Updated Mon, Oct 28, 2013 1:01 pm
Unexplained sights and sounds chill the bones for those who believe that spirits roam the halls of some of Ohio’s old county courthouses.
Preble County’s courthouse has stood proudly in the county seat of Eaton in western Ohio since 1918.
Voices from a large group of excited people heard in the hallways may not seem all that unusual for a busy courthouse – unless it’s when there’s no one around, as at least one employee claims to have heard several times when opening the door from the probate court area on the second floor. Others have claimed to hear the sound of boots walking along the now-closed fourth floor jail.
Deputy Christian Fugate has heard court employees talk about the many strange occurrences. A few months ago, he added his own story to the tales when he looked for what seemed to be someone trying to get into the locked front door after the courthouse had closed for the day.
“It wasn’t really hard, but was definitely noticeable for me to come and check it out,” Deputy Fugate recalled of the incident.
He heard the door rattle three times, and each time he checked, no one was there.
“It was windy that day but like I said, I didn’t hear anything like that all day long,” he added.
Lori Rea knows it wasn’t a puff of wind that made the interior door blinds of the treasurer’s office move.
“You can see them moving and you can hear rattling like a child play with blinds – not just a little bit – but just actually like if they were running their fingers up and down the blinds or moving them back and forth,” she said.
Even now, with the blinds removed, Rea and her coworker still hear the rattling blinds.
Laughing off the incident, Rea said: “It happens a couple of times a month, I would say, but we have just always have said it’s the courthouse gremlins.”
Could it be gremlins at the Miami County Courthouse, too?
A claim from a judge’s secretary that she saw a man with red suspenders appear and then vanish while she was in the clerk’s office. That’s the same office where Betty Weethee witnessed many strange things in the nearly 24 years she worked there.
“Things happened like a pen jumped out of my pencil holder onto my desk while I’m sitting there working,” Weethee said. “One of the ladies, a paper clip flew across the room and hit her in the head.”
Light fixtures swaying, adding machines and typewriters going haywire, chairs being moved in an unoccupied, locked room - all seem like harmless pranks compared to the black mist Weethee claims to have encountered while working alone one late night.
“It scared me so bad I almost passed out. The hair literally stood up on my neck, on my arms and I got real weak and it scared me so bad I just shut everything off, grabbed my purse, and ran out,” she said.
She never worked alone late at night again.
Murder in the courtroom is said to be the reason the “Lady in Pink” walks the hallways of the Wayne County Courthouse in Wooster. Common Pleas Court Administrator James Fox has always been skeptical – until he saw “something” on the security camera.
“I look at the monitor and sure enough just right down the hall from where I was standing there was a figure in a reddish, pinkish hue just right down the hall. I looked down the hall and nobody’s there, and I look back at the screen and there is definitely a figure,” Fox said.
There are stories of the freight elevator that operates by key only, opening unexpectedly, and cleaning carts moving by themselves.
“We’ve had cleaning people who’ve actually retired, resigned as a result. Part of that is probably just being in incredibly, creepy hundred-plus year old building at one in the morning,” according to Fox.
Some of the stories may have originated when the interior of the building was being renovated in 1999 and construction crews working third shift reported seeing strange things, including ghosts. A new renovation project will start soon on the outside of the building, but Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Wiest is not too concerned about stirring up any more ghosts. You can count him as one of the skeptics.
But if he did encounter the Lady in Pink, Wiest said: “I’d run like hell, because even though I’m a non believer, I’m not taking any chances.”