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  • Hello & Welcome!

    Hi, I'm Heather! My love of Halloween + my love of photography = Heather's Halloween, photo blog about all things haunted and fun!

    Although I'm a portrait photographer by trade, Urban Exploration is part of my hobby photography. I travel a little, so I like to visit cool haunted locations wherever I am.

    I also include the stories I've heard or researched about a lot of locations. If you have any additional or different information about these places, please share what you know in the comments. I and my readers would love to hear what everyone has to say. As long as it's nice.

    Have fun!

The Black Dahlia, Los Angeles, CA

My research into The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run (The Cleveland Torso Killer) started when I was looking up haunted sites in Los Angeles.  I was reading about The Black Dahlia and found out that some people believe that she may have been murdered by Cleveland’s most notorious killer.   I wrote a separate blog with lots of photos about the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

First of all, don’t rely on the 2006 movie “The Black Dahlia” to tell you anything about what happened to this girl.  The movie is more about fictional detectives who were both in love with the same woman while they were investigating the crime.  If you watch this movie because you’re interested in the Black Dahlia story, you’ll be disappointed.

The Black Dahlia is the title given to Elizabeth Short when the media were sensationalizing her murder, but some say she had the nickname while she was alive.  She was a girl from Massachusetts who went to Los Angeles to pursue acting and modeling.  There are mixed reports about whether Short was a party girl with a shady family history, or a sweet good girl who just wanted to make something of herself in Hollywood.  She was 22 when she was brutally murdered.

Her corpse was discovered by a woman and her daughter as they were walking through their neighborhood just outside of Hollywood.  The woman said she thought she saw a broken mannequin, but it turned out to be a real body, chopped in half, and brutally disfigured, especially her face.  Her mouth had been sliced open ear to ear, and flesh had been cut from other parts of her body.  The coroner’s report indicated that she had been tortured in various ways before she died, including being forced to eat human feces, suffering multiple shallow stab wounds, and receiving blows to her head (which may have been her cause of death, along with bleeding to death).  She may have been raped and sodomized before and/or after her death, but her body had been washed of any evidence.  Her body was entirely drained of blood before she was placed in the lot.  She had been missing for a week, so it’s possible that her torture lasted for days.

News of the murder spread fast.  Once Elizabeth Short’s identity was confirmed, the case became even more fascinating to the media as stories of her life and lifestyle started to circulate.  Reportedly, she was often out with different men that she didn’t know well, although she supposedly did not have sex with them because she may have had a condition that make intercourse difficult.  It’s likely that, because she did not have a permanent place to stay, she would tease men to get them to buy her dinner and let her stay with them, but then they would soon kick her out because she wouldn’t have sex.

With details like these and newspapers in competition, the crime was highly sensationalized, and the police started to have problems with several people trying to confess to the murder for the fame, and many more people called in tips that lead to nothing.  I read that reporters would go into the police department and answer the phones to intercept tips that they could investigate and “break the story”.  This kept the police from doing as well at their job as they could have to find the real killer.  The police weren’t able to convict anyone of the murder of Elizabeth Short, and her case is still unsolved.

Enter suspect Jack Wilson.  The name Jack Wilson comes up in both the Mad Butcher of Kingbury Run and The Black Dahlia cases, but it is unknown if it is the same man or not.  Cleveland Jack Wilson was a butcher who often carried his knife with him, and he was known to be into sodomy, which is what may have attracted him to his victims, who were mostly prostitutes or bi-sexuals.  One woman had come forward to police to say that she believed Jack Wilson has murdered one of the Cleveland victims.

Los Angeles Jack Wilson (also known as Arnold Smith and several other aliases) wasn’t named as a suspect until long after the Black Dahlia murder.  I haven’t read John Gilmore’s Severed: The True Story of The Black Dahlia, but I’ve read summaries that say that it was this author who had interviewed Jack Wilson (not sure why the author was interviewing him) and told the LAPD to consider Wilson as a suspect in 1981.  Gilmore uncovered links between Wilson and Elizabeth Short, as well as Georgette Bauerdorf, a girl who may have been an acquaintance of Short and was also brutally murdered before Short.  This Jack Wilson has also supposedly spoken of seeing “The Death Mask” (the face replica that police made of one of the Cleveland victims in hopes of identifying him) at the Cleveland Expo.  Unfortunately, Jack Wilson died in a fire before police were able to question him.

There’s a really great chart here that shows similarities between The Cleveland Torso Murders and The Black Dahlia murder, as well as the murder of Suzanne Degnan in Chicgo.  Suzanne was a 16-year-old who was killed and decapitated/dismembered in Chicago in 1946.  I haven’t researched Degnan’s story or visited her site, but Chicago is close to Cleveland and travel would be easy between cities via train.

I bet the people who now live at 3925 Norton Ave. in Liemert Park, Los Angeles (just a couple miles out of Hollywood) are so annoyed that random tourists photograph their sidewalk all the time, so I only took a couple photos very quickly.  I’ve seen pictures online of girls lying on the ground in this yard in the position that Beth Short’s body was discovered.  I wasn’t going to go that far (although, inappropriate Halloween yard decoration may be in the future).  I think this neighborhood was either being newly built in the 1940s, or old houses were on their way out as new ones were going to be built, but either way, the lot was mostly vacant at the time.

I took this photo in 2009, but I don’t think there was a house there at the time when The Black Dahlia’s body was found in the lower right corner of the yard, close to the next driveway and sidewalk.

I don’t know the copyright of this first photo below, but there were so many reporters, and their photos were all taken from similar angles.   The second photo here is one that I took of the spot in 2009.  It’s not clear in these photos, but in the far distance, directly down the street line, you can see the Hollywood sign from this spot.

These are the only photos I have for The Black Dahlia because there’s not much of relevance to see in Los Angeles today.  Her memorial is in Massachusetts. There are some seriously graphic photos of Elizabeth’s mutilated body that you can easily find online, but be warned, the images are disturbing enough to stick with you for a while.

