Some believe that the soul survives death. Like the Phoenix of myth, a brewing company in Mansfield has risen from the ashes. While a building may not have a soul, this one might house the essence of the departed. Perhaps there is more than one type of spirit being served here.
The history of the Phoenix Brewing company is quite fascinating. According to Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that dies in a combustion of flames giving birth to a new phoenix that rises from the ashes. The Phoenix Brewing Company in Mansfield, Ohio has literally risen from death. But before we explore its reincarnation we have to go back in time. In 1861, Charles Schroer Sr., a German immigrant, established the Schroer home furnishing store near the corner of Fourth and Diamond Street. The year 1895 saw his son Charles Jr. join the business. Renamed Charles Schroer & Son, the store enjoyed enormous success for 58 years. The arrival of Corell Erdenberger, Charles’ nephew, in 1916 would mark a turning point in the firm’s history. Up until that time, the family lived in an eight room flat on the third floor of the building. Corell, a college graduate, was convinced that both the merchant and the customer would benefit if the furniture in the store were presented in a homelike atmosphere. He had seen the new concept of model home displays in larger communities but was disappointed in their artificial character. He knew he could successfully integrate this concept within the Schroer store. What better place to present furniture in a homelike environment than on the third floor which had actually served as living quarters with its attractive decorations, well-chosen fixtures, permanent partitions, and natural lighting? Corell’s idea proved to be a boon for the already successful company. Sightseers from miles around came to see the “home within a store”. Sales trucks traveled as far away as 165 miles. The combination of quality and innovation served the furniture seller well. As the company flourished the businessmen added to their property, purchasing additional frontage. At some point it was only natural for Charles and son to move into casket making and in 1914 a fire proof modern mortuary was built on what is now 131 N Diamond Street. Yes, the family had added “mortician” to their job title. The mortuary was considered one of the finest and best equipped in the state. Sadly, on February 9, 1921 Charles Sr., aged 83 years, passed away proving not even morticians were immune to the cold embrace of death. The official cause of death was apoplexy (most likely a stroke) which led to internal bleeding and hemorrhaging from the nose. At this point the name of the company was changed to the Charles Schroer Company. Death would pay another call on the family eleven years later on February 26, 1932. In the first floor chapel of the mortuary at 4:45 pm Charles Schroer Jr. put a 32 caliber revolver to his right temple, pulled the trigger, and punched his ticket for the funeral train to the great beyond. The sixty year old husband and father went out with a violent and bloody bang. Shortly afterwards the mortuary ceased operations. The Schroer furniture store in the building next door continued successfully until November of 1963 when it declared it was going out of business and sold its stock. At the time of its liquidation the company was the oldest business in the city of Mansfield. This was the end of an era. The building that housed the furniture store would stand empty for many years. The old mortuary, which closed in the 1930s, would remain vacant for over 50 years. Then, like the phoenix of myth, a new business rose from the ashes.
In 2014, brew masters Duncan MacFarlane, Scott Cardwell, and Steve Zigmund banded together and formed the Phoenix Brewing Company. The grand opening took place in July and a great-great-grandson of Charles Schroer cut the ribbon during the ceremony. Before all of this, however, the partners undertook the project of extensively remodeling the 1700 square foot structure to represent their vision. Their labor transformed the dilapidated building into a showplace for local brews while maintaining its mortuary theme. This theme is subtle but it’s there if you look for it. The interior consists of exposed brick walls, pub tables from an old bowling alley, and a rustic wooden bar salvaged from a former Mansfield bar. If you are into old hardware you will love the windows in the bar.
The hand operated mortuary elevator once used to transport caskets between floors is now locked into place in the second floor bar area and serves as a supply closet. The third floor serves as a storage room; the old elevator entrance closed off. The room’s grand woodwork can still be seen in spots although most of it is gone. This floor features a large wall-size decorative glass window sporting the official Phoenix Brewery trademark emblem which is a real attention getter from both inside and outside.
