My paranormal group, Fringe Paranormal, is based in Toledo, Ohio. This is fine; there are many allegedly haunted places in and around The Glass City. The problem is that I am the only group member to live an hour away from Toledo. Usually, the drive there when I’m pumped about an investigation is not bad. The drive home at 3 or 4 AM, though, can be rough. If I drink caffeine during the drive, I’ll be up an extra hour once I get home, making the next day a total mess. If I don’t do something to keep myself awake, the consequences could be tragically worse. Of course, there’s always the option of finding a way to spend the night somewhere close if I have the money, but that seems wasteful if the drive is only an hour away. Nah, I think the best option would be to find some high strangeness closer to home and make everyone else come to me.
My favorite theoretical weirdo, John EL Tenney, has done the math. Approximately 100 billion humans have lived and died on this planet. Suppose 85% of them did NOT become ghosts, then that leaves a rough estimate of 15 billion spirits wandering around. The amount of inhabitable land on Earth is roughly 15 billion acres. That means we should have about one ghost per acre. (I am paraphrasing. If you want John’s complete musings about this, read his amazingly thoughtful book, aptly titled Theoretical Weirdo.) All this to say: there should be plenty of haunted stuff closer to my home to investigate.
I’d heard the Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, had claims of paranormal activity, so I set up an investigation for the team there. (You can read about our findings here.) In the midst of that, I also found this article. Wait, the Sandusky Mall is haunted, too? Hmm, I could plan a team dinner at Cheers, one of the places mentioned in the article, before our investigation at the Merry Go Round Museum. Muahah – my plan was coming together.
Then I read the article more carefully and was struck by how dated it was. For example, the article mentions two stores, Kaufmann’s and Suncoast, which have been closed since the mid-aughts, and a third, Elder-Beerman, which closed in 2018. Undaunted, I decided to spend an afternoon before our Merry Go Round Museum investigation informally investigating two of these claims: The Lady in Red and noose at Cheers.
Like most malls, the Sandusky Mall is not as relevant as it used to be. Changing times has created a world where separate, independent specialty shops are less popular than super-center stores. Also, next-day mail order seems more practical than leaving your home to search for one necessary item. Therefore, the Sandusky Mall is being radically revamped. From what I can see, they are trying to change it into a shopping center with separate storefronts outside instead of having all the stores under one roof. They’ve already shortened the length of the main hall to start this process. Walking it now is bittersweet. The Sandusky Mall was never huge; only one floor with two wings of shops ending at separate east and west entrances. But, I remember hanging out there in the early 80s with my high school friends, shopping for records and clothes in crowded stores, and scoping out cute boys in their varsity jackets. Now, it’s mostly a few kids with their parents in a center play area and old (Jesus, my age, really) people known as mall walkers.
But let’s get back to the alleged supernatural before I get seriously depressed. I started my casual investigation by trying to find the old Kaufmann’s, where a spectral Lady in Red had been seen by the perfume counter. The Kaufmann’s location had been known as May Company when the mall opened. Then it was turned into a Macy’s store in 2006. I loved Macy’s and worked as a Christmas seasonal employee in 2008. Given that, and, as I mentioned earlier, the main hallway has been shortened to start the remodel, you’d think my directionally-challenged self would have no problem finding its location. You’d think wrong. I tried looking for the stores that used to be next door and re-routing myself to the food court that I used to frequent. All to no avail. Maybe Kaufmann’s/Macy’s has been shuttered. Perhaps it’s been remodeled into two smaller stores, as back in the Sandusky Mall’s heyday, it had been one of the larger anchor stores. Or, maybe, and I’ll admit this is the most likely option, I’m just lame at finding places. Even if they’re places I’ve been to 100 times. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t find the old Kaufmann’s storefront, let alone an abandoned perfume counter. Strike one.
So I decided to try Hot Topic. The article stated that a night security guard spotted the Lady in Red in an aisle nearby, and I knew that store was still open. Allegedly, the security person hid behind the corner of Hot Topic to call the cops after seeing the Lady in Red because he assumed she was an intruder. I had so many questions when I read this. Why would the security guard feel the need to hide from a woman-especially a woman in a fancy red dress? Did she look threatening, and if so, why? The article says she started walking toward him, and he backed away. Then she disappeared into a different nearby store.
Anyway, I took my mini-investigation into Hot Topic. I drifted in and casually began looking at the sweet goth t-shirts I might have worn 30 years ago. Finally, I got the lone store clerk’s attention and started a conversation. When investigating a possible paranormal situation, I often find it best to get to the crux of the matter. So, shortly after I noted to her that the Walking Dead t-shirts were cool, I asked point-blank if she’d ever heard of or encountered the ghostly Lady in Red. Not taken aback at all, she told me no, but that one time, a friend of hers had seen the ghost of a man in fatigues in front of Hot Topic’s old location. The story went that her friend was opening the store for the day. He looked through the security gate that closed off Hot Topic from the main hallway of the mall and saw a man in what appeared to be army fatigues. He reached across or bent down (I can’t remember which) to open the gate, and in that span of seconds, the man had vanished. The Hot Topic employee looked up and down the hall, and the army man was nowhere to be found. Interesting. I asked the girl if she could tell me where the old Hot Topic location was, and she pointed down the hall. Down to where there is now a wall built across the hallway to start that new open-air area. The old Hot Topic is now outside. Strike two. I thanked the girl; she’d given me a compelling story, more information than I expected, and I appreciated it. Then, it was on to Cheers.
Unlike most other mall establishments, I have absolutely no problem finding Cheers. First, the sports bar hasn’t moved locations since it was established in 1999. Second, did I mention bar? So I found a seat with no one around, ordered my usual Captain and Diet Coke, and started making notes about what the Hot Topic clerk told me. After the server (aka the owner) brought my drink, I asked him about the noose. He chuckled. He said he had had no clue about any of those claims until someone showed him the article. After that, he hung a fake noose as a joke for a couple days. Seems like a cringey joke to me, but there you have it. Strike three.
So, my little mini-investigation did not find any proof of the Sandusky Mall being haunted. When my team came to Sandusky for the Merry Go Round museum investigation, we did eat at Cheers. But the sports bar was busy that night, and we were running late, so we didn’t do much else with my rather anticlimatic findings. However, I always believe that people see what they see and experience what they experience. With all the remodeling going on, who knows…maybe more activity will be reported. At least it would not be over an hour’s drive for me to check this out again!
If you’re interested in Sandusky Mall history, my friend Chris Bores has written this book:
And for the record, I looked at the mall layout map inside said book, which helped me not at all. Damn my weak navigational skills! I think I am going to continue investigating the mall, so if any of my readers are Sandusky locals and are interested in researching the mall haunts and/or helping me find the old stores, let me know!
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