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Priyanka Goswami - I have read about the case on many sites, thanks for sharing your photographs.

Adam Contreras Jr. - Is the streets & area are correct, then this is the place. Expect those 1 or 2 houses to be haunted.

Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run – The Cleveland Torso Murders

I’m from Cleveland, and I can’t believe I never heard this story until a couple years ago as I was researching haunted locations to visit in Los Angeles.  I was looking at information on The Black Dahlia and how detectives found her body.  Then I read that there are links between The Black Dahlia murderer in Los Angeles and the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run in Cleveland.  Both cases unsolved, some believe the murderer to be the same man.  I’ll post another blog about The Black Dahlia specifically (because I did visit her site), but for now, this is the story of Cleveland’s biggest serial killer and the photos I took from different perspectives of the locations where victims’ bodies were found.

Eight bodies are definitely linked to the same killer, two more were assumed to be by the same killer although they weren’t similar to the other victims, and another body, known as Victim Zero, is believed to be the work of the same man.  Eliot Ness is considered by some to be “The 13th Victim” because the case drove him to drink and ruin his life, but he didn’t die at the hands of the killer.  Although these are the official victims of The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, there may be up to 40 other victims who have been found in Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  And possibly, The Black Dahlia in Los Angeles.

As much as my heart belongs to Cleveland, it is a dreary city.  It’s not much to look at today, but back in the day, it was a popular, busy city.  The steel industry was the place to be, and Cleveland was on the rise economically.  Apparently, Cleveland had a lot of mob activity in the 1930’s, because after Eliot Ness took down Al Capone in Chicago (if you’ve never seen The Untouchables, add it to your queue now!), he took a job as Public Safety Director in Cleveland to fight the uprising mobsters.  Cleveland’s most notorious serial killer proved to be the toughest case that Ness had to face.

Kingsbury Run itself is an old riverbed area where the trains run through Cleveland.  The area stretches from The Flats to around East 90th Street.  It was popular for homeless camps and crime because many would jump the train to escape back weather in Cleveland.  Because Cleveland was a major industrial city, there was a lot of train traffic, making it easy for this killer to travel between cities or to disappear after dumping a victim’s body.

There are a handful of websites and books that will give you a ton of detailed information about this case, but I am going to summarize the facts as best as I can.

In September, 1934, a man found half the body of a young woman in Lake Erie, washed up along the shore of Euclid Beach, just east of Cleveland.  Her legs were cut off at the knees, arms and head missing.  After more searches, they found more of her parts, but her head was never found. And the woman, said to be in her mid-30’s, was never identified.  She became known as The Lady of the Lake.  She is also known as “Victim Zero” because she was only unofficially included in the victim count later in the Torso Murder investigation.

This is Euclid Beach.  It’s easy to see how a body–or anything–could wash up on shore.

I don’t plant the props.  The stuff you see in the photos are exactly as I found them.

Euclid Beach, Cleveland, OH

Euclid Beach, Cleveland, OH – You can see the city skyline faintly in the background.

A year later, a couple teenagers found the body of a 28-year-old man at the bottom of Jackass Hill in the Kingsbury run area.  This was close to The Roaring Third, a part of town where drinking, gambling, and prostitution were common.  The victim’s head and his man parts were cut off.   He was later identified as Edward Andrassy, a bisexual man with a criminal record and who was a regular to The Roaring Third.  Was his lifestyle to blame for his murder?  Maybe.  But police were already off to the wrong start because Andrassy was on several people’s hit lists.

Not far from Andrassy’s body, police found a second male body, also missing his head and man parts.  He wasn’t identifiable, but it’s possible that he was a lover or acquaintance of Andrassy.

View of Cleveland from Jackass Hill.

These are shots of where the train runs past Jackass Hill.

There’s still a number of things hiding at the bottom of Jackass Hill.

The freeway wasn’t there at the time of the Torso Murders.

The very bottom of Jackass Hill, Kingsbury Run, Cleveland, OH

I like this shot because it has orbs. Granted, they’re obvious sun/lens flare orbs, but orbs nonetheless!

More views from an old closed bridge that goes over the railroad tracks at Jackass Hill.

My dogs go with me on all these adventures, but I couldn’t let them out of the car to explore here.  There was far too much broken glass and who knows what else all over the ground.  But my boy still stands guard from the car!

This is the grave site of Edward Andrassy at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Cuyahoga County. His brother is also on the tombstone, but his brother was not murdered by The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

After combing the entire cemetery for Andrassy’s tombstone, I needed a break.

In early 1936, a barking dog lead a woman to discover baskets of body parts outside the Hart Manufacturing building in the Kingsbury Run area.  The parts were wrapped the same way a butcher would wrap meat.  Other parts were found in a nearby lot, and it was determined that the victim was a woman.  Like the previous victims, the cause of death was decapitation.  Her fingerprints were identifiable, and she turned out to be Florence “Flo” Polillo, a woman who lived near the Roaring Third and worked as a waitress and prostitute.  Although Flo had once had a husband and nice life, at the time of her death, she was an alcoholic who was in and out of very abusive relationships.  Was the killer one of her boyfriends/clients, or did he just spot her as an easy target?

At this point, police still weren’t putting any of these murders together as having been done by the same killer.

The Hart Manufacturing building is no longer standing, but I took pictures from that area of Kingsbury Run.

It’s really kind of scary to see so many places where someone could still dump a victim.  I was nervous during this entire project that I might find an actual body.

I found all kinds of questionable “evidence” in this area.  Again, I don’t plant this stuff…

I found short pieces of this same type of rope in more than one location.  Some of the victims in this case had rope burns around their wrists.

I wonder what’s in this random trash bag in the middle of a deserted field…

These are shots of the train yard at Kingsbury Run from an abandoned bridge.

Here’s the view of Cleveland from the same abandoned bridge that overlooks the train yard at Kingsbury Run.

