By: Molly Gullett
As Halloween approaches, many of us are preparing to celebrate the holiday, from trick-or-treating to haunted house tours. October is a month filled with a sense of the uncanny, and the Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection has many local examples from several research papers dealing with all things mysterious and ghoulish.
All communities have their collective legends and mysteries, and Clifton is no exception. Elise Maynard’s paper in the collection titled The Arlin’s Ghost in a Community Context features first-hand accounts from Arlin’s bartenders on the supernatural legends housed within this Ludlow Avenue bar. For years among the staff, there have been legends passed down about spirits that inhabit the building. The oral legends that passed down were brought to action when several bartenders and a few patrons conducted a séance in the basement.
According to one worker, seven spirits were found in the building, all with varying stories of how they had died with some connection to the bar. One
was said to be a female temperance protester in the early 1900s. But the most commonly reported ghost legend is that of a bartender who committed suicide in the basement in the 1920s. Employees reported feeling a presence and seeing a “shadowy figure” walking back and forth behind the bar near closing time.
Also in Clifton, the Parkview Mansion designed by Samuel Hannaford has legend and mystery surrounding its history. Located at the corner of Jefferson and Brookline, and just a short walk from Arlin’s Bar, this mansion was originally the home of Cincinnati’s most politically influential boss, George Barnesdale Cox. Douglas Porter’s writings from the Folklore Collection highlight how the community’s speculation on Cox’s fortune has led to many local legends. The Gilded Age sandstone mansion is said to house secret rooms and tunnels, which add to the building’s lore. Cox died inside the home in 1916, and in later years the building variously housed a female dormitory for UC and the university’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Because the home was opened up to community members, it is even more susceptible to legend by those who remain to speculate on the original owner’s death and fortune. The lore will likely continue as the mansion is being renovated to house the Clifton Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library in the upcoming years.
Uncanny and legendary stories are always being passed down, shared and re-written as years go by. Whether one is open to the possibility of supernatural activity or not, the role that such legends play in forming a community are undeniable.
Contemporary photographs by Molly Gullett