his apparition has frequently been seen on the first, second and third floors of the building, but one only gets brief glimpses of him, even though his footsteps echo off the brick walls, fading into silence once the source has been tracked
The stories above have been abbreviated as much as possible from the stories in the books. I plan to finish both books, and also plan on taking one of those ghost walks in Willoughby, Ohio sometime this summer or fall.
I have to add that in addition to the visit from the Haunted Housewives, we also celebrated our member Amanda Flower for winning an Agatha for her young adult book Andi Unexpected
|Another ghostly figure to spook you.|
Have you ever experienced something that can’t be explained?
Have you ever gone on a ghost walk?