In the summer of 1936, another male body was found right outside the Nickel Plate Police Station.  The body was intact, with the exception of his head that was found the day before by a couple teenagers.  Although the man had many tattoos, he was never identified.  The police made a replica of the man’s head and displayed it at The Great Lakes Exposition in hopes he would be identified, but he never was.  Because people could travel so easily by hopping the train, some of the victims may have been from out of town.  Technology wasn’t as sophisticated then, so it was tough to compare victims with missing people from other cities.  The “Death Mask” as the replica is called is now in the Cleveland Police Museum.

The Nickel Plate Police Station is no longer standing, but I did find this faded sign for the Nickel Plate Railroad.

At this point, since this was yet another victim whose cause of death was decapitation, investigators finally started to link all of these murders.

The next month, a girl found the body of a headless man.  A couple things were different with this victim.  First of all, this was the only body found on Cleveland’s West Side (Cleveland is a very East/West town).  Second, there was blood on the ground where his body was found, which means he was probably killed in that spot.  The other victims were murdered in one place, and then their bodies were dumped somewhere else.  Investigators agreed it was still the work of the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run because the decapitation was performed at the same level of expertise.

I don’t have photos of the West Side location because the details weren’t clear enough on exact spot where this body was found.

A couple more months went by before a homeless man found half of a torso as he was trying to hop a train in Kingsbury Run. There was a crowd of onlookers as police sent divers into a nearby sewer to recover the other half of the victim’s torso and her legs.  Her head was never found, and she was never identified.

At this point, there were no suspects in the Kingsbury Run murders and none of the clues were turning into solid leads.  The people of Cleveland were freaking out, the newspapers were reporting on the topic almost daily, and the pressure was on the local authorities to bring an end to the killing spree.  The media even gave the killer his nickname:  The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.  The poor people of the Kingsbury area quit leaving their homes, and the large dog population increased.  This is when Eliot Ness became more involved, and they even put people on the case full time.  According to the Cleveland Police Museum, the department had interviewed more than 5,000 people about this case.  The paranoid residents were giving the police thousands of tips about every crazy person they knew.

There was one potential suspect that came up.  A woman went to police to say she knew that Jack Wilson killed Florence Polillo.  Wilson was a local butcher, known to be a sodomist (sodomy has been something in common with some of the victims), and he often carried around his large butcher knife.  Coincidentally, Jack Wilson was also a suspect in the Black Dahlia case in Los Angeles, but I’ll get to that more later.

In February 1937, part of another woman’s body was found washed up on the Lake Erie shore at Euclid Beach.  Note, these bodies weren’t necessarily dumped in Lake Erie.  They likely washed out into the lake from the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Kingsbury Run and dumps into Lake Erie in The Flats.  Given the time of year, a victim’s body could be frozen for months during the winter and wash up after the ice thaws.  It took a couple months for more of this victim’s body parts to wash up on the shore, but she was still never identified.  Although she was decapitated, her cause of death is unknown because the coroner declared that her head was removed after she was already dead.

That summer, a teenager found a skull under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.  Not far away was a bag of the rest of the victims bones.  They were wrapped in newspaper from a year earlier.  Police used dental records to unofficially identify this victim as Rose Wallace, a local black woman.

Here are photos of various areas under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge:

I took this as a sign that I was in the right place.

The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge crosses over the train bridge that runs through this area.

Here’s an abandoned building along the banks of the Cuyahoga River in Kingsbury Run.  This was probably a busy company in the 1930’s.

According to a photo on TruTV.com, this is where the remains of Rose Wallace were found under the Lorain Carnegie Bridge.  I tried to duplicate a couple of the photos that I found online for this location.

I had to jump the fence to get to the right spots.  Barb wire won’t stop me from getting the shot!

View of Cleveland from under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge where the remains of Rose Wallace were found during the investigation of the Cleveland Torso Murders.

More views from under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

A month later, the Butcher struck again.  A security guard working by the West 3rd Street Bridge saw part of a body floating in the Cuyahoga River, just below Kingsbury Run.   If you’re keeping tabs, this is #9.  You can find a handy victim chart on Wikipedia.

Today there is more than one 3rd Street Bridge.  The one over the railroad tracks close to Browns Stadium is not the one where a body was found.  However, you will find a homeless camp set up under that bridge.  These photos are of the 3rd Street Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.

West 3rd Street Bridge over the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland, OH   –  And we have the pleasure of another orb in this photo.  Is it sun/lens flare, or the ghost of victim #9?  You decide…

Here’s more of that rope again.  Seriously, is it just a weird coincidence that I found a similar piece of rope at another site, too?   

I can see how floating body parts can wash up along the edges of the Cuyahoga River.

Up to this point, police had been investigating every lead they had, including every butcher in town and every crazy person in area.  One story told on TruTV.com tells about a man who hired prostitutes to strip naked and chop off chicken heads while he masturbated.  But not even the crazy chicken man turned out to fit the profile of the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.  Then the police started to focus on doctors and any man in the medical profession.  I hope they kept Chicken Man locked up anyway, because that’s kind of sick…

Then they found a new suspect, Dr. Frank E. Sweeney.

Dr. Sweeney fit the profile almost perfectly.  He was a surgeon, so he would have the knowledge and experience to cut up bodies as skillfully as was done.  He was a tall, strong man, capable of carrying bodies to the discovery locations.  He had grown up in the Kingsbury Run area, and he had his office there at various times.  He had a drinking problem—and an anger management problem when he drank—which lead him to lose his wife and kids, as well as his residency at a local hospital.  His drinking suspiciously heightened at the time of the discovery of the Lady of the Lake.  He also had family history of mental illness.  His father spent the last of his years in a hospital for schizophrenia related illness that was worsened by alcoholism.  There were also rumors that Sweeney was bi-sexual.  But there were two problems with accusing Dr. Sweeney of the torso murders.  One is that he was the cousin of a US Congressman, which caused some feather ruffling when Eliot Ness wanted to pursue Sweeney as a suspect.  Also, the doctor was known to be out of town, rehabbing at a veterans’ hospital in Sandusky for his alcoholism when some of the bodies were found.  (In my opinion, I don’t see why that was an issue, because Sandusky is just on the outskirts of Cleveland, so traveling back and forth would be relatively easy.  Investigators later agree.)