The first floor basement now hosts the brewery. Several large brewing vats line the walls as well as a large walk in cooler. This was the spot where the deceased made their first stop on their way to the great beyond. The former embalming room is through a doorway that leads into what is now another storage room. After the body was prepared it was a short trip over to the elevator. The rails are still there in what is now a dry storage area a few feet away. While the majority of visitors to the Phoenix come for the brews ( check out the coffin shaped beer sampling paddles) some come in hopes of experiencing another form of spirit.
The current owners of the property are well versed in its history and are quite open about its past and unexplained occurrences . Duncan, brew master and co-owner noticed things shortly after taking over the property during renovation. The third floor attic area was particularly unsettling. The feeling of being watched or what felt like a breath on the back of his neck were the predominant experiences. Duncan’s wife Carmone recalls one night as she was walking down some steps inside the brewery. She sensed she was about to lose her balance and possibly fall when she felt what she describes as someone putting their hand on her arm to steady her. One evening a female customer felt as though she got tapped to move her chair in so someone could get by, but upon turning around found that no one was there. The owners wonder if perhaps the activity in the brewery is centered on females. While they do not necessarily categorize the following as a paranormal experience it does deserve mention based on the activity alleged to occur in the brewery.. One of the co-owners, Steve, recalls a night when he sensed that something was wrong with one of the beer coolers. Upon checking, sure enough, the cooler was not running. Failure to notice this could have resulted in a batch of ruined beer. Was a concerned ethereal resident trying to help the brew master?
As we arrived at the brewery the first thing that got our attention was the big Phoenix peering down on Diamond Street. It seemed to beckon us inside to share its secrets. The Fringe team did not need much convincing as we were looking forward to what the night’s investigation might unearth. Upon entering the building we were struck by the style of the interior. The bar was warm and inviting, adjectives that one does not usually associate with an old mortuary. After exchanging pleasantries with Duncan and Steve we toured the brewery. Along the way we met “Charlie” the resident skeleton who hangs out on the staircase. Based on its history and the stories we heard we strategically placed our equipment around the building; REM pods in the stairwells between each floor and digital voice recorders in both the bar and former third floor viewing area. As per our usual practice we also utilized roaming voice recorders. We used EMF meters to take baseline readings throughout. Should the EMF levels deviate from the baseline this would alert the team to the potential for possible paranormal activity. EVP sessions (speaking to entities that may be present and perhaps hearing a response upon playback of the recorder) were the main order of the evening. The team attempted contact with Charles Sr and Charles Jr. along with anyone else that may have wished to communicate. At one point during the night Director Kelly thought she a voice exclaim “Eww” or “Ooh”. Unfortunately, due to errant background noise our recorders did not pick up this audio. The remainder of the evening was calm and without much activity of note. As is usually the case, you can never predict what will happen during an investigation. This night would illustrate that concept in spades. As the team was talking with our hosts and packing away equipment our Vortex Dome, sitting in the middle of the table among us, activated.
The Vortex Dome is a device that is triggered by static or Triboelectric fields. It’s internal
antenna can pickup static fields that are not visible to the human eye as far as three feet away.
Director Don noticed the device light up to its maximum level one time as if to say “Hey, thanks for coming!” Fringe has decided that there should be an addition to Murphy’s Law which states “paranormal activity always occurs when equipment is shut down”. While our experiences were minimal during our stay, we believe that this local hot spot has more stories to tell its visitors than it shared during our short time there. As we drove away down Diamond Street I looked up at the large front loft window and remembered the story of the phoenix. The phoenix never truly dies, but rises from the ashes reborn. Perhaps the ghosts of the Schroer Mortuary and furniture company have risen and roam this establishment as the Phoenix Brewing Company creates its own bit of history.
Location: 131 N Diamond St. Mansfield, Ohio 44902
Investigation Date: May 29, 2016
- Handheld video cams
- Digital voice recorders
- Infra red digital still cameras
- REM pods
- Vortex Dome
This article was published in the November 2016 edition of “Phenomena Magazine” a FREE online magazine out of the UK. Get your free download !
Article written by Director Don