Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The haunted bissman building

So as it turns out, having a baby makes it really hard to start a new blog and make time to update it. My bad.

'Tis the season for everything creepy and spooky, although I'm down for a good old-fashioned ghost hunt any day of the year. A few weeks ago a small group of us had a private tour of Mansfield, Ohio's Bissman Building. It only cost $10 to do a historic walking tour of the whole building, and I loved that it was just our group rather than with a bunch of strangers I would probably be annoyed with. Our tour guide had to cancel at the last minute, so we ended up being shown around by Ben Bissman himself, a 5th generation owner.

Spooky stories aside, wandering around inside the historic old building was an adventure in itself. The Bissman building was a wholesale grocery warehouse that also manufactured its own products, like coffee and peanuts. Some scenes from "Shawshank Redemption" were filmed here, as well as at the nearby Mansfield Reformatory. Fortunately, the Bissman building has stayed in the family, and they have saved an impressive number of artifacts from their days past. I would recommend booking a private historic tour to anyone! If you have an interest in the supernatural, that's just an added bonus. 

Personally, I have always been interested in ghost stories and hauntings since I was a little kid. I don't know that I've ever really had an experience myself, but I'm open to the idea. We still believe that my cousins grew up in a possibly haunted house and experienced some strange happenings, so at least a few of us in the group were sensitive to unexplained activity. With the exception of what happened in the front office, I didn't experience anything strange at the Bissman building...that is, unless you count the unexplained photographs I found when I looked back at my camera.

When the five of us gathered in the front office to meet Ben Bissman and hear a brief history of the family, the wooden door behind us suddenly slammed shut. We laughed nervously, and Ben joked, "well, we're off to a good start!" The door that shut was not the door to the outside, which would have made more sense if the wind from outside had made it close. The direction it was facing didn't make much sense to me why it would have slammed shut like that, but someone with a better concept of geometry might be able to explain how the setup of the building might allow for that to happen. Maybe. Still, I will admit that this could have an easy explaination, I just can't do it myself.

     Inside the front office with several generations of Bissmans

We toured all 4 floors, including the basement. Because we were a small group, Ben took us from floor to floor using the old freight elevator -- the same elevator where a former employee accidentally decapitated himself on his last day of work in 1911. Ben claimed people didn't usually get to ride the elevator, so we felt special. Honestly, it really added to the creepiness of the experience -- especially with its history. As the story goes, F.W. Simon collected his last paycheck, signed his name on the wall of the 4th floor (see photo below), and was stopping on the remaining floors to say goodbye to coworkers when he accidentally beheaded himself in the elevator shaft on the 3rd floor in full view of his friends. One of the things I liked about Ben's tour was that he did not sensationalize any of the building's history or occurrences in an attempt to make it seem more "spooky" - everything was told matter-of-factly, with Ben even admitting when particular details he retold would make the hairs on the back of his arms stand up. He told us that growing up as a child playing in the building, his dad and grandfather would yell at him not to play in the elevator so he didn't end up like F.W. It was never said as a ghost story meant to scare him, but rather was a real, honest-to-goodness warning to be careful.

    F.W. Simon on the far right

     The spot on the third floor where the beheading occurred

Most of the floors were being used as storage, and a few were still set up from previous music video or film shoots. When the elevator descended into the basement, there was a noticeable drop in temperature and the air was thick and damp. Not being surrounded by large windows on all sides like the floors above, it was creepy just thinking about what might be lurking in the dark, damp bottom level. There were large walk-in coolers that were pitch black, lit up only by our camera flashes as we stood inside. Apparently there are stories about a young girl possibly being buried in the corner by a night watchman many years ago, but there is no proof to these tales. When I looked back at my photos, anything strange I found was located on the floors where the more substantiated claims occurred.

     Inside the pitch-black cooler, lit up by camera flash

    The basement

I was sad to see the tour end, but I would go back in a heartbeat. I was a little disappointed no one seemed to have any supernatural experiences, but it was still very interesting and I had a great time. It wasn't until we got back to Cleveland and stopped to get something to eat that I pulled out my camera and began to look through what I captured. That was when I first noticed the strange purple glow. I was pretty sure that once I got home and could look at the photos on a bigger screen, I would figure out an explanation for what was on my tiny camera screen. But I'm still at a loss for words, and nothing anyone has offered by way of explanation has made any sense yet.

Someone suggested it was a glare from the lights on the floor. First, it doesn't even look like a glare or reflection on the photo. There is nothing nearby as a light source or anything shiny to be reflecting off of (the wooden banister?). The mist is strangely-shaped and see-through, not long like you might expect a beam of light to be.  Second, there was no overhead lights on the floors where this purple glow was captured (and certainly no purple lights). Even the huge warehouse windows that provided the light for those floors were not near where I was standing when I took those pictures, and nothing was immediately near me to reflect off of. Both large purple "mists" were captured near staircases in the middle of the darkened floors, and the windows were around the exterior walls. There were stories about activity near staircases, which makes these pictures all the more curious. If I remember correctly, these were taken on the third and second floors (the third being the scene of F.W.'s accident, of course...)

I can't explain away the purple haze by saying it was something on my camera lens, because the pictures were taken on completely different floors with a bunch of photos in between, none of which also have the abnormality. It does not look like anything I have ever seen in a photo and is nothing I have captured before or since. I really cannot think of anything that makes sense. Have any ideas? An employee of the Bissman building told me there has only been one other instance where an image like this has been captured there (wish I had seen it!)

This next image might be stretching things, I will admit that. It is not nearly as compelling and obvious as the purple images. But I figured I would share these here, too.

     I thought I saw something in the upper right of the photo, behind the shelf or whatever those squares were

     To me it looked like a man looking at the camera in a dark coat and hat 

     Could it be F.W. Simon?

My brother and his girlfriend enlarged a few of my images and noticed some curious things, as well. Again, not nearly as obvious as the mist photos and I hope I am not discrediting myself by even entertaining the possibility these other photos might be anything -- I am REALLY creeped out by the purple mist ones!!!

Anyone see faces in both of these? The second one in particular grosses me out.

Have you ever toured the Bissman building? Did you experience anything weird? Have you had other unexplained things happen somewhere else? I would love to hear about it!

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