In March, 1938, a leg was discovered in a swamp in Sandusky, Ohio (home of Cedar Point! just west of Cleveland).  Dr. Sweeney was questioned, and it was noticed that patients weren’t watched very well in the hospital, especially not a surgeon who was there voluntarily.   He could very easily come and go without anyone noticing he was ever gone in the first place.  There was one witness who claimed that he knew Dr. Sweeney, and that Dr. Sweeney would disappear from the hospital for a couple days and then a body would be found soon after.  The witness also claimed that he had met the doctor before at a bar in Cleveland and that the doctor had asked him a series of suspicious questions, like where he was from and if he had family.  A smart killer does his research before he chooses a victim.  Although Dr. Sweeney was a prime suspect, the leg found in the Sandusky swamp turned out to be from an actual surgery.  Um, how does the leg from a hospital surgery end up in a swamp??

The next month, they found another leg in the Cuyahoga River.  They found more of this victim in bags another month later.  It was a new female victim, but she was never identified.

Pressure was really starting to build up on Eliot Ness to find the killer.  But then some time went by and things started to settle.  Ness tried to focus on more achievable tasks to clean up the city, like taking down mobsters.   Then, just as everyone started to feel safe again…

Two more bodies were found.  They were dumped right in the middle of downtown Cleveland, at East 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue….right outside Eliot Ness’s office window!  Taunt much?  But actually, there’s no proof that these were victims of the same killer.  A couple things to note:  This was a dump site at the time, so it may be just be coincidence that it was outside City Hall.  One body was a fully intact woman.  All the other victims were decapitated, and most were dismembered and/or chopped in half.  The other body was just the skeletal remains of a man in several pieces around the dump site.  It didn’t matter if they were killed by the same man or not, the town believe they were, and they went nuts about it.

East 9th Street and Lakeside, Downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

Standing in the same spot, I took the above photo of the intersection, and then I turned around to get this shot of City Hall.  I zoomed past the park area with the huge FREE stamp. I don’t know which window was Ness’s office, but one of them was.

Because of the pressure to find this killer, Eliot Ness decided to invade the shantytowns (the name given to the homeless camps set up along the Kingsbury Run area).  He lead police troops through the area, arresting everyone and burning down what little home they had.  It was a pretty bold move, and it wasn’t successful.   Ness’s reputation–and his life–was going downhill fast.

In 1939, the County Sheriff arrested another suspect, Frank Dolezal, for the murder of Flo Polillo.  He lived with Flo at the time and was also linked to Edward Andrassy and Rose Wallace.  There is no solid evidence that this brick layer was the killer, but he did confess to the murders.  It is believed, though, that the police (the county police, not Ness’s Cleveland force) beat him and forced him to confess to the murders.  He hung himself in his cell before his trial.

Ness decided to revisit Dr. Sweeney as a suspect.  He tried to set up secret interrogations so Sweeney’s congressman cousin wouldn’t interfere.  Dr. Sweeney taunted Ness and the police during his interviews, and he failed lie detector tests, but there still wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of the Cleveland torso murders.  Eventually, Dr. Sweeney checked himself into a hospital in Dayton, where he supposedly stayed until his death in 1964.  Although the murders stopped after Sweeney was gone, he didn’t stop taunting Eliot Ness.  He would send cryptic postcards and say weird things.  Ness was 100% certain that Dr. Sweeney was The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

One postcard received by the Cleveland police was typed and postmarked from Los Angeles.  It said, “You can rest easy now as I have moved out to sunny California for the winter.”  The writer said he had murdered those people for science, and he gave a location where he buried a head in Los Angeles.  They never found anything at that location.  But in 1947, they found the body of Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia.  Her body had been mutilated and chopped in half, similar to the Cleveland torso murders (although with some differences).  There were 6 more similar murders that year, which may have been by the same man, or they may have been copycat killings because of the fame around The Black Dahlia murder.

Enter suspect Jack Wilson.  The name Jack Wilson comes up in both the Mad Butcher of Kingbury Run and The Black Dahlia cases, but it is unknown if it is the same man or not.  Cleveland Jack Wilson was a butcher who often carried his knife with him, and he was known to be into sodomy, which is what may have attracted him to his victims.  One woman had come forward to police to say that she believed Jack Wilson has murdered Flo Polillo.

Los Angeles Jack Wilson (also known as Arnold Smith and several other aliases) wasn’t named as a suspect until long after the Black Dahlia murder.  I haven’t read John Gilmore’s Severed: The True Story of The Black Dahlia, but I’ve read summaries that say that it was this author who had interviewed Jack Wilson and told the LAPD to consider Wilson as a suspect in 1981.  Gilmore uncovered links between Wilson and Elizabeth Short (the real name of The Black Dahlia), as well as Georgette Bauerdorf, a girl who may have been an acquaintance of Short and was also brutally murdered.  This Wilson has also supposedly spoken of seeing “The Death Mask” (the face replica that police made of “the tattooed man” in hopes of identifying him) at the Cleveland Expo.  Unfortunately, Jack Wilson died in a fire before police were able to question him.

There’s a really great chart here that shows similarities between The Cleveland Torso Murders and The Black Dahlia murder, as well as the murder of Suzanne Degnan in Chicgo.  Suzanne was a 16-year-old who was killed and decapitated/dismembered in Chicago in 1946.  I haven’t researched Degnan’s story or visited her site, but Chicago is close to Cleveland and travel would be easy between cities via train.

