The Haunted Hydro
Dark Attraction Park
Many people love a good scare in the Fall when they visit a haunted attraction. Haunted houses around the country pack in visitors during the Halloween season. But the city of Fremont, Ohio is , perhaps, the only place that boasts a haunted attraction with real haunts and real paranormal activity.
The popular “Haunted Hydro” has been going strong and scaring people out of their wits for thirty years (as of June 2019). But this location has been around since 1911, long before it was THE place to go for a good fright.
The Hydro was built in 1911 next to the Sandusky River to provide power for Fremont and neighboring cities; hence it’s original designation as the “Hydroelectric Power Plant”. Unfortunately in 1913, unrelenting rains flooded Fremont and broke down part of the plant killing as many as 460 residents in the area. Undaunted, the city rebuilt the plant and reopened it. It provided electrical power supply to the area on and off until 1954. After that it was used as a warehouse and a storage facility for a local golf course, among other things.
While the idea of haunted attractions goes back to 19th century London, the professional haunted house wasn’t all that popular in the U.S. until 1969 when Disneyland opened its Haunted Mansion ride. With the success of this attraction, non-profit groups such as the Jaycees would open haunted houses as fundraisers in the early to mid 1970’s. Because of a fatal fire, new regulations were put into place that squeezed most non-profits out of the business. However, the public’s demand for these haunted attractions was not diminished, especially with the rise of popular slasher films such as “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street”.
Right around this time Bob “Crazy Bob” Turner had his vision of turning the old, non-functioning hydroelectric plant into the haunted attraction now known as The Haunted Hydro. At that time Bob had no idea that his haunted attraction would end up hosting actual paranormal activity in addition to its manufactured frights. Claims of a little girl’s apparition began to surface. Other large haunted locations around the country have claims that revolve around the death of a construction worker. This also holds true for the Hydro. A former worker fell off of a wall to his death while repairing flood damage to the plant. It is rumored that his spirit still roams the grounds.
When we first visited in 2008 (as part of another team), the Hydro had been in operation for around twenty years. Inside the building there was a coffin containing an actual human skeleton (identity unknown), scary mannequins, creepy clown dolls, and a wide variety of other props found in a haunted attraction. Perhaps the scariest thing of all was that there was no running water on site. Thankfully, though, there is now a porta-potty just outside the entrance.
When we returned with the Fringe Paranormal team earlier this year (2019) we didn’t have to worry about the lack of running water. It was raining cats and dogs! It was as if we had traveled back in time to 1913 to relive the flood. It is thought that certain objects or environmental factors related to a location can trigger paranormal activity. Perhaps the unrelenting rain would turn out to be a positive sign for our investigation.
Upon our arrival we checked in with Joe, our host for the evening. Joe is one of Crazy Bob’s main go-to guys. After we checked in, the team returned to their cars to retrieve equipment while Don hung out near the entrance door. It was then that something happened.
“I was standing at the entrance taking everything in and thinking about how we were going to run the investigation that night. Suddenly, I heard a door slam, somewhere, in the building.”Don
After years of investigating we have learned not to make assumptions. With this in mind, Don went to the last place he had seen our host (a small operations shed out front) and asked him if he had closed a door or had been inside. Joe said that he had not and that, in fact, he had been in the shed since leaving the building after giving us the tour. It seemed as if someone, or something, lingering at the Hydro decided that a door needed to be shut. I mentioned this unexplained event to the Fringe team when they got back with their equipment and could tell that we were all excited at the prospect of an active night. Our team on this night consisted of Don and Kelly (team directors); Amy, Andrea, and Rhonda (our research crew); and Andy, Renee, and Lisa (investigators).
Before each investigation we research the location to find any information we can on its history and claims. History is pretty much straight forward and based on facts that can be found with a bit of digging. The paranormal claims can be a bit more tricky though. Stories can change over time due to embellishment or misunderstanding. There may also be alternate versions of a claim. Perhaps someone sights an apparition and in one story its a male and in another version of the tale it’s a female. With all this in mind let’s take a look at some of the claims related to the Hydro. Years ago it was suggested that the activity at the Hydro was related to the restless spirits of an Indian tribe that once lived in the area. The story is that at some point in the Hydro’s history, while they were putting in new sewer system lines, an old Indian burial site was unearthed leading to a curse upon the land. Activity was such that Hydro owner, “Crazy Bob” Turner called in a shaman to settle things down. While some of the odd happenings did cease the ghost stories were just beginning. In addition to the common knocks and eerie noises heard during many paranormal investigations, two intriguing claims stand out.
The girl in white
Some visitors have spotted a little girl wandering the corridors of the Hydro. She appears to be 10 years old and has been seen wearing a flowing white dress. Is she the he daughter of a farmer who once owned the land the Hydro is built on? Or could she be one of the unfortunate people who perished in the great flood? The skeleton mentioned earlier s still there, along with its original casket; and a forensics expert thinks the skeleton may actually be that of a female from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Perhaps this is all that remains of some poor soul waiting to finally be laid to rest.
The make up artist
For years a man named Burt served as a make up artist for the actors at the Hydro. Known for his hilarious pranks and sense of humor, he was beloved by everyone who knew him. After his death actors reported strange goings on around the building during their shows. Things would also be moved around from their original locations as if someone were messing around and playing a joke. Some have even reported seeing a man wearing a strange pair of glasses like Burt.
Needless to say, these sightings had us chomping at the bit to get started with our own investigation. Due to the large area of the Hydro and all of its twists and turns we decided it was more practical to use our hand held equipment. Our video surveillance system and bulky sensors would have to stay in their storage cases on this night. As mentioned earlier, it was raining cats and dogs. But we couldn’t let that deter us from at least taking a look around the open area of the complex. After all, how often do you get to walk through a trippy rotating tunnel?
Later, after returning inside, we proceeded to make our way through the building taking EMF readings and conducting EVP sessions. There’s nothing quite like conducting an investigation surrounded by “dead bodies” oozing blood, dolls hanging from the ceiling, and other assorted creepiness. For the most part things were quiet. However, as we took our investigation into a room staged as an electrocution chamber things became a bit interesting. Our EMF meters detected an increase in EMF in the room so we decided to try out our plasma spheres. What better place to put a plasma ball than, you guessed it, between the legs of the poor soul (a mannequin) about to be fried in the electric chair. The sphere did react a bit oddly but we suspected it may be due to its diminishing battery charge; interesting none the less.
We investigated throughout the evening with little activity. We did not spot the little girl wandering the halls. Analysis of our digital voice recorders and hand held video cameras did not capture any evidence of paranormal activity. But what about the slamming door heard at the very beginning of our visit to the Haunted Hydro? James Willis and his team, The Ghosts of Ohio, explored the Hydro a while back. In his book “Ohio’s Historic Haunts” he relates the experience of an employee. To paraphrase:
“…a wooden door near the back of the Hydro that leads to the makeup area where Artie used to work….will close on its own all the time, especially when he’s alone in the building”
Artie is actually a pseudonym. The employee James Willis interviewed was talking about Burt, the make up artist and resident prankster we mentioned earlier. Was Burt playing a prank by slamming a door when we arrived? We can’t say for sure who roams the building or why they may linger. Perhaps they are drawn by the energy of visitors looking for a scare at the Haunted Hydro.
So the next time you visit the Haunted Hydro take a moment to look around a bit more carefully. Maybe that little girl walking down the hallway isn’t what she seems.
Getting to the Hydro
1333 Tiffin Street Fremont, OH
Prepared by Don Collins & Kelly Scheufler