The 13th Floor

Franklin Castle: Ohio’s Most Haunted Mansion and Nazi Compound

Close to the banks of Lake Erie in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, there lies a mansion with a long notorious past. Built in 1881 in Cleveland’s affluent Franklin Avenue neighborhood, it was to be the longtime home of Hannes Tiedmann and his family. Over the years, the mansion has seen more than its share of tragedy and an even larger share of speculation. And once you’ve heard its story, you might agree with what many locals have already claimed- Franklin Castle may be the most haunted spot in all of Ohio.

Hannes Tiedmann emigrated from Germany with his wife Luise, daughter Emma, and mother-in-law Wiebeka in 1881. Not much is known about his time in Germany, but in America Hannes made a fortune as a wholesale grocer before making even more as a banker. However, despite their success and wealth, the Tiedmann family were no strangers to tragedy. Mother-in-law, Weibeka didn’t spend much time in the family’s new home, dying the same year they moved in. Then on January 15th, 1891, Hannes lost his fifteen-year-old daughter Emma to diabetes. Over the next few years, the Tiedmanns lost three more children.


It goes without saying, Hannes’ wife Luise was quite distraught. In order to distract her from her grief, Hannes began extensive renovations to the home, adding a ballroom as well as several additions to the façade that would give it a more castle-like appearance. It was also rumored that during this time, Hannes had several secret rooms and passageways added to the home. Tragedy hit the family home one last time on March 24th, 1895 when Luise passed away from liver disease. Hannes sold the home soon afterwards.


Even with the change of ownership, the house remained immersed in speculation and rumor. Many believed that some of the deaths which occurred in Franklin Castle were not accidental. Many felt Hannes may have been responsible, however, no evidence of that has ever surfaced.  It was this speculation that fueled the rumors that the home was haunted by the ghost Luise and her children.

Over the next few years, the home would pass through many owners until it was finally sold in 1913 to the German Socialist Party. They owned the home for 55 years, amidst rumors of being a secret club for German spies and saboteurs, operating in the United States during World War II. It was during this period that the biggest rumor about Franklin Castle surfaced. Though it was never proven, many still believe that one of the secret rooms was used as an execution chamber for twenty members of the Nazi Party during a period of infighting.


The German group sold the home in 1975 to the Universal Christian Church. And it was then that Franklin Castle’s reputation as a haunted house began to explode. Headed by the Reverend Sam Muscatello, the congregation of the Universal Christian Church began noticing some fairly strange occurrences on the property. Reverend Sam’s first claim was that he found the bones of several infants buried in the walls, although some claimed that he put them there himself to garner publicity for his new church. Regardless, Sam brought in paranormal researcher Hans Holzer (who had recently investigated the “Amityville Horror” home) to do a thorough investigation of the home. Hans was able to uncover several spirits living in the home including a 13-year-old girl named Karen whose death was made to look like a suicide.


Eventually, Judy Garland’s last husband, Michael DeVinko, purchased the home and began restoring it. Not long after he sold the house in 1999, it was torched by arsonists causing substantial damage. The home was purchased again in 2011, by Oh! Dear Productions, a foreign company owned by tapestry artist Chaira Dona Dale Rose. The home was converted to a two home residence.However, the rumors of its haunted past still remain.