Another theory, and this is the one I’m leaning toward, is that there may have been two killers working together.  At least one of the bodies in Cleveland showed signs of expert cutting, as well as some sloppier work.  Here’s MY theory:  Dr. Sweeney was the main killer.   Somehow a teenage boy gets involved with Dr. Sweeney and has similar interests.  Dr. Sweeney takes the boy on as “an apprentice”.  As the boy got older, he started to travel and kill on his own.  He knows of the crazy butcher man Jack Wilson in Cleveland and decides to use that identity when he traveled to Chicago and Los Angeles.  Done. Solved. Case Closed.  :)

Was the killer the same guy in Cleveland and Los Angeles?  Was it Dr. Sweeney, who could appear and disappear from his rehab hospital?  These cases are still unsolved, but you can find all kinds of facts to make your own judgment.  Although some files on the Cleveland case have been lost over time, other files have been discovered.   You can visit The Cleveland Police Museum for more information check out any of the handful of books that have been published on the topic.

This is Eliot Ness’ grave site at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, OH.  To see other photos of Lakeview Cemetery, check out this blog.

Fun fact:  And episode of CBS’s Criminal Minds featured The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.  The episode is called “Zoe’s Reprise” (original air date 2/18/09) if you want to look it up.  I watched it in parts on YouTube.   It was about a copycat serial killer in Cleveland.  In the show, they found a body in Euclid Creek, which was right behind my house when I lived there.

Movie?  I read once that they were making a major film based on this story, and Matt Damon was set to play Eliot Ness.  I think I read that in a blog about how they were going to film it in Michigan because of the tax breaks for film making.  I don’t know if the information was true or not, but either way, that movie hasn’t happened.  You can find some independent films and documentaries about it, though.

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Danielle - I am so amazed. I grew up 45 minsEast of Cleveland and I am just like wow. I am so doing some research on this. Thank you. I love the photo work too. I live in Portland,Maine now. It is always noce to read about home past or present. Thank you again.

admin - Hi Danielle! Thanks for the comment. I was all over this story the second I heard about it. There’s a lot of really good detailed information about it online, so you’ll enjoy researching it. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos!

Just curious, how did you run across this blog?

If you grew up east of Cleveland (I so miss Pickle Bills right now!!), then you might also enjoy my Kirtland photo blog once I have it done. The Witch’s Grave, Melon Heads, and Crybaby Bridge are all included! There is a blog and photos on my http://www.Myspace.com/HeathersHalloween page already, but I am going to re-edit them and add it here soon. I’m also working on re-edits of Squire’s Castle. Then from the South Side of Cleveland, I’m working on Chippewa Lake, the abandoned amusement park. These are all on Myspace (it’s public, so you don’t have to sign in if you want to check it out), but the photos will be much better when I re-post them here… Stay tuned! :)

laura w - You did a great job heather. I read the entire thing (I want a cookie!) I remember when you were doing this project, I wish I could’ve been able to join you at some point. Sometimes though it’s the exhaustive research we do by ourselves that make it so much more worth it and personal, like a journey, you know? Love the tonality on your photos!

admin - Thanks Laura! I’m also going to re-edit photos from Chippewa Lake and Athens, and I was so glad you were on those excursions!! I’ll chat with you when I get to those, because I want to ask your permission to post a couple of your shots. :)

I’m thinking a ghost hunt is in order at Mansfield Prison next summer…

laura w - Awesome!!! I can’t wait to read the posts. I like your writing style, I used to blog all of the time and I miss doing it, it was very cathartic. You don’t need permission if you want to post any of my shots, I’m giving you a blanket statement of permission just throw up a credit tag, that’s all I ask! And you can edit them in a cool way if you want to, I do not mind!

Dana - Really crazy story. You have taken amazing pictures of the area. Such a creepy place…

Chris - Hello Heather,

Thanks for the terrific photo essay on the torso murders. I bet it was hard to get to some of the places where you took pictures. I am also a native Clevelander living far away from home and have taken to studying the torso murders as a hobby. I worked two years as a crime scene technician in Virginia and I guess that never really got out of my system.

I’m bookmarking your site for future reference.

Cordially,

Chris

admin - Dana and Chris,
I’m so sorry I didn’t reply to your comments sooner. I never got notifications that I had comments, but thank you so much!

Some of the places were a little tough to locate. A couple of the spots don’t even exist anymore. As for the ones I did find…when I worked downtown, I had a great view of a lot of this area. I would read the descriptions of the locations and then match them up with the photos I could find. I was able to plot a few of the spots from my window, and then I started driving around (bodyguard and watch dogs in tow!!) until I found them. It took a few exploration trips around town, but it was fun and interesting!

Thanks again for your comments! Happy Haunting!!

SUZANNE - I was watching an episode of Haunted History on the H2 channel. I was born in Amherst and my father and his family lived in Cleveland. My father is 74 and I asked him if he ever heard about this and he said no. This was such a publicized case I can not believe so many people never knew.

Robert Beres - Born 1944. There is a street off of Kinsman Rd. called Kingsbury Run (Starts about E.100 and runs to E110) often mistaken for the shanty cites area. In our teens we would remove the sewer caps on Kingsbury Run and go through the sewers down to E.79th and Kinsman (they went further) to what is now Garden Valley and was the begining of the old shanty towns. I think you did a great job on the story. As the years went by, I became a Cleveland Police officer and was stationed in the 4th Dist. at E.93rd and Kinsman. My first day on the streets, there was a call for a mother boiling her childs hed on the stove. Having been raised in the area and worked there, these stories always facinate me, even now. The Cleveland Police Musem is small, but donation only for enterance and very informative. Keep up the good work

Linda Cubranich - Great story. My first home was on East 51st Street, off Praha. Jack ass hill and bridge were only a block to two away and we used when driving to school. Of course I was not aware of any of this then.

Jerry McClurg - I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that you got this right. I think it was Dr Sweeney.

Lattie Slusher - the patients at the ohio soldiers home in sandusky are all there voluntarily and they can come and go as they please…then and today….in the 30s the lake shore electric railway had interurban service between sandusky and terminal tower in downtown cleveland…there was a lakeshore station at the soldiers home…..sweeney could have boarded there and been downtown in little more than an hour

Melissa Sites - Thanks for sharing your great photographs. Your photos have a great artistic quality to them, and you do a great job illustrating the whole narrative of a strange and grisly case. I feel bad for Ness, who seems to have been a very conscientious guy with a lot of great work to his credit.

