If you read my last article, you know that in July of 2021, I decided to take a trip to Mohican Castle in Loudonville, Ohio. Previous visits to Loveland and Squire’s Castles had (has) me wanting more. By sheer luck (or by my finely-tuned homing device), I found the two most haunted parts of the castle without actually going inside – Heyd Cemetery and Macbeth #13. But all total, that, including a sit-down lunch, took maybe a little over an hour. I’ve got my standards of what can be considered day-trip-worthy, and that was not it. I needed something else to do, but what?
As I pulled out onto the highway towards home, I kept thinking, “This really can’t be it. I’ll be home by mid-afternoon! There has to be something else to do.” I’d Googled “haunted Mohican” while having lunch at the Copper Mug Bar and Grille, and I’d only found seasonal haunted house-type places. I don’t dig those things. I’ve written before about how people are scarier than the paranormal, and I stand by that. Only legitimate domains of strangeness for me, thank you. So I did the only logical thing. At the next traffic light, I turned left. My Google Maps lady was not happy. “At the next intersection, turn right!” she shrieked over and over again like a mechanical harpy. I knew she was only doing her job, but finally, I had to shut her down. I still had plenty of time left in the day, and I was only turning right when it felt right, er, correct.
People have asked me why I take day trips by myself. I’ve had people say to me, “your trips look like so much fun; I’d love to go!” But when I do things like this – following my gut instinct, with no rational reason, I wonder if they really would. I can hear the naysayer whining in my head, “Let’s just go home. We could get there early. I could get my (insert mundane home task here) done.” When I first started in a paranormal group, I remember outdoor urban legend investigations getting canceled on a whim because it was supposed to rain later in the day. I was always like – what the heck? The rain isn’t supposed to come until two hours after our investigation! So, when I go by myself, nobody can cancel my stuff. If it rains, it’s my problem only. If I want to go off the beaten track, I can, and nobody can make me feel guilty about not getting peasant work done. And if nothing exciting happens off that beaten track, the only person who is disappointed is me.
I was zoning out, contemplating my move, and beginning to wonder if I should turn old Google Maps back on when I saw it. The sign. Well, a sign. One that said “Malabar Farms 20 miles”. Something clicked in my brain. A fellow Fringe Paranormal member had written something about Malabar Farms. I couldn’t remember at the time what that thing was, but I’d figure that out later. I’d found my unexpected destination. Plus, I wouldn’t have to hear Maps lady sounding all smug and calm as she said, “I told you so,” by giving me directions home.
I followed the signs until it looked like it was time to turn into the Malabar Farm area. Then, doubt crept in as my left-hand turn found me on a narrow, curvy backroad. Oh boy. On previous adventures, these types of roads were a sure sign that I was lost. Had my lack of direction sense overpowered my homing device? Just as I was reassuring myself that I couldn’t be that damn lost, that I could just turn around, I saw a road sign announcing: The Shawshank Trail. Talk about redemption! Anyone who knows me knows I am a major Shawshank Redemption/Stephen King/Mansfield Reformatory fan. I’d never heard of this trail before, but my instincts led me here. I had no choice but to follow wherever the path would lead.
At one point, part of the road veered off onto what looked like a driveway. After the experiences of walking up to cabins at Mohican Castle and feeling kind of like a creeper, I declined to take that road less traveled. My later research proved that my gut feeling was probably correct, that this turnoff was the path to Pugh Cabin, which Malabar Farms rents out to visitors. Pugh Cabin, built in the 1940s, is also where they filmed the opening shot of The Shawshank Redemption. If you remember Andy Dufresne sitting on a porch loading a gun, Pugh Cabin is that place. Nearby, a large oak tree once stood, which also played a quintessential part in the film. Anyone who is a fan of Shawshank remembers the iconic ending: Red follows a path, finds a box with a letter from Andy, and sits against a large tree to read it. According to sources, this white oak was at least 100-foot tall and close to 200 years old when the movie was made. Sadly, the tree was struck by lightning in 2011, then knocked over by high winds in 2016. I honestly had no idea that, other than the Mansfield Reformatory, any other part of the Shawshank Redemption was filmed in our vicinity until I saw these signs. And since they say Shawshank trail, I believe I have another future adventure in the making.
