Get your fix of chills and scares this season
By Annie Zaleski, Image by Cody York
It's safe to say that October is the spookiest time of year. Sure, that's because of Halloween — but it's also because Cleveland has no shortage of ghost- and haunting-related tours, hunts and events happening throughout the month. It's never too early to start planning ahead, especially since some of the most popular events sell out well in advance. Need some inspiration? Peep these creepy options.
Grays Armory (1234 Bolivar Rd.) is no longer Cleveland's best-kept scary secret: The circa-1893 building appeared on a 2016 episode of Ghost Hunters, during which the team discovered some unexplained paranormal activity. On October 27, for the first time in over 100 years, brave ghost explorers will have the chance to camp out at the museum--and maybe see the specters for themselves.
The "Survive The Night" event isn't for the faint of heart: After a one-hour guided ghost tour with the museum's director, the lights will be shut off, giving guests the opportunity to do independent ghost hunts between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. The $100 ticket also includes pizza, non-alcoholic drinks and parking. Secure a spot at the Grays Armory website.
For those looking to make a weekend out of Cleveland's haunted history, the once-per-year free Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Underground Tunnel Tour is returning on October 28 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Expect to have some "spooktacular historical fun" (as the Public Square monument puts it) while walking around the maze of underground passages underneath the structure. Are these tunnels haunted? Judge for yourself.
Sonya Horstman's Haunted Cleveland Tours (hauntedclevelandtours.com) are always scaring up interesting treks for the adventurous. New this year is a private ghost hunt at the Variety Theatre (11817 Lorain Ave., near West 117th St.), the venerable former concert venue and movie house, which originally opened in 1927, is currently being refurbished. These hunts, which are limited to 15 people each, happen between 10 p.m.-3 a.m. on October 14 and 21 and on Halloween night. Best of all, most of the proceeds from the $65/person ticket will be donated to the Variety Theatre preservation efforts.
Horstman said the theater is "definitely haunted" by multiple ghosts. Near the downstairs bathroom, "there is a lady in blue—she has a blue dress on—and she has a huge beehive hairdo," she said, while another ghost is a "gentleman who reportedly fell off the balcony—but there's a rumor that he was pushed." And, during a visit last year, a dapper ghost scared the pants off Horstman's assistant. "He's the last one in the building, and he sees the ghost sitting in a chair smiling evilly at him," Horstman said. "Said he looked like a villain right out of a movie—he had a top hat on and a tux on."
If true crime is more your style, consider Haunted Cleveland Tours' October 28 Cleveland Ghost Bus Tour. The ride is related to Cleveland's grisly Torso Murders, which were committed by an unknown serial killer in the 1930s. Passengers can also expect visits to "a death bridge, Sonya's favorite cemetery, and the bar where the Torso Killer stalked his victims." The tour starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Flat Iron Café (1114 Center St., Cleveland) and lasts until 11 p.m. Tickets are $55.
For a more low-impact look at the city's, er, haunted haunts, try the Cleveland Walking Ghost Tour (every Thursday in October and November 2). Sonya will lead a group through the Flats district, sharing "tales of death, murder, and suicide" in an area where the Torso Killer was known to frequent. Meet at 7:30 p.m. at the Flat Iron Café—or earlier at the restaurant if you want to grab dinner with Sonya, who promises ghost photos!—and lasts until 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $20. For reservations to all Haunted Cleveland Tours events, call 440-775-1217.
The Haunted Cleveland Ghost Tours—tagline: "Our Business is Dead"—also offers a variety of terrifying themed treks. The company's 2017 Fall Ghost Tour takes place on various nights (Thursday, October 19 and 26; Friday, October 6, 13 and 20) and warns to "face your fear, daring the dead to make an appearance." Each tour leaves at 6 p.m. from the Powerhouse parking lot (2000 Sycamore St., Flats West Bank) and ends around 10 p.m. Tickets are $54 via the Haunted Cleveland Ghost Tours website. The company also offers occasional off-season tours, including a recent one covering the Torso Murders. Because let's be honest, Halloween isn't the only time that's scary.
Need any urging to buy tickets early? Consider that the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's three October "Haunted Cuyahoga: Ghosts & Spirits" rides are sold out, as is the company's October 13 "Murder Mystery: Pirates on the Allegheny" adventure. But procrastinators are in luck: The CVSR's "Friday the 13th Party," a costume party on the rails for those 21 and over on October 13, still has spots remaining. The train leaves at 7:30 p.m. from the Akron Northside station and runs until 9:30 p.m., and attendees can nosh on snacks and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. A separate, October 13 "Evening Ride on the Rails" departing at the same time from the same station also has tickets available.
And, of course, for only truly adventurous, take a nighttime stroll past Franklin Castle (4308 Franklin Blvd.), which is said to be one of the most haunted places in the area. There aren't guided tours and it's privately owned, but no doubt even a glimpse of the creepy castle will make your hair stand on end.