The Bell Witch – Adams, TN

Unlike The Bethbirei Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg, TN, whose local residents strongly discourage visitors to the haunted site, Adams, TN is more commercialized around the haunting story that puts them on the map.  The Bell Witch.  It’s the story of the Bell family, who migrated from North Carolina to the area that was then called Red River, TN (just northwest of Nashville) in the early 1800’s.  They were haunted by a witch’s curse of a tormenting spirit.

They say John Bell had a land ownership dispute with Kate Batts, a woman rumored to be a witch.  Immediately after she cursed Bell, he saw a wolf/dog/rabbit/manbearpig animal on his property.  Later the the family starting hearing scratching sounds outside the house, then inside the house, then eventually, there was an invisible entity that would taunt anyone in the house.  It would move things, take covers away, pull hair, slap the kids, and things of that sort.  There were supposedly many people who witnessed this when they would be at the Bell home over a 4 year period.

Another part/version of the story says that Kate Batts (and/or the ghostly entity) wasn’t happy with Betsy Bell’s (one of the several children of John and Lucy Bell) relationship with Joshua Gardner, and she threatened then to break things off and would go above and beyond her normal tormenting when the couple were together.

One movie adaptation of story, “An American Haunting”, staring Sissy Spacek and  Donald Sutherland as John Bell, suggests that the real tormentor was John Bell himself and that he was sexually assulting his daugher Betsy.

One of the more popular notes about the story is that General Andrew Jackson, before he became President, heard of the Bell Witch stories, and he traveled to Tennessee to investigate.  Supposedly, he and his posse had a first-hand encounter with the entity and basically ran off, saying he would rather fight the British Army than deal with the Bell Witch.

If you want the entire story with all the juicy details, this is the main website for The Bell Witch. I would also recommend this blog that presents an argument against the stories of The Bell Witch to be fact.

For as long as I lived in Tennessee, I surprisingly never visited Adams while I lived there.  I think I had it in my head that Adams was way further from where I lived that it actually is.  So, this last time we were in town to visit family, we decided to take the short road trip.    Recommendation number one is do all of your research before you go there!  I don’t mean history of the Bell Witch research.  I mean, find out what you can and can’t see when/where/and for how much.   First of all, there’s not much to see of the original property or home or anything of the Bell family, really.  There are a couple sites, like the old schoolhouse where the Bell kids attended, but even that doesn’t look all that old or amusing.  There’s a monument set up for the Bell family at Bellwood Cemetery, but that’s not where they are buried.  My understanding is that the original property, including grave sites, are private property and not open to the public.  The home is no longer standing.  The best you can find is of another small cabin that one of the Bell descendants helped build, but none of the Bells ever lived in it.

The best place to check out if you do go to Adams is the Bell Witch Cave.  It doesn’t really have any significance beyond the Bell children playing in in it, but it’s still a big spooky cave, so it’s cool.  And the people who run it will hype it up pretty well.  But don’t get confused when you see the cave and cabin tour and are initially led to believe that the cabin is the Bell home.  It’s not.  It’s just a cabin that contains some of the family’s possessions.  I didn’t even take the cabin tour after I learned that it wasn’t the real home, but that’s mostly because the man who runs the operation is rude and lacking southern hospitality in his customer service.

(Warning:  This is my “visitor beware” rant, but I want to make sure you are better prepared than I was when I went.)

We actually went to Adams two days in a row.  The first day we went was the Friday before Memorial Day.  To our disappointment, we found out that the cave wasn’t open that day.  Their website now says “by appointment only”, but there were no clear hours posted at the time, so we went in the middle of the afternoon, assuming it would be open.  If it’s raining, though, forget it.  The cave floods.   Anyway, so we toured the rest of the town, including the school house, and then we came back the next day to try the cave tour again.  As we pulled in the driveway for the tour site, the man running the “gift shop” started yelling for us to hurry because a tour had already started and maybe we could catch up.  It was such a rushed, frantic situation, I didn’t get a chance to ask questions about what we were even paying for, what the tour would involve, and what our options were for touring.   I just didn’t want to miss it two days in a row, so we jumped when the man said jump.  I was at least under the impression that we were paying for a tour of the cave and cabin that was right behind the gift shop.  Oh, and the man yelled at me for carrying my camera into the gift shop.  It’s not even a shop, it’s a counter with some t-shirts and homemade jelly for sale.  But I guess because he has photos hanging of all the real sites that they won’t show you in person, they don’t want you to take a picture of their pictures or something.  I don’t know, but the guy was kind of mean about it.  We were the only two people standing there, and I just had my camera around my neck.  I’m like, “I’m not taking any pictures in here”, and he snapped, “The sign says NO CAMERAS”.   Okay, dude, chill. Anyway, so we ran off down the trail into the woods to catch up with the group.  By the time we joined, the man’s wife, who gives the tour and was very pleasant, had already told the story of the significance of the cave.  This sucked, because that was the whole reason I wanted to go on the tour, to know what the cave has to do with the witch or ghost or whatever.   The tour itself was okay.  It’s a lot bigger than I expected.  It’s not just some dent in the side of a mountain.  It’s dark and cold and wet.  Expect your feet to get wet if you go.  At times, you’ll practically crawl through narrow openings, and other times, you’ll be in spaces that look like large rooms.  Lights have been added throughout the cave for safety.   The wife told us some short stories of the Bell children playing in the cave, and how the spirit actually saved one of the children who was stuck in a narrow hole.  There’s also a random old burial site that dates back before the Bell Witch time.  Her stories were fun, but who knows if there’s any truth to them.   Anyway, once that tour was done, it was time for the cabin tour.  But as we were headed back that way, we were told that we only paid for the cave tour and it would cost more for the cabin tour, too.  That would have been $22 each to take both tours.  Whatever, it’s not Six Flags, people!    The best is when the dude super snapped when I tried to take a photo of the cabin from a distance.  You know, there’s not clear statement about what we can and can’t photograph, and there was no clarification of what we were paying for.   But fine, so you’ve got rules and you have to earn a living.  Fine, but I think they should be more clear about things and perhaps a little friendlier about it.  I would have paid for the cabin tour, but I couldn’t deal with the dude anymore.