However, as exciting as it was to find a Stephen King fan-girl experience, I knew the trail was not the reason Malabar Farm stuck out in my head. So I turned around and retraced my route back to the main road. From there, I managed to find the right entrance that led to a large, mostly empty parking lot of the Malabar Farm Visitor Center. Upon entering the building, there was a little souvenir shop/country store to the left and a display area to the right. There were some fine exhibits about land and farm animals, and I surmised that if I lived closer and still taught Kindergarten, Malabar Farm would make an excellent field trip. As I mosied about feigning genuine interest in the displays, though, my instincts were murmuring, “this is not it, this is not it.” I strolled through the shop area, hoping to see a book or a map that would jog my memory, but nothing was clicking. So I returned to my car, got out my phone, and typed “Malabar Farm Paranormal” into the sometimes sort-of-reliable Google search. I struck paydirt about three suggestions down—the Ceely Rose murder house.
According to a Mansfield News Journal article I read, Ceely Rose was 23 years old in 1896 when she decided to poison her family. Reports say she had the mental capacity of a child and was in love with a 16-year old boy next door. Her parents forbade the relationship. Arsenic-laced cottage cheese killed her father and brother but spared her mother. Ceely’s mom covered for her, so Ceely would not have to see jail time. But, for her troubles, Ceely poisoned the buttermilk and killed her, too. The boy had no interest in Ceely, and eventually, she confessed her crimes. She lived out her life in a mental institution. The house has been home to a few families throughout the years, but they never feel like it’s quite “their” house. And this house is located in Malabar Farm State Park.
So without further ado (or reading any direction details), I hopped back out of my car to follow the one other lone family I’d seen walking towards the actual (I guessed) farm part of Malabar Farm. The Big House of Malabar Farm is impressive in beauty and stature. Plaques and signs dotted the yard and garden like proud, fixed historians. They give details of the different areas of the grounds and tell the history of Malabar Farm founder Louis Bromfield. However, none of these markers referred to Ceely Rose, and I was on a mission.
Right about the time I was getting impatient with my lack of progress on the murder house hunt, a tractor pulling a flatbed wagon rumbled into view like a country mirage. It stopped almost directly in front of me and the sign about which I was pretending to be engrossed. A mom and a group of 3 or 4 kids hopped off the wagon. They thanked the woman who had stepped down from the tractor. I knew this was my chance. There were not many people at the farm. If I took too long hemming and hawing and getting up my nerve, the guide could easily slip out of sight into one of the many barns. So, I stepped up with a loud, “excuse me!”
I’ve mentioned before how you can just tell if a person will be open-minded when you inquire about places that might seem weird or morbid to average folk. Just a few words with the tractor-driving woman proved she was one of the non-judgemental types. She pointed out the location of the Ceely Rose house – down a small hill, then turn left on the first path. Yes, I could hike there easily. She suggested that if I had the opportunity to come back around Halloween when the farm offers tours of the house. I thanked her profusely, and away I went. I found the assuming, two-story house easily. I snapped some photos of the place because, you know, “pics or it didn’t happen.” As I sit writing this, I wonder why I didn’t attempt to walk up to the house. I think it was because it did not have the rundown, paint-peeling, overgrown-lawn look of your typical ghost-abiding abandoned dwelling. Instead, it looked updated and nicely kept as if someone could be living there. Feeling justified and satisfied, I headed back to my car. NOW I’d had a day trip worth talking about. And I’d get home with no time for chores!
ADDENDUM: I’ve been kind of beating myself up over how long it’s taken me to write this article. Any article, really. It’s my 2022 goal to make more of a daily effort into putting the fingers to the keyboard. But, I was researching the topic of ley lines when a “coincidence” popped up. Ley lines, in basic terms, are supposed to be invisible lines like lines of longitude and latitude. However, ley lines are allegedly magical, with mysterious forces linking historical, mythical structures like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. It’s even suggested that ley lines are paths on which alien encounters occur. And what do I find as I’m doing my research? That, of course, a ley line is suspected of running through Malabar Farm! I see these discoveries less as coincidences these days and more as synchronicities. Obviously, this was the reason it took me almost a year to write about Malabar Farm, right? Compounded upon that justification, the man who wrote the article about the possible ley line had his own synchronous event. You can read that here if you’re so inclined!