By The Book ~ Put-In-Bay 2019 Part 2

As I eluded to in Part 1 of this series, if you ask most Northern Ohio locals to describe what comes to mind when they think of Put-in-Bay, they would probably say, “Par-TAY!” What I think, though, is “Nine years. Who else has been able to investigate an island for nine years?” Yes, we became the first paranormal investigators on South Bass Island because of our team member Fred, the beer delivery guy. However, our Put-In-Bay is in stark contrast to what one sees during the height of the summer tourist season. Almost all the restaurants and other businesses close. Walking down Main Street on Put-in-Bay in November is almost like strolling through, well, a ghost town. Your senses do a 180. Instead of seeing barstools filled with vacationing people, one sees these chairs stacked in the middle of empty dance floors. Howling fall winds replace the sounds of laughter and music. Coat and boots do their best to mimic the warmth of the summer sun.

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Wait, it’s only 7 o’clock!

But there’s still a thrill to being on South Bass when only the bonafide residents are there. A different sort of intoxication, like being in a secret club. There’s one thing you need to look out for when you’re in a club, though: complacency.

About three years into our island ghost hunting weekends, we (Fringe Paranormal) were routinely covering The Park Hotel, The Doller House (aka the Put In Bay Winery), and The Crew’s Nest. All three are great locations with an abundance of intriguing history. Through his job, Fred maintained his friendships with the owners of these establishments and other locales. Then the inevitable happened: change. It began when Fred had to make the tough life decision to switch jobs for the betterment of this family. Of course, Fringe Co-Director, Don Danger Collins, and I had become friendly with the proprietors of the island businesses we’d become accustomed to investigating. But Fred had been like family. Then, Melinda McCann-Myers, the owner of both The Doller House and The Crew’s Nest, began having frightening experiences. She felt that an evil presence was following her home from The Doller House. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this presence seemed to target her daughter. Melinda contacted a psychic from Cleveland who confirmed her suspicions. She (the psychic) then closed an alleged portal from which she claimed the darkness was emanating.

This is the only way we’re visiting the Doller Family these days.

Good news for Melinda-it seemed to work. She and her daughter no longer feel the fear they were once living in. Bad news for Fringe-paranormal groups are no longer allowed to investigate The Doller House for fear of disrupting this newly found peace. As disappointing as this is, we always respect the wishes of our clients. And besides, Mrs. McCann-Myers was still allowing us access to The Crew’s Nest.

But then it got to the point where Fred, busy with his family, couldn’t come on our annual pilgrimage. And I, not having the comfortable familiarity with the islanders that Fred had, felt awkward asking Melinda access to her business. Fringe Paranormal had fallen into the trap of thinking our status quo would never change, that the island would always hail us as their “Ghost Busters.” Sure, we still had The Park Hotel to investigate, which is fantastic in its own right and the subject of my third part of this series. Yes, we could continue to visit the cemeteries and the Victory Hotel ruins. However, nothing new in the investigation department was naturally materializing as had seemed to happen in the past.

Then, in 2019, one of our team members, Amy, bought this book:

Its author, William Krejci, works at Perry’s War Memorial during the season. Co-director Don and I met him one spring afternoon when we’d visited The Park Hotel to set up our yearly outing. We decided to seek him out after the hotel manager told us that Krejci was planning walking ghost tours of the island that summer. The author seemed like a genuinely nice guy with a lot of knowledge. Had I thought of buying his book, though? No. Why? Honestly, sheer pride. Who could possibly know the hauntedness of Put-In-Bay better than Fringe Paranormal, the original Ghost Busters who had investigated the island multiple times? I’ll tell you who. Someone who actually lives and works there, that’s who.

Backwards, but at the top. That’s how we roll.

So, on our 2019 visit, after our Friday night of Halloween carousing and traditional investigating at the Park Hotel, we decided to have breakfast at Topsy Turvey’s. Topsy Turvey’s is a small restaurant/bar/gift shop combo located on Lake Erie’s shore, just up and around the block from the Park Hotel. For me, before this trip, it was best known for having the earliest off-season coffee. I could walk to its small, outdoor cabana and get a cup of fresh java before the stores were open. It might be best known to others for its autographed dollar bill wallpaper. This on-going practice gives Topsy Turvey’s that homey, dive bar, once-you’ve-been-here-you’re-family feel.

However, new information had surfaced. According to Haunted Put-In-Bay, Topsy Turvey’s had been a site of paranormal activity. A nighttime bartender had heard footsteps and something falling in the kitchen. Upon inspection, no one else was there, and everything was in its place. On a different occasion, he and another person heard the back door to the outside slam shut after closing hours. Again, he found no evidence- no person inside nor a fading figure walking away outside- that a corporal being could have produced the noise. His most extraordinary claim is that he saw the apparition of a man in a short-sleeved shirt leaning against some boxes in a back hallway. Interestingly enough, this back hallway is the same one where they heard the door slam earlier in the summer.

So, over some tasty bagel breakfast sandwiches that morning, we asked our server about the claims. She expressed that she had never experienced anything there at Topsy Turvey. She suggested we come back later that night to talk to the person the book author interviewed. Possibly we could even stand in the area of the restaurant where the bartender had seen the specter. Oh, and by the way, even though she couldn’t back up the claims at Topsy Turvey, she had had a paranormal experience. She had seen the apparition of a lady in white at the entrance to a place that we’d visited many times – the Hotel Victory Ruins.