So, here are the photos from my trip(s) to Adams, Tennessee to check out The Bell Witch.  I did I what I could with what I had to work with to make them look a little cooler than they actually appear.  The park area across from the school house was kind of cool, and it was spooky to explore through the woods.

Heather Posing with the Historical Info Sign
Adams, TennesseeFollow Me, Kiddies...Bellwood CemeteryBell Family Memorial, Bellwood CemeteryBell Family Memorial, Bellwood CemeteryBell Family Memorial, Bellwood CemeteryBell Family Memorial, Bellwood CemeteryBell Family Memorial, Bellwood CemeteryThe Cabin That a Bell TouchedAdams Antique Mall Sign
The Bell School HouseThe Bell School HouseEntrance to the Cave TourEntrance to the Cave TourForbidden Photo of the Cabin (Tour)Forbidden Photo of the Cabin (Tour)Wooded Area Outside The Bell Witch CaveSpider Webs on Bell Witch CaveBell Witch Cave EntranceThe Bell Witch Cave
The Bell Witch CaveHeather Touring The Bell Witch CaveTuck Touring The Bell Witch CaveCan you see the witch face in the cave ceiling?Can you see the witch face in the cave ceiling?The Bell Witch CaveThe Bell Witch CaveWitchThe Bell Witch CaveUp the Rabbit Hole - The Bell Witch Cave
Burial Site - The Bell Witch CaveThe Bell Witch CaveWitches Of The Baby CornThe Red River, Adams, TNExploring Around Adams, TNAnother Old School House?Another Old School House?Chased By A Ghost

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Halloween Bokeh Shapes

Bokeh is essentially the blurry area of a photograph that has a shallow depth of field.  When distinct lights are in that blurry area, they will form shapes, usually circles.  The shape is determined by the camera and lens used, and the shape of the shutter as it opens.  Without getting crazy scientific about it, basically, the light is forming the shape of whatever the shutter lets in. You can easily manipulate that shape or design by adding a filter on the front of the lens.

The most common way to make bokeh shapes is by cutting the shape into a piece of card stock that you fit over the front of your lens.  I used to have a detailed tutorial on this, but it was lost on an old version of my photography website, but you can find plenty of them on Pinterest or via Google Search.  A shaped hole punch works perfectly for this, or you can get crazy with a razor blade.  You want the shape to be relatively small in the center of your “filter”.  You can choose any creative way to attach it to you lens.  Some people cut their filter into the exact shape of the lens, leaving tabs on the sides to bend and secure on the lens with a rubber band.  I had my filters cut to size and then used light masking tape to hold them into place.  Or you can just hold it.

But, the trick is that you need to focus on your subject before you add the filter.  Don’t forget to choose a background with sharp lights.  Now, with no filter, set your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual (if you know how to use Manual) and choose your largest aperture/smallest number. Here’s a detailed tutorial on aperture to help you.  Use auto focus to focus on your subject.   Then set the camera to manual focus so the focus won’t change.  Add your filter to the front of your lens.  Take the picture!  If all goes well, your subject will be in focus, and your background lights will have taken the shape of your filter.   The first image below of my husband was shot this way with this type of filter.  He was standing on our condo balcony with the city lights of Waikiki in the background.

You don’t always have to focus on a subject first.  You can just make designs with the blurred lights if you want.  That’s what I did with the rest of the images below.

I also tried an easier way to create a bokeh filter.  It’s kind of a cheat, but then again, it allows for more detailed designs.  I simply took clear plastic (I used a sandwich bag) and used a black Sharpie marker to create my shape.  Make sure you are leaving your shape clear and filling in the rest of the plastic (as much as will cover your lens) with black.  This won’t necessarily give you as clean of a look, though, as you can see in some of the images below.  The clear plastic texture make seem perfectly clear when you’re looking at it, but it shows up pretty well in the bokeh.  This isn’t terrible for playing around with your Halloween shapes, but you might have trouble getting a clear picture of a subject with this method. Or you can find clearer plastic material to use.  Also note, the skull shape was drawn directly with the black Sharpie, not outlined with the skull clear, as it should have been.

Here is a series of shots I did with Halloween faces.  These are not lights in the shapes that you see.  They are just city lights blurred in the background, with a shaped filter over the lens.  Enjoy!

The Pumpkin King Bokeh Filter
The Pumpkin King Bokeh FilterThe Pumpkin King Bokeh FilterThe Pumpkin King Bokeh FilterSkull Bokeh FilterSinister Ghost Face Bokeh FilterSinister Ghost Face Bokeh FilterHalloween Bokeh FilterHalloween Bokeh Filter

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Bethbirei Presbyterian Church, Lewisburg, TN

I moved to Lewisburg, Tennessee when I was 13.  There’s not much to do there other than drive down old country roads and ponder old tales.  One such story is about the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church.

First, let me say this:  I would think that most churches, especially those with a cemetery, are going to be haunted to some extent.  There are dead people everywhere, so why wouldn’t it be?!  But it’s still fun to hear the stories and feel the eerie spirits when you explore the area.

The Bethbirei Church is a mile or two down Bethbirei Road, just out of sight of most of the houses in the area.  The church and newer (less old) cemetery is on one side of the street, and immediately across the street is a really old cemetery that you might not even notice due to overgrown weeds and the fact that most of the tombstones just look like rocks.  I don’t think I ever did notice it when I would go by there as a teenager, but volunteers keep it up much better now.  I also never realized that the church was still active, but sure enough, it is.  I almost wanted to attend one Sunday just to see the inside, but I didn’t.  I don’t think they’d like my taking pictures during their preaching stuff.

Anyway, the story I heard the most about this church is that if you went into the church and tried to steal the bible, it would get heavier and heavier as you tried to leave with it, and you’d never make it out the door.  When I was a teenager, I wanted to test that theory, but I never did go inside.  If I recall correctly, the door was locked the one time I tried, and I didn’t want to vandalize the place to break in.  This past May when I went, it didn’t seem so exciting knowing that people actually attend church there.   Here’s the thing about this story, though…  It’s the same story you’ll hear about most other haunted churches.  It’s kind of a generic tale.  Another version of this story involes a group of teenagers who did steal the bible, and as they were driving away, they were hit by a truck and all killed.  The bible was never found in their car, but was mysteriously back in it’s place at the church.

Another popular story about Bethbirei is that there is a large animal/man creature that roams the cemetery at night.  HA!!  Seriously?  I have to laugh at this one.  It’s back woods country, so you’re definitely going to hear a lot of animal noises and rustling of leaves and such, but I’m pretty sure the area is populated enough to make it a little too small for Big Foot to live comfortably.  Sorry.  You might see a deer or a stray cat, but I’ve never seen anything more creepy than that.

Some claim to have seen figures and strange lights in the windows.  That’s cool.  I haven’t seen them at this church (totally did at a church in East Tennessee, and it freaked me out!), but I’m not going to argue the claims.

Oh, here’s another one that cracks me up…  People claim to experience emotions of terror and sadness when they visit this church.  Well, yeah!!  It’s called being scared, people!  Are you kidding me?  At night, especially, the area is really dark.  They’ve put up flood lights for security at night, but other than that, the area is pitch black.  The cemetery across the street is pretty well covered with trees, so it’s especially dark over there.  If that doesn’t creep you out and make your skin crawl, there’s something wrong with you.

One story that I do believe to be true is about a little girl that died there.  I don’t remember when they said it happened, but once upon a time, there was a little girl (3 years old, maybe?) who was at church with her family, and at some point before or after church, she was playing too close to a memorial statue of an angel.  The angel statue fell on the girl and killed her.  The only thing more messed up that irony is that, apparently, angel statues have a tendancy to do this.  As much as I believe this story to be from reliable sources, it has happened in other towns, too.  Ask Google.

Check out this site for some heated comments about the church, including people with more stories and sensitive folks with complaints to leave the church alone. For the record, I don’t think it’s wise nor appropriate to break into the church, steal anything, or vandalize the church or its cemeteries in any way, but I don’t see any harm in driving by, stopping to take a couple photos, and appreciating the site for what it is or what you make of it.

I have heard from some of the older locals that the old graves across the street from the church are those of slaves or poor people, and their tombstones are unmarked or unreadable now.  Like I mentioned earlier, some are just big rocks instead of normal grave markers, and I’m sure there are more people buried there than accounted for.  My guess is that there’s plenty of truth to the slave church theory and the road being build after the cemetery was in place, which can kind of disrupt the peace.   The witch coven story is new to me, but I think witches are cool enough to investigate that claim the next time I’m in Lewisburg.

When I visited in May, I took some photos during the day and at night.  I couldn’t pass up the full moon photo opportunities.  I didn’t have my DSLR with me, but I did the best I could with minimal light and a pocket camera.  One thing I noticed was that all my pictures have a green glow on the ground around the tombstones.  One of the “ghost story” claims is that the tombstones have a green glow.  Yes.  They do!  But I didn’t really think anything of it beyond, “wow, that light makes the graves look really cool.”  I didn’t know at the time that people believe the green glow to be part of the haunt.  I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with the color temperature of the light source, as well as the reflection of really green grass.  When I edited my photos, I took the green glow out of a lot of them, mostly because I was getting bored with it after a while.  But here’s a completely unedited shot.  Forgive my blur, a fence isn’t the best tripod.

Bethbirei Green Glowing Tombstone

Bethbirei Green Glowing Tombstone

This was taken with a Canon S90, ISO100, f4.9, 15 seconds, resized jpeg for this blog, but otherwise no editing.  The two blurry lines at the bottom right and left are the chain linked fence.  FYI, as much as I wanted to jump the fence to explore and take other photos, I’m really not interested in death by local farmer shotgun.  Getting busted by angry southern Christians is scarier than the ghosts who might haunt the place.

Here are some of the photos I took in late May 2010.  I’m including day and night shots.  In the night shots, I did not use a flash.  The light source was a flood light/street light for most of the tombstone photos, and we used the car headlights to see more of the church in the night shots that include the church.

Bethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery Gate, Daytime
Bethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Cemetery, Church Side, DaytimeBethbirei Presbyterian Cemetery, Church Side, DaytimeBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From Church
Bethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei Cemetery Across From ChurchBethbirei RoadBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon NightBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon NightBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon NightBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon Night
Bethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon NightBethbirei Presbyterian Church & Cemetery, Full Moon NightBethbirei Green Glowing Tombstone

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Sara Toombs Felkins - Heather you are a brave soul or I’m still a wimp. That church is spooky. We, the band nerds, had a Halloween party at Lee Herrings one year. He lived right up the road from Bethbirei Church. A group of the other kids went down and came back with scary stories. I love old churches and their stories.

Shannon COoper - Lady you need to get the story straight!!! As a kid I heard stories about the church from my brother’s! So when I was a teenager my sister,mom and I stop by there and took some photos of it! I knew something was wrong and when my sister gave me my camera back I knew I was right!!! Because the camera was rewinding it self and I threw to my mom and said y’all can keep it!!! Well a week later they got the photos back and what I seen in them is burned in my in my brain!!! In the top window We saw two little girl’s one had her braided and the other one had a bonnet on and they were dressed in 1900’s clothes!!And in in the photos the all the tombstones were gone and the gate was unlocked but when was there it was locked!!! A friend told us her mom told her that back in the 1900’s this guy walked in while they were having services and shot everyone!!! And the graves across the road are their gaves!! I don’t the wear about of the photos because my sister is the last one to have them!!!