No Lady in White here today

I won’t go too much into The Hotel Victory’s history here because I’ve written about it before somewhere on The main points are: The Hotel Victory was a luxury hotel that opened in 1892 with 825 rooms, two dining rooms, and an outdoor pool. It closed and reopened several times for several reasons. In 1919 it burned down. Reports state that even people on the mainland could see the flames of the fire. Even though arson was suspected, most believe that faulty wiring was the cause. People in the hotel lost their possessions, but I’ve found no record of any deaths due to that day’s tragedy. Today, the Hotel Victory ruins, including part of the pool, can be seen within the South Bass Island State Park.

So, after breakfast, we drove out to the ruins and snapped a few pictures where our server said she saw an apparition. As with our previous visits, no one felt anything sinister. The area is awe-inspiring, though. The hotel once sat on 100 acres of land. One can’t help but sense the grandeur and majesty the building must have possessed over 100 years ago. Even if it is not a haunted area (Haunted Put-In-Bay does not mention it), the ruins are worth checking out if you find yourself on South Bass.

I was impressed this trip with my teammates’ tenacity and refusal to be content with our island status quo. Spurred on by Haunted Put In Bay, we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting up the locals for possible new ghost hunting leads. While shopping for new PIB apparel, team member Andy met a young man whose family owned one of the local wineries. They’d had supernatural activity at their establishment, he told us, and suggested we attend their annual end-of-the-season BBQ that very evening. Andy accepted the invitation, and we were almost giddy with anticipation. The book did not mention this business, but maybe we were going to get an exclusive! This, sadly, did not happen.

Don’t mind us, we’re just looking for ghosts.

The small building was packed to the gills when we got there. But, for the first time ever on Put-In-Bay, I felt like a fish out of water. It quickly became evident that this was more of a “friends and family” affair, and we were interlopers. We bought glasses of wine, mostly because we wanted them but partly because (I thought) the people might warm up to us. Then we set out to find our host. He had been much more friendly than the people who were giving us the “who the f are you?” look as we squeezed through them in the crowd. We finally found him outside, gathered around a small fire pit with some members of his family, most of whom were older women. When we tried to engage them in small talk about any paranormal activity at their business, they became almost hostile in their adamancy that nothing had ever happened. One person mentioned that lights had flickered in the building recently when people were smoking. Their deceased father did not like smoking in the winery, and they thought maybe it was a sign from him. The other women pooh-poohed this claim, blaming probable bad weather or wiring. Disappointed, we made our exit soon afterward. Maybe the book was right; there’s no paranormal activity at this winery. But then again, perhaps this family is a bit more private and doesn’t want investigators stirring up their skeletons.

I think my favorite part of this day happened before the BBQ, though, when a few of us decided to drive past a couple of our old favorite investigation locations. We had a new team member on this trip, and we wanted to show her The Doller House and The Crew’s Nest. Both have their respective chapters in Haunted Put In Bay. As we drove past The Crew’s Nest, I saw a woman walking down the sidewalk. Knowing the person who lives right next to The Crew’s Nest, I interjected from the back seat: “You guys! I think that’s Melinda!”

We feel like off-season members

Andy immediately pulled into a parking space beside the road. Because of my history of being rejected from investigating the Doller House, I was hesitant. But when we approached her, Melinda McCann-Meyers was just as friendly as she always had been. She told us all about her experiences with the Doller House’s spirit, as I recounted them above in this article. We also asked about The Crew’s Nest, and, surprisingly, right then and there, she allowed us to go in and walk around. We jumped at the chance. A lot of our equipment was still at The Park Hotel, but in good ghost-hunter fashion, had some recorders and KIIs on us. We entered through The Crew’s Nest’s back door, which opens up to a kitchen area, which leads to the main bar area. I was weaving my way through the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling when I heard someone ahead of me ask the ever-popular ghost hunting question: “did you hear that?” Unfortunately, I was excitedly expounding upon our luck of meeting up with Melinda and didn’t hear anything. I wish I could say that was atypical of me, but it’s not. I own it. The recorders we had running did not pick up anything unusual, either. But, the place where my teammates say they heard a voice is the same place I was recording when I found an EVP of a girl’s laughter years before. It was the same time of day, too. Sometimes the little things have to be enough in the paranormal world. Not everything is going to be the footage of an apparition materializing.

The same idea holds true of our years on Put In Bay. And really, of being a paranormal investigative team in general. Sometimes excellent cases come to you, and sometimes you have to do the leg work. I dedicate this Part 2 of my Put-In-Bay series to my teammates Andy and Amy. They refuse to wallow in “what used to be” and “this is how we’ve always done it .” They are always hatching new investigation schemes. We couldn’t take our annual pilgrimage to Put-In-Bay in 2020 due to Covid restrictions. However, thanks to Amy’s research with Haunted Put-In-Bay, when we go back (and we will go back!), it will be with a renewed sense of purpose to not only visit our old haunts but to seek out new ones as well. Oh, and in case you were wondering, we did go back to Topsy Turvey’s later that evening. It was too busy real-people wise to find anything incorporeal-being wise, and the person who was interviewed in the book was not there. We did get leads on a few more possibly haunted places, though! I’ll let you know what we find in